February 13, 2013

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The Freudian Subject: crowd Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen reads the primary issues of 'Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego' as arising out of the problematic of the relation between self and other. On the one hand, this problematic is a trick: it presupposes the subject as a self, that is, as already constituted and separate from the other such that relation (in the strict Freudian sense) cannot arise; on the other, this very questioning preserves and protects the subject insofar as it posits it, is premised on it. Shouldn't we think, rather, of a primary sociality that precedes the ego as well as the other--"a mass-ego, a primordial crowd" (133)? Freud has already implied as much when he observes, in the close of "On Narcissism," that the ego ideal has a social side: "the common ideal of a family, a class, or a nation." Yet we know that insofar as he continued to presuppose an ego, even one that could form itself, he displaced the problem of the group elsewhere (even as it continued to distort his analysis). He returns openly to it in "Group Psychology." Since Freud is heavily indebted to LeBon--quoting pages and pages of his The Crowd, B-J begins with LeBon. B-J describes LeBon in terms that make clear the proximity between LeBon and Freud. First, both read symptoms as pathological returns to a previous state (so, origins are revealed in symptoms). Second, the crowd is the buried truth (symptom of the social/political): "beind 'people' there lurks the crowd and 'primitive...

Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean is a political theorist.

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