Thursday, September 08, 2011

The Social Democracy of Red Vienna & the “Intellectual Communism” of the Psychoanalytic Salon

“Social democracy offered one possible solution to the problematic social place of psychoanalysis. [That problematic ‘place’ was due largely to the ‘fact that all of Freud’s early associates were Jewish,’ bearing in mind that ‘Jews were the radical “other” in European life of the period.’] Austrian socialism opposed anti-Semitism and was less economistic and more oriented toward cultural questions than most socialist traditions. Many of the original figures in Freud’s circle [i.e. the Wednesday Psychological Society] were Social Democrats. [….] Many analytic patients were also socialists. Bertha Pappenheim (Anna O.) translated Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman into German and founded the Jewish Women’s Union (Jüdischer Frauenbund), Emma Eckstein (Irma) was an associate of Karl Kautsky, the leader of the Social Democrats, and the sister of Therese Shlesinger, a Social Democrat who was one of the first female members of Parliament. [….]

In fact, autodidacticism and countercultural pursuits were combined with a socialist sensibility in early psychoanalysis. Discussions at the Wednesday-night meetings ranged over such topics as Nietzsche’s Ecce Homo, the woman question, the psychology of Marxism, and the sexual enlightenment of children. As in his university course, Freud required every member to participate in discussion, the order determined by choosing slips from an urn. Ideas were deemed to be communal property, to be used without citation. This they called ‘intellectual communism.’”—Eli Zaretsky, Secrets of the Soul: A Social and Cultural History of Psychoanalysis (2004): 70-71.


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