Tue 30 Jan 2018 10:11:16 AM -02

  • Author: Hebert Marcuse
  • Some subjects covered (keywords): productivity, efficiency, labor, repression, domination, alienation, automation.


From Pleasure Principle to Reality Principle

The becoming of an organized ego:

The vicissitudes of the instincts are the vicissitudes of the mental apparatus
in civilization. The animal drives become human instincts under the influence
of the external reality. Their original "location" in the organism and their
basic direction remain the same, but their objectives and their manifestations
are subject to change. All psychoanalytic concepts (sublimation ,
identification, projection, repression, introjection) connote the mutability of
the instincts. But the reality which shapes the instincts as well as their
needs and satisfaction is a socio-historical world. The animal man becomes a
human being only through a fundamental transformation of his nature, affecting
not only the instinctual aims but also the instinctual "values" -- that is, the
principles that govern the attainment of the aims. The change in the governing
value system may be tentatively defined as follows:

from:                     to:
immediate satisfaction    delayed satisfaction
pleasure                  restraint of pleasure
joy (play)                toil (work)
receptiveness             productiveness
absence of repression     security

Freud described this change as the transformation of the pleasure principle
into the reality principle. The interpretation of the "mental apparatus" in
terms of these two principles is basic to Freud' s theory and remains so in
spite of all modifications of the dualistic conception. It corresponds largely
(but not entirely) to the distinction between unconscious and conscious
processes. The individual exists, as it were, in two different dimensions,
characterized by different mental processes and principles.

The difference between these two dimensions is a genetic-historical as well as
a structural one: the unconscious, ruled by the pleasure principle, comprises
"the older, primary processes, the residues of a phase of development in which
they were the only kind of mental processes." They strive for nothing but for
"gaining pleasure; from any operation which might arouse unpleasantness (`
pain') mental activity draws back." 1 But the unrestrained pleasure principle
comes into conflict with the natural and human environment . The individual
comes to the traumatic realization that full and painless gratification of his
needs is impossible. And after this experience of disappointment, a new
principle of mental functioning gains ascendancy. The reality principle
supersedes the pleasure principle: man learns to give up momentary, uncertain,
and destructive pleasure for delayed, restrained, but "assured" pleasure. 2
Because of this lasting gain through renunciation and restraint, according to
Freud, the reality principle "safeguards " rather than "dethrones," "modifies "
rather than denies, the pleasure principle.

Civilized Introjection: the self-repression

The effective subjugation of the instincts to repressive controls is imposed
not by nature but by man. The primal father, as the archetype of domination,
initiates the chain reaction of enslavement, rebellion, and reinforced
domination which marks the history of civilization. But ever since the first ,
prehistoric restoration of domination following the first rebellion, repression
from without has been supported by repression from within: the unfree
individual introjects his masters and their commands into his own mental
apparatus. The struggle against freedom reproduces itself in the psyche of man
, as the self- repression of the repressed individual, and his self-repression
in turn sustains his masters and their institutions. It is this mental dynamic
which Freud unfolds as the dynamic of civilization.


Scarcity ( Lebensnot, Ananke) teaches men that they cannot freely gratify their
instinctual impulses, that they cannot live under the pleasure principle.
Society's motive in enforcing the decisive modification of the instinctual
structure is thus "economic; since it has not means enough to support life for
its members without work on their part, it must see to it that the number of
these members is restricted and their energies directed away from sexual
activities on to their work." 4


According to Freud's conception the equation of freedom and happiness tabooed
by the conscious is upheld by the unconscious. Its truth, although repelled by
consciousness, continues to haunt the mind; it preserves the memory of past
stages of individual development at which integral gratification is obtained.
And the past continues to claim the future: it generates the wish that the
paradise be re-created on the basis of the achievements of civilization.

Eros and Thanatos

At first it sounds like The Force from Star Wars...

The pleasure principle, then., is a tendency operating in the service of a
function whose business it is to free the mental apparatus entirely from
excitation or to keep the amount of excitation in it constant or to keep it as
low as possible. We cannot yet decide with certainty in favour of any of these
ways of putting it. 5

But more and more the inner logic of the conception asserts itself. Constant
freedom from excitation has been finally abandoned at the birth of life; the
instinctual tendency toward equilibrium thus is ultimately regression behind
life itself. The primary processes of the mental apparatus, in their striving
for integral gratification, seem to be fatally bound to the "most universal
endeavour of all living substance -- namely to return to the quiescence of the
inorganic world." 6 The instincts are drawn into the orbit of death. "If it is
true that life is governed by Fechner's principle of constant equilibrium, it
consists of a continuous descent toward death." 7 The Nirvana principle  now
emerges as the "dominating tendency of mental life, and perhaps of nervous life
in general." And the pleasure principle appears in the light of the Nirvana
principle -- as an "expression" of the Nirvana principle: . . the effort to
reduce, to keep constant or to remove internal tension due to stimuli (the
"Nirvana Principle".. )... finds expression in the pleasure principle; and our
recognition of this fact is one of our strongest reasons for believing in the
existence of death instincts. 8

However, the primacy of the Nirvana principle, the terrifying convergence of
pleasure and death, is dissolved as soon as it is established. No matter how
universal the regressive inertia of organic life, the instincts strive to
attain their objective in fundamentally different modes. The difference is
tantamount to that of sustaining and destroying life. Out of the common nature
of instinctual life develop two antagonistic instincts. The life instincts
(Eros) gain ascendency over the death instincts. They continuously counteract
and delay the "descent toward death": "fresh tensions are introduced by the
claims of Eros, of the sexual instincts, as expressed in instinctual needs." 9
They begin their life-reproducing function with the separation of the germ
cells from the organism and the coalescence of two such cell bodies, 10
proceeding to the establishment and preservation of "ever greater unities" of
life. 11

They thus win, against death, the "potential immortality" of the living
substance. 12 The dynamic dualism of instinctual life seems assured. However,
Freud at once harks back to the original common nature of the instincts. The
life instincts "are conservative in the same sense as the other instincts in
that they bring back earlier states of the living substance" -- although they
are conservative "to a higher degree." 13 Sexuality would thus ultimately obey
the same principle as the death instinct. Later, Freud, in order to illustrate
the regressive character of sexuality, recalls Plato's "fantastic hypothesis"
that "living substance at the time of its coming to life was torn apart into
small particles, which have ever since endeavoured to reunite through the
sexual instincts." 14 Does Eros, in spite of all the evidence, in the last
analysis work in the service of the death instinct, and is life really only one
long "detour to death"? 15 But the evidence is strong enough, and the detour is
long enough to warrant the opposite assumption. Eros is defined as the great
unifying force that preserves all life. 16 The ultimate relation between Eros
and Thanatos remains obscure.

If Eros and Thanatos thus emerge as the two basic instincts whose ubiquitous
presence and continuous fusion (and de-fusion) characterize the life process,
then this theory of instincts is far more than a reformulation of the preceding
Freudian concepts.


However, the discovery of the common "conservative nature" of the instincts
militates against the dualistic conception and keeps Freud's late
metapsychology in that state of suspense and depth which makes it one of the
great intellectual ventures in the science of man. The quest for the common
origin  of the two basic instincts can no longer be silenced.  Fenichel pointed
out 20 that Freud himself made a decisive step in this direction by assuming a
"displaceable energy, which is in itself neutral, but is able to join forces
either with an erotic or with a destructive impulse" -- with the life or the
death instinct. Never before has death been so consistently taken into the
essence of life; but never before also has death come so close to Eros.
Fenichel raises the decisive question whether the antithesis of Eros and death
instinct is not the "differentiation of an originally common root." He suggests
that the phenomena grouped together as the death instinct may be taken as
expression of a principle "valid for all instincts," a principle which, in the
course of development, "might have been modified.. by external influences ."
Moreover, if the "regression-compulsion " in all organic life is striving for
integral quiescence, if the Nirvana principle is the ground of the pleasure
principle, then the necessity of death appears in an entirely new light. The
death instinct is destructiveness not for its own sake, but for the relief of
tension. The descent toward death is an unconscious flight from pain and want.
It is an expression of the eternal struggle against suffering and repression.
And the death instinct itself seems to be affected by the historical changes
which affect this struggle. Further explanation of the historical character of
the instincts requires placing them in the new concept of the person  which
corresponds to the last version of Freud's theory of instincts.

