You are on page 1of 16

TOWARDS A SOCIOLOGICAL UNDERSTANDING OF PSYCHOANALYSIS

BY PETER

L. BERGER

SYCHOANALYSis

has become a part ofthe American scene. It is

takenfor granted in a wayprobably unparalleled anywhere else

in theworld. This can be assertedwithout hesitation even if one

means psychoanalysis

formof

in

its narrower, proper sense, thatis, as a

psychotherapy

practiced bothwithin and beyond themedi-

cal establishment. But psychoanalysis in thisnarrower sense con-

stitutes only theinstitutional core of a

Withinthis core we

analytically oriented psychiatry,

muchbroader phenomenon.

findthe highlyorganized structures of psycho-

withits networks of

hospitals,

re-

search agencies and training centers,the various psychoanalytic

associations (both thosewhich deny and thosewhich admit non-

medical practice), and wide sectorsof

clinical psychology. The

prestige and privilege of thisinstitutional complex in America

are already a

remarkablematter, notleast for the sociologist. Yet,

in a more general sense, thatis,

as an

if we take psychoanalysis

assortmentof ideas and activitiesderived in one way or another

fromthe Freudianrevolution in

psychology, thenwe findour-

social phenomenon of

selvesconfronted in this country witha

trulyastounding scope.1

i Cf. George Wilbur and Werner Muensterberger(eds.), Psychoanalysis and Cul-

ture (New

York: International Universities Press,

1951);

Benjamin Nelson (ed.),

Freud and

(ed.),

  • C. P.

the 20th Century (New York: Meridian

Books, 1957); John Sutherland (New York: Grove Press, 1959);

Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Thought

Oberndorf, A History of Psychoanalysis

in America (New York: Harper and

Row, 1964).

SOCIOLOGY AND PSYCHOANALYSIS

27

Surrounding

theinstitutional

coreof

psychoanalysis

thereis a

ring

of satellite organizations and activitiesthat may be called,

Here we findentire

the

loosely, the counseling and testingcomplex.

professions,

young in age and quite peculiar to this country,

most importantamong them being socialcasework, which only in

Americahas takenon the characterof a

ac-

psychotherapeutic

tivity.2 The counseling and testingcomplex, increasingly pro-

fessionalizedin itsstaff, extends into large areasof thetotal insti-

tutionalstructure of the society, its heaviestsedimentation being

in the areas of

welfare organization, both public and private,

education,and personnel administration.3Yet even thismuch

moreextended perspectiveby no meansexhausts our phenomenon.

For we are not

and

dealingonly, or even primarily,

withinstitutions

has become

organizations. More importantly,

psychoanalysis

a cultural phenomenon, a way of understanding

and an

ordering of

thenature of man

human experience on thebasis of thisunder-

has given birthto a psychological model

beyond its own

institutional core

standing.Psychoanalysis

thathas influenced society far

and the latter's fringe. Americanlaw, especially in such new

branchesas juvenile and domesticrelations courts, but by no

means only there,is

increasinglypermeated with psychoanalytic-

ally derived conceptions.4 American religion, bothin its thought

and in its institutionaaalctivities, has been deeply influenced by

thesame psychological model.5American literature, both "high"

and "low,"would be

unthinkable today withoutit. The media

of masscomunication are filledwith materials derived from the

samesource. Most importantly,

everyday life, as expressed in the

common speech, has been invaded by the

terminology and inter-

pretative schemesof psychoanalysis. Termssuch as "repression,"

  • 2 Cf. Gordon Hamilton, Theory and Practice of Social Case Work (New York:

Columbia University Press, 1940). s Cf. Martin Gross, The Brain Watchers (New York: New American Library,

1963).

  • 4 Cf. Thomas Szasz, Law, Liberty and Psychiatry(New York: The

1963).

Macmillan Co.,

ß Cf. Samuel Klausner, Psychiatry and Religion (New York: Free Press, 1964).

