Susan Gunn

“Art is not about creating polemical alternatives; art means rather, through nothing other than its form, resisting that world-course which everyday points a gun at mankind’s chest.”
Theodor Adorno (Notes to Literature)

“My sword should bite it. Not the dreadful spout
Which shipmen do the hurricane call,
Constring’d in mass by the almighty sun,
Shall dizzy with more clamor Neptune’s ear,
In his descent, than shall my prompted sword
Falling on Diomed.”

Shakespeare (Troilus and Cressida, Act 5 sc.2)

“Freud thus introduces into the psyche what might be termed a universal of perverse difference: all human beings have a potential proclivity for crime, sex, transgression, madness, negativity, passion, inversion, and so on. But no human being can be determined, for life and in advance, by a destiny that makes him or her incapable of self-transcendence.”
Elisabeth Roudinesco (Our Dark Side)

I wrote last post about what I termed the emergence of a new grotesqueness in western society. And there is another parallel phenomenon, though one better described not as an emergence, but as a regression — a regression to a new intellectual dark age. A dark age which takes a number of forms. Certainly one form is the deterioration of serious thought in Academia (for the most part). Another is the colonized consciousness of the youth. This runs the gamut from allegedly ‘climate protesters’ attacking a Velasquez (allegedly because all of these museum attacks feel like psyops, I mean where are the security guards?) to the fact that Taylor Swift has NINETY FOUR MILLION followers on her social media accounts. And thirdly is the issue of a trajectory of pharmacological treatments of mental illness. The staggering number of anti-depressants that are prescribed, as well as the links to mass shootings, and related violent anti-social behaviour.

Maria Helena Vieira da Silva

I was thinking of Thomas Szasz recently, and there remains a lot to value in his work, especially the early stuff. His curious lack of breadth intellectually is troubling, but there is, nonetheless, a core radicalness and skepticism that is very worthy.

“The argument is this. Szasz holds that, “mental illness is not a thing or physicalobject” ; it is a theory and, as such, stands in need of empirical support.Without this, it inevitably becomes the case that “to those who believe in them,familiar theories are likely to appear, sooner or later, as ‘objective truths’”. His views have close affinity with those of the Logical Positivists, both in the valorisation of “verification” as the paradigmatic criterion of science and thecorrelative dismissal of metaphysical conjecture as “meaningless” (e.g., Ayer, 1971).With consistency, therefore, Szasz is able to concede that, “We cannot be certain that some patients now labelled schizophrenic do not suffer from diseases of the brain” (1968, p. 34), though he clearly thinks that the lack of observational warrant for such claims—which we may flag up at this point as the problem of unobservables —provides an incisive objection against the sort of scientific realism canvassed by psychiatric mechanomorphism.”
Mark Cresswell (Szasz and His Interlocutors: Reconsidering Thomas Szasz’s Myth of MentalIllness)

I wanted to add, before digging more deeply into these matters, a personal observation. I continue to find myself profoundly missing the life of literature and the arts. I miss conversations with educated people. Where have they gone? In my case, of course, many have died. But it is also that people today read differently. They read more technical material, certainly, but they also read with narrow intention. This might be called the Google Search effect. One rarely sees anyone on public transport reading a novel (other than bestsellers, and even then not often). The Public Domain Review is a great site, if you don’t know it, and they had an article of surprising pathos the other day. It was a short piece on the books that Mary Shelley provided for her fictional monster to read in Frankenstein. In the novel the books were, in essence, to humanize him, the monster created by Victor Frankenstein. The monster’s three books were Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Werther, Plutarch’s Noble Lives of the Greeks and Romans , and Milton’s Paradise Lost. The monster narrates his feelings about these books…

“In the Sorrows of Werther, besides the interest of its simple and affecting story, so many opinions are canvassed and so many lights thrown upon what had hitherto been to me obscure subjects that I found in it a never-ending source of speculation and astonishment. The gentle and domestic manners it described, combined with lofty sentiments and feelings, which had for their object something out of self, accorded well with my experience among my protectors and with the wants which were for ever alive in my own bosom. But I thought Werter himself a more divine being than I had ever beheld or imagined; his character contained no pretension, but it sank deep. The disquisitions upon death and suicide were calculated to fill me with wonder.”
Humanity 101: The Syllabus of Frankenstein’s Monster (Public Domain Review)

Paula Rego

Mary Shelley was eighteen when she wrote Frankenstein.