A person

  • The main "layers" of the mental structure are now designated as id, ego, and superego.
  • The id is free from the forms.
  • Ego: the "mediator" between the id and the external world.


This development, by which originally conscious struggles with the demands of
reality (the parents and their successors in the formation of the superego) are
transformed into unconscious automatic reactions, is of the utmost importance
for the course of civilization. The reality principle asserts itself through a
shrinking of the conscious ego in a significant direction: the autonomous
development of the instincts is frozen, and their pattern is fixed at the
childhood level. Adherence to a status quo ante  is implanted in the
instinctual structure. The individual becomes instinctually re-actionary -- in
the literal as well as the figurative sense.

Biological and historical processes

(a) Surplus-repression:  the restrictions necessitated by social domination.
This is distinguished from (basic) repression:  the "modifications " of the
instincts necessary for the perpetuation of the human race in civilization.

(b) Performance principle:  the prevailing historical form of the reality principle.

Behind the reality principle lies the fundamental fact of Ananke or scarcity (
Lebensnot), which means that the struggle for existence takes place in a world
too poor for the satisfaction of human needs without constant restraint,
renunciation, delay. In other words, whatever satisfaction is possible
necessitates work, more or less painful arrangements and undertakings for the
procurement of the means for satisfying needs. For the duration of work, which
occupies practically the entire existence of the mature individual, pleasure is
"suspended" and pain prevails.

However, this argument, which looms large in Freud' s metapsychology, is
fallacious in so far as it applies to the brute fact  of scarcity what actually
is the consequence of a specific organization  of scarcity, and of a specific
existential attitude enforced by this organization.
The prevalent scarcity has, throughout civilization (although in very different
modes), been organized in such a way that it has not been distributed
collectively in accordance with individual needs, nor has the procurement of
goods for the satisfaction of needs been organized with the objective of best
satisfying the developing needs of the individuals.
Instead, the distribution  of scarcity as well as the effort of overcoming it,
the mode of work, have been imposed  upon individuals -- first by mere
violence, subsequently by a more rational utilization of power.
Domination differs from rational exercise of authority. The latter, which is
inherent in any societal division of labor, is derived from knowledge and
confined to the administration of functions and arrangements necessary for the
advancement of the whole. In contrast, domination is exercised by a particular
group or individual in order to sustain and enhance itself in a privileged


Moreover, while any form of the reality principle demands a considerable degree
and scope of repressive control over the instincts, the specific historical
institutions of the reality principle and the specific interests of domination
introduce additional  controls over and above those indispensable for civilized
human association. These additional controls arising from the specific
institutions of domination are what we denote as surplus-repression.

Primeval revolutions and counter-revolutions: the return of the repressed

The role of the women gains increasing importance . "A good part of the power
which had become vacant through the father' s death passed to the women; the
time of the matriarchate followed." 11 It seems essential for Freud' s
hypothesis that in the sequence of the development toward civilization the
matriarchal period is preceded  by primal patriarchal despotism: the low degree
of repressive domination, the extent of erotic freedom, which are traditionally
associated with matriarchy appear, in Freud's hypothesis, as consequences of
the overthrow of patriarchal despotism rather than as primary "natural"
conditions. In the development of civilization, freedom becomes possible only
as liberation. Liberty follows  domination -- and leads to the reaffirmation of
domination. Matriarchy is replaced by a patriarchal counter-revolution, and the
latter is stabilized by the institutionalization of religion.

Male gods at first appear as sons by the side of the great mother-deities, but
gradually they assume the features of the father; polytheism cedes to
monotheism, and then returns the "one and only father deity whose power is
unlimited." 13 Sublime and sublimated, original domination becomes eternal,
cosmic, and good, and in this form guards the process of civilization. The
"historical rights" of the primal father are restored.


Must not their sense of guilt include guilt about the betrayal and denial of
their deed? Are they not guilty of restoring the repressive father, guilty of
self-imposed perpetuation of domination? The question suggests itself if
Freud's phylogenetic hypothesis is confronted with his notion of the
instinctual dynamic. As the reality principle takes root, even in its most
primitive and most brutally enforced form, the pleasure principle becomes
something frightful and terrifying; the impulses for free gratification meet
with anxiety, and this anxiety calls for protection against them. The
individuals have to defend themselves against the specter of their integral
liberation from want and pain, against integral gratification. And the latter
is represented by the woman who, as mother, has once, for the first and last
time, provided such gratification. These are the instinctual factors which
reproduce the rhythm of liberation and domination.


If we follow this train of thought beyond Freud, and connect it with the
twofold origin of the sense of guilt, the life and death of Christ would appear
as a struggle against the father -- and as a triumph over the father. 21 The
message of the Son was the message of liberation: the overthrow of the Law
(which is domination) by Agape (which is Eros). This would fit in with the
heretical image of Jesus as the Redeemer in the flesh, the Messiah who came to
save man here on earth. Then the subsequent transubstantiation of the Messiah,
the deification of the Son beside the Father, would be a betrayal of his
message by his own disciples -- the denial of the liberation in the flesh, the
revenge on the redeemer. Christianity would then have surrendered the gospel of
Agape-Eros again to the Law; the father-rule would be restored and
strengthened. In Freudian terms, the primal crime could have been expiated,
according to the message of the Son, in an order of peace and love on earth. It
was not; it was rather superseded by another crime -- that against the Son.
With his transubstantiation, his gospel too was transubstantiated; his
deification removed his message from this world. Suffering and repression were


We have seen that Freud's theory is focused on the recurrent cycle
"domination-rebellion-domination." But the second domination is not simply a
repetition of the first one; the cyclical movement is progress  in domination.
From the primal father via the brother clan to the system of institutional
authority characteristic of mature civilization, domination becomes
increasingly impersonal, objective, universal, and also increasingly rational,
effective, productive. At the end, under the rule of the fully developed
performance principle, subordination appears as implemented through the social
division of labor itself (although physical and personal force remains an
indispensable instrumentality).


The development of a hierarchical system of social labor not only rationalizes
domination but also "contains" the rebellion against domination. At the
individual level, the primal revolt is contained within the framework of the
normal Oedipus conflict. At the societal level, recurrent rebellions and
revolutions have been followed by counterrevolutions and restorations. From the
slave revolts in the ancient world to the socialist revolution, the struggle of
the oppressed has ended in establishing a new, "better" system of domination;
progress has taken place through an improving chain of control. Each revolution
has been the conscious effort to replace one ruling group by another; but each
revolution has also released forces that have "overshot the goal," that have
striven for the abolition of domination and exploitation. The ease with which
they have been defeated demands explanations. The ease with which they have
been defeated demands explanations. Neither the prevailing constellation of
power, nor immaturity of the productive forces, nor absence of class
consciousness provides an adequate answer. In every revolution, there seems to
have been a historical moment when the struggle against domination might have
been victorious -- but the moment passed. An element of self-defeat  seems to
be involved in this dynamic (regardless of the validity of such reasons as the
prematurity and inequality of forces ). In this sense, every revolution has
also been a betrayed revolution.