  • 28 SOCIAL RESEARCH

"frustration,""needs" and "rationalization," not to mentionthe

key concept of "unconscious," have become matter-of-course

ex-

pressions in broad strataof the population. While we cannot

be sure how farthis linguisticusage is merely rhetoricaland how

far it has actually influencedthe conductit purports to describe,

we are probably on safe ground if we assume that at least three

areas of everyday life have been significantly affected by psycho-

analytically derived ideas - sexuality,marriage and child-rearing.

Both the so-called sexual revolution and the so-called family

renascence in America have been accompanied by a flood of

psychoanalyticallyinspired interpretations, which, by the nature

of such processes, have increasingly become self-interpretations

of those engaged in theseactivities. If we accept Robert Musil's

observationthat ninety per cent of human sex life consistsof

talk, thenwe may add thatin Americathis has become more and

more Freudian talk. And if we may believe John Rechy's novel,

Cityof Night, even the young male prostitutes on Times Square

worry about theirnarcissism.

A phenomenon of such magnitude becomes part of what Alfred

Schutz has called the world-taken-for-granted,

that is, it belongs

to thoseassertions about the natureof reality that every sane per-

son in a society believes as a matterof course. Only a madman

would have denied the existence in medieval Europe of de-

moniacal possession; demoniacal possession was a self-evidentfact

of everyday life. Today, only a madman would assertthis once

self-evidentfact as against,say, the germ theory of disease. Sane

people in our society take the germtheory of disease for granted

and act accordingly,although,

deferto experts for proof of

naturally, most of them have to

this theory. It would seem that a

numberof rootassertions of psychoanalysis have come to be taken

for granted in a similar way. Thus, the questioning of

tenceof

the exis-

theunconscious in a gathering of college-educated Ameri-

cans is likely to be as much a self-certification of derangement as

would be the

questioning of the

germtheory of disease. Insofar

as college-educated Americans interpret themselves, they know

SOCIOLOGY AND PSYCHOANALYSIS

29

themselvesto be equipped withan unconsciousas a surefact of

experience and,what is more, they alsohave quitespecific notions

as to howthis appendage is furnished.For

example,they are pre-

disposed to admitthe existence of unconscious guilt and to antici-

pate its

eventual eruption. And only in Americacould James

Baldwin have convertedthis predisposition into a political

strategy. Sociology, like psychoanalysis, occupies a fairlyunique position

in theAmerican cultural situation. There is

probably a common

reasonbehind the cultural prominence of thesetwo disciplines of

collective introspection. Be thisas it may, it wouldbe very sur-

prising if they had not influencedeach other. As we know, the

mutualinfluence has been massive.6There has been a strong

sociological undercurrentin the development of

theory in

whichhave transformed

psychoanalytic

this country,especially in the neo-Freudianschools,

the gloomy visionof the great Viennese

pessimist intoa bright,uplift and social-engineering-oriented

pro-

gram ofsecularized Methodism. The influencein theother direc-

tionhas beenno lessremarkable, although American sociology is

still probably less influenced by psychoanalytic

theory than its

sister discipline, cultural anthropology. Whatis veryinteresting,

however,is the

fieldof

range of thistheoretical acculturation within the

sociology.Although individual sociologists differin their

views concerning the feasibility of integratingpsychoanalytic ideas

with sociologicaltheory, thosewho have a stronglypositive opinion

pretty muchcover the

spectrum of contemporarypositions in the

field. Thus TalcottParsons, whohas

gonevery farin incorporat-

ing psychoanalytic conceptions withinhis sociologicalsystem,

sharesthis predilection withsome of his sharpest critics.7What-

ever else may be in dispute betweenthe

currently dominant

« Hendrik Ruitenbeek (ed.), Psychoanalysis and Social Science (New York: Dutton

and Co., 1962), particularly the articles by Talcott Parsons and John Seeley.

