Freud – A Modern Day Machiavelli

Sigmund_Freud_1926

Men ought either to be indulged or utterly destroyed…
– Machiavelli

In the Future of an Illusion Sigmund Freud allowed his bourgeois elitism to play itself out. He had no love of the vast majority of workers who struggled daily to feed their families. Freud in typical Victorian upper-class snobbery shows forth his utter disgust and horror of the common man:

It is just as impossible to do without government of the masses by a minority as it is to dispense with coercion in the work of civilization, for the masses are lazy and unintelligent, they have no love for instinctual renunciation, they are not to be convinced of its inevitability by argument, and the individuals support each other in giving full play to their unruliness. It is only by the influence of individuals who can set an example, whom the masses recognize as their leaders, that they can be induced to submit to the labours and renunciations on which the existence of culture depends.1

Intellectuals have always mistrusted the workers and the poor. Freud shows his true allegiance to the elites in this short book. Could one trust such a man as this? How did a whole culture blind itself to such tyrannical thinking? Freud was an out and out elitist who didn’t give a shit about the working class. Yet, his supposed cultural standing is that he influenced many thinkers, artists, etc. Were they all blind to his actual thoughts? How many studies have been conducted that show this dark side of Freudianism? Zilch. At least I have yet to discover much. There may be some hiding away in academic journals. This side of Freud is disgusting and seems to be par for many intellectuals of his time. This notion of the masses being ruled by a minority: what else could this mean than tyranny? Instinctual renunciation? Repression is more the word that comes to mind. Leaders that induce submission and renunciation? That culture depends on such repression? Freud was very much a Machiavelli in disguise. I can imagine him as persona non grata among the people under the thumb of austerity in the EU. I see him even now giving adverts for the need for renunciation and hard work to pay one’s debts, that stern look on his stoic face, the furrowed wrinkles above those stone eyes, the twisted frown displaced by the well-groomed and manicured white beard, the spotless suit with its golden time-piece. Lecturing the populace about the great sacrifice their making for their countryman, etc. Here he is berating the masses that might actually kill themselves or their neighbors – or, should we not admit of him thinking: “They might just kill me, me the great psychoanalyst!”:

And so follows the necessity for either the most rigorous suppression of these dangerous masses and the most careful exclusion of all opportunities for mental awakening, or a fundamental revision of the relation between culture and religion. (KL 694)

Mental awakening, heir Freud? Is this what you fear? An intelligent populace, masses with brains? So we’re dangerous are we Dr. Freud? You would like us to be suppressed, dumbed down, kept from awakening to your superior mind and culture? Is this it, Dr. Freud? “Yes,” he would answer. Are you afraid that the masses if they were to know the mind of Dr. Sigmund Freud, know his real thoughts, that possibly they just might not like what they see? Is that it Dr. Freud?

Freud would even use religion and science to quell the heart of the beast, the masses:

What is then left is a body of ideas which science no longer contradicts and which it cannot disprove. These modifications of religious doctrine, which you have condemned as half-measures and compromises, make it possible to bridge the gap between the uneducated masses and the philosophical thinker, and to preserve that common bond between them which is so important for the protection of culture. With it you would have no need to fear that the poor man would discover that the upper strata of society “no longer believe in God”. I think I have shown by now that your endeavour reduces itself to the attempt to replace a proved and affectively, valuable illusion by one that is unproved and without affective value.’ (kl 923)

Modifications of religious doctrine, hey Dr. Freud. Just a little correction here and there, a little revising of the literature, rewriting of the Bible perhaps? A little therapeutic lie want hurt, will it? Bring in alignment the gap between those dumb beasts of work and the great philosopher of culture, hey: Is this your plan, Dr. Freud? Ah, and what if they should suddenly discover you’re an atheist? You could just replace one illusion with another, yes? Dr. Freud you have it all so carefully figured out. Just give the masses their illusions carefully crafted by Dr. Freud, preserver of culture and philosophy. It’s only for their own good, right? “Yes, yes,” he says. “It’s only to protect us high ones, the noble ones, the elite of culture!” Ah, Dr. Freud you are so smart, I bet the leaders will love you for this last bit of knowledge. What a strange fellow you are Dr. Freud. Even Machiavelli would have praised you.


1. Freud, Sigmund (2011-03-07). THE FUTURE OF AN ILLUSION (Kindle Locations 108-112). Wilder Publications. Kindle Edition.

