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Freud: The Unconscious and World Affairs

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Author: Rene Major, Chantal Talagrand

Publisher: Taylor & Francis Ltd

Published: 23/02/2018

ISBN: 9781782205340

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This book sheds a new light on Freud who, from the beginning, was aware that the edifice he was constructing – psychoanalysis – which revealed in each individual an “ego not master in its own house” -, had clear implications for understanding collective human behaviour. This man was profoundly concerned with matters of peace and war, religion, morality and civilisation.

The authors’ political focus is unusual, and their choice of quotes from lesser-known sources holds great interest. Freud’s interlocutors include Oskar Pfisrer, Swiss pastor and lay analyst; Einstein; and the American diplomat William Bullitt, with whom Freud wrote a study of President Wilson, entitled¬†Thomas Widrow Wilson. A Psychological Study.¬†In the Introduction to this book, written in 1930, Freud describes Wilson as a person for whom mere facts held no significance; he esteemed highly nothing but human motives and opinions. As a result, writes Freud, it was natural for him to ignore the facts of the real outer world, even to deny they existed if they conflicted with his hopes and wishes.

In effect, Wilson’s vision of America as saviour of the world led to the disastrous consequences of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, causing William Bullitt to predict that it would make renewed international conflicts inevitable, subjecting nations to a century of future wars.

Rene Major and Chantal Talagrand present psychoanalysis itself as political. What is at stake is liberation from all forms of bondage of the self, the other and the world. While focusing on the uniqueness of inner life, Freud never lost sight of humanity as a whole. Toward the end of his life, he concluded: “A great part of my life’s work has been spent [trying to] destroy illusions of my own and those of mankind”.

By highlighting Freud’s involvement in the political realities of his era, this book draws attention to the inextricable link between psychoanalytic and sociopolitical perspectives. In other words, it includes psychoanalysis in the urgent affairs of the world.