7 Cf., for example, the treatmentof the relationship between society and per-

sonality in Talcott Parsons, The with that in Maurice Stein et al.

Social System (Glencoe, 111.: Free Press, 1951), (eds.), Identity and Anxiety (Glencoe, 111.: Free

Press, 1960).

  • 30 SOCIAL RESEARCH

structural-functional

school and its antagonists, the propriety of

the sociological employment of psychoanalysis is not. Those

sociologists who have kept aloof from psychoanalysis, forinstance

thosewho prefer to draw upon George HerbertMead ratherthan

Freud for the psychologicalunderpinnings of their sociological

work, have generally done so without directlyquestioning the

validity of the interdisciplinaryintermarriage.

If one is married, one may describe precisely this or that facet

of the

marriagepartner's conduct, but the apprehension of the

more difficult.A similardiffi-

latter'stotal gestalt becomes ever

culty of perception has been the

result of the American liaison

between psychoanalysis and sociology. Thus we have excellent

analysesby sociologists of specific,partial aspects of the psycho-

analyticphenomenon. There is a whole literaturewhich con-

cernsitself with various social dimensionsof the psychotherapeutic

enterprise. There are studiesof the social distributionof various

psychiatrically relevantconditions, intensive analyses of the social

structureof the mental hospital (these investigations now adding

up to a sortof sub-discipline withinthe sub-discipline of medical

sociology), studiesof attitudestowards various psychotherapeutic

procedures in differentsocial strata, and studiesof the social proc-

esses going on in the course of psychotherapy.8 In recent years

muchof thiswork has been generously subsidized by the National

Instituteof Mental Health, as well as by private foundations. Far

be it fromus to disparage these studies, which have greatly en-

riched our knowledge of

many facetsof the phenomenon and in

some cases have yieldedinsights of muchwider theoretical import

(as, for example, the work of August Hollingshead and Erving

Goff man).9 All the same, thereremains an enormous gap when

s Cf., as examples of these, William Rushing, The PsychiatricProfessions (Chapel

Hill: University of North Carolina Press,

1964); John Seeley et al., Crestwood Heights

(New York: Basic Books, 1956); J. L. Moreno (ed.), Group Psychotherapy (New York: Beacon Press, 1945).

»August Hollingshead (New York: Wiley, 1958);

and Frederick Redlich, Social Class and Mental Illness Erving Goffman, Asylums (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday-

Anchor Books, 1961), and Stigma (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1963).

SOCIOLOGY

AND PSYCHOANALYSIS

31

it comesto the sociologicalanalysis of the phenomenon as a whole.

Three recent

attempts at such analysis

which have achieved a

measureof comprehensiveness are Richard LaPiere's The Freud-

ian Ethic, Eric Larrabee's The Self -Conscious Society and

Philip

RiefFsFreud - The Mind of the Moralist.10 LaPiere's work is

burdened with a heavy political bias (because the author looks

upon Freudianismas some sortof socialisticsubversion of Ameri-

can free enterprise hardly a helpfulsuggestion), Larrabee's does

-

not go much beyond

description, and Rieff'sis in the main an

exegeticalenterprise, with some general

author calls "the

observationson what its

emergence of psychological man" in the con-

cludingchapter.

Obviously, the presentpaper cannoteven begin to fillthis gap.

What it does attempt, however, is to outline some of the presup-

positions for the needed task of sociologicalanalysis and to ven-

ture

some very tentative hypotheses on the possible results of

such an analysis. The first presuppositions are negative. It goes

without saying that a sociological analysis will have to bracket,

or avoid passing scientific judgment on, the practical utility of

the various psychotherapeutic activities. The sociologist,qua

sociologist, can be of no assistanceto distressedindividuals hesitat-

ing beforethe multiplicity of healing cultsavailable on the market

today,just as he can be of no assistancein the choice of the many

religious or quasi-religiousWeltanschauungen which are engaged

in pluralisticcompetition in our society. In addition, a socio-

logical analysis of our phenomenon will have to bracketthe ques-

tion of the scientific validity of the psychological model under

scrutiny. This might be a task for sociologicaltheory or social

psychology, but it is an unnecessary burden for the study of the

empirical phenomenon itself. The sociologist,qua sociologist,

10 Richard LaPiere, The Freudian Ethic (New York: Duell, Sloan & Pearce, Inc.,

1959); Eric Larrabee, The Self-Conscious Society (Garden City, N.Y.:

