[D-G] Making Conscious the Unconscious in Social Reality
Richard Koenigsberg, Ph. D.
libraryofsocialscience at earthlink.net
Wed Feb 9 21:07:56 PST 2005
MAKING CONSCIOUS THE UNCONSCIOUS IN SOCIAL REALITY: The Psychoanalytic
Interpretation of Culture & Society
Psychoanalysis expands the scope of its mission by focusing not only on
events occurring within the clinical situation, but also upon event
occurring outside the clinical situation--in social reality. Freud called
dreams the "royal road to the (individual) unconscious." I view political
ideology as the royal road to the cultural unconscious. I theorize
ideologies from the perspective of what they do-psychologically-for people.
According to this view, ideologies exist and persist-are embraced and
perpetuated-to the extent that they perform psychic functions for
individuals within a population. To study a particular ideology, therefore,
is to reveal its psychic meaning-the needs, desires, fantasies, conflicts
and human dilemmas to which the ideology responds.
RETURN TO THE MOTHER (COUNTRY)
Images and metaphors in Hitler's writings and speeches reveal a regressive
desire for union with the mother as the source of his ideology. In Mein
Kampf, he wrote of the elemental cry of the German-Austrian people for
"union with the German mother country" that represented a longing to "return
to the never-forgotten ancestral home." He stated that the heart and memory
of German Austrians never ceased to "feel for the common mother country."
Hitler projected symbiotic fantasy into political units. Austria symbolized
Hitler's body and Germany the body of his mother. Hitler's political
ideology pointed toward destroying the boundaries separating Austria and
Germany so that the two separate bodies politic could fuse into a single
body politic. The actualization of this fantasy would mean that henceforth
the "twofold destinies of Austria and Germany" would become "eternally one;"
there would be "no separation of history into Germany and Austria."
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IDEOLOGY AND TRANSFERENCE
People assume that political ideas or calls to action stem from conditions
or situations in the world. What my research suggests is that one cannot
separate political aspirations from unconscious desires or fantasies. If
Hitler had not externalized his symbiotic fantasy into politics, the idea of
uniting Austria and Germany would have been of no interest to him. Hitler's
interest in and attachment to his political ideology derived from the
fantasy that he projected into it.
Hitler is appropriate as a case study because the texts-his writings and
speeches-are pervaded with primary process imagery. When Hitler writes of
the desire to reunite Austria and Germany as a longing that burns in the
hearts of "children separated from their mother country" and as a wish to
"return to the heart of their faithful mother," we witness the astonishing
directness with which he projects fantasies into his ideology. We are amazed
to see primal fantasies expressed so blatantly and to realize that these
fantasies were the source of history.
MAKING CONSCIOUS THE UNCONSCIOUS
Norman O. Brown suggests that the unconscious can become conscious through
projection into the external world. Brown states that repressed unconscious
energies must "go out into external reality before they can be perceived by
consciousness." Culture, Brown declares, is "one vast arena in which the
logic of the transference works itself out," allowing human beings to
"project the infantile complexes into concrete reality, where they can be
seen and mastered." Thus, Brown concludes, "culture actually does for all
mankind what the transference phenomena were supposed to do for the
The project of studying ideology as container for shared fantasy is both
theoretical and clinical. In the Twentieth Century, approximately
two-hundred million people were killed because of violent political
conflicts initiated by societies. Most of this violence has been generated
by ideologies embraced as absolutes and defended fanatically. Why do human
beings attach to ideologies so passionately? What is the relationship
between passionate attachment to an ideology and societal violence?
A character in James Joyce's novel, Ulysses, said that, "History is a
nightmare from which I am trying to awake." The history of the Twentieth
Century-with its horrendous episodes of brutality and
mass-slaughter-resembles a waking nightmare-a bad dream that many people are
having at once. By becoming conscious of the unconscious fantasies that
generate collective violence, is it possible to "awakening from the
nightmare of history?" The interpretation of ideology is an extension of
Freud's project of interpreting dreams. We turn to the interpretation of
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