But this feeling of loss I experience is not just an emotional disturbance, a sort of desire for or expression of nostalgia. It is also political. It is about a the world, as political. And the political is also inextricably bound up with mental illness.

“Thus in Kant the relation of the realm of freedom to history is mediated by conflict [Antagonismus]. While in Hegel history is regarded immediately as progress in the consciousness of freedom, such that consciousness for Hegel amounts to a realized freedom. This doctrine is extremely precarious. Shall concentrate on its problematic nature,i.e., the actual historical relation of universal and particular. { } objectively, because of the increasingly dense texture of society both in the East and in the West, the intensification of the process of concentration and of bureaucratization which has the effect of reducing people more and more to the status of functions. Freedom is limited to self-preservation. Even the most highly placed are merely functions of their funnction. Subjectively, because of ego-weakness, addiction to consumption, conformism. Nothing seems less plausible than the claim that there is progress in the consciousness of freedom, even allowing for the progressive democratization of formal political institutions, since these find themselves opposed by both the substance of social power and human apathy. Indifference to freedom. Neutralization of mind. Depoliticization of science. After Auschwitz, a regression that has already taken place, and is not merely expected à la Spengler, not only every positive doctrine of progress but also even every assertion that history has a meaning has become problematic and affirmative. There is here a transformation of quantity into quality. Even if the murder of millions could be described as an exception and not the expression of a trend (the atom bomb), any appeal to the idea of progress would seem absurd given[…]”
Theodor Adorno (Lecture notes for Course on History and Freedom, 1964)

These lectures are among my very favorite writings of Adorno’s. There is another collection, for a course on Morality. And a third on Negative Dialectics (which I have only skimmed a bit). But the course on History and Freedom feels very significant right now.

Bernie Wrightson (illustration for Frankenstein, 1970s)

Adorno was focused on a concept of Hegel’s, a concept that is actually pretty marginal to Hegel’s philosophy. But for Adorno, it carries enormous weight. These lectures were all given in the sixties, not too long before his, Adorno’s, death. Adrian Wilding has an excellent monograph on these lectures and he notes at the beginning…

“What might it be in Hegel’s philosophy that Adorno is objecting to so vehemently, and yet taking so seriously that it needs to be addressed repeatedly in this manner? What too could be so important in it that would lead Adorno to adopt the term as a kind of shorthand for present social ills, the irrational rationality of late modernity? { } The only way to answer this is to turn to Hegel’s writings themselves, and to unpack this notion of the ‘world’s course’. The *locus classicus* of this term is section B of the chapter on ‘Reason’ in the Phenomenology of Spirit entitled ‘The actualization of rational self-consciousness through its own activity’ subsection c., ‘Die Tugend und der Weltlauf,’ which Miller translates as ‘Virtue and the Way of the World’ but which I am going to translate more often as ‘world course’.”
Adrian Wilding (The World’s Course and its Discontents: Adorno’s Lectures on History and Freedom)

Adorno is lecturing on Hegel’s notions of practical reason. As difficult as this is to summarize, the point is really that of ‘reason’ and its attempts to prove its own objectivity.

“The virtuous individual finds himself or herself confronting a universal ‘perverted by individuality’, which individuality (including its own) is to be nullified. In the self’s self-sacrifice the individualism of the world’s course is also to be eradicated. This world-course has a two-fold character, though: not just ‘the single individual which seeks its own pleasure and enjoyment’ but also the product of this self interest, since in acting self-interestedly the individual ‘satisfies the universal’ (Hegel, 1977: 229). This is just what virtue will object to and try to annul, “both in the world and in itself. “
Adrian Wilding (Ibid)

Judith Tucker

“In battling the supposedly perverted world virtue finds ‘a universal animated by individuality and existing for an other’; it ‘hits upon places which are the actual existence of the good itself’. Everyone seeking their own self-interest, yes, but really seeking their own happiness, finding their own good. In this sense the world’s course is ‘invulnerable’, it ‘faces in every direction’.”
Adrian Wilding (Ibid)

So, the short form summation here is that Hegel (in these chapters) finds the problem to reside in what the ‘way of the world’ stands in for. It stands in for the ethical, and the embedded-ness of virtue in concrete terms.

“The way of the world is a situation in which reason and inwardness have replaced the exoteric laws of the polis and the clear path of ethical action, the ‘happy state of being the ethical substance’.”
Adrian Wilding (Ibid)

And here we arrive at what is germane. Hegel was, as Wilding noted, expressing a nostalgia for Renaissance Humanism, for the ideals of the classical world. A world, whether exactly real or not, in which the customs of values were un-coerced and in which virtue was not directed against something perverted, as a corrective action.