I960); Philip Rieff, Freud- The Mind of the Moralist (Garden City, N.Y.:

Anchor Books 1961). For a

Doubleday,

Doubleday-

European study of the diffusionof psychoanalysis,cf.

son image et son public (Paris: Presses Univer-

Serge Moscovici, La psychoanalyse

-

sitaires de France, 1961).

  • 32 SOCIAL RESEARCH

need not serveas arbiter among competingpsychologies, just as,

to returnto the previousanalogy, the sociologist of religion does

not have to concernhimself with the question of whetherGod

exists. It should be stronglyemphasized thatthis bracketing can

occur even if the sociologist believes, as most American sociolo-

gistsevidently do, that the psychoanalyticunderstanding of man

is somehowtrue. Ideas do not succeed in historyby virtue of

their truthbut by virtue of their relationship to specific social

processes. This, as it were, root platitude of the sociology of

knowledge makes it imperative that a phenomenon such as ours

be investigated in an attitudeof rigid abstinencefrom epistemo-

logicaljudgments about it.

The most

importantpositive presupposition for such a socio-

logical analysis is that it proceed within a frame of reference

that is

itself sociological. This means that sociological modes

of analysis must be pushed to theirown intrinsiclimits and not

be blocked by limits stipulatedby another discipline. This pro-

cedure excludes the common practice of American sociologists of

conceding extraterritorial preserves to the psychologists within

the

sociological

universe of discourse (a courtesy,by the way,

rarelyreciprocated by the psychologists). Whatever may be the

methodological meritsof other disciplines, the sociologist cannot

allow the scope of his work to be dictated by the latter.Thus, in

differentareas of investigation, the sociologist cannot allow the

jurist or the theologian to put

up "no

trespassing"signs on terri-

tory that, by the rules of his own game, is legitimatesociological

huntingground.

here, the

rights to that vast

precisely the great

In termsof the phenomenon that interestsus

achievementof George HerbertMead to show

sociologist cannot concede to the psychologist exclusive

area we commonly call psychological. It was

how the sociologistmay enter this area without abandoning the

presuppositions of his own discipline.

This is hardly the place to argue

psychologymay

crucial

in what sense a

sociological

be constructedon the basis of Mead's work.Two

propositions of a sociological approach to psychological

SOCIOLOGY

AND PSYCHOANALYSIS

S3

phenomena must,however, be explicated(in thiscontext, ofneces-

sity, in an abbreviatedand axiomatic fashion). The first proposi-

tion assertsthat thereis a dialectical relationship betweensocial

structureand

psychologicalreality, the second that thereis, sim-

ilarly, a dialectical relationship between psychologicalreality and

any prevailingpsychological model. It must be emphasized that,

in either proposition,psychological reality does not mean some

givenness that may be uncovered or verified by scientific pro-

cedures of one kind or another. Psychologicalreality means the

way in which human beings in a specific situation subjectively

experience themselves.The dialectical relationship between psy-

chological reality, in this sense, and social structureis already

implied in the fundamentalMeadian theory of the social genesis

of the self.A particular social structure generates certainsocial-

ization processes that, in their turn, serveto shape certain socially

recognized identities, with whatever psychologicalconfiguration

(cognitive and emotive)appertains to each of theseidentities. In

other words, society not only definesbut shapes psychological

reality.Just as a given psychologicalreality originates in specific

social processes of identityproduction, so the continuedexistence

and subjectiveplausibility of such a psychologicalreality depend

upon specific social processes of identity confirmation.Self and

society, as Mead understood, are inextricably interwovenentities.