Technics provide the very basis for progress; technological rationality sets
the mental and behaviorist pattern for productive performance, and "power over
nature" has become practically identical with civilization. Is the
destructiveness sublimated in these activities sufficiently subdued and
diverted to assure the work of Eros? It seems that socially useful
destructiveness is less sublimated than socially useful libido. To be sure, the
diversion of destructiveness from the ego to the external world secured the
growth of civilization. However, extroverted destruction remains destruction:
its objects are in most cases actually and violently assailed, deprived of
their form, and reconstructed only after partial destruction; units are
forcibly divided, and the component parts forcibly rearranged. Nature is
literally "violated." Only in certain categories of sublimated aggressiveness
(as in surgical practice) does such violation directly strengthen the life of
its object. Destructiveness, in extent and intent, seems to be more directly
satisfied in civilization than the libido.


Then, through constructive technological destruction, through the constructive
violation of nature, the instincts would still operate toward the annihilation
of life. The radical hypothesis of Beyond the Pleasure Principle  would stand:
the instincts of self-preservation, self-assertion, and mastery, in so far as
they have absorbed this destructiveness, would have the function of assuring
the organism' s "own path to death."


The growing mastery of nature then would, with the growing productivity of
labor, develop and fulfill the human needs only as a by-product:  increasing
cultural wealth and knowledge would provide the material for progressive
destruction and the need for increasing instinctual repression.


However, the very progress of civilization tends to make this rationality a
spurious one. The existing liberties and the existing gratifications are tied
to the requirements of domination; they themselves become instruments of
repression. The excuse of scarcity, which has justified institutionalized
repression since its inception, weakens as man 's knowledge and control over
nature enhances the means for fulfilling human needs with a minimum of toil.
The still prevailing impoverishment of vast areas of the world is no longer due
chiefly to the poverty of human and natural resources but to the manner in
which they are distributed and utilized.

This difference may be irrelevant to politics and to politicians but it is of
decisive importance to a theory of civilization which derives the need for
repression from the "natural" and perpetual disproportion between human desires
and the environment in which they must be satisfied. If such a "natural"
condition, and not certain political and social institutions, provides the
rationale for repression, then it has become irrational. The culture of
industrial civilization has turned the human organism into an ever more
sensitive, differentiated, exchangeable instrument, and has created a social
wealth sufficiently great to transform this instrument into an end in itself.
The available resources make for a qualitative  change in the human needs.
Rationalization and mechanization of labor tend to reduce the quantum of
instinctual energy channeled into toil (alienated labor), thus freeing energy
for the attainment of objectives set by the free play of individual faculties.

Technology operates against the repressive utilization of energy in so far as
it minimizes the time necessary for the production of the necessities of life,
thus saving time for the development of needs beyond  the realm of necessity
and of necessary waste.

But the closer the real possibility of liberating the individual from the
constraints once justified by scarcity and immaturity, the greater the need for
maintaining and streamlining these constraints lest the established order of
domination dissolve. Civilization has to defend itself against the specter of a
world which could be free. If society cannot use its growing productivity for
reducing repression (because such usage would upset the hierarchy of the status
quo), productivity must be turned against  the individuals; it becomes itself
an instrument of universal control. Totalitarianism spreads over late
industrial civilization wherever the interests of domination prevail upon
productivity, arresting and diverting its potentialities. The people have to be
kept in a state of permanent mobilization, internal and external. The
rationality of domination has progressed to the point where it threatens to
invalidate its foundations; therefore it must be reaffirmed more effectively
than ever before. This time there shall be no killing of the father, not even a
"symbolic" killing -- because he may not find a successor.


Note: 20 In his paper on "The Delay of the Machine Age," Hanns Sachs made an
interesting attempt to demonstrate narcissism as a constitutive element of the
reality principle in Greek civilization. He discussed the problem of why the
Greeks did not develop a machine technology although they possessed the skill
and knowledge which would have enabled them to do so. He was not satisfied with
the usual explanations on economic and sociological grounds. Instead, he
proposed that the predominant narcissistic element in Greek culture prevented
technological progress: the libidinal cathexis of the body was so strong that
it militated against mechanization and automatization. Sachs' paper appeared in
the Psychoanalytic Quarterly, II (1933) , 42off.

Repression due to exogenous factors: the central argument

Therefore, if the historical process tended to make obsolete the institutions
of the performance principle, it would also tend to make obsolete the
organization of the instincts -- that is to say, to release the instincts from
the constraints and diversions required by the performance principle. This
would imply the real possibility of a gradual elimination of
surplus-repression, whereby an expanding area of destructiveness could be
absorbed or neutralized by strengthened libido. Evidently, Freud' s theory
precludes the construction of any psychoanalytical utopia. If we accept his
theory and still maintain that there is historical substance in the idea of a
non-repressive civilization, then it must be derivable from Freud's instinct
theory itself. His concepts must be examined to discover whether or not they
contain elements that require reinterpretation. This approach would parallel
the one used in the preceding sociological discussion.


Freud maintains that an essential conflict between the two principles is
inevitable; however, in the elaboration of his theory, this inevitability seems
to be opened to question. The conflict, in the form it assumes in civilization,
is said to be caused and perpetuated by the prevalence of Ananke, Lebensnot,
the struggle for existence. (The later stage of the instinct theory, with the
concepts of Eros and death instinct, does not cancel this thesis: Lebensnot
now appears as the want and deficiency inherent in organic life itself.) The
struggle for existence necessitates the repressive modification of the
instincts chiefly because of the lack of sufficient means and resources for
integral, painless and toilless gratification of instinctual needs. If this is
true, the repressive organization of the instincts in the struggle for
existence would be due to exogenous  factors -- exogenous in the sense that
they are not inherent in the "nature" of the instincts but emerge from the
specific historical conditions under which the instincts develop.


According to Freud, this distinction is meaningless, for the instincts
themselves are "historical"; 1 there is no instinctual structure "outside" the
historical structure. However, this does not dispense with the necessity of
making the distinction -- except that it must be made within  the historical
structure itself. The latter appears as stratified on two levels: (a) the
phylogenetic-biological level, the development of the animal man in the
struggle with nature; and (b) the sociological level, the development of
civilized individuals and groups in the struggle among themselves and with
their environment .

The two levels are in constant and inseparable interaction, but factors
generated at the second level are exogenous to the first and have therefore a
different weight and validity (although, in the course of the development, they
can "sink down" to the first level): they are more relative; they can change
faster and without endangering or reversing the development of the genus. This
difference in the origin of instinctual modification underlies the distinction
we have introduced between repression and surplus-repression; 2 the latter
originates and is sustained at the sociological level.


For his metapsychology, it is not decisive whether the inhibitions are imposed
by scarcity or by the hierarchical distribution  of scarcity, by the struggle
for existence or by the interest in domination. And indeed the two factors --
the phylogenetic-biological and the sociological -- have grown together in the
recorded history of civilization. But their union has long since become
"unnatural" -and so has the oppressive "modification" of the pleasure principle
by the reality principle. Freud' s consistent denial of the possibility of an
essential liberation of the former implies the assumption that scarcity is as
permanent as domination -- an assumption that seems to beg the question. By
virtue of this assumption, an extraneous fact obtains the theoretical dignity
of an inherent element of mental life, inherent even in the primary instincts.
In the light of the long-range trend of civilization, and in the light of
Freud' s own interpretation of the instinctual development, the assumption must
be questioned. The historical piossibility of a gradual decontrolling of the
instinctual development must be taken seriously, perhaps even the historical
necessity -- if civilization is to progress to a higher stage of freedom.


The diagram sketches a historical sequence from the beginning of organic life
(stages 2 and 3), through the formative stage of the two primary instincts (5),
to their "modified " development as human instincts in civilization (6-7). The
turning points are at stages 3 and 6. They are both caused by exogenous factors
by virtue of which the definite formation as well as the subsequent dynamic of
the instincts become "historically acquired." At stage 3, the exogenous factor
is the " unrelieved tension " created by the birth of organic life; the
"experience" that life is less "satisfactory," more painful, than the preceding
stage generates the death instinct as the drive for relieving this tension
through regression. The working of the death instinct thus appears as the
result of the trauma of primary frustration: want and pain, here caused by a
geological-biological event.

