Authority and Experience

John Levi Martin

in The Explanation of Social Action

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199773312
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199897223 | DOI:
Authority and Experience

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Chapter 3 begins by examining the most egregious case of a lack of confidence in the adequacy of the conceptual structure of actors to explicate their own action, the doctrines of Freudian psychoanalysis. These were developed in a social environment featuring a confrontation between a mentally unfit and utterly powerless patient and an authority figure. Closer examination of the processes whereby Freud developed his theories finds not that he uncovered the nature of psychological resistances, but that he wildly and blatantly imputed his own idiosyncratic chains of associations to patients and then made “cure” conditional on their acceptance of his claims. This denial of first person accounts found its way into the social sciences in the idea that there can be a kind of explanation that does not make reference to first person accounts. Merton famously called these “latent” functions—taking the distinction between latent and manifest from Freud’s work on dreams. The latent meanings of dreams were nothing other than what they meant to Freud—similarly, latent functions were nothing other than what things meant to the analyst. Such a procedure has been justified according to an unconvincing philosophy of science, or by our theory of the arbitrariness of actors’ cognitive system.

Keywords: Freud; Charcot; psychoanalysis; Malinowski; Merton; hypnosis

Chapter.  19018 words. 

Subjects: Social Theory

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