“The man of virtue sees the course of the world as self-interest raised to the level of the universal, a community only of the self-seeking. Withdrawing from this immorality he makes himself superior, cognisant of humanity and its oppression, yet in reality remaining inwardly directed and “self-satisfied.”
Adrian Wilding (Ibid)

Hegel was also thinking of literature, here. In particular Schiller, Cervantes, and Rousseau. And here perhaps we could find the direct line to Marry Shelley and her humanised monster (and backward to Shakespeare and The Tempest). In any event, Hegel’s *The Way of the World* was arguing the self interest brings about the Universal. Sort of the 18th century version of The Selfish Gene. Self interest, because it is an expression of the Universal, remains unconscious (sic). It is, as Wilding observes, a bit like Adam Smith’s *invisible hand*. Now Adorno enters at this point, because he saw nothing of virtue in the Universal, but rather the alienation of commodity fetishism, the social division of labour and class inequality.

Maarten Steunenberg, photography.

This Hegelian civil society, if an expression of universal reason, is one that needs help from the state to regulate its numerous excesses. And Adorno noted there was something ‘conformist’ in this idea of ‘the world course’, or unseen hand. Wilding sees something of the contemporary notion of ‘spin’ in Hegel, here. And adds, rightly, there is also something ideological. In a world today in which virtue is something posited by individuals on social media, by conforming to the directives of the authority apparatus, Adorno is proving to again be remarkably prescient.

“Adorno’s argument seems to be that history itself has altered the meaning of this opposition; that today, or in Adorno’s day at least, ‘finding oneself again in the Weltlauf’ could rationalise the worst sort of injustices, reactionary behaviour, the ‘appeasement’ he speaks of.”
Adrian Wilding (Ibid)

On one level this is what can be seen with the Israeli ethnic cleansing of Gaza. The Course of the World works, in addition to the very specific economic and class factors, to rationalize the slaughter of children. Conformity — this sense of ‘wetlauf’, has grown, actually, over the last two hundred years.

“…the problem facing Adorno twenty years after the Second World War, where mass consumption was fuelled by Cold War anxiety, was the dearth of dissenting voices and the univocity of the world’s course, a seemingly headlong destructive movement.
It was the extinguishing of protest and the ever more subtle art by which individual egoism could be made compatible with general conformism, which characterised his own historical actuality. Arguably the situation has changed once more in our own time, where a dissenting individual protesting, for example, against war, might find herself in the majority, where a majority in fact relinquishes self-interest for compassion towards another country threatened by invasion. Yet this individual might still find herself, together with her fellows, over-ridden by the world’s course; that it doesn’t recognise them, just as they have trouble recognising it.”

Adrian Wilding (Ibid)

Lynette Yiadom Boakye

There is another aspect that to the World Course, and Adorno noted it, which is the individualizing of the ‘wetlauf’ —

“Adorno seems on occasion to realise that this is what is at stake in his own critique, such as when he suggests that psychology and psychoanalysis are complicit in the excesses of the Weltlauf, that indeed psychology ‘devolves the madness of the world’s course to the individual, against the individual’s reason’ . What psychoanalysis, which was unavailable to Hegel, may tell us about our own society is that ‘we incorporate the irrationality of the Weltlauf and make it our own’. Mahler’s ‘Rondo’ Burlesque becomes the bizarre accompaniment to Freud’s writings on civilisation.”
Adrian Wilding (Ibid)

The monster reads Milton…

“Like Adam, I was apparently united by no link to any other being in existence; but his state was far different from mine in every other respect. He had come forth from the hands of God a perfect creature, happy and prosperous, guarded by the especial care of his Creator; he was allowed to converse with and acquire knowledge from beings of a superior nature, but I was wretched, helpless, and alone. Many times I considered Satan as the fitter emblem of my condition, for often, like him, when I viewed the bliss of my protectors, the bitter gall of envy rose within me.”
Mary Shelley (Ibid)

Adorno summarised the problem with Hegel, here:

“And this leads us to an extraordinarily vicious circle: all subjects whose objective interest should be the change of the Weltlauf – and without whose actions such change would not be possible – are for their part so much shaped by this identification-mechanism that they are unable to act in such a spontaneous and conscious way that might change the Weltlauf; indeed, in identifying with it (an unhappy, neurotic, harmful identification) they actually reinforce the Weltlauf. And this, I would say, is the truth about man’s position in history .”
Theodor Adorno (Lectures on History and Freedom, Wilding tr.)