The other turning point, however, is no longer a geological-biological one: it
occurs at the threshold of civilization. The exogenous factor here is Ananke,
the conscious struggle for existence. It enforces the repressive controls of
the sex instincts (first through the brute violence of the primal father, then
through institutionalization and internalization), as well as the
transformation of the death instinct into socially useful aggression and
morality. This organization of the instincts (actually a long process) creates
the civilized division of labor, progress, and law and order"; but it also
starts the chain of events that leads to the progressive weakening of Eros and
thereby to the growth of aggressiveness and guilt feeling. We have seen that
this development is not "inherent" in the struggle for existence but only in
its oppressive organization, and that at the present stage the possible
conquest of want makes this struggle ever more irrational.


In the biological-geological conditions which Freud assumed for the living
substance as such, no such change can be envisaged; the birth of life continues
to be a trauma, and thus the reign of the Nirvana principle seems to be
unshakable. However, the derivatives of the death instinct operate only in
fusion with the sex instincts; as long as life grows, the former remain
subordinate to the latter; the fate of the destrudo (the "energy" of the
destruction instincts) depends on that of the libido. Consequently, a
qualitative change in the development of sexuality must necessarily alter the
manifestations of the death instinct.

Thus, the hypothesis of a non-repressive civilization must be theoretically
validated first by demonstrating the possibility of a nonrepressive development
of the libido under the conditions of mature civilization. The direction of
such a development is indicated by those mental forces which, according to
Freud, remain essentially free from the reality principle and carry over this
freedom into the world of mature consciousness. Their re-examination must be
the next step.

Detours to death: death instinct and negentropy

Our re-examination must therefore begin with Freud's analysis of the death
instinct.  We have seen that, in Freud's late theory of the instincts, the
"compulsion inherent in organic life to restore an earlier state of things
which the living entity has been obliged to abandon under the pressure of
external disturbing forces" 4 is common to both primary instincts: Eros and
death instinct. Freud regards this retrogressive tendency as an expression of
the "inertia" in organic life, and ventures the following hypothetical
explanation: at the time when life originated in inanimate matter, a strong
"tension" developed which the young organism strove to relieve by returning to
the inanimate condition. 5 At the early stage of organic life, the road to the
previous state of inorganic existence was probably very short, and dying very
easy; but gradually "external influences " lengthened this road and compelled
the organism to take ever longer and more complicated "detours to death."


Phantasy plays a most decisive function in the total mental structure: it links
the deepest layers of the unconscious with the highest products of
consciousness (art), the dream with the reality; it preserves the archetypes of
the genus, the perpetual but repressed ideas of the collective and individual
memory, the tabooed images of freedom.


The recognition of phantasy (imagination) as a thought process with its own
laws and truth values was not new in psychology and philosophy; Freud' s
original contribution lay in the attempt to show the genesis of this mode of
thought and its essential connection with the pleasure principle. The
establishment of the reality principle causes a division and mutilation of the
mind which fatefully determines its entire development. The mental process
formerly unified in the pleasure ego is now split: its main stream is channeled
into the domain of the reality principle and brought into line with its
requirements. Thus conditioned, this part of the mind obtains the monopoly of
interpreting, manipulating, and altering reality -- of governing remembrance
and oblivion, even of defining what reality is and how it should be used and
altered. The other part of the mental apparatus remains free from the control
of the reality principle -- at the price of becoming powerless,
inconsequential, unrealistic.
Whereas the ego was formerly guided and driven by the whole  of its mental
energy, it is now to be guided only by that part of it which conforms to the
reality principle. This part and this part alone is to set the objectives,
norms, and values of the ego; as reason  it becomes the sole repository of
judgment, truth, rationality; it decides what is useful and useless, good and
evil. 2 Phantasy  as a separate mental process is born and at the same time
left behind by the organization of the pleasure ego into the reality ego.
Reason prevails: it becomes unpleasant but useful and correct; phantasy remains
pleasant but becomes useless, untrue -- a mere play, daydreaming. As such, it
continues to speak the language of the pleasure principle, of freedom from
repression, of uninhibited desire and gratification -- but reality proceeds
according to the laws of reason, no longer committed to the dream language.


The danger of abusing the discovery of the truth value of imagination for
retrogressive tendencies is exemplified by the work of Carl Jung.

Unsublimated pleasure

Smell and taste give, as it were, unsublimated pleasure per se (and unrepressed
disgust). They relate (and separate) individuals immediately, without the
generalized and conventionalized forms of consciousness, morality, aesthetics.
Such immediacy is incompatible with the effectiveness of organized domination,
with a society which "tends to isolate people, to put distance between them,
and to prevent spontaneous relationships and thènatural' animal -like
expressions of such relations."


Still, within the limits of the aesthetic form, art expressed, although in an
ambivalent manner , the return of the repressed image of liberation; art was
opposition. At the present stage, in the period of total mobilization, even
this highly ambivalent opposition seems no longer viable. Art survives only
where it cancels itself , where it saves its substance by denying its
traditional form and thereby denying reconciliation: where it becomes
surrealistic and atonal. 6 Otherwise, art shares the fate of all genuine human
communication : it dies off.


In a less sublimated form, the opposition of phantasy to the reality principle
is more at home in such sub-real and surreal processes as dreaming,
daydreaming, play, the "stream of consciousness."


The surrealists recognized the revolutionary implications of Freud' s
discoveries: "Imagination is perhaps about to reclaim its rights."
13 But when they asked, "Cannot the dream also be applied to the solution of
the fundamental problems of life?" 14 they went beyond psychoanalysis in
demanding that the dream be made into reality without compromising its content.
Art allied itself with the revolution. Uncompromising adherence to the strict
truth value of imagination comprehends reality more fully. That the
propositions of the artistic imagination are untrue in terms of the actual
organization of the facts belongs to the essence of their truth: The truth that
some proposition respecting an actual occasion is untrue may express the vital
truth as to the aesthetic achievement. It expresses the "great refusal" which
is its primary characteristic. 15 This Great Refusal is the protest against
unnecessary repression, the struggle for the ultimate form of freedom -- "to
live without anxiety." 16 But this idea could be formulated without punishment
only in the language of art. In the more realistic context of political theory
and even philosophy, it was almost universally defamed as utopia.


The relegation of real possibilities to the no-man's land of utopia is itself
an essential element of the ideology of the performance principle. If the
construction of a nonrepressive instinctual development is oriented, not on the
subhistorical past, but on the historical present and mature civilization, the
very notion of utopia loses its meaning. The negation of the performance
principle emerges not against but with  the progress of conscious rationality;
it presupposes the highest maturity of civilization. The very achievements of
the performance principle have intensified the discrepancy between the archaic
unconscious and conscious processes of man, on the one hand, and his actual
potentialities, on the other. The history of mankind seems to tend toward
another turning point in the vicissitudes of the instincts. And, just as at the
preceding turning points, the adaptation of the archaic mental structure to the
new environment would mean another "castrophe" -- an explosive change in the
environment itself. However, while the first turning point was, according to
the Freudian hypothesis, an event in geological history, and while the second
occurred at the beginning of civilization, the third turning point would be
located at the highest attained level of civilization. The actor in this event
would be no longer the historical animal man but the conscious, rational
subject that has mastered and appropriated the objective world as the arena of
his realization. The historical factor contained in Freud' s theory of
instincts has come to fruition in history when the basis of Ananke ( Lebensnot)
-- which, for Freud, provided the rationale for the repressive reality
principle -- is undermined by the progress of civilization.

