Social developments thus affect even the most recent trends in psychology. Despite the ever-widening rift between society and psychology, society reaches repressively into all psychology in the form of censorship and superego. As part of the progressive integration of society, socially rational behaviour gets melted together with the psychological residues. But the revisionists who perceive this give an oversimplified account of the interaction of the mutually alienated institutions id and ego. They posit a direct connection between the instinctual sphere and social experience. The latter, however, takes place, according to Freudian topology, only at the outer layer of the ego which has been allotted the task of testing reality. But inside the instinctual dynamic, reality is ‘translated’ into the language of the id. If there is any truth in Freud’s notion of the archaic and indeed possibly ‘timeless’ nature of the unconscious, then concrete social circumstances and motivations cannot enter it without being altered and ‘reduced’.

The time-lag between consciousness and the unconscious is itself the stigma of the contradictory development of society. Everything that got left behind is sedimented in the unconscious and has to foot the bill for progress and enlightenment. Its backwardness becomes Freud’s ‘timelessness’. Today it harbours even the demand for happiness, which does indeed begin to look ‘archaic’ as soon as it aims not at fulfilment but at some purely somatic, fragmented, local gratification, which increasingly turns into ‘having some fun’ the more diligently consciousness aspires to the condition of adultness. Psychology insulates itself against society, like society against psychology, and regresses. Under the pressure of society the psychological sector responds in the end only to sameness and proves incapable of experiencing the specific. The traumatic is the abstract. The unconscious therein resembles the abstract society it knows nothing about, and can be used to weld it together.

Freud should not be reproached for having neglected the concrete social dimension, but for being all too untroubled by the social origin of this abstractness, the rigidity of the unconscious, which he registers with the undeviating objectivity of the natural scientist. The impoverishment that has resulted from an unending tradition of the negative is hypostatized into an ontological property. The historical dimension becomes changeless; the psychic, in return, is made into an historical event. In making the leap from psychological images to historical reality, he forgets what he himself discovered—that all reality undergoes modification upon entering the unconscious—and is thus misled into positing such factual events as the murder of the father by the primal horde. It is this short-circuit between reality and the unconscious which lends psychoanalysis its apocryphal features. Such ideas as the crudely literal conception of the Moses legend have served to buttress the resistances of the official sciences that have no trouble in disproving them.

What Kardiner has called Freud’s ‘myths’—the translation of the intrapsychic into the dubiously factual—recurs wherever Freud too perpetrates ego-psychology, in his case an ego-psychology of the id, and treats the id as if it possessed the consummate rationality of the Viennese banker it at times really does resemble. In his all too refutable striving to gain a foothold in irrefutable facts, Freud unwittingly sanctions society’s belief in the usual criteria of the very science that he challenged. For the sake of these criteria, the Freudian child is a little man and his world that of a man. Thus, no less than its sociologically well-versed counterpart, a psychology that turns in on itself is aped by the society it refuses to heed.

The psyche that has been extracted from the social dialectic and investigated as an abstract ‘for itself’ under the microscope has become an object of scientific inquiry all too consistent with a society that hires and fires people as so many units of abstract labour-power. Freud’s critics have seized on his mechanistic bias. Both his determinism and also such implicit categories as the preservation of energy, the transformation of one form of energy into another and the subsumption of successive events under general laws, are reminiscent of scientific procedure. The concrete upshot of his ‘naturalist’ posture is the consistent exclusion of the new, the reduction of psychic life to a repetition of what happened in the past.

But all this has a highly progressive meaning. Freud was the first to register the full implications of the Kantian critique of an ontology of the soul, of ‘rational psychology’: the soul of Freudian psychology, as part of the already constituted world, falls within the province of the constitutive categories of empirical analysis. Freud put an end to the ideological transfiguration of the soul as a residual form of animism. It is no doubt the theory of childhood sexuality that most thoroughly undermines all metaphysical humbug about the soul. The psychoanalytic denunciation of man’s unfreedom and degradation in an unfree society resembles the materialist critique of a society blindly dominated by its economy. But under its deadly medical gaze unfreedom becomes petrified into an anthropological constant, and the quasi-scientific conceptual apparatus thereby overlooks everything in its object that is not merely object—namely, its potential for spontaneity. The more strictly the psychological realm is conceived as an autonomous, self-enclosed play of forces, the more completely the subject is drained of his subjectivity. The objectless subject that is thrown back on himself freezes into an object. It cannot break out of its immanence and amounts to no more than equations of libidinal energy. The soul that is broken down into its own laws is a soul no longer: only the groping for what it itself is not would merit the name. This is no mere epistemological matter but extends even as far as the therapeutic outcome, those desperately realistic people who have literally transformed themselves into machines in order to get on all the more successfully within their limited sphere of interests, their ‘subjectivism’.

As soon as psychological concepts are as rigorously developed as Freud’s, the neglected divergence of psychology and society takes its revenge. This can be demonstrated in the case of the concept of rationalization which was originally introduced by Jonesfootnote21 and then found its place in standard analytic theory. It designates all those statements which, quite apart from their truth content, fulfil certain functions within the psychic economy of the speaker, the commonest being defence against unconscious tendencies. Such utterances are invariably the object of a psychoanalytic critique analogous, as has often been noted, to the Marxist doctrine of ideology: their objective function is to conceal, and the analyst is out to establish both their falsehood and their necessity and to bring what was hidden to light. But there exists no pre-established harmony between the immanent psychological critique of rationalization and its real content. The same statement can be true or false, depending on whether it is judged according to reality or its psycho-dynamic context; indeed, this dual aspect is crucial to rationalizations, because the unconscious takes the line of least resistance and therefore latches on to whatever pretexts reality offers; and, what is more, the sounder their basis in reality, the more unassailably they can operate.