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PRINTED FROM the OXFORD RESEARCH ENCYCLOPEDIA, PSYCHOLOGY ( (c) Oxford University Press USA, 2020. All Rights Reserved. Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 25 September 2020

Summary and Keywords

The relationship between psychoanalysis and Critical Theory (the Frankfurt School), contrary to dominant interpretations, is examined from a sociocultural perspective. Psychoanalysis addressed the sociopolitical issues of its time, including cultural shifts, war, and the cultural conditio humana in general. Beyond that, and more importantly, it is argued that the core psychoanalytic concepts, including drive itself, can be understood as a structure open to social co-construction. Such an interpretation of psychoanalysis can provide a link to Critical Theory of society. First, both sociopolitical and theoretical conditions in the 1920s and 1930s merit analysis under which members of the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research referred to Freud’s psychoanalysis. A theory was needed that would examine a missing point in Marxist interpretations, which the Institute adopted as its political and theoretical framework. What was missing was a place for subjective mediating factors, especially important among which were those generated by drives and those that operated unconsciously. The views on psychoanalysis and its role in the first generation of Critical Theory are analyzed, particularly the views of Horkheimer, Adorno, Fromm, and, most extensively, Marcuse, given the fact that Freud’s psychoanalysis had a central role in his thought. Finally, questions regarding the contemporary relevance of psychoanalysis and Critical Theory under new sociocultural conditions in the 21st century are raised.

Keywords: psychoanalysis, Critical Theory, Freud, Horkheimer, Adorno, Marcuse, Fromm

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