Still, there is some validity in the argument that, despite all progress,
scarcity and immaturity remain great enough to prevent the realization of the
principle "to each according to his needs." The material as well as mental
resources of civilization are still so limited that there must be a vastly
lower standard of living if social productivity were redirected toward the
universal gratification of individual needs: many would have to give up
manipulated comforts if all were to live a human life. Moreover, the prevailing
international structure of industrial civilization seems to condemn such an
idea to ridicule. This does not invalidate the theoretical insistence that the
performance principle has become obsolescent. The reconciliation between
pleasure and reality principle does not depend on the existence of abundance
for all. The only pertinent question is whether a state of civilization can be
reasonably envisaged in which human needs are fulfilled in such a manner and to
such an extent that surplus-repression can be eliminated.

Such a hypothetical state could be reasonably assumed at two points, which lie
at the opposite poles of the vicissitudes of the instincts: one would be
located at the primitive beginnings of history, the other at its most mature
stage. The first would refer to a non-oppressive distribution of scarcity (as
may, for example, have existed in matriarchal phases of ancient society). The
second would pertain to a rational organization of fully developed industrial
society after the conquest of scarcity. The vicissitudes of the instincts would
of course be very different under these two conditions, but one decisive
feature must be common to both: the instinctual development would be
non-repressive in the sense that at least the surplus-repression necessitated
by the interests of domination would not be imposed upon the instincts. This
quality would reflect the prevalent satisfaction of the basic human needs (most
primitive at the first, vastly extended and refined at the second stage),
sexual as well as social: food, housing, clothing, leisure. This satisfaction
would be (and this is the important point) without toil -- that is, without the
rule of alienated labor over the human existence. Under primitive conditions,
alienation has not yet  arisen because of the primitive character of the needs
themselves, the rudimentary (personal or sexual) character of the division of
labor, and the absence of an institutionalized hierarchical specialization of
functions. Under the "ideal" conditions of mature industrial civilization,
alienation would be completed by general automatization of labor, reduction of
labor time to a minimum , and exchangeability of functions.  Since the length
of the working day is itself one of the principal repressive factors imposed
upon the pleasure principle by the reality principle, the reduction of the
working day to a point where the mere quantum of labor time no longer arrests
human development is the first prerequisite for freedom. Such reduction by
itself would almost certainly mean a considerable decrease in the standard of
living prevalent today in the most advanced industrial countries. But the
regression to a lower standard of living, which the collapse of the performance
principle would bring about, does not militate against progress in freedom.

The argument that makes liberation conditional upon an ever higher standard of
living all too easily serves to justify the perpetuation of repression. The
definition of the standard of living in terms of automobiles , television sets,
airplanes, and tractors is that of the performance principle itself. Beyond the
rule of this principle, the level of living would be measured by other
criteria: the universal gratification of the basic human needs, and the freedom
from guilt and fear -- internalized as well as external, instinctual as well as
rrational." "La vraie civilization. . n' est pas dans le gaz, ni dans la
vapeur, ni dans les tables tournantes. Elle est dans la diminution des traces
du pêché originel" 17 -- this is the definition of progress beyond the rule of
the performance principle.

Under optimum conditions, the prevalence, in mature civilization, of material
and intellectual wealth would be such as to allow painless gratification of
needs, while domination would no longer systematically forestall such
gratification. In this case, the quantum of instinctual energy still to be
diverted into necessary labor (in turn completely mechanized and rationalized)
would be so small that a large area of repressive constraints and
modifications, no longer sustained by external forces , would collapse.

The Aesthetic Dimension

Schiller's Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man (1795), written largely
under the impact of the Critique of Judgment, aim at a remaking of civilization
by virtue of the liberating force of the aesthetic function: it is envisaged as
containing the possibility of a new reality principle.


Since it was civilization itself which "dealt modern man this wound," only a
new mode of civilization can heal it. The wound is caused by the antagonistic
relation between the two polar dimensions of the human existence. Schiller
describes this antagonism in a series of paired concepts: sensuousness and
reason, matter and form (spirit), nature and freedom, the particular and the

Each of the two dimensions is governed by a basic impulse:  the "sensuous
impulse " and the "form-impulse." 20 The former is essentially passive,
receptive, the latter active, mastering, domineering . Culture is built by the
combination and interaction of these two impulses. But in the established
civilization, their relation has been an antagonistic one: instead of
reconciling both impulses by making sensuousness rational and reason sensuous,
civilization has subjugated sensuousness to reason in such a manner that the
former, if it reasserts itself , does so in destructive and "savage" forms
while the tyranny of reason impoverishes and barbarizes sensuousness. The
conflict must be resolved if human potentialities are to realize themselves
freely. Since only the impulses have the lasting force that fundamentally
affects the human existence, such reconciliation between the two impulses must
be the work of a third impulse. Schiller defines this third mediating impulse
as the play impulse, its objective as beauty, and its goal as freedom.


The quest is for the solution of a "political" problem : the liberation of man
from inhuman existential conditions. Schiller states that, in order to solve
the political problem, "one must pass through the aesthetic, since it is beauty
that leads to freedom." The play impulse is the vehicle of this liberation. The
impulse does not aim at playing "with" something ; rather it is the play of
life itself, beyond want and external compulsion -- the manifestation of an
existence without fear and anxiety, and thus the manifestation of freedom

Man is free only where he is free from constraint, external and internal,
physical and moral -- when he is constrained neither by law nor by need. 21 But
such constraint is  the reality. Freedom is thus, in a strict sense, freedom
from the established reality: man is free when the "reality loses its
seriousness" and when its necessity "becomes light" ( leicht). 22 "The greatest
stupidity and the greatest intelligence have a certain affinity with each other
in that they both seek only the real"; however, such need for and attachment to
the real are "merely the results of want."

In contrast, "indifference to reality" and interest in "show" (dis-play,
Schein) are the tokens of freedom from want and a "true enlargement of
humanity." 23 In a genuinely humane civilization, the human existence will be
play rather than toil, and man will live in display rather than need.

These ideas represent one of the most advanced positions of thought. It must be
understood that the liberation from the reality which is here envisaged is not
transcendental, "inner," or merely intellectual freedom (as Schiller explicitly
emphasizes 24 ) but freedom in the reality. The reality that "loses its
seriousness" is the inhumane reality of want and need, and it loses its
seriousness when wants and needs can be satisfied without alienated labor.
Then, man is free to "play" with his faculties and potentialities and with
those of nature, and only by "playing" with them is he free. His world is then
display ( Schein), and its order is that of beauty.

Because it is the realization of freedom, play is more  than the constraining
physical and moral reality: ". . man is only serious  with the agreeable, the
good, the perfect; but with beauty he plays." 25 Such formulations would be
irresponsible "aestheticism" if the realm of play were one of ornament, luxury,
holiday, in an otherwise repressive world. But here the aesthetic function is
conceived as a principle governing the entire human existence, and it can do so
only if it becomes "universal."


If we reassemble its main elements, we find:

(1) The transformation of toil (labor) into play, and of repressive
productivity into "display" -- a transformation that must be preceded by the
conquest of want (scarcity) as the determining factor of civilization. 43

(2) The self-sublimation of sensuousness (of the sensuous impulse) and the
de-sublimation of reason (of the form-impulse) in order to reconcile the two
basic antagonistic impulses.

(3) The conquest of time in so far as time is destructive of lasting

These elements are practically identical with those of a reconciliation between
pleasure principle and reality principle. We recall the constitutive role
attributed to imagination (phantasy) in play and display: Imagination preserves
the objectives of those mental processes which have remained free from the
repressive reality principle; in their aesthetic function, they can be
incorporated into the conscious rationality of mature civilization. The play
impulse stands for the common denominator of the two opposed mental processes
and principles.


Non-repressive order is essentially an order of abundance:  the necessary
constraint is brought about by "superfluity" rather than need. Only an order of
abundance is compatible with freedom. At this point, the idealistic and the
materialistic critiques of culture meet. Both agree that nonrepressive order
becomes possible only at the highest maturity of civilization, when all basic
needs can be satisfied with a minimum expenditure of physical and mental energy
in a minimum of time.


