THE FREUDIAN LEFT: Wilhelm Reich, Gaza Roheim, and Herbert Marcuse by Paul A. Robinson

THE FREUDIAN LEFT: Wilhelm Reich, Gaza Roheim, and Herbert Marcuse

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In this timely, sensitive, but misguided volume, a Stanford historian argues that psychoanalysts Reich and Roheim, and Marcuse, the Marxist philosopher, together form a distinctive group which he calls ""the Freudian Left."" Specific points of agreement uniting the three: all see sexual pleasure as the ultimate standard of happiness; all find a connection between sexual repression and political domination; all are ""stylistic radicals,"" relentlessly pursuing a single idea. While provocative, this categorization does not hold up well for the rest of the discussion which deals with each individual's thought. Reich fits in only during his pre-Orgone box flirtation with Marxism, which produced valuable insights into the links between sexual repression of children and political repression of adults. Roheim, a political and psychoanalytic conservative, really does not belong at all: his only ""radical"" notion was that primitives enjoy greater sociosexual health than their repressed, civilized cousins--an idea so clumsily presented here that it comes across like a snatch of Greenwich Village cocktail party conversation of the '20's. Marcuse, of course, is the most suitable candidate, but even he has changed his emphases since Eros and Civilization. None of which is to deny some common denominators to the trio. All were rethinking Freud's theories on civilization and repression, and could easily fit into a study of the history of that particular idea. But while Robinson's hypothesis fails, his treatment is sufficiently critical (and sympathetic) to merit attention from serious readers interested in psychoanalytic approaches to political theory.

Pub Date: July 30th, 1969
Publisher: Harper & Row