Damaged Life: The Crisis of the Modern Psyche

By Tod Sloan | Go to book overview

Chapter 5

The domination of desire

My inquiry thus far has articulated two domains: the colonization of the lifeworld that accompanies capitalist modernization and the formation of the psyche in early socialization processes. In relation to the first domain, I have argued that Habermas’s conceptualization of modernization provides both essential sociological concepts and fruitful hypotheses regarding the sources of modern social pathologies. Specifically, Habermas shows how capitalist modernization thrives on cognitive-instrumental forms of rationality that disrupt the meaning-sustaining processes of the lifeworld. In connection with the second domain, I laid out a model of personality development grounded in psychoanalytic object relations theory. This model suggests that the experience of meaningfulness and capacities for relatedness depend on a complex process of psychic structuration in early childhood. Now, the challenge is to work out a useful way of combining these theoretical frameworks in order to clarify the impact of capitalist modernization on the formation of the psyche.

In my review of Schneider’s Neurosis and Civilization (1975) in Chapter 2, I illustrated some pitfalls in theoretical analyses that combine psychoanalytic psychology and Marxist social theory. An apparent incompatibility at the level of basic assumptions tends to produce contradictions in whatever syntheses are proposed (cf. Robinson 1969; Castilla del Pino 1969; Lichtman 1982; Chasseguet-Smirgel and Grunberger 1986; Frosh 1987; Tolman 1994). For example, psychoanalysis emphasizes intrapsychic sources of motivation while Marxism looks to social structure in its accounts of social behaviour. Marxist approaches tend to emphasize actors’ capacities for rational action, while psychoanalysis primarily documents the obstacles to rationality. Despite such theoretical challenges, the insights of Freud and Marx continue to inspire very provocative interpretations of contemporary experience based on syntheses of the two perspectives (cf. Brown 1973; Kaës 1980; Kovel 1981; Kodai 1984; Whitebook 1985; Allingham 1987; Alford 1989; Benjamin 1988; Craib 1990; Zizek 1989, 1991; Earnest 1992). A few of the challenges encount-

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Damaged Life: The Crisis of the Modern Psyche
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Chapter 1 - Damaged Goods: the Modern Problematic 1
  • Chapter 2 - The Psychological Impact of Modernization 23
  • Chapter 3 - The Colonization of the Lifeworld 47
  • Chapter 4 - The Formation of the Psyche 67
  • Chapter 5 - The Domination of Desire 81
  • Chapter 6 - Ideological Formations and Their Transcendence 96
  • Chapter 7 - The Destruction of Meaning 110
  • Chapter 8 - Decolonization 127
  • References 147
  • Index 155
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