Freud in Many Contexts

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Freud was a major cultural and intellectual influence in the twentieth century, whose significance waned. Kaye’s exposition argues that part of the reason is that his presentation of himself as a medical scientist obscured his true interest in society and thus the social theory that informed his commentary on culture. In support of this argument he reconstructs the social theory. The reconstruction exhibits some familiar problems: the question of how deep motivations relating to the parricide hypothesis are transmitted over millennia, the plausibility of the family drama itself, the question of the cultural origins of Freud’s own perspective, and the plausibility and historical specificity of his cultural diagnosis. The paper comments on some of the prehistory of these problems to contextualize Freud, and to discuss the problem of resonance: the dependence of acceptance of his arguments on seeing the mechanisms in oneself.

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Society, v. 57, p. 269-275