Political Freud: A History

Author(s) : Eli Zaretsky

Political Freud: A History

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In this masterful psychological-intellectual history, Eli Zaretsky shows Freudianism to be something more than a method of psychotherapy. When considered alongside the major struggles of the twentieth century, Freudianism becomes a catalyst of the age. Political Freud is Zaretsky's account of the way twentieth century radicals, activists, and thinkers used Freudian thought to understand the political developments of their century.

Through his reading, he shows the ongoing, formative power of Freudianism in contemporary times. The role played by political Freudianism was chaotic and oftentimes contradictory. Nevertheless, Zaretsky's conception of political Freudianism unites the two great themes of the century--totalitarianism and consumerism--in one framework. He shows how important political readings of Freud were to the theory of fascism and the experience of the Holocaust, the critical role they played in African American radical thought, particularly in the struggle for racial memory, and in the rebellions of the 1960s and their culmination in feminism and gay liberation. Yet Freudianism's involvement in history was not one-sided. Its interaction with historical forces shaped the Freudian tradition as well, and in this illuminating account, Zaretsky tracks the evolution of Freudian ideas across the decades so we can better recognize its manifestations today.

About the Author(s)

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.

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