Class Struggle & Family System: A Fragmentary Comment on Psychoanalysis and Class Society

I am very interested in a fusion of feminism, Socialism/Marxism, and psychoanalysis/sexual psychology. My concerns are similar to those that animated the Frankfurt School and today Žižek, why do the masses seem to gravitate towards the Right? What can progressives do to intervene for emancipatory ends in the social sphere?

Freud’s theory of eros, death drive, and unconscious broke ground that has since been surpassed, but still stands as important early contributions to the unfinished project of human psychology. Today, the theorists who most interest me are feminists like Jessica Benjamin, Isaac Balbus, and Nancy Chodorow. Where I feel that psychoanalytic feminism as represented by the above thinkers is limited, is in constructing a political economy out of their more individualistic foundation.

Balbus, with whom I’ve taken courses, does try to construct some rudiments of economic theory in his latest book, _Governing Subjects_. At this point, my working hypothesis is that the dynamics that feminist psychoanalysis identifies in forming authoritarian/sexist personalities, are embedded in class dynamics that affect how the personality/person rises within the social system.

The question that has rarely been asked outside of the Frankfurt School and psychoanalytic feminism is why did class systems arise at all in human history? The answer of FS is parental domination and harsh parenting. Psychoanalytic feminism’s answer is that before even harsh parenting, there is a pre-oedipal bond with the mother that gives rise to both an idealized memory of perfect bliss and the repressed memory of the frustration of that bliss.

The repressed frustration of infantile bliss gives rise to a desire for control of the mother/feminine in conventional families. It leads to an idealization of male power embodied in the father. This dynamic sets boys up to become male authoritarians and girls to adopt submissive personalities.

Class society emerges from the conjunction of personality formation and social conditions which sort out occupations by wealth, education, gender, family ties, and intangibles like “ambition.” The feminist intervention is for women to be emancipated from full-time motherhood and for men to become half-time fathers/childcare providers. This alteration in gender roles sets up a process of weakening the identification of authority with all-powerful maleness.

According to Balbus, the youth rebellion of the 60s was due in part to a large number of children raised under the permissive parenting theory of Dr. Benjamin Spock. This wasn’t an entirely feminist theory, but it did alter the cultural dynamic enough that rebellion on a mass scale was possible and even predictable. My sense of our present moment is that permissive parenting is still very much widespread, but that the Religious Right has done a great deal to destroy and attack permissive parenting. It must be stressed that Spockean permissive parenting is not an adequately feminist model.

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