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New Left Review I/223, May-June 1997

Eli Zaretsky

Bisexuality, Capitalism and the Ambivalent Legacy of Psychoanalysis

By the time Freud died in London in 1939, he was already a legend. [1] I wish to dedicate this essay to Nancy Fraser. In addition, I wish to thank José Brunner, Jim Miller and the nlr for helpful comments. Finally, I wish to thank the Robert Stoller Foundation which awarded an earlier version of this essay its 1995 annual prize as the best essay on psychoanalysis. By the 1950s, he exerted a grip on many imaginations comparable to that of the great figures—Moses, Leonard, Goth, Dostoyevsky—about whom he wrote. Equally important, Frankfurt School theorists placed his work at the centre of twentieth-century critical theory. In the 1960s and 1970s, feminist and gay critiques certainly called into question Freud’s stature, but in some ways they also enhanced it. Kate Millett called Freud ‘the strongest individual. . .force’ in the twentieth-century gender counter-revolution, which granted him great power. Other feminists, beginning with Juliet Mitchell, argued that psychoanalysis, far from being counter-revolutionary, actually laid bare the psychodynamics of sexism. Gayle Rubin, for example, called psychoanalysis ‘feminist theory manqué.’ [2] Gayle Rubin, ‘The Traffic in Women’, in Rayna R. Reiter, ed., Toward an Anthropology of Women, New York 1975, p. 185.

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