Neo-Freudianism


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Neo-Freudianism

 

a school in modern philosophy and psychology that became strongest in the USA. The term “neo-Freudianism” was coined to designate various currents that broke away from orthodox Freudianism in the late 1930’s (represented by K. Horney, H. S. Sullivan, and E. Fromm).

Neo-Freudianism developed out of the unification of psychoanalysis with American sociological and ethnological theories, especially the school of cultural anthropology. The point of departure for neo-Freudianism was the principle of social determinism (Fromm), or cultural determinism (A. Kardiner), which, unlike the biologism of S. Freud, proceeds from the assumption that the environment plays a decisive role in personality formation. The center of gravity of psychoanalysis is shifted from intrapsychic processes to interpersonal relations, and the doctrine of the libido and sublimation is rejected. At the same time, neo-Freudianism rejects the monistic conception of man in general and denies the existence of dialectical relationships between nature and culture and between the environment and the individual. (According to Fromm, the distinctively human begins where nature ends.) Psychic norms are viewed as the adaptation of the individual to the social environment, and any violation of “social identity” is regarded as pathological.

However, neo-Freudianism not only “sociologizes” psychology but also “psychologizes” social phenomena. Neo-Freudianism denies the existence of objective social laws that are not laws of psychology. Rejecting psychoanalytic concepts about the inner psychic structure, neo-Freudianism replaces them with a doctrine of defensive forms of conduct, in the spirit of behaviorism. Neo-Freudianism either denies the role of the unconscious or regards it as a link between the social and psychological structures (Fromm’s “social unconscious”). Characteristic of neo-Freudianism is the overall concept of interpersonal relationships developed by Sullivan: the mind contains nothing but relationships to other persons and objects or a succession of interpersonal situations. The existence of a personality as such is regarded as a myth or illusion, and the personality is considered merely the sum of relationships between distorted or fantastic images (“personifications”) that arise in social communication.

Neo-Freudianism is not an integral system. Sullivan completely dissolved the individual in the interpersonal environment. Horney recognized in the human being a certain capacity for self-motivation (“the drive toward self-realization”). Breaking with the positivistic tenets maintained by Horney and Sullivan, Fromm developed a socially critical anthropological theory that transformed neo-Freudianism into a theory of Utopian “communitarian socialism.” In the works of M. Mead and Kardiner, for example, neo-Freudianism is combined with cultural anthropology—a combination that often gave rise to ideas of cultural relativism and the psychological noncommen-surability of individual cultures.

In neo-Freudianism problems of psychopathology received the most developed treatment in Horney’s works. Viewing the irrationality of neurosis as a reflection of the irrational aspects of society, Horney considered the motive force in neurosis to be a condition of “basic anxiety” generated by a hostile environment. Various defense mechanisms arise in reaction to this anxiety: rationalization, or the transformation of neurotic fear into a rational fear of an external danger (always inordinately exaggerated); the suppression of anxiety, which is replaced by other symptoms; the “narcotizing” of anxiety, either direct (with the aid of alcohol) or indirect (in frantic external activity); and flight from the situations that cause anxiety. These defense mechanisms generate the four “great neuroses of our time”: the dependency neurosis, a search for love and approval at any price; the power neurosis, the pursuit of power, prestige, and possession; the submission neurosis (the conformism of an automaton); and neurotic isolation, or flight from society. According to Horney, these irrational means of resolving conflicts only deepen the self-alienation of the individual.

Neo-Freudianism defines psychotherapy’s goal as the revelation of the defects in the patient’s system of social ties, so that he may adapt better to his environment. The Chicago school of psychoanalysts (for example, F. Alexander and T. French) and sociological research have been greatly influenced by neo-Freudianism.

REFERENCES

Zamoshkin, Iu. A. Psikhologicheskoe napravlenie v sovremennoi burzhuaznoi sotsiologii. Moscow, 1958.
Sovremennaia psikhotogiia v kapitalisticheskikh stranakh. Moscow, 1963.
Wells, H. K. Krakh psikhoanaliza: Ot Freida k Frommu. Moscow, 1968. (Translated from English.)
Hall, C. S., and G. Lindzey. “Social Psychological Theories: Adler, Fromm, Sullivan, Horney.” In their book Theories of Personality. New York-London, 1957.
Salzman, L. Developments in Psychoanalysis. New York-London [1962].
Birnbach, M. Neo-Freudian Social Philosophy. Stanford, Calif., 1961.
Wyss, D. Die tiefenpsychologischen Schulen von den Anfdngen bis zur Gegenwart, 3rd ed. Gottingen, 1970.

D. N. LIALIKOV