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Sunday, July 5, 2020

Freudomarxism: CIA Psyop to Delegitimize Psychoanalysis?

"They don't realize that we are bringing them the plague" 
- Jung to Freud on the boat to America to meet William James 
The story goes like this.

By the mid 20th century, Freud and Jung's virus, Psychoanalysis, had spread throughout Europe and America, even reaching parts of South America and Asia.

This is not surprising when one considers Psychoanalysis' reliance on then convincing 18th-19th century scientific thinking to ground a biological understanding of the individual, its use of the medical Doctor-Patient relationship for a treatment that relegated the social realm to the wastebasket of mere superficial symptomology, and its abstract emphasis on expensive fees coupled with its concrete bourgeoisie history.

That is, Psychoanalysis gamed hard-formed, time-tested, preexistence structures and flows - both corporeal and non-corporeal - to spread itself through a global network of hosts.

As it spread - and as memetic viruses tend to do - Psychoanalysis patched itself together into a Frankenstein monster of 'conflicting' values; a patchwork creature of stoic, rugged, but intellectual individualist values underpinned by physical science that also dabbled in soft social theorizing through positioning itself as legitimate and sole possessor of a supposedly profound answer to the post-war question of collective violence and human nature.

For these reasons - among others (the more malleable a meme within a specific field, the more it can fit and fold into every hole) -  psychoanalysis had begun to exert considerable influence over the wealthy and socially visible in both Europe - as seen in Freud's relationship with the Bonaparte family who used their wealth and status to help Freud escape Nazi Germany - and America - as seen in the rich East Coast elite of Wall Street marketing firms and the rich West Coast elite of Hollywood film sets alike utilizing psychoanalysis to further their interests (and their synthesis, Woody Allen, Hollywood star and resident New Yorker).

Psychoanalysis was both pop-culture, high art, low-culture, hippy collectivist, emotional, anti-establishment, and bourgeois, ego-enforcing, and state sanctioned. Psychoanalysis had  it all.

Thus, being the rapidly spreading, (somewhat) all encompassing cultural force that it was, psychoanalysis posed a significant threat to the Marxist project which, during the tumultuous ideology-war years of the 50s and 60s, was vying for cultural space to spread out and breathe, the same space that psychoanalysis occupied in both a positive and negative register due to its unique characteristics outlined above.

In other words, it's one thing for a project to work towards negating another project (Psychoanalysis's bougie individual reductionism against Marxism's revolutionary collectivism), but its another thing altogether for a project to negate and affirm another project at the same time (Psychoanalysis against Marxism, and also attempting to solve some of the same problems and answer some of the same questions as Marxism). Psychoanalysis was not simply the right to Marxism's left, it was a competing left.

To put it another way, Psychoanalysis held values contrary to Marxism and its derivatives, and also enacted parts of Marxism's positive project on its own terms; it occupied space inside the left imaginary (anti-fascist social critiques of group think and violence, a humanist goal even), while also operating against the left imaginary from outside (offering conceptual models with corresponding political implications most of which do not toe the Communist party line).

If we take this story to be true, the question is then 'What is a Marxist to do?'

How about Freudomarxism?

The Freudomarxism of the Frankfurt school, I argue, was developed - whether consciously or not - as an ideological reaction to this threat, a clever move intended to impotentize psychoanalysis by folding it into and forever associating it with a kind of Marxism.

Why would this be an effective political strategy?

As media studies shows, and as Foucault tells us in his lectures 'Society Must Be Defended,' one does not control the discourse around a subject - and ultimately exercise one's power - simply by ignoring the subject altogether, or prohibiting discussion about it, one controls the discourse and exercises one's power by talking about the subject in a certain way. As the politicians say, 'get out in front of the story' to control the narrative, or what Fredric Jameson - who Zizek refers to as the only true Marxist around anymore - appropriating Stuart Hall refers to as "the discursive struggle over the delegitimating of opposing ideologies." One does not have to construct a meaningful project, one simply has to discredit the former or opposing project through language games, rhetoric, polemics.

But is there any reason to really believe this paranoid conspiracy theory?

For obvious reasons, the postWWII era was a pivotal time for thinkers and theorists. In the power vacuum birthed of the ending of the war, the shifting of alliances, etc., the political imaginary was charged with anticipations of what could be. If you were in political power, it was your time to make some moves. If you weren't in political power, it was your time to try and talk your way into power by convincing others that your values were the right and good ones, while those with 'real' power were the wrong and bad ones.

Excluding beloved Walter Benjamin, the half of the Farnkfurt School people care about - Adorno, Horkheimer, Fromm, Marcuse, and Habermas - all published half or more than half of their works in 1950 or after. Such influential works - works which happen to synthesize psychoanalysis and Marxism - include Marcuse's Eros and Civlization, and Adorno's The Authoritarian Personality. What better way to defeat what could be a political or theoretical enemy than by using it and its own legitimization methods to legitimize something counter to it (what in my naivety I will call psycho-Leninism).

On multiple occasion - Twitter, podcast with Justin Murphy, etc. -  Kantbot has accused the Frankfurt School, Marcuse in particular, of being a 'Fed' or 'psyop.' Similarly, on Twitter he shares his thoughts about the institutions of social psychology and their tendency to produce preprogrammed tropes that insidiously dominate our thinking and influence our behavior.

Kantbot is right.

As one blog points out (utilizing Wiki) "Between 1943 and 1950, Marcuse worked in U.S. Government service for the Office of Strategic Services (predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency);" as another points out "...then transferred to State. After leaving State in 1951, he received a Rockefeller Foundation grant (and even CIA has admitted that, at the time, the Rockefeller Foundation was closely tied to CIA) to study Soviet Marxism, and eventually wrote a book on the subject"

As one blog points out, the CIA takes French critical theory serious enough to read it (see the original document here www.cia.gov › CIA-RDP78-03061A000400030036-7). As two blogs point out, between 43 and 50 Marcuse worked for the predecessor of the CIA, and in 51 he received government funds from a foundation tied to the CIA to critique the USSR, a line of research which some believe had enough influence to aid in significant political leadership change.

None of this is super convincing, but it does indicate that Marcuse, who for me is the first person who comes to mind when one thinks of the misnomer 'Freudomarxism,' may have been playing a bigger political game than is initially apparent, and that it is not beyond doubt that the utilization of psychoanalysis could have served the dual purpose of disarming psychoanalysis of its power while also appealing to that very power. This would certainly not be at odds with the history of state powers using psychiatric or psychological means for control.

The question then is if the virus of psychoanalysis can break free of its tired psychiatry-antipsychiatry and left-right circuits and get back to doing what it does best, whatever that it means anyways...