Saturday, January 11, 2020

What Concerned Hayek About Freudian Theory?

Friedrich Hayek

At the post, Friedrich Hayek's Fascinating Take on Sigmund Freud, a commenter writes:
There is a lot of information here about psychoanalysis. Hayek's main objection seems to be that Freud recommended people not repress their emotions. Hayek seems to interpret this as Freud recommending that people emote without reservation. And Hayek envisions constant emotional expressions without rational exchange resulting in a kind of tower of babel. Destroying civilized exchange. I don't believe that was what Freud meant. Freud was pointing out that emotions are telling us something about ourselves and we need to express them in the right environment so we can better understand ourselves. Ayn Rand and N. Branden expressed something similar when they suggested that emotions are the automatic response to a situation being for us or against us. And emotions are the result of the thinking or not thinking that one has done about these situations. So rather than repress emotions accept them and try to understand their source. Politics seems to be about stirring up emotions without thought to obscure the politicians' relentless rent seeking activity. A little more introspection on the part of the electorate couldn't hurt.
RW note:

Hayek appears to have been considering Freud's thought from a much deeper perspective than just the simplified version that is popular now about Freud, namely that "emotions are telling us something about ourselves."

Hayek understood where Freudian thought was going. For example when he said:
The height of the influence of the modern psychoanalysis
of "uneducation" was in the
forties and fifties. And it was in the sixties that we
got the products of that education.
ROSTEN: Yes. It was more, I think, the vulgarization of
psychoanalysis--I want to put in a word of defense there-
and the silliness of the people who were the practitioners
and the counselors. I doubt very much that Freud would ever
have approved of this, because certainly his work is not lacking
in severe moral strictures.
HAYEK: Freud himself, probably not. Certainly not
[Carl] Jung, but nearly all the next generation of well
known psychoanalysts were working in that direction.
And if you take people like Erich Fromm and such people...
Fromm, of course, was part of the Frankfurt School and absurd Critical Theory thinking which is the "question everything movement" on steroids, including questioning pronouns, that is currently dominant in universities and the shallow intellectual set.

Hayek understood what was coming out of Freud. It wasn't just limited personal self-analysis. Not just mental tweaks, if you will.

Indeed, Fredrick Crews in Freud: The Making of an Illusion, wrote (my bold):
It didn't matter, for his recruitment of followers in his lifetime or even posthumously, whether they regarded him as saintly or Satanic, an upholder of Western rationality or its most subversive foe. In 1930, for example, the German author Arnold Zweig told him, admiringly, that psychoanalysis had "reversed all values,... conquered Christianity, disclosed the true Antichrist, and liberated the spirit of resurgent life from the ascetic ideal." The philosopher Richard Wollheim, without saying what benefits he had in mind, wrote in 1980s that Freud did "as much for [humanity] as any other human being who has lived." And more recently, Christopher Bollas - -  who had been "perhaps the most prolific and widely read psychoanalytic author at work today"---declared that the human race nurtured, for thousands of years, a "phylogenetic" yearning for a theory of the unconscious, a need supplied at last by "the Freud Moment," which changed man forever. Psychoanalysis, according to Bollas "arrived at the moment when it was implementation might rescue humanity from self-destruction." 
The above is clearly a reference to psychoanalysis that rejects the foundations of current civilization.

This is what concerned Hayek.

And we have Hayek, pointing to the clearest example of where the Freud trend was going: 
 In a way, you see, I am arguing against Freud, but the problem is the same
as in Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents.
To understand that Hayek was thinking about consequences well beyond personal limited psychoanalysis to "understand ourselves," consider the start of the introduction to a reprint of  Civilization and Its Discontents. The book that Hayek references:


1 comment:

  1. RW - Your text references show quite clearly that Hayek was concerned about a trend in thinking that could be dangerous to western civilization and its traditions. But Hayek shows no logical connection to this trend in thinking and the ideas of Freud. In fact Freud’s ideas about psychiatry were much more individualist and Western Civilization has a very strong individualist tradition.
    On the other hand, Freud’s contemporary Wagner-Jauregg who pursued psychiatry from a much more biological or genetic methodology trended in a direction that was very anti-individualist. He actually proposed that the insane be prohibited from reproducing. He also became a member of the Nazi party. It is this trend toward anti-individualist ideas that seem also associated with the Frankfurt School.