Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Freudian Analysis of the Brave New World


According to Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theory, the human psyche (or mind) is constituted of ego, superego and id. The ego is the rational part of the mind that is ultimately responsible for channeling (sublimating), repressing (frustrating) or releasing the aggressive and sexual demands of the id (or libido/blind animal instincts). The superego, meanwhile, is that part of the personality system involving the conscience and morality, demanding total abstinence of the individual in the interests of the work ethic (Schindler, "Introduction to Freud" 1). The healthy, well-adjusted individual is one who meets the demands placed upon him by external forces such as work. We call this the reality principle. As Ronald Schindler says of this "principle of constancy": we must learn, through the functions of the ego, to "postpone and modify pleasure and its pursuit to fit the needs dictated by reality" ("Introduction to Freud" 4).

Accordingly, the individual who is not well adjusted, otherwise known as a neurotic personality, is subject to anxiety and frustration as he has not learned to properly channel his sexual energy into such things as work, play, or creative means of expression such as art. The individual's anxiety can develop into severe forms of "neuroses" including a complete break from physical reality called, psychosis. Interestingly, the indvidual's childhood experiences play a key role in how he develops and functions psychologically and socially, or psycho-socially, later in life.

Freud developed a theory about what he called the Oedipal complex, basing it off of the Greek tragedy of Oedipus the king who incidentally killed his father and married his own mother unbeknownst to him. Accordingly, Freud theorized that the young male child, in growing into a self-aware indvidual, must learn to reconcile with the authority his father represents while gaining independence from his reliance on the protection and nurturance that his mother represents. If this issue is unresolved, says Freud, the individual's pscyhological growth will be stunted, leading to anxiety issues and sexual perversions. All the frustrated energy of childhood sexual instincts will eventually manifest themselves in symptoms of agression, ascetism (extreme self-discipline and self-denial, including forms of self-abasement and, at its worse, self-destruction), masochism, sadomasochism, sexual dysfunction and generalized anxiety. Ultimately, a healthy, adult ego will find some balance between the pleasure and reality principles, establishing an equilibrium between repression, sublimation and gratification of sexual urges natural to the animal instinct within man.

This brings us to a discussion of the superego, or conscience, which manifests itself socially in the moral codes such as those of the world's great religious traditions. As Freud would have it, religion is essentially a barbiturate (opiate or narcotic) for the masses; it is a way to keep individuals within society stablized, giving them the "mass delusion [of] substitute gratifications [in place] of pleasure and the acting out of aggressive impulses" (Schindler on Civilization and its Discontents 3). Religion is a function of the social order within a given society that maintains a system of checks and balances so to speak, along with other institutions such as government, family, and industry. All civilization is the result of a given culture's attempt to find a balance between the will to love and the will to violence (represented in Freudian psychology by the Greek gods of Eros and Thanatos respectively).

Generally, as Freud says, individuals within society are discontent as they must undergo the constant pain of adjusting their instinctual drives to the value systems provided to them by their superego and its moral codes. Social aggression in the form of war and conflict thus stems from a breakdown in the equilibrium between the satisfaction or sublimation of the sex instinct and the aggressive instinct. If there is an imbalance in the dual energies, then the unbridled release of frustrated or repressed aggression and sexual energy can lead to destruction on a social level, including that of genocide.

And so we must now consider two things, which I would like you to develop in an at least five paragraph essay due Monday, May 11, 2009 on hard copy according to MLA format.

They are:

1. A Freudian analysis of John Savage according to Freud's theory of psychoanalysis and Civilization and its Discontents.

2. A Freudian analysis of the World State according to Freud's Civilization and its Discontents.

We will discuss more in class, but for now, you should begin applying aspects of Freud's theories as they pertain to John Savage and the society of the World State. I expect you to engage both the Freudian fun pack and the actual text of Brave New World in order to expound your insights fully and thoughtfully. This is a 25 pt. assignment.

Dr. Peach, FSC

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