The relationship betweenthe two,however, is a dialecticalrather

thana mechanisticone, because the self, once formed, is ready in

its turn to react upon the society that shaped it. This under-

standing, whichwe would regard as fundamentalto a sociological

psychology,provides the sociologist with his logical startingpoint

in the investigation of any psychologicalphenomenon

-

to wit,

the analysis of the social structuresof the situationin question.

The second proposition concernsthe relationship of this psy-

chologicalreality with whatevertheories have been concoctedto

explain it. Since human beings are apparently destinednot only

to experience but also to explain themselves, we may assume that

everysociety provides a psychological model (in some cases pos-

  • 34 SOCIAL RESEARCH

sibly more than one) precisely forthis purpose of self-explanation.

Such a psychological model may take any numberof forms, from

highly differentiatedintellectual constructions to primitivemyths.

And once more we have here a dialectical relationship. The

psychologicalreality produces the psychological model, insofaras

the latteris an empiricaldescription of the former.But the psy-

chologicalreality is in turn producedby the psychological model,

because the latternot

only

describesbut definesthe former, in

that creative sense of definitionintended in W. I. Thomas'

famousstatement that a situationdefined as real in a society will

be real in its consequences, that is, will become reality as subjec-

tivelyexperienced by the membersof that society.Although we

have jumped many steps of argumentation here, it may be clear

that our second proposition followsof necessity fromour first;

both propositionsspring fromthe same underlyingunderstanding

of the structuring of consciousnessas a social process. As faras the

second proposition, an important one for our phenomenon, is

concerned, it may at least partially be paraphrasedby saying that

psychological models operate in society as self-fulfillingprophecies.

The phenomenon that interestsus here is a particularpsycho-

logical model, acculturatedand institutionalizedin American

society in particularways. The sociological analysis must

then

revolvearound the question of what social structures, with their

appropriatepsychological realities, this particularpsychological

model corresponds to (or, if one wishesto use a Weberian term,

with what social structuresthis model may have an elective

affinity). Beforewe turn to some hypothetical reflectionson this

question, however,it will

the psychological model a

be advisable to clarify the characterof

littlefurther. Now, it must be empha-

sized verystrongly that in the characterizationto followit is not

our intentionto reduce the various psychoanalytic theories to

some sortof commondenominator. Indeed, at this point we are

not primarily interestedin theories at all, but in the much

broader socio-cultural configuration outlined in our opening re-

marks, a configuration that has its historical origin and its theo-

SOCIOLOGY AND PSYCHOANALYSIS 35

reticalas well as institutional core in the

psychoanalytical

move-

ment, but whichis no longer co-extensivewith this movement.

The

ofa

following, then,is an attempt to isolatesome keypropositions

psychological model operative in the taken-for-granted

world

phenomenon that (perhapsfaute

11

of everyday lifein our society, a

de mieux) we would

Only a

designate as psychologism:

relatively small segment of the totalself is present to

consciousness. The unconsciousis the matrixof decisivemental

processes. The consciousself is movedout of theseunknown

depths intoactions the true meaning of whichit does not under-

stand. Men are typicallyignorant of theirown motivesand

incapable of interpreting theirown symbolizations.

Specific and

scientifically

verifiablehermeneutic procedures haveto be applied

forsuch interpretation.

Sexuality is a key areaof human conduct.

Childhoodis the keyphase of

human biography. The on-going

the operation

activity of theself may be understoodin termsof

of scientifically

ascertainablemechanisms, of whichthe twomost

Culture may be under-

important are repression and projection.

stoodas thescene of interaction between unconscious motor forces

and consciously establishednorms.