Or, at the problem with the Wetlauf. But I think there is a remaining problem with how psychoanalysis is viewed in this. Freud was not saying that the repression of our desires was successful. The incorporating of the irrational did make humans like their enemy— or the individual like his or her enemy. Or rather it did, but it did not do so successfully — and it is this failure that becomes the engine for the reproduction of this irrationality. Repetition and compulsion, again, loom over so much of 20th century thought. Wilding is aware of this, and writes…

“Attenuated ethics, the circumscribed teaching of the good life, the form of Adorno’s late philosophy, is not so much the proud protestations of virtue over a vicious world, as might have been possible in early modernity, at the origins of civil society. Now it is a modest compendium of counterfactual virtues modelled on a jaundiced eccentric confronting an unstoppable social mechanism.”
Adrian Wilding (Ibid)

Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo (The Fourth Estate, 1901)

And the literary representation, then, is King Lear. And Lear’s storm (as Wilding notes) is of his own making (and its curious that a review of my play Dogmouth suggested the lead character was a Lear on his own ‘blasted heath’ — a flattering comparison, but not quite right, because Lear like Dogmouth, was both creator and victim.) And so, there is only a vague idea of ‘freedom’ left in the contemporary world, a facsimile.

“…the growing concentration of the economy, the executive and the bureaucracy has advanced to such an extent that people are reduced more and more to the status of functions. { } we can concede that the pathos of freedom in 1789 had its purely decorative side, one that continued to reverberate down to the middle of the nineteenth century. Nowadays, people are unable to get excited about it. They may fear losing the opportunities for consumption, but their interest in expanding freedom is absent. { } What is of significance for the internal structure of individuals today is a phenomenon identified by psychoanalysis. This is the phenomenon of ego weakness. David Riesman speaks of inner-directed and other-directed characters. By the latter, the predominant type today, he means the social character whose actions are guided by outside influences. In his case the discrepancy between the development of his ego and the power of the forces that bear down on him has the effect that his ego does not reach the point of a dialectic between his internal and external powers. In consequence he simply conforms. ”
Theodor Adorno (Hilmar Tillack’s notes, for Lectures on History and Freedom)

Remember these observations were from 1964. But the Covid lockdowns provided the perfect laboratory for confirmation. Reisman’s idea of other directed character was specifically from the upper educated bourgeoisie — something all of us noted on the Aesthetic Resistance podcasts — those college urbanites and people most visible on electronic media. This is that 30% demographic I have referred to repeatedly. These are the virtue signalling conformists who are most ready to condemn and stigmatize those suggesting a tear in the social fabric. One should also note the storm in Shakespearean drama. Ted Hughes remarkable study of Shakespeare (The Goddess of Complete Being) is particularly attuned to the allegorical and how societal unhealth travels down to the individual level. It is curious, and disappointing, that this book is viewed as a novelty or curiosity of literary criticism. I think probably it is simply too heterodox, too intensely passionate (or even emotional) for a work of criticism. And while it has its flaws, it also has a staggering amount of virtues. And one of Hughes isights has to do with how he traces the evolution of the *storm* in Shakespeare’s works. From the sonnets, from The Rape of Lucrece, and Venus and Adonis, to its appearance in Richard III. And then eventually its mature expression in Macbeth and The Tempest. What Hughes is so attuned to is the allegory of the world — Shakespeare was the dramatist and poet of the *wetlauf*. And one can see in Richard the power of toxicity, of emotional damage.

“His infinitely vengeful ambition, and deformity, are one of Shakespeare’s most powerful symbols of that ectoplasmic entity — the elemental — emerging from the rejected, enraged Goddess.”
Ted Hughes (The Goddess of Complete Being)

Nicky Hodge (1957)

Hughes recognizes the depth of rejection in Shakespeare’s plays. What Hughes calls the ‘charge of the boar’, the formative metaphoric idea of ‘the tragic equation’. Hughes eccentric Jungian analysis reminds me at times of Bly, and going back over the Hughes book I find this kind of voice nearly extinct today. Hughes is not doing ‘conventional’ criticism, here. His is an expedition of the metaphysical in tragedy.

