The Father: Historical, Psychological, and Cultural Perspectives

The Father: Historical, Psychological, and Cultural Perspectives

The Father: Historical, Psychological, and Cultural Perspectives

The Father: Historical, Psychological, and Cultural Perspectives


Luigi Zoja views the origin and evolution of the father from a Jungian perspective. He argues that the father's role in bringing up children is a social construction that has been subject to change throughout history - and looks at the consequences of this, along with the crisis facing fatherhood today. The Father will be welcomed by people from a wide variety of disciplines, including practitioners and students of psychology, sociology and anthropology, and by the educated general reader.


The universal principle that [Freud] discovered, and for which discovery his unconscious Jewish antireligious affect was partly responsible, was the psychic significance of the father image (the patriarchate) for Western man. Freud's heroic struggle with the father archetype of Judaism… is not Freud's personal affair, nor is it simply a problem of Jewry itself; Western culture (religion, society, and morals) is mainly formed by this father image and the psychic structure of the individual is partly damaged by it.

E. Neumann, Freud und das Vaterbild, 1956

Jakob Freud was a cloth merchant whom history remembers as the father of Sigmund Freud. Well dressed, and wearing a new fur hat, he was taking a walk one Saturday through the streets of the city of Freiberg, and on rounding a corner found another man blocking his path. The situation was embarrassing. Sidewalks at the time were often no more than a narrow track that allowed pedestrians to avoid the mud in the streets. Jakob Freud began to take another step forward, but timidly, since he found no question of honor or principle in demanding or allowing precedence. The other man, however, was quicker, and eager to assert his sense of superiority: he knocked the hat from Jakob Freud's head and into the mud, shouting, “Get down from the sidewalk, you Jew!”

On telling his son about the incident, this was the point at which he stopped. But the little Sigmund wanted to hear more, since this, for him, was where the story began to grow interesting. He asked, “So, what did you do?”

His father replied, in perfect calm, “I stepped down from the sidewalk and picked up my hat.”

According to Ernest Jones, Sigmund Freud's first biographer, this was one of the essential events in the shaping of the character of the founder of psychoanalysis. This utter lack of heroism in the man he had formerly seen as an absolute and perfect model fell like a bludgeon on his mind, and decided its future course.

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