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The New International, January 1947


Richard Lange

The Politics of Psychoanalysis


From New International, Vol. XIII No. 1, January 1947, p. 24.
Transcribed &; marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The well-rounded Marxist journal has long been in need of articles of the Robert Stiler type in his Politics of Psychoanalysis. For several years now the left wing investigators in the field of psychology have noted the conservative conclusions of the orthodox Freudian theory.

On the whole Stiler’s approach is correct but the concluding paragraph’s of his article are far from satisfying since he permits a well-informed reader to suspect that he has not read thoroughly the works of those “analysts revising Freud” whom he annihilates in a few sentences. He does not even mention the names of the condemned ones but one can guess that they are Fromm and Horney and the members of their respective schools of thought.

Fromm is accused of writing a “psychological view of human history.” If Fromm’s book Escape from Freedom is read carefully such a conclusion cannot be reached with logical justification since Fromm continuously points out that he is writing about the social psychology of a problem which has its roots in the socio-economic structure of the particular historical period.

Stiler is right when he points out that Fromm has based his entire analysis on a questionable premise in that he assigns as a universal characteristic of mankind, man’s desire to avoid isolation. It is to be regretted that Fromm set up the argument that way. But if this same premise is altered slightly so as to read “Man’s desire to avoid isolation arose out of the specific historical conditions of a changing feudal economy developing to capitalism,” then Fromm’s argument, as outlined in his book, is valid. The major point to note is that, without Fromm’s explanation, the reaction of the middle and lower class to a developing fascism is left unexplained. Stiler has not proposed a counter hypothesis.

Stiler is wrong when he accuses Fromm and Homey of repeating “the basic error of Freud and all the others who attribute this decaying world to something in human nature, i.e., that the cultural, social and political superstructure of society is based on the mode of production within the individual.” Among other places, Horney outlines her position on this point on pp. 121–3 of her little summary Our Inner Conflicts. Horney’s crucial sentence is the following, “The main contention here was that neuroses are brought about by cultural factors – which more specifically meant that neuroses are generated by disturbances in human relationships.”

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Last updated on 27 November 2014