Possession and procurement of the necessities of life are the prerequisite,
rather than the content, of a free society. The realm of necessity, of labor,
is one of unfreedom because the human existence in this realm is determined by
objectives and functions that are not its own and that do not allow the free
play of human faculties and desires.
The optimum in this realm is therefore to be defined by standards of
rationality rather than freedom -- namely, to organize production and
distribution in such a manner that the least time is spent for making all
necessities available to all members of society. Necessary labor is a system of
essentially inhuman, mechanical, and routine activities; in such a system,
individuality cannot be a value and end in itself. Reasonably, the system of
societal labor would be organized rather with a view to saving time and space
for the development of individuality outside  the inevitably repressive
work-world. Play and display, as principles of civilization, imply not the
transformation of labor but its complete subordination to the freely evolving
potentialities of man and nature.

Regression into progress

The processes that create the ego and superego also shape and perpetuate
specific societal institutions and relations. Such psychoanalytical concepts as
sublimation, identification, and introjection have not only a psychical but
also a social content: they terminate in a system of institutions, laws,
agencies, things, and customs that confront the individual as objective
entities. Within this antagonistic system, the mental conflict between ego and
superego, between ego and id, is at one and the same time a conflict between
the individual and his society.


Therefore, the emergence of a non-repressive reality principle involving
instinctual liberation would regress  behind the attained level of civilized
rationality. This regression would be psychical as well as social: it would
reactivate early stages of the libido which were surpassed in the development
of the reality ego, and it would dissolve the institutions of society in which
the reality ego exists. In terms of these institutions, instinctual liberation
is relapse into barbarism. However, occurring at the height of civilization, as
a consequence not of defeat but of victory in the struggle for existence, and
supported by a free society, such liberation might have very different results.
It would still be a reversal of the process of civilization, a subversion of
culture -- but after  culture had done its work and created the mankind and the
world that could be free.

Work, toil and play

Freud's suggestions in Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego do more
than reformulate his thesis of Eros as the builder of culture; culture here
rather appears as the builder of Eros -- that is to say, as the "natural"
fulfillment of the innermost trend of Eros. Freud's psychology of civilization
was based on the inexorable conflict between Ananke and free instinctual
development. But if Ananke itself becomes the primary field of libidinal
development, the contradiction evaporates. Not only would the struggle for
existence not necessarily cancel the possibility of instinctual freedom (as we
suggested in Chapter 6); but it would even constitute a "prop" for instinctual
gratificaiton. The work relations which form the base of civilization, and thus
civilization itself, would be "propped" by non-desexualized instinctual energy.
The whole concept of sublimation is at stake .

The problem of work, of socially useful activity, without (repressive)
sublimation can now be restated. It emerged as the problem of a change in the
character of work by virtue of which the latter would be assimilated to play --
the free play of human faculties. What are the instinctual preconditions for
such a transformation? The most far -reaching attempt to answer this question
is made by Barbara Lantos in her article "Work and the Instincts." 26 She
defines work and play in terms of the instinctual stages involved in these
activities. Play is entirely subject to the pleasure principle: pleasure is in
the movement itself in so far as it activates erotogenic zones. "The
fundamental feature of play is, that it is gratifying in itself, without
serving any other purpose than that of instinctual gratification."


The genital organization of the sexual instincts has a parallel in the
work-organization of the ego-instincts. 27

Thus it is the purpose and not the content which marks an activity as play or
work. 28 A transformation in the instinctual structure (such as that from the
pregenital to the genital stage) would entail a change in the instinctual value
of the human activity regardless of its content. For example, if work were
accompanied by a reactivation of pregenital polymorphous eroticism, it would
tend to become gratifying in itself without losing its work  content. Now it is
precisely such a reactivation of polymorphous eroticism which appeared as the
consequence of the conquest of scarcity and alienation. The altered societal
conditions would therefore create an instinctual basis for the transformation
of work into play. In Freud's terms , the less the efforts to obtain
satisfaction are impeded and directed by the interest in domination, the more
freely the libido could prop itself upon the satisfaction of the great vital


But while the psychoanalytical and anthropological concepts of such an order
have been oriented on the prehistorical and precivilized past, our discussion
of the concept is oriented on the future, on the conditions of fully mature
civilization. The transformation of sexuality into Eros, and its extension to
lasting libidinal work relations, here presuppose the rational reorganization
of a huge industrial apparatus, a highly specialized societal division of
labor, the use of fantastically destructive energies, and the co-operation of
vast masses.

The idea of libidinal work relations in a developed industrial society finds
little support in the tradition of thought, and where such support is
forthcoming it seems of a dangerous nature. The transformation of labor into
pleasure is the central idea in Fourier's giant socialist utopia.


Fourier insists that this transformation requires a complete change in the
social institutions: distribution of the social product according to need,
assignment of functions according to individual faculties and inclinations,
constant mutation of functions, short work periods, and so on. But the
possibility of "attractive labor" ( travail attrayant) derives above all from
the release of libidinal forces . Fourier assumes the existence of an
attraction indnstrielle  which makes for pleasurable co-operation. It is based
on the attraction passionnée  in the nature of man , which persists despite the
opposition of reason, duty, prejudice.


Fourier comes closer than any other utopian socialist to elucidating the
dependence of freedom on non-repressive sublimation. However, in his detailed
blueprint for the realization of this idea, he hands it over to a giant
organization and administration and thus retains the repressive elements . The
working communities of the phalanstère  anticipate "strength through joy"
rather than freedom, the beautification of mass culture rather than its
abolition. Work as free play cannot be subject to administration; only
alienated labor can be organized and administered by rational routine. It is
beyond this sphere, but on its basis, that non-repressive sublimation creates
its own cultural order.


The necessity to work is a neurotic symptom. It is a crutch. It is an attempt
to make oneself feel valuable even though there is no particular need for one'
s working. 37


It has been pointed out that the superego, as the mental representative of
morality, is not unambiguously the representative of the reality principle,
especially of the forbidding and punishing father. In many cases, the superego
seems to be in secret alliance with the id, defending the claims of the id
against the ego and the external world. Charles Odier therefore proposed that a
part of the superego is "in the last analysis the representative of a primitive
phase, during which morality had not yet freed itself from the pleasure
principle." [superid]


The psychical phenomenon which, in the individual, suggests such a pregenital
morality is an identification with the mother, expressing itself in a
castration-wish rather than castration-threat. It might be the survival of a
regressive tendency: remembrance of the primal Mother-Right, and at the same
time a "symbolic means against losing the then prevailing privileges of the
woman." According to Odier, the pregenital and prehistorical morality of the
superid is incompatible with the reality principle and therefore a neurotic
factor .

Time, memory and death

The flux of time is society' s most natural ally in maintaining law and order,
conformity, and the institutions that relegate freedom to a perpetual utopia;
the flux of time helps men to forget what was and what can be: it makes them
oblivious to the better past and the better future.

This ability to forget -- itself the result of a long and terrible education by
experience -- is an indispensable requirement of mental and physical hygiene
without which civilized life would be unbearable; but it is also the mental
faculty which sustains submissiveness and renunciation. To forget is also to
forgive what should not be forgiven if justice and freedom are to prevail. Such
forgiveness reproduces the conditions which reproduce injustice and
enslavement: to forget past suffering is to forgive the forces that caused it
--without defeating these forces . The wounds that heal in time are also the
wounds that contain the poison. Against this surrender to time, the restoration
of remembrance to its rights, as a vehicle of liberation, is one of the noblest
tasks of thought.


Nietzsche saw in the training of memory the beginning of civilized morality --
especially the memory of obligations, contracts, dues. 10 This context reveals
the one-sidedness of memory-training in civilization: the faculty was chiefly
directed toward remembering duties rather than pleasures; memory was linked
with bad conscience, guilt, and sin. Unhappiness and the threat of punishment ,
not happiness and the promise of freedom, linger in memory.


