Psychoanalysis, Authoritarianism, and the 1960s

Eli Zaretsky

in Psychoanalysis and Politics

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780199744664
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932863 | DOI:
Psychoanalysis, Authoritarianism, and the 1960s

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Eli Zaretsky makes the case that authoritarianism is relevant to understanding the role of psychoanalysis in democratic societies, suggesting it takes the form of the enhancement and manipulation of narcissism. The argument is expounded by examining three moments in U.S. history in detail. The first is the 1950s (termed postwar maturity) with an idealization of psychoanalysis as the guardian of a private, protected, domestic sphere. The second is characterized by the emergence of the New Left (1960s) during which psychoanalysis was transformed into a theory of revolution to overturn traditional ideals on the basis of a posttraditional vision of society. And the third moment was characterized by the subordination of psychoanalysis to a new politically correct, feminist, and gay worldview that emerged from the neoliberal society of the 1970s. Zaretsky argues that American debates over psychoanalysis transformed the notions of authority to maintain as well as to buttress the hegemony of the capitalist class. Simultaneously, those debates reflected changes in American character structure and values that have kept the radical tradition alive.

Keywords: U.S. psychoanalysis; 1950s; 1960s; 1970s; narcissism; postwar maturity; New Left; feminism; gay

Chapter.  14165 words. 

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