March 30, 2007


This is the fifth and final day of Goat Rope's official Fun With Freud Week. If this is your first visit, please scroll down to the earlier posts.

This series is about some of Sigmund's more interesting ideas, some of which hold up better than others.

As Freud got older, he became more pessimistic. This is understandable given the events of the time such as the First World War, the rise of totalitarian movements, and the rise of the Nazis to power in Germany and Austria. Here's a quick tour of some of his later works, some of which are speculative and even bizarre in nature.

(Disclaimer: El Cabrero is neither a psychologist nor a Freudian. While some of his ideas still may have some life others are way out there but interesting anyway.)

*Totem and Taboo (1913). This one is WAY out there. Among other things, in this work Freud speculates that human society had its origin in a primal horde where power and sexual access was monopolized by a father figure. The younger males killed the father, whom they also admired. The guilt that resulted from this led to the dead father being venerated as a sacred figure. This was thought to be the origin of the Oedipal complex, religion, and a whole bunch of stuff. It would be a challenge to find someone today who subscribes to this.

*Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (1920). If you've ever noticed that group behavior does no favors to human intelligence and morality, don't skip this one. Freud believed that in certain mob or group settings, people regress to a more primitive level. He reprises some of the ideas from the previous book as well, which probably detracts from the work for contemporary readers.

*Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920). In this dark book, Freud speculates about another human drive that may rival eros or the libido, i.e. thanatos or the death instinct, which represents the desire of organic matter to return to a simpler state and could result in acts of destruction. Again, this one is a stretch today (but sometimes I wonder about it...).

*The Future of an Illusion (1927). Freud wrote often about religion, but in this work he characterizes it as an illusion, which basically is something we believe in because we want it to be true. He saw the belief in a good and provident God who would take care of us as a kind of wish-fulfillment that reflects an infant's or child's view of his parents.

*Civilization and its Discontents (1930). This one lays out his basically tragic view of human social life. People depend on society increasingly for survival but doing so necessarily involves the frustration of our instinctual drives. And we're stuck with both.

There's way more to ol' Sig than this week's posts have hinted at. Even if you disagree with many of his ideas (as most people probably do), you may find him worth a look or two.

And as for that cigar...who knows?

THE LATEST ON INCOME INEQUALITY. Here's the latest snapshot from the Economic Policy Institute:

Newly released data on income inequality reveal that all of the gains in 2005, the most recent year for data of this type, went to households in the top 10%. Moreover, those even higher up the income scale—say, the top 1% and above—saw the largest gains of all.

The economy expanded in 2005, with gross domestic product and productivity both posting solid gains (3.2% and 2.1%, respectively). Yet, as shown in the chart below, real market income (i.e., income aside from government transfers) actually fell slightly (-0.6%) for those in the bottom 90% of the income scale....

These trends lead to two clear conclusions. First, the factors driving inequality—diminished union presence, globalization, surging CEO pay—are funneling growth to the top of the income scale and dramatically shaping the economic fate of America's working families. Second, these income trends clearly argue against further regressive tax cuts that continue to favor the wealthiest and exacerbate the seriously skewed pre-tax income distribution.

A LITTLE JUSTICE. Massey Energy was fined $1.5 million by the federal government for its "reckless disregard" for safety at the Aracoma mine, where two men were killed in a fire in Jan. 2006. This from the Charleston Gazette...


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