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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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From the Maturity Ethic to the Psychology of Power

From the Maturity Ethic to the Psychology of Power

The New Left, Feminism, and the Return to “Social Reality”

Chapter:
(p.148) 5 From the Maturity Ethic to the Psychology of Power
Source:
Political Freud
Author(s):

Eli Zaretsky

Publisher:
Columbia University Press
DOI:10.7312/columbia/9780231172448.003.0006

Chapter 5 concerns the Freud of the New Left and of radical feminism, arguably the last incarnation of political Freud. The chapter begins in cold war America, when Freudian thought was being integrated into an anticommunist “maturity ethic,” a new Puritanism or Calvinism. This cold war version of Weber’s spirit of capitalism echoed its predecessor by condemning narcissism or self-love and so became a target of radical movements in the 1960s. 1970s feminists, drawing on the New Left precedent, substituted a sociological and political account of domination for the “individual explanations” characteristic of psychoanalysis. The eventual result was a new ethic of personal life that converged with the neoliberal critique of traditional, familial, and kinship-based authority and unwittingly facilitated the emergence of full-scale consumer capitalism. Bringing us full circle to the story begun in chapter 1, then, the cultural revolutions of the sixties and seventies completed the critique of the Protestant ethic that classical Freudianism had begun. As the restraints and inhibitions that once animated it seemed to crumble, Freudianism became “obsolete.” 

Keywords:   Freud, Freudianism, The New Left, Consumerism, mass psychology, Feminism

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