The storm, the external storm, travels from Richard III, to Measure for Measure, to Troilus and Cressida, Hamlet and Othello, to Macbeth. From act 3 of Macbeth the storm migrates to the transcendental plane. It is in Othello and King Lear, and The Tempest (most acutely perhaps) an inner storm. An inner annihilation. In this sense the story of contemporary mass shooters is a Shakespearean tale. Netanyahu is the ignoble and lesser Richard III. The dates are open to argument in several cases (Troilus and Cressida for instance) but the point remains.( there is also the blackness of Caliban, whose precursor is the blackness of Othello, and the blackness of Richard’s robe, as I recall anyway, but here the point remains. The blackness of a final storm is the end point). And the late problem plays; Cymbaline, The Winter’s Tale, Pericles, as well as Coriolanus and the hugely difficult Antony and Cleopatra, all serve as the laboratories of reason, of *wetlauf*, but as manifestations of consciousness.

A second footnote here on Caliban’s blackness. I directed an experimental version of The Tempest many years ago and was struck with how profoundly over-determined was the character of Caliban. As Hughes notes, Caliban remains the real life of the play, the uncontainable vessel of life, and his is one of Shakespeare’s most dense voices. For he is the daemon in the tragic equation, both the witness to the primal trauma as well as the brother of all. And in his divine blackness is found Kali and the blueness of Krishna. The son of a supernatural African devil-God, and the play itself is expression of that turn from the 16th to the 17th century. And the *discovery* of the new world. There are echoes in Melville and Conrad, both. For both were attuned to the implications of the colonial.

Matthias Grünewald (detail, Isenheim Altarpiece, 1512)

“Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have a similar primary mechanism of action to cocaine. SSRIs block the reuptake of Serotonin, SNRIs, also commonly prescribed block the reuptake of Serotonin and Norepinephrine (henceforth “SSRI refers to both SSRI and SNRI), and Cocaine blocks the reuptake of Serotonin, Norepinephrine, and Dopamine. SSRIs (and SNRIs) were originally used as anti-depressants, then gradually had their use marketed into other areas and along the way have amassed a massive body count. Once the first SSRI entered the market in 1988, Prozac quickly distinguished itself as a particularly dangerous medication and after nine years, the FDA had received 39,000 adverse event reports for Prozac, a number far greater than for any other drug. This included hundreds of suicides, atrocious violent crimes, hostility and aggression, psychosis, confusion, distorted thinking, convulsions, amnesia, brain-zaps, a feeling that your brain longer works right, and sexual dysfunction (long-term or permanent sexual dysfunction is one of the most commonly reported side effects from anti-depressants, which is ironic given that the medication is supposed to make you less, not more depressed). “
A Midwestern Doctor (presumably Dr Pierre Kory ) (Forgotten Side of Medicine)

“Psychiatric diagnoses are made by talking to the patients, but the current checklist approach looks a bit too much like the familiar parlour game, Find Five Errors. For example, we say that a person who has at least five symptoms out of nine possible is depressed”
Peter C. Gotzsche (Deadly Psychiatry and Organised Denial)

The well known experiment conducted by David Rosenhan (Rosenhan DL. ‘On being sane in insane places’. Science 1973) is both unsurprising and probably pretty common. But the conclusions from doctors like Gotzsche (and even Szasz in other cases) are highly problematic. It is also a bit shocking to read the attacks on Freud. I say shocking because Freudian theory is being discussed as if IT were responsible for SSRI over-prescription. But here one runs into the loss of philosophic education in the West today. These doctors, even those who rightly want an end to this plague of anti-depressant use, are highly mechanistic. Even Szasz is mechanistic in the end. The problem is a society in which judgements are made about sanity and insanity. Judgements given without even a moment’s pause to question what notions of mental health might actually mean. This would return us, if we followed the logic, back to Adorno and Hegel (and Marx). The language of medicine, too, is couched in the Imperialist ethos of western society overall (she had an asthma attack). Nearly everything in Western society is militarized. And enemies are found in literally every aspect of life. (the weather, those killer floods, and that invasion of killer bees, etc).

Jordan Kline, photography.