10 thoughts on “Freud – A Modern Day Machiavelli

  1. And just for kicks, you can also read a challenge to Freud’s essay “The Illusion of a Future” by Oskar Pfister:

    http://www.michaelmurphypsychologies.com/Pfister_The_Illusion_of_a_Future__1928_.pdf

    I’m not challenging anything written here, Freud’s essay is one of those that many people will have a hard time seriously analyzing, but has to be considered objectively.

    I do point out that he does point to an almost “parenting government” by discussion of “setting the example.” Could it be that he wanted the common man to have people to aspire to in some way?

    (Probably not).

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    • No he wanted strong leaders that would enforce their rule. Hell Freud did as much with his own circle of pupils: he was a dictator at heart. How many did he throw out of his Platonic haven of psychoanalysis: Adler, Jung, Rank, Reik…. just to name a few who became scapegoats, etc.

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    • Yea, just read this. It’s really more of a defense of Freud from a true believer, trying to present the Devil’s advocate for religion. But it didn’t even touch on this other aspect of his tyrannical leanings in politics, nor his disgust of the common man. The reason I bring this up is why so many leftists – Marcuse, Brown, Beckker, Lacan, Zizek… all seem to overlook this aspect of Freud’s thought and pass over it in silence. This make me believe that either they just want to sweep this side under the rug, and keep his other thoughts; or, they are complicit in accepting this side of Freud. If the second is true, then much of the Freudian framework is based on this tyrannical view of things as an elitist disgust of the working class: and, this whole psychology is itself based on repression and control. Even in the Pfister letter he makes light of Freud’s stance as if “Oh, we will just forgive you your immodesty.” lol In the end Pfister was an apologist for Freud not his critic…

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  2. Superego rules the Id, the Leader rules the masses. Simple truths for simple folks.

    Freud’s niece and other lesser engineers of souls have implemented Freud’s theories faithfully. The ultimate result of their engineering: machinic Id rules the human superego 😉

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  3. was interesting times as a kind of cosmopolitanism for western european jewry was often tied with a sort of secular puritanism, lots out there on freud as a victorian.
    “Toward the beginning of the eighteenth century, there emerged a political, economic, and technical incitement to talk about sex. ….. This need to take sex ‘into account’, to pronounce a discourse on sex that would not derive from morality alone but from rationality as well, was sufficiently new that at first it wondered at itself and sought apologies for its own existence. How could a discourse based on reason speak like that?” -foucault’s not always a great historian but seems on point here.

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      • tragically aside from early studies of plagues and such there isn’t much in the medical literature until close to our age except for the nasty bits on moral hygiene,
        of course his reception was (and has really remained) with the educated elites and the more artistic bourgeois neither of whom have ever shown much love (including nowadays) for the masses, somewhere he has one telling remark about having to dilute the pure gold of analysis for a kind of social work for the unwashed.
        have you read:
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freud:_The_Mind_of_the_Moralist
        ?

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      • I have that one on my bookshelf from years ago… read Peter Gay’s bio of him… but never really wanted to go further in bio’s till of late in tracing down both Zizek-Lacan-Freud…. seeing how Zizek is more and more just a middle-of-the-road liberal leftist rather than the radical we thought he was…

        More and more I see most philosophy on the left as very elitist in some ways, creating its own ingrown jargon and concepts… people like Brassier despising the internet for philosophy, upholding the old academic separation of elites/masses… these philosophers that want to keep aloof of the mass media is something that seems totally belligerent and closed off in an ivory tower of academic journals, speeches, discourse… seems we may never find anything from such intellectuals.

        Having grown up in the oil fields, having worked as a real worker in actual tough jobs… I have little sympathy for a lot of these so to speak radical wannabe philosophers that want come down into the streets with workers. Let’s face it I grew up on Whitman and Emerson’s Self-Reliance, shaped my own thoughts, read for my self…. never finished college…. yet, I believe I’m better read and have more to offer as a worker-philosopher outsider than most of these jargon based imbeciles… just my narcissism I suppose 🙂 haha

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  4. yeah you can see it when they babble on about some utopian life in the ruins of our current modes of capitalism/governance they have no sense of how the people either left behind and or excluded actually have to scrape by and no real personal sense of panic/urgency.

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