Trotsky / Breton / Rivera

John Paramo albatrosrojo2000 at
Wed Mar 5 20:53:03 MST 2003

Louis Proyect:

"Science proceeds on the basis of controlled
laboratory experiments. The reason Freud's "theories"
are no longer taken seriously is that their
practitioners refused to subject them to the same
standards as any other scientific questions,
double-blind studies, etc."

Admitting such narrow confine for science, and
generalizing it for all sciences, would eliminate many
branches of knowledge and scientists would have to
forget about the scientific value of such things as
theory and hypothetical work or even empirical

On the other hand, what are the "controlled laboratory
experiments" of modern Psychology? Psychiatrist
hospitals? The litmus tests of behavioral "change?"  

The fact is, there are sciences and methodologies of
knowledge that do not fit the standardized American
dictionary of science based on the statistical probe
and the physical reaction to a given stimulae or
codification of what is an statistical and socially
acceptable level of modification of behavior.

Psychology is one of them.  Freud theories not taken
seriously? Say who? While there are thousands of
psychologists who would agree that a dramatic updating
of Freud's discoveries and theses was needed, they
continue to apply the basic methodology and system. 
Yes, I know, not in the US, which renders it as
something not worth of being taken seriously, uh?

Louis Proyect:

"Beyond their refusal to do this, we have to deal with
another important issue in the theory itself. 
“Freudianism represents a kind of biological
determinism that is utterly at 
odds with historical materialism. The notion that
adult unhappiness (I 
hesitate to use the word neurosis) is determined by
infant sexuality is a 
kind of sociobiology where the genitals takes on the
importance that genes 
take on in Stephen Pinker et al."

Your crude representation of Freudian neurosis theses,
even to the point of caricature, does not prove,
however, the disconnection between it and historical
materialism, nor does, in present day Freudism,
constitute an strict and unique relationship between
it and infant sexuality, but a series of conditions,
including social conditions surrounding the individual
historically (that is to say in periods of his/her
life) AND the reception of social stimulae at early
stages in life, sex being one of them. In fact, Freud
had the theory that most forms of neurosis were on
inherent to the social conditions in which the
individual developed.

Quoting a Freudian:
“Indeed, Freud deemed the redefinition of social,
familial, and political relationships necessary,
stating that our suffering as humans is in part
from..."the inadequacy of the regulations which adjust
the mutual relationships of human beings in the
family, the state, and the society."(C&ID, 37)”

While Freud challenged Marxism in that not only
economics were responsible for the political and
social behavior of different peoples and races, etc
since historically, he argued, were different examples
of societies acting differently under similar economic
circumstances, his general method was intrinsically
materialist in many ways (Civilization & Die
Weltanschauung, 1918) and remained so something cannot
be said of many of today’s schools of Psychology and
behaviorists that would accept the “laboratory
controlled” experiments when it came to human

Freud stated that “if anyone were in a position to
show in detail how these different factors---the
general human instinctual disposition, its racial
variations and its cultural modifications---behave
under the influence of varying social organization,
professional activities and methods of subsistence,
how these factors inhibit or aid one another---if, I
say, anyone could show this, then he would not only
have improved Marxism but would have made it into a
true social science.”

We can say that, in many respects, Freud’s theses were
crude historical materialism and came short of
understanding some of the social and economic elements
involved in social and individual behavior, but they
were not at all in contradiction with them.  In
addition, Freud raised a number of issues,
particularly the need to understand more than
economics to have an appraisal on social and
historical developments.  Something with which many
Marxists today agree.

The economic development of societies construct other
determinant elements of social behavior that, at
certain points have a life of their own, not just as
simple su-products of said economic development but as
concomitant root causes.

In fact, it is the backward and deterministic, and
economic reductionist Marxism that cannot explain
critical issues such as racism and homophobia in their
whole complexity.

That, I think was what motivated Trotsky – and today
other Marxists - to look into Freud’s theories with a
less depictive view than you do.   It is very
unfortunate that the ascent and domination of
Stalinism in the 30s until recently, caused a setback
for Marxist theory and that we are now in a forced
march to catch up.

As Marxists, we should look carefully on development
of science as a whole, their inter-connections and
avoid the shortcuts offered by behaviorists in
Psychology or geneticists who would like to cut what
is obviously wrong and piece together whatever is left
of the individual to make IT function in the existent
society (maybe the ultimate laboratory controlled
experiment?), rather than resolving the root causes,
let's say of most forms of mental illnesses or as
somebody put it, social imbalances.


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