Whatstructural developments havea bearing on thesuccess of

this psychological modelin our society? In the argument to follow

we are strongly indebtedto ArnoldGehlen's and ThomasLuck-

mann'scontributions

to a

social psychology of industrial society.12

forcein modern society is indus-

The fundamental structurizing

trialization.In

rationalizing and fragmenting the processes of

production industrializationhas autonomizedthe economicarea

of theinstitutional fabric. This autonomouseconomic area has

thenbecome progressivelysegregated fromthe political institu-

11 The authors of a sociological study of religious best sellers have suggested

"mentalism" for roughly the same complex of phenomena in the area of popular

culture, but this is at least as ambiguous a term as "psychologism." Cf. Louis

Schneider and Sanford Dornbush, Popular Religion (Chicago: University of Chicago

Press, 1958).

12 Cf. Arnold Gehlen, Die Seele im technischen Zeitalter

(Hamburg:

Rowohlt,

1957); Thomas Luckmann, Das Problem der Religion in der modernen Geselschaft

(Freiburg: Rombach, 1963).

  • 36 SOCIAL RESEARCH

tions on the one hand and fromthe family on the other. The

former segregation does not concern us here. The segregation

betweenthe economic complex and the family, however, is very

relevantfor our considerations, forit is closely connectedwith the

emergence of a quite novel social phenomenon the sphere of the

-

private. A modernindustrial societypermits the differentiation

between public and private institutional spheres. What is essen-

tial forthe psychologicalreality of such a society is thatits mem-

bers experience this dichotomizationas a fundamental ordering

principle of their everyday life. Identity itselfthen tends to be

dichotomized, at the very least, in termsof a public and a private

self. Identity, in this situation, is typically uncertain and un-

stable. In other words, the psychological concomitantof the

structural patterns of industrial society is the widely recognized

phenomenon of identity crisis. Or in even simpler words, indi-

viduals in this sort of society do not know for certainwho they

are, or more accurately, do not know to which of a number of

selves which they experiencethey should assign priority status.

Some individuals solve the problem by identifying themselves

primarily in termsof their public selves. This solution,however,

can be attractive only to those whose roles in the public sphere

(usually this means occupational roles) allow such identification

in the first place. Thus one mightperhaps

self is identicalwith one's role as a top

decide that one's real

businessexecutive or as

some kind of professional. This option is not very seductivefor

the great massesof people in the middle and lowerechelons of the

occupational system. The typicaloption

assign priority to their private

for them has been to

selves,that is, to locate the "real

me" in the privatesphere of life. Thus an individual may say,

"Don't judge me

play a

who

I

the private

really am."

by what I do here - on Madison Avenue I only

role - but come home withme to Darien and I'll show you

dimensionand

This privatization of identity has its ideological

its psychological difficulties.If the "real me" is to be located in

sphere, then the activitiesof this sphere must be

SOCIOLOGY AND PSYCHOANALYSIS

37

legitimated as decisiveoccasions for self-discovery.

tion is

in the

This legitima-

providedby interpretingsexuality and its solemnization

family as

precisely thecrucial tests for the discovery(we

would say, the definition) of identity.Expressions of thisare the

ideologies of sexualismand familismin our society,ideologies

thatare sometimesin

competition(say, Playboy magazine against

sometimes merge into synthesis

constellation). The psycho-

theLadies' Home Journal) and

(the sensible-sex-for-young-couples

logical difficulties

trolsin the privatesphere.

stem from the innate paucity offirm social con-

The individual seeking to discover

his supposedly real selfin the privatesphere mustdo so with

only

tenuousand (in termsof his total life)

limited identity-

confirmingprocesses to assisthim. There appears thenthe need

for

identity-maintenance

agencies in the privatesphere.

