Liberation as Impulse Control: Sigmund Freud, Radical Anti-Capitalist?
Everything to do with statistics, consumer satisfaction, the belief in science and neuroscience in particular. These are all old-style materialist causal accounts of who people really are as though, if one day, somebody can actually explain how a brain works, we'll know everything. But knowing how a brain works is not going to help somebody, e.g. whose child has just died. ...
There's no way psychoanalysis is going to work in a culture that's committed to religion, science and consumer confidence because it doesn't meet any of those criteria. That's the great thing about it. It's intrinsically counter-cultural. It actually is against the grain of all the things we're being sold… so that actually, I think, it was inevitable that psychoanalysis died a death.Uphill Battle
I think the point is that Freud redescribed sex to include many more things than it previously included. ... We are bodily creatures who begin our lives by falling in love with a beautiful body, which is our mother's ... so that we're naturally, in that sense, hedonistic. We survive through our pleasurable experience of other bodies. I don't think Freud puts sex exactly in the center of the picture. He puts the erotic, and that means an erotic apprehension of reality. What he means by that is, what makes staying alive alluring? The erotic is different because I think it's not a basic physical function to do with reproduction. It's much more about a way of seeing the world, and seeing the world in terms of what gives pleasure and what gives fear and suffering? And when Freud's talking about the unconscious, he's very often talking, I think, about what passes between people without them realizing.
Phillips' book, Missing Out, is about frustration:
Freud says, "When we are frustrated, we fantasize what we want," but of course, you notice if you fantasize a meal, it doesn't nourish you at a certain point, you have to engage with reality. You have to get the meal you want. We're actually very frightened of being frustrated, so whenever we're frustrated, we're prone, we're tempted to fill the gap very quickly. The moment I feel a bit of unease, I buy something. I have a bath. I eat chocolate. I do whatever I do.
What Freud is saying is, "We need to be able to bear with our frustration to be able to discover what it is we actually do want. Freud says a very interesting thing in a letter to Fliess. He says, "The reason that no adult is actually satisfied with money is because no child ever was. Children don't want money." I think that's a very profound point because children want affection, emotional contact, reliability, adventure, etc.
Though Freud doesn't say this, Phillips adds:
The implication of his work is that capitalism is really for children. In other words, it exploits the fact that children, of course, like adults, don't know what they want. Then they grow up into this world of capitalist exploitation, in which they discover there are millions of things to want. In fact, we're living in a supermarket. It's great, but actually it's terrible, because it depends upon non-satisfaction. It's not that there is satisfaction, but there are degrees of satisfaction, and Freud is saying, "Again, psychoanalysis might be one of the places where we might do this.…If one can learn to bear one's frustration, one will not be willing to be fobbed off by substitute gratifications," and consumer capitalism is a supermarket of substitute gratifications.