Still, this defeat of time is artistic and spurious; remembrance is no real
weapon unless it is translated into historical action. Then, the struggle
against time becomes a decisive moment in the struggle against domination: The
conscious wish to break the continuum of history belongs to the revolutionary
classes in the moment of action. This consciousness asserted itself during the
July Revolution. In the evening of the first day of the struggle,
simultaneously but independently at several places, shots were fired at the
time pieces on the towers of Paris. 11

It is the alliance between time and the order of repression that motivates the
efforts to halt the flux of time, and it is this alliance that makes time the
deadly enemy of Eros.


Every sound reason is on the side of law and order in their insistence that the
eternity of joy be reserved for the hereafter, and in their endeavor to
subordinate the struggle against death and disease to the never-ceasing
requirements of national and international security.

The striving for the preservation of time in time, for the arrest of time, for
conquest of death, seems unreasonable by any standard, and outright impossible
under the hypothesis of the death instinct that we have accepted. Or does this
very hypothesis make it more reasonable? The death instinct operates under the
Nirvana principle: it tends toward that state of "constant gratification" where
no tension is felt -- a state without want. This trend of the instinct implies
that its destructive  manifestations would be minimized as it approached such a
state. If the instinct's basic objective is not the termination of life but
of pain -- the absence of tension -- then paradoxically, in terms of the
instinct, the conflict between life and death is the more reduced, the closer
life approximates the state of gratification. Pleasure principle and Nirvana
principle then converge.


Death would cease to be an instinctual goal. It remains a fact, perhaps even an
ultimate necessity -- but a necessity against which the unrepressed energy of
mankind will protest, against which it will wage its greatest struggle.  In
this struggle, reason and instinct could unite. Under conditions of a truly
human existence, the difference between succumbing to disease at the age of
ten, thirty, fifty, or seventy, and dying a "natural" death after a fulfilled
life, may well be a difference worth fighting for with all instinctual energy.
Not those who die, but those who die before they must and want to die, those
who die in agony and pain, are the great indictment against civilization.

They also testify to the unredeemable guilt of mankind. Their death arouses the
painful awareness that it was unnecessary, that it could be otherwise. It takes
all the institutions and values of a repressive order to pacify the bad
conscience of this guilt. Once again, the deep connection between the death
instinct and the sense of guilt becomes apparent. The silent "professional
agreement" with the fact of death and disease is perhaps one of the most
widespread expressions of the death instinct -- or, rather, of its social
usefulness. In a repressive civilization, death itself becomes an instrument of
repression. Whether death is feared as constant threat, or glorified as supreme
sacrifice, or accepted as fate, the education for consent to death introduces
an element of surrender into life from the beginning -- surrender and

Psychoanalytic Therapy and Theory

Fromm has devoted an admirable paper to "The Social Conditions of
Psychoanalytic Therapy," in which he shows that the psychoanalytic situation
(between analyst and patient) is a specific expression of liberalist toleration
and as such dependent on the existence of such toleration in the society. But
behind the tolerant attitude of the "neutral" analyst is concealed "respect for
the social taboos of the bourgeoisie."
7 Fromm traces the effectiveness of these taboos at the very core of Freudian
theory, in Freud' s position toward sexual morality. With this attitude, Fromm
contrasts another conception of therapy, first perhaps formulated by Ferenczi,
according to which the analyst rejects patricentric-authoritarian taboos and
enters into a positive rather than neutral relation with the patient. The new
conception is characterized chiefly by an "unconditional affirmation of the
patient' s claim for happiness" and the "liberation of morality from its
tabooistic features ." 8


in a repressive society, individual happiness and productive development are in
contradiction to society; if they are defined as values to be realized within
this society, they become themselves repressive.


while psychoanalytic theory recognizes that the sickness of the individual is
ultimately caused and sustained by the sickness of his civilization,
psychoanalytic therapy aims at curing the individual so that he can continue to
function as part of a sick civilization without surrendering to it altogether.


Theoretically, the difference between mental health and neurosis lies only in
the degree and effectiveness of resignation: mental health is successful,
efficient resignation -- normally so efficient that it shows forth as
moderately happy satisfaction. Normality is a precarious condition. "Neurosis
and psychosis are both of them an expression of the rebellion of the id against
the outer world, of its ` pain,' unwillingness to adapt itself to necessity --
to ananke, or, if one prefers, of its incapacity to do so." 9


In the long run, the question is only how much resignation the individual can
bear without breaking up. In this sense, therapy is a course in resignation: a
great deal will be gained if we succeed in "transforming your hysterical misery
into everyday unhappiness," which is the usual lot of mankind. 11


The autonomous personality, in the sense of creative "uniqueness" and fullness
of its existence, has always been the privilege of a very few. At the present
stage, the personality tends toward a standardized reaction pattern established
by the hierarchy of power and functions and by its technical, intellectual, and
cultural apparatus. 

The analyst and his patient share this alienation, and since it does not
usually manifest itself in any neurotic symptom but rather as the hallmark of
"mental health," it does not appear in the revisionist consciousness.


Fromm writes: Genuine love is rooted in productiveness and may properly be
called, therefore, "productive love." Its essence is the same whether it is the
mother's love for the child, our love for man , or the erotic love between two
individuals. . certain basic elements may be said to be characteristic of all
forms of productive love. These are care, responsibility, respect, and
knowledge. 35

Compare with this ideological formulation Freud' s analysis of the instinctual
ground and underground of love, of the long and painful process in which
sexuality with all its polymorphous perversity is tamed and inhibited until it
ultimately becomes susceptible to fusion with tenderness and affection -- a
fusion which remains precarious and never quite overcomes its destructive
elements .


According to Freud, love, in our culture, can and must be practiced as
"aim-inhibited sexuality," with all the taboos and constraints placed upon it
by a monogamic-patriarchal society. Beyond its legitimate manifestations, love
is destruetive and by no means conducive to productiveness and constructive
work. Love, taken seriously, is outlawed: "There is no longer any place in
present-day civilized life for a simple natural love between two human beings,"
37 But to the revisionists, productiveness, love, happiness, and health merge
in grand hannony; civilization has not caused any conflicts between them which
the mature person could not solve without serious damage .


Freud had established a substantive link between human freedom and happiness on
the one hand and sexuality on the other: the latter provided the primary source
for the former and at the same time the ground for their necessary restriction
in civilization. The revisionist solution of the conflict through the
spiritualization of freedom and happiness demanded the weakening of this link .


Fromm 's ideological interpretation of the Oedipus complex implies acceptance
of the unhappiness of freedom, of its separation from satisfaction; Freud' s
theory implies that the Oedipus wish is the eternal infantile protest  against
this separation -- protest not against freedom but against painful , repressive
freedom. Conversely, the Oedipus wish is the eternal infantile desire for the
archetype of freedom: freedom from want. And since the (unrepressed) sex
instinct is the biological carrier of this archetype of freedom, the Oedipus
wish is essentially "sexual craving." Its natural object is, not simply the
mother qua  mother, but the mother qua  woman -- female principle of
gratification. Here the Eros of receptivity, rest, painless and integral
satisfaction is nearest to the death instinct (return to the womb), the
pleasure principle nearest to the Nirvana principle. Eros here fights its first
battle against everything the reality principle stands for: against the father,
against domination, sublimation, resignation. Gradually then, freedom and
fulfillment are being associated with these paternal principles; freedom from
want is sacrificed to moral and spiritual independence. It is first the "sexual
craving" for the mother-woman that threatens the psychical basis of
civilization; it is the "sexual craving" that makes the Oedipus conflict the
prototype of the instinctual conflicts between the individual and his society.
If the Oedipus wish were in essence nothing more than the wish for protection
and security ("escape from freedom"), if the child desired only impermissible
security and not impermissible pleasure, then the Oedipus complex would indeed
present an essentially educational problem. As such, it can be treated without
exposing the instinctual danger zones of society.