“When researchers interviewed 463 people, they found that all of them experienced thoughts, beliefs, moods, and fantasies that, if isolated in a psychiatric interview, would support a diagnosis of mental illness.”
Robert Whitaker (Mad in America)

“Psychotropic drugs can cause people to lose some of their conscience, so that they lose control over their behaviour. Such people are at greatly increased risk of committing acts of crime and violence. Several high-profile homicides have been committed by patients in a drug-withdrawal state, which also may cause akathisia, and a clear sign that the psychiatrists generally don’t know what they are doing and what they are causing is that they have virtually always interpreted such events as meaning that the patients need to be kept on their drug, rather than acknowledging the peril of using the drug in the first place. { } Peter Breggin has suggested that we should prohibit giving psychiatric drugs to children, just like we have prohibited physical and sexual abuse. I agree completely that psychiatric drugging of children is a form of child abuse that should be prohibited, with very rare exceptions. We are not allowed to beat our children but are allowed to destroy their brains with drugs. We medicalise the inevitable conflicts that arise between parents and children, and methylphenidate (Ritalin) has become the modern version of the cane. This is a flagrant abuse of a faulty disease model and a serious violation of the children’s human rights, which must be stopped.”
Peter C. Gotzsche (Ibid)

Anti-depressants also result in a 60% decrease in libido. This is a not very often noted side effect of these drugs. But it does dovetail with the general decrease, in especially young people, having sex. Falling birth rates are better explained, too, when factoring in these findings.

“Antipsychotics don’t cure psychosis, antidepressants don’t cure depression, and anti-anxiety drugs don’t cure anxiety; in fact, these drugs can cause psychosis, depression and anxiety, particularly if used longterm and if people try to get off them.
These drugs are not “anti” some disease. They don’t cure us, they simply change us by causing a wide array of effects in people, just like street drugs do. And they are not in any way targeted, although the drug names suggest they are, for example, there is nothing selective about selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). This term was invented by SmithKline Beecham to give paroxetine an advantage over other SSRIs, but it was adopted by all companies.”

Peter C. Gotzsche (Ibid)

There are so many things to note vis a vis psychiatric drugs, but the main lesson here in a wider context is that this was a money making enterprise for pharmaceutical companies.

Alex Grant

“The first antipsychotic drug, chlorpromazine, is a phenotiazine, which are compounds developed in the late 1800s for use as synthetic dyes. In the 1930s, they were used as insecticides and for swine parasites. In the 1940s, they were found to limit locomotion to such an extent that rats could no longer avoid electric shocks in escape experiments. Next, they were used in surgery for their numbing effect to enhance the effect of anaesthetics. Chlorpromazine was first used as an antihistamine for allergies but doctors observed that it made patients emotionally detached and disinterested in anything, which they described as a chemical lobotomy. When it was tried in patients with mania, the psychiatrists observed that it induced a profound numbness, an indifference where the patients didn’t express their preoccupations, desires or preferences and “rarely asked questions, like being separated from the world “as if by an invisible wall.”
Peter C. Gotzsche (Ibid)

This emotional flatlining runs across all SSRIs and psychotropic drugs in general. And ponder again the extent of prescriptions. It is literally a cognitively impaired society. All this on top of the economic factors, the loss of social mobility and the habituation of screen use. One might well see a correlation between screen habituation and anti-depressants. Gotzsche also observes “It is similarly absurd to attribute a complex phenomenon like depression to one neurotransmitter when there are more than 200 such transmitters in the brain that interact in a very complex system we don’t understand.” And this is one of the crucial truths of psycho-pharmacology, and neuroscience overall — nobody understands the brain. Nobody can define consciousness. But there is a lot of money to be made in trying to sell people on the idea of ‘science’ in these matters. This is a problem not unrelated to AI, too. In fact the entire chatbox phenomenon is another of those living allegories that seem so prevalent today. The reproduction of drivel, the reproducing of banality, by a machine, is perhaps the zenith of humanity’s loss of education, but also a loss of history. The machine is spewing out a substitute for history. And not even that.

It is worth noting a short paper by Adorno : Revisionist Psychoanalysis. The main thrust of which is directed at Karen Horney and her criticism of Freudian drive theory. What matters in the context of this post is that Adorno sees the alleged unity of the subject taken by Horney and other revisionists as a fiction, but worse, as ideological. “It eschews the strength and vivacity of infantile traumatic experiences through recourse to adverse influences of the environment, conceived in a somewhat vague way, without a critical investigation of its dynamic factors.”
Verlaine Freitas (Adorno and Freudian Revisionism)

Howard Hodgkin

As Freitas notes, meta-psychological factors are replaced with general abstractions. There is an assumption about the unity of the individual, and separating that individual from society the better to then explain that individual by ‘influences’ of the society. Its a bit of circular argument but it fits well with a bourgeois idea of healing.