The

family is, of course, the

principalagency forthe definitionand

maintenanceof privateidentity. However, for many reasonsthat

cannotbe

developed here, the

family alone is insufficient. Other

socialformations must fill

signed to meetthe

this gap. These are the agencies de-

psychological needs of the identity market.

these agencies are old institutions

Variouslyorganized, someof

transformedto fulfill new functions, suchas thechurches, while

othersare institutional novelties, such as the psychotherapeutic

organizations thatinterest us here. All reflectthe over-allchar-

acterof

the privateidentity market, thatof a social spherepoor in

compared withthe sphere of public

controlmechanisms (at leastas

institutions) and

permissive ofa considerablemeasure of individ-

agencies thustend to

at least insofar

-

the preva-

ual liberty. The various identity-marketing

be voluntary, competitive and

consumer-oriented,

as their activity is restrictedto the privatesphere.

If we now

turn briefly to the public

sphere, withits central

economicand political institutions, we are confrontedwith yet

anotherstructural consequence of industrialization

lence of bureaucraticforms of administration. As Max Weber

showed long ago,

bureaucracy is one of the main resultsof the

profound rationalizations of society necessitated by modernindus-

  • 38 SOCIAL RESEARCH

trial capitalism. Bureaucracy, however, is much more thana form

of social organization.Bureaucracy also entails specific modes of

human interaction. Broadlyspeaking, one may say that bureau-

cracy tendsto control by manipulative skillrather than by outright

coercion. The bureaucratis thusnot only a sociological but also

a psychologicaltype. The psychologicalreality brought about by

bureaucratically administeredinstitutions has been studied by a

good numberof recent sociologists, the concepts of some of them

having actuallygained

broad

popular familiarity; we need only

mentionDavid Riesman's"other-directed character" and William

Whyte's"organization man" by way of illustration.

With thisexcursus of sociologizing behind us it is not difficult

to returnto the phenomenon that concernsus here. In view of

the structural configuration and its psychological concomitants

just outlinedone would like to say,

"If Freud had not existed, he

would have had to be invented." Institutionalized psychologism,

as derived directly or indirectly from the psychoanalytic move-

ment, constitutesan admirablydesigned response to the needs of

this particular socio-historicalsituation. Unlike some othersocial

entitiesinvolved in themodern identity crisis (such as thechurches

on the one hand and political fanaticismson the

other), institu-

tionalized psychologism straddlesthe dividing line between the

public and privatespheres, thus occupying an unusuallystrategic

position in our society. In the privatesphere, it appears as one of

the agencies supplying a population of anxious consumerswith

a variety of servicesfor the construction, maintenanceand repair

of identities. In the public sphere, it lends itselfwith equal

success to the differenteconomic and political bureaucraciesin

need of non-violent techniques of social control. The same psy-

chological practitioner(psychiatrist, clinical psychologist,psychi-

atric

social worker,or what-have-you) can in one role assist the

privatized suburbanitein the interior decorating of his sophisti-

cated

psyche, and in anotherrole assisthim (let us assume thathe

is an industrialrelations director) in dealing more effectively with

actual or potential troublemakersin the organization. If one

SOCIOLOGY

AND PSYCHOANALYSIS

39

mayput it this way, institutionalized psychologism is in a probably

unique position to commute along withits clientele. It

is capable

of

doing

just what institutionalized religion would like to do and

is increasingly unable to do - to accompany the individualin both

sectorsof his dichotomizedlife. Thus the symbols of

psycho-

logism become over-arching collective representations in

a truly

Durkheimian sense - and that in a cultural context singularly

impoverished when it comes to such integratingsymbols.

Sociologicalanalysis, however, can penetrate even furtherinto

the phenomenon, to wit, it can clarify the social rootsof the psy-

chological

model itself. Thus we can now go back to our char-

acterizationof this model and ask how its central themesrelate

to the social situationin which the model has been so eminently

successful. We would suggest, firstof all, that a psychological

model thathas as its crucial concept a notion of the unconscious

may be related to a social situationin which thereis such com-

plexity in the fabricof roles and institutionsthat the individualis

no longercapable of perceiving his society in its totality. In other

words, we would

argue that the opaqueness of the psychological

model reflectsthe opaqueness of the social structureas a whole.

