How Does Freudian Theory Help to Explain Social Formation

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The 1960s witnessed a strong social movement along the twin axis of race and gender. In the beginning feminists were sceptical – if not antagonistic – to psychoanalysis. They marked it as spawning patriarchy and with it the earlier quiescence of women. But by 1973, women psychoanalysts, psychologists, and writers began to demonstrate that the women’s movement could benefit from the thought of Karen Horney, Helene Deutsch, and Melanie Klein, as well as from that of the younger women who were linking psychoanalytic ideas to hormonal, chromosomal, and embryological research, to psychological studies of traits and bisexuality, and so on. New avenues for investigation opened up into the genesis of femaleness, gender roles, and all sorts of cultural influences. Investigators expected to unravel the impact culture may have on nature. (Kurzweil, 1995, p. 6) Freudian understanding of social formation was complemented by the works of sociologists such as Julia Kristeva and Michel Foucault. Kristeva’s analysis of the process of abjection from the maternal inherent in social formation supplements Freud’s thesis that the social is founded on the murder of the father and the incest taboo. (Oliver Trigo, 2003, p. …In what is a useful insight for feminist theorists, although language and culture set up separations and order by repressing maternal authority, this repressed maternal authority returns, especially in literature and art, where imagination frees up unconscious fears and desires in a way similar to dream-work. (Oliver Trigo, 2003, p. xxxiii) Central to the social formation, according to Kristeva, is collective identity formation and by extension individual identity formation. For Kristeva, abjection is coextensive in both individual identity and collective identity, which operate according to the same logic of abjection. Whereas an individual marks his difference from the maternal body through a process of abjection, society marks off its difference from animals through a process of abjection. In her analysis, however, the animal realm has been associated with the material, which ultimately represents the realm of nature from which human culture must separate to assert its humanity. (Oliver Trigo, 2003, p. xxxiii) Freud’s conception of social formation is contested by those who place Freud outside the scientific tradition.