“Instead of analysing sublimation, the revisionists sublimate the very analysis.”
Theodor Adorno (Revisionist Psychoanalysis)

Infantile sexuality was removed by the revisionists, replaced with more exalted strivings, character traits and tendencies. And Freitas writes “This stand aligns perfectly with scientific objectivity, purging the theoretical discourse of all subjective density…” (Ibid)

Adorno, of course, understood the sexual sadism of the Nazis, and rejected the cleansing of their critique with words like ‘power’ and ‘totalitarianism’. Horney and the other revisionists removed the sexual content of the unconscious and thereby fixing the psychoanalytic brand for American audiences. Horney et al focused on explanations such as ‘competition’ to explain the conflicts between social groups. Both Freud and Adorno saw the deeper sexual terrors of castration and direct intimate compulsions and trauma. All the way back to birth and parenting. Revisionists posited a ‘healthy individual’ ideal against which they could compare deviations but retain a world of good intentions.Horney valued initiative and courage, all the capitalist virtues. Hers was a system of optimism and conformity, a long way from Freud (and Adorno). As Freitas notes, Horney saw ‘good management of exchanges’ between the individual and society (make your life work). This was the goal of nearly all north American psychologists.

Adorno does note clearly that men’s constitutions come from “neither their free wills or drives, but from the social and economic laws which are imposed on their heads.” The difference, from Horney, is clear in the follow up, in which he describes society as ‘inhuman’. One cannot watch the genocide in Gaza and not feel that the deepest sedimented layers of the psyche are a battleground of the inhuman. This is really where morals and values become, again, the topic. In Dialectic of Enlightenment, Adorno and Horkheimer wrote that *reason* was the organ of calculation. And the “purposeless purpose…the plan considered in itself”. But if the battleground (sic) of this deepest of deep layers in the psyche is one in which the inhuman is fighting, then it raises many questions.

Side bar: if you use the Google Search Engine, and type in Freud and Psychoanalysis….a box appears mid page in bold print “People Also Ask”. The first question in this People Also Ask courtesy for the average reader is: Why was Psychoanalysis Rejected?

“ It is rather the case, and I believe this is fundamental to an understanding of the attitude of the individual human subject caught up in the historical process, that the historical coercion which moulds human beings enters into the very core of their psyche and their subjectivity is in a sense shaped by this socialization process. The sphere of psychology in which we imagine that we are ourselves is also the sphere in which in a certain, obscure sense we are furthest from being ourselves. This is because we are preformed by that being-for-others to the very core of our being. This being-for-others is what is most successful in breaking whatever part of the existence of the individual that has not submitted to that identity coercion. By this I mean that the more individuals identify with the universal – not consciously, but in their unconscious and preconscious reactions “ the more they can be said to distance themselves in a sense from the universal by the fact that their identification with it is blind and defenceless because they are acting unconsciously, as a form of adaptation. It has frequently been maintained – with justice, I would say – that the realm specific to psychology is the realm of irrationality.”
Theodor Adorno (Lectures on History and Freedom)

Karin Kneffel

So, we have the deep allegorical expressions in Shakespeare (and Milton, Melville, Aeschylus, Dante, Kafka, etc) and these are deep in the human psyche, and the truth of this is what Freud discovered, and it is also, scooped up in the Hegelian dialectic, in the *Way of the World* — and this is, as Ted Hughes imagined it, the thrusting boar of the tragic equation. It is also, as Adorno notes perceptively…

“You can see this every day, in discussions, for example, where people simply echo what others say and produce 100,000 arguments to prove that things can’t be any different, won’t be any different and shouldn’t be any different. It is as if they are inwardly prepared to take the side of whoever will prevent them from embarking on the course of action that would be best for them. This fact too is well known to analytical psychology, admittedly from a very limited, that is, an abstract, subjective point of view, but nevertheless a stringent one. Anna Freud, Sigmund Freud’s daughter, has made a special study of these questions and has introduced the concept of identification with the aggressor or with one’s own enemy. Incidentally, this should not be taken too personally as referring to one’s own enemies, but should be expanded to one’s identification with the course of the world just as it happens to be. This sets up a catastrophic vicious circle in which human beings have an objective interest in changing the world and in which this change is quite impossible without their participation. However, these mechanisms of identification stamped themselves on people’s characters to such a degree that they are quite incapable of the “be required to bring about the necessary changes. This is because, by identifying with the course of the world, they do so in an unhappy, neurotically damaged way, which effectively leads them to reinforce the world as it is. And that, I would say, is the truth about the situation of human beings in history.”
Theodor Adorno (Ibid)

There is a strange necessity to think of both allegory and myth. The tendency to see myth as a part of of an obfuscating mystifying process (see National Socialism, Zionism) tends to make us forget there is a progressive aspect to the allegories and myths that lurk in the deeper layers of the unconscious, too.The way of the world is not a self evident truth. It is hidden most of the time. One must reflect on the various registers of society.