But, again, Freud shows that this repressive system does not really solve the
conflict. Civilization plunges into a destructive dialectic: the perpetual
restrictions on Eros ultimately weaken the life instincts and thus strengthen
and release the very forces against which they were "called up" -- those of


For the vast majority of the population, the scope and mode of satisfaction are
determined by their own labor; but their labor is work for an apparatus which
they do not control, which operates as an independent power to which
individuals must submit if they want to live. And it becomes the more alien the
more specialized the division of labor becomes. Men do not live their own lives
but perform pre-established functions. While they work, they do not fulfill
their own needs and faculties but work in alienation. Work has now become
general, and so have the restrictions placed upon the libido: labor time, which
is the largest part of the individual' s life time, is painful time, for
alienated labor is absence of gratification, negation of the pleasure
principle. Libido is diverted for socially useful performances in which the
individual works for himself only in so far as he works for the apparatus,
engaged in activities that mostly do not coincide with his own faculties and


The work of repression pertains to the death instinct as well as the life
instinct. Normally, their fusion is a healthy one, but the sustained severity
of the superego constantly threatens this healthy balance. "The more a man
checks his aggressive tendencies toward others the more tyrannical, that is
aggressive, he becomes in his ego-ideal.. the more intense become the
aggressive tendencies of his ego-ideal against his ego." 57 Driven to the
extreme, in melancholia, "a pure culture of the death instinct" may hold sway
in the superego


It is in this context that Freud's metapsychology comes face to face with the
fatal dialectic of civilization: the very progress of civilization leads to the
release of increasingly destructive forces. In order to elucidate the
connection between Freud's individual psychology and the theory of
civilization, it will be necessary to resume the interpretation of the
instinctual dynamic at a different level -- namely, the phylogenetic one.


Note: 45 To be sure, every form of society, every civilization has to exact
labor time for the procurement of the necessities and luxuries of life. But not
every kind and mode of labor is essentially irreconcilable with the pleasure
principle. The human relations connected with work may "provide for a very
considerable discharge of libidinal component impulses, narcissistic,
aggressive, and even erotic." ( Civilization and Its Discontents, p. 34 note.)
The irreconcilable conflict is not between work (reality principle) and Eros
(pleasure principle), but between alienated  labor (performance principle) and
Eros. The notion of non-alienated, libidinal work will be discussed below.


It is the end result of long historical processes which are congealed in the
network of human and institutional entities making up society, and these
processes define the personality and its relationships. Consequently, to
understand them for what they really are, psychology must unfreeze  them by
tracing their hidden origins. In doing so, psychology discovers that the
determining childhood experiences are linked with the experiences of the
species -- that the individual lives the universal fate of mankind. The past
defines the present because mankind has not yet mastered its own history.


The basic work in civilization is non-libidinal, is labor; labor is
"unpleasantness," and such unpleasantness has to be enforced.


To be sure, there is a mode of work which offers a high degree of libidinal
satisfaction, which is pleasurable in its execution. And artistic work, where
it is genuine, seems to grow out of a non-repressive instinctual constellation
and to envisage non-repressive aims -- so much so that the term sublimation
seems to require considerable modification if applied to this kind of work.


The "automatization" of the superego 25 indicates the defense mechanisms by
which society meets the threat. The defense consists chiefly in a strengthening
of controls not so much over the instincts as over consciousness, which, if
left free, might recognize the work of repression in the bigger and better
satisfaction of needs. The manipulation of consciousness which has occurred
throughout the orbit of contemporary industrial civilization has been described
in the various interpretations of totalitarian and "popular cultures":
co-ordination of the private and public existence, of spontaneous and required
reactions. The promotion of thoughtless leisure activities, the triumph of
anti- intellectual ideologies, exemplify the trend.


But these personal father-images have gradually disappeared behind the
institutions. With the rationalization of the productive apparatus, with the
multiplication of functions, all domination assumes the form of administration.
At its peak, the concentration of economic power seems to turn into anonymity:
everyone, even at the very top, appears to be powerless before the movements
and laws of the apparatus itself. Control is normally administered by offices
in which the controlled are the employers and the employed.


Most of the clichés with which sociology describes the process of
dehumanization in presentday mass culture are correct; but they seem to be
slanted in the wrong direction. What is retrogressive is not mechanization and
standardization but their containment, not the universal co-ordination but its
concealment under spurious liberties, choices, and individualities. The high
standard of living in the domain of the great corporations is restrictive  in a
concrete sociological sense: the goods and services that the individuals buy
control their needs and petrify their faculties. In exchange for the
commodities that enrich their life, the individuals sell not only their labor
but also their free time. The better living is offset by the all-pervasive
control over living. People dwell in apartment concentrations -- and have
private automobiles with which they can no longer escape into a different
world. They have huge refrigerators filled with frozen foods. They have dozens
of newspapers and magazines that espouse the same ideals. They have innumerable
choices, innumerable gadgets which are all of the same sort and keep them
occupied and divert their attention from the real issue -- which is the
awareness that they could both work less and determine their own needs and

The ideology of today lies in that production and consumption reproduce and
justify domination. But their ideological character does not change the fact
that their benefits are real. The repressiveness of the whole lies to a high
degree in its efficacy: it enhances the scope of material culture, facilitates
the procurement of the necessities of life, makes comfort and luxury cheaper,
draws ever-larger areas into the orbit of industry -- while at the same time
sustaining toil and destruction. The individual pays by sacrificing his time,
his consciousness, his dreams; civilization pays by sacrificing its own
promises of liberty, justice, and peace for all.

The discrepancy between potential liberation and actual repression has come to
maturity: it permeates all spheres of life the world over. The rationality of
progress heightens the irrationality of its organization and direction.
Social cohesion and administrative power are sufficiently strong to protect the
whole from direct aggression, but not strong enough to eliminate the
accumulated aggressiveness. It turns against those who do not belong to the
whole, whose existence is its denial. This foe appears as the archenemy and
Antichrist himself : he is everywhere at all times ; he represents hidden and
sinister forces, and his omnipresence requires total mobilization.


Being is essentially the striving for pleasure. This striving becomes an "aim"
in the human existence: the erotic impulse to combine living substance into
ever larger and more durable units is the instinctual source of civilization.
The sex instincts are life  instincts: the impulse to preserve and enrich life
by mastering nature in accordance with the developing vital needs is originally
an erotic impulse.
Ananke is experienced as the barrier against the satisfaction of the life
instincts, which seek pleasure, not security. And the "struggle for existence"
is originally a struggle for pleasure: culture begins with the collective
implementation of this aim. Later, however, the struggle for existence is
organized in the interest of domination: the erotic basis of culture is
transformed. When philosophy conceives the essence of being as Logos, it is
already the Logos of domination -- commanding, mastering, directing reason, to
which man and nature are to be subjected Freud' s interpretation of being in
terms of Eros recaptures the early stage of Plato's philosophy, which conceived
of culture not as the repressive sublimation but as the free
self-development of Eros. As early as Plato, this conception appears as an
archaic-mythical residue. Eros is being absorbed into Logos, and Logos is
reason which subdues the instincts.
The history of ontology reflects the reality principle which governs the world
ever more exclusively: The insights contained in the metaphysical notion of
Eros were driven underground. They survived, in eschatological distortion, in
many heretic movements, in the hedonistic philosophy. Their history has still
to be written -- as has the history of the transformation of Eros in Agape. 29
Freud's own theory follows the general trend: in his work, the rationality of
the predominant reality principle supersedes the metaphysical speculations on


As an isolated individual phenomenon , the reactivation of narcissistic libido
is not culture-building but neurotic: The difference between a neurosis and a
sublimation is evidently the social aspect of the phenomenon . A neurosis
isolates; a sublimation unites.