How to Enjoy a Dead Father Douglas Lain
In this essay, I'll explain how we might enjoy a dead father as I explore the politics to be found in Todd McGowan’s new book “Enjoyment Right & Left.”
McGowan takes a psychoanalytic approach to politics, a Freudian approach. He understands the world and the people in it to be governed or determined by unconscious desires, fears, and wishes, and see’s the left’s role to be similar to the role of an analyst during a clinical session.
As the late Rick Roderick explained in a lecture entitled Philosophy and Post-Modern Culture: Freud compares the conscious mind to a garrison…a captured, tiny garrison in an immense city. The city of Rome, with all its layers of history, all its archaic barbarisms, all its hidden avenues, was covered over by civilization after civilization. That’s our mind, that whole thing. But the conscious part of it is that one garrison that’s clear, that sort of holds out in this captured city. So the goal of analytic treatment would be for those unreflected massive areas to become part of the garrison as it spreads out to things we are clear about.
This aim of making the unconscious parts of our mind conscious, the unreflective parts of our personalities reflective, aligns with the aim of the Enlightenment as Immanuel Kant once defined it. The aim is to reach maturity, dare to use one’s own reason, and break from external control based on mere authority.
Psychoanalysis aims to help the analysand to understand and overcome unconscious structures which only appear to be external to the patient, not in order to achieve any ready-made and already mapped out healthy consciousness or personality, but in order to provide neurotics with the freedom they need if they are to understand their own identity. Psychoanalysts challenge their patients to take responsibility for their dreams, their presuppositions, and all other aspects of their lives. Another enlightenment figure named Karl Marx likewise sought to make the unreflective and therefore determining aspects of our lives reflective and undetermined. While Freud traced our unfreedom to structures in our minds, to the way our unconscious is set in place by the traumas of childhood, Marx looked in the direction of our productive material relations, and the way our daily productive practices reinforce all manner of political, cultural, and psychological attitudes and beliefs, in an effort to free us from what only appears to be determined objectively.
These two approaches, the Freudian and the Marxist, are not opposites nor do they contradict one another, but the two disciplines begin from different starting points and have different concerns.
As Herbert Marcuse once explained: Marx did not concern himself very much with the individual, and he didn’t have to because during his time the very existence of the proletariat made this class a potentially revolutionary class. What has taken place since then is the large-scale integration of perhaps the majority of the population into the capitalist system. The organized working class no longer has nothing to lose but its chains, but a lot more. This change in the working class took place not only on a material but also on a psychological basis. The consciousness of the dependent population changed. The ruling power structure could manage, manipulate and control not only the workers' conscious thoughts but also the subconscious and unconscious of the individual. Therefore the Frankfurt school considered psychology on