*Side bar part two: The answer Google Search gives to its question “In fact, one of the main reasons for the decline of psychoanalysis is that the ideas of Freud and his followers have gained little empirical support.”

Rainer Fetting (1984)

“The volume of Plutarch’s Lives which I possessed contained the histories of the first founders of the ancient republics. This book had a far different effect upon me from the Sorrows of Werter. I learned from Werter’s imaginations despondency and gloom, but Plutarch taught me high thoughts; he elevated me above the wretched sphere of my own reflections, to admire and love the heroes of past ages. Many things I read surpassed my understanding and experience. I had a very confused knowledge of kingdoms, wide extents of country, mighty rivers, and boundless seas. But I was perfectly unacquainted with towns and large assemblages of men. The cottage of my protectors had been the only school in which I had studied human nature, but this book developed new and mightier scenes of action.”
Mary Shelley (Ibid)

Google wants empirical evidence for the mind. For the Oedipus Complex. It wants what the shrinks who prescribe Zoloft or Risperdal want. Google has no idea what empiricism even means in this context. And when I say Google I must mean the army of copy writers and content editors who work for this massive corporation. A second side bar is how Google embraced the open office floor plan — and the ensuing debate is rather interesting. So maybe an overworked content editor just couldn’t concentrate with all the noise around him.

“On the other hand, since the achievement of a proper identity cannot succeed because of the objective course of the world and because people’s interests cannot be reconciled, people are necessarily crippled by this unconscious act of identification with the world. { } I can illustrate this tendency by referring you to an expression originally introduced to psychology by Carl Gustav Jung but which I took the liberty of applying some years ago in sociology. This is the idea of ‘concretism’. This concept contains the idea of the displacement of the libido to what is immediately present to people’s minds. Because the “of the displacement of the libido to what is immediately present to people’s minds. Because they identify with the institutions, commodities, things and relations immediately familiar to them, they are incapable of perceiving their dependence upon processes at some distance from them, the actual objective processes.”
Theodor Adorno (Ibid)

Zied Ben Romdhane, photography (Gafsa, Tunesia, 2014)

There is a crisis of rationality. It is also clear there are many very unhappy people, although to some extent this is because they are told to be unhappy.

“It is difficult to know how much overdiagnosis of depression there is, as we don’t even know what a true diagnosis is. If we count elephants, we don’t suddenly decide to include also wildebeests in our count just because they are also greyish and have four legs. For depression, however, the criteria for the diagnosis have been broadened enormously over the years. Based on the nine criteria in DSMIV, psychiatrists have calculated that one can be depressed in at least 1,497 different ways. Some of these variations are not really what most people would call depression.”
Peter C. Gotzsche (Ibid)

The crisis of reason overlaps with the loss of an ability to think clearly and accurately. I began with my own nostalgia for a culture of literacy and art that has disappeared. Artists still exist, many very good ones working today, but they exist in a semi vacuum. The culture has been strip mined. It is not just the obvious non-stop marketing and advertising, or even the constant assault of click bait. It is also the approaching fascist state built on the destruction of morals and values, the erasing of distinction between true and false. It is also the loss of community, and for the working class a loss of recognition. Much of the mental health issues discussed come from a feeling of being invisible. What Ted Hughes’ book reminds me of is the curative power of seeing the allegories around us. And of the mimetic praxis in our inner lives.

“Crime is a fact of the human species, a fact of that species alone, but above all the secret aspect, impenetrable and hidden […] Gilles de Rais is a tragic criminal. The main constituent of tragedy is crime, and this criminal, more than any other perhaps, was a character of tragedy […] Crime, obviously, calls for night; crime would not be crime without darkness, yet – were it pitch dark – this horror of night aspires to the burst of sunshine. “
George Bataille (Trial of Gilles de Rais)

Gilles de Rais, murdered three hundred children, and gave birth to the legend of Bluebeard. The Israeli state is murdering even more children. And they are applauded in much of the West. Not by the majority, not yet, but by a significant number given their crimes. Western society today is like the serial killer groupies who write to the objects of their desire, who languish in prison, often awaiting execution.

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