Sigmund Freud's Mission Paperback – 1 Jul 1972
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Top Customer Reviews
Fromm's prose is clear and simple, easy to follow and easy to read, I found this book captured my attention and imagination in the way that a great novel would, which was not entirely what I expected.
The book is rightly subtitled an analysis of his personality and influence and chapters range from Freud's relationship to his mother (self-confidence and insecurity), his relationship to women (love), his dependence on men, his relationship with his father, Freud's authoritarianism, Freud, world reformer, the Quasi-political character of the psychoanalytic movement and Freud's Religious and Political Convictions.
The chapter on the quasi-political character of the psychoanalytic movement is perhaps one of the most interesting and could be considered an archetype for how new theories emerge, become movements and then experience a tension between dogmatism and evolution or development (Fromm considers whether psycho-analysis can be considered a science as a consequence) and I think there are parallels for most other great thinkers and their movements, like Marx and the International.
Fromm's won concerns about the genesis and perpetuation of authoritarian personality types, love and the resurfacing of the myths of the early/victorian middle classes in economic and social psychological theory are present, as in his other books.
While being sharp and direct Fromm isnt disrespectful and examines Freud as a profoundly human personality, he may have been great but he was none the less as flawed as the rest of us.
I sincerely hope that this book is not allowed to go out of print and is republished my routledge as a classic or by continum press or some other publishing house like some of Fromm's other books.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Fromm wrote in the first chapter of this 1959 book, "The most striking and probably the strongest emotional force in Freud was his passion for truth and his uncompromising faith in reason." (Pg. 8) He adds, "Speaking of Freud's passion for truth would leave an incomplete picture if one did not mention at the same time... his courage... The courage to trust reason requires risking isolation or aloneness... Truth and reason are opposed to common sense and public opinion... he did not think of himself as a genius, but he appreciated his courage as the most outstanding quality in his personality." (Pg. 13-14)
He observes, "This intense attachment of Freud to his mother... is of the greatest importance not only for the understanding of Freud's character, but also for the appreciation of one of his fundamental discoveries, the Oedipus complex... considering the intensity of his attachment to his own mother, and the fact that he tended to repress it, it is understandable that he interpreted one of the most powerful strivings in man... as the more limited wish of the little boy to satisfy his instinctual needs through Mother." (Pg. 22)
He points out, "Freud's views on the ... emancipation of women are certainly not different from the views held by the average man in Europe in the [nineteen-]eighties... he repeats the most conventional line on the problem of women, and calls [John Stuart] Mill [The Subjection of Women] 'absurd' and 'inhuman' for views which not more than fifty years later were accepted quite generally. This attitude certainly shows how strong and compelling Freud's need was to put women in an inferior place... To look at women as castrated men, with no genuine sexuality of their own... with a weakly developed Super-Ego, vain and unreliable, all this is an only slightly rationalized version of the patriarchal prejudices of his times." (Pg. 28)
He notes how "lacking in erotic passion Freud's love for his wife was" (Pg. 29), and "Never does he mention his relationship to his wife as an important source of happiness." (Pg. 30) He says, "I would be prone to assume that some of Freud's theories are also proof for his inhibited sexuality. He has emphasized repeatedly that sexual intercourse can give only limited satisfaction to civilized man..." (Pg. 35) He adds, "Freud's sexual inhibitedness may sound like a contradiction to the fact that in his theories Freud gave such a central place to the sexual drive... Freud, a man of puritan attitude, would hardly have been able to write to frankly about sex had he not been so sure of his own 'goodness' in this respect." (Pg. 36) Fromm summarizes, "Freud, the great spokesman for sex, was altogether a typical puritan. To him, the aim of life for a civilized person was to suppress his emotional and sexual impulses..." (Pg. 39)
He concludes, "Freud's aim was to found a movement for the ethical liberation of man, a new secular and scientific religion for an elite which was to guide mankind. But Freud's own messianic impulses could not have transformed psychoanalysis into the Movement had it not been for the needs of his followers and eventually those of the wide public which became enthusiastically attracted to psychoanalysis." (Pg. 111) He observes, "in the beginning, from 1900 to the twenties, psychoanalysis was much more radical than it became after it had gained its great popularity... thirty years later, when the twenties had brought with them a wave of sexual libertinism and a widespread abandonment of Victorian standards, the very same theories were no longer shocking or challenging." (Pg. 117)
This is an excellent critical, yet sympathetic analysis of Freud, and will be of great benefit to anyone studying Freud and his ideas.