Political Freud

A History

Eli Zaretsky

Columbia University Press

Political Freud

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Pub Date: July 2017

ISBN: 9780231172455

248 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $25.00£19.95

Pub Date: November 2015

ISBN: 9780231172448

248 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $35.00£27.95

Pub Date: November 2015

ISBN: 9780231540148

248 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $34.99£27.95

Political Freud

A History

Eli Zaretsky

Columbia University Press

In this masterful history, Eli Zaretsky reveals the power of Freudian thought to illuminate the great political conflicts of the twentieth century. Developing an original concept of "political Freudianism," he shows how twentieth-century radicals, activists, and intellectuals used psychoanalytic ideas to probe consumer capitalism, racial violence, anti-Semitism, and patriarchy. He also underscores the continuing influence and critical potential of those ideas in the transformed landscape of the present. Zaretsky's conception of political Freudianism unites the two overarching themes of the last century—totalitarianism and consumerism—in a single framework. He finds that theories of mass psychology and the unconscious were central to the study of fascism and the Holocaust; to African American radical thought, particularly the struggle to overcome the legacy of slavery; to the rebellions of the 1960s; and to the feminism and gay liberation movements of the 1970s. Nor did the influence of political Freud end when the era of Freud bashing began. Rather, Zaretsky proves that political Freudianism is alive today in cultural studies, the study of memory, theories of trauma, postcolonial thought, film, media and computer studies, evolutionary theory and even economics.
Zaretsky offers a fascinating analysis of the inherent political ambivalence of psychoanalysis and its intertwined conservative and utopian strands. His book is a deeply interesting and important contribution to debates about the relationship between psychoanalysis, critical theory, and politics. Amy R. Allen, author of The End of Progress: Decolonizing the Normative Foundations of Critical Theory
Much of twentieth-century political thought, ideologies, and movements cannot be understood without grasping the influence of psychoanalysis. Critical theory, postcolonial understandings of race, interpretations of the Holocaust and war, feminism, and the New Left all drew on Freud in both high theory and everyday understanding. In Political Freud, Zaretsky narrates the twentieth-century story with verve and insight and shows how the influences continue into the twenty-first. Craig Calhoun, director, London School of Economics and Political Science
Zaretsky is one of the best historians of Freudian thought. Once again he shows the social and political impact of psychoanalysis and the central role it plays in the second half of the twentieth century, in the feminist movement, the struggle of homosexuals, antiracism, and criticism of colonialism and totalitarianism. At the heart of this approach, Zaretsky analyzes Freud's relationship to his Jewishness. A remarkable book. Elisabeth Roudinesco, author of Philosophy in Turbulent Times: Canguilhem, Sartre, Foucault, Althusser, Deleuze, Derrida
In this nuanced, historically attuned, and deeply felt consideration of the conflicting political implications of psychoanalysis, Eli Zaretsky traces the ways in which Freud's theories were employed to address the most pressing issues of the past century: war, racism, the Holocaust, identity politics, and the never-ending crisis of capitalism. He shows how it has underpinned conformity as well as fueled critique. Against the current of our Freud-bashing times, Zaretsky makes a powerful case for his continuing relevance as an interpreter of both our political dreams and worst nightmares. Martin Jay, University of California, Berkeley
Readers will emerge from Political Freud with a clearer sense of what is lost and must be recovered in the much-maligned psychoanalytic tradition. This brilliant riposte to Freud-bashers ought to be, as they say, on every shelf. Kurt Jacobsen, Logos: A Journal of Modern Society & Culture
A fascinating and compelling account of the cultural and philosophical impact of psychoanalysis on the 20th-century political scene.... [Political Freud] reveals just how deeply it is woven into the US political fabric, both conservative and progressive. Indispensable for historians of 20th-century thought and politics. Choice
[A] compelling and valuable examination.... Zaretsky offers a very powerful and broad account of how psychoanalysis and twentieth-century culture emerged together, tested each other critically, and shifted in response to the pressures and forces that each aroused. Stephen Frosh, American Imago
Richly researched.... and elegantly argued. Elizabeth Ann Danto, Contemporary Psychoanalysis
The book is a resource for understanding what went wrong and how to create a better future. Psychohistory News
[Zaretsky] provides a valuable context to help us grapple with the ways historical changes have impacted Freudianism with an eye to recuperating the best of an inwardly revolutionary movement. Dan Dervin, The Journal of Psychohistory
A sustained and convincing plea by the historian Eli Zaretsky for the continued relevance of Freud and Freudianism in the early twenty-first-century world. Paul Lerner, Times Literary Supplement
Timely and needed. Perspectives on Politics
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Political Freud
1. Psychoanalysis and the Spirit of Capitalism
2. Beyond the Blues: The Racial Unconscious and Collective Memory
3. In the Shadow of the Holocaust: Rereading Freud's Moses
4. The Ego at War: From the Death Instinct to Precarious Life
5. From the Maturity Ethic to the Psychology of Power: The New Left, Feminism, and the Return to "Social Reality"
Afterword: Freud in the Twenty-first Century
Notes
Index

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About the Author

Eli Zaretsky is a professor of history at the New School for Social Research. His previous works include Why America Needs a Left: A Historical Argument; Secrets of the Soul: A Social and Cultural History of Psychoanalysis; and Capitalism, the Family, and Personal Life.