The individual in modern society is typicallyacting and being

acted upon in situationsthe motorforces of which are incompre-

hensible to him. The lack of intelligibility of the decisive eco-

nomic processes is paradigmatic in this connection. Society con-

frontsthe individualas mysteriouspower, or in other words, the

individual is unconsciousof the fundamentalforces that

shape

his life. One's own and the others'motives, meanings and identi-

ties, insofaras they are comprehensible,appear as a narrowfore-

ground of translucency, the background of which is provided by

the massivestructures of a social world thatis

opaque, immensely

powerful and potentially sinister. The interpretation of one's

own

being in termsof the largelysubmerged Freudian iceberg is

one's

ongoingexperience of a society

thus subjectively verified by

with thesecharacteristics.

As the crucial psychologisticconcept of the unconsciousfits the

  • 40 SOCIAL RESEARCH

social situation, so do the other themes used in our previous

characterizationof the model. The theme of sexuality fitsthe

requirements of the social situationin which the essentialself is

located in the private sphere. In consequence, the identity-

defining functionsof contemporary sexual myths are legitimated

by psychologism on various levels of intellectual sophistication.

Again, the themeof childhood servesto establishthe primacy of

the private sphere in the hierarchy of self-definitions.This

themehas been particularlysignificant in the psychologisticlegiti-

mationof contemporary familism, an ideology that interprets the

family as the most

*

*

'healthy*

locale of identity affirmation.The

understanding of the selfas an assemblage of psychological mecha-

nisms allows the individual to deal with himself with

the

same technical,calculating and "objective" attitude that is

attitude par excellence of industrial production. Indeed,

the

the

term "productivity" has easily found its way fromthe language

of the engineer to that of the psychologist.

In

consequence,

psychologism furnishesthe (nota bene) "scientific" legitimation

of both inter-and intra-personalmanipulation. Furthermore,

the interpretation of culture as a drama between individual

"needs" and social realitiesis a fairly accurate reflectionof the

ongoingbalancing act between"fulfillment" and "frustration"in

the everyday life of individualsin a high-level consumers' society.

In consequence,psychologism again

provides a "scientific" legiti-

mationto the adjustmenttechnology withoutwhich such a society

could hardlyget along.

Finally,psychologism provides a peculiar combinationof sober-

nessand fantasy thatwould seem to correspond to profoundaspira-

tions of people living in a highly rationalized society. On the

one hand, psychologismpresents itselfas a science and as a tech-

nique of rationalcontrol. On the other hand, however, psycho-

logism makes possible once more

the ancient fascinationwith

mystery and magic. Indeed, one is tempted to speak here of a

formof neo-mysticism. Once more the true self is to be dis-

SOCIOLOGY AND PSYCHOANALYSIS

41

covered through a descentinto the presumeddepths of one'sown

being, and, evenif theultimate discovery is notthat of thedivine

(at leastnot anywhere thisside of Jungianism), it stillhas theold

flavorof the numinous. Psychologism

reversalof thedisenchantment

and

thus brings abouta strange

of modern

demythologization

consciousness.The other world, which religion located in a

transcendental reality, is now introjected withinhuman conscious-

ness itself. It becomesthat other self (the more real, or the

healthier, or themore mature self, or howeverit may be called by

thedifferent

schools) whichis

the goal ofthe psychologistic

to be distressingly

quest.

Our considerations here have had

abbrevi-

ated. And, we would emphasize once more, our argument has

been tentativeand hypothetical in its intention. Hopefully,

though, we have been able to indicatethe scope of the analytic

taskto be undertaken.Thomas Szasz, in his recent study of psy-

chiatricinfluences on American law, has

spoken of the emergence

of the "therapeutic state/' It may well be thatthe latteris but

one aspect ofthe emergence ofa "psychological society." It is all

the more important thatthe full

weight of sociological under-

standing be brought to bear on thismonumental phenomenon.