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Political FreudA History$
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Eli Zaretsky

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780231172448

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231172448.001.0001

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In the Shadow of the Holocaust

In the Shadow of the Holocaust

Rereading Freud’s Moses

(p.80) 3 In the Shadow of the Holocaust
Political Freud

Eli Zaretsky

Columbia University Press

The third chapter, on Freud’s Moses and Monotheism (1938), interrogatesan idea crucial to the Freudian approach to history, the idea of regression. Against the standard approach, which contrasts progress with decline or decadence, political Freudians posited that history unfolds at different levels and at different timescales, that there are points in the past to which we regress, predispositions, stages, or conflicts to which we “return.” Written on the eve of World War II, and in the shadow of the Nazi terror, Moses and Monotheism used the idea that there are unconscious processes in history to analyze the founding of monotheism in ancient Egypt, the accompanying creation of the Jewish people, and the subsequent rise of anti-Semitism. It was the question of progress or, more starkly, survival that animated Freud’s interest in Jewish identity. Moses and Monotheism is at bottom a reflection on the history of psychoanalysis centered on Freud’s preconscious identification of psychoanalysis with Judaism. 

Keywords:   Freud, Freudianism, Totalitarianism, Holocaust, mass psychology, the unconscious

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