On Crew’s Freud: What’s Left? by Harvey Peskin


The bare-knuckled argumentative style of Frederick Crews’ inexhaustible critique of Freud was, if you will, caught red-handed in this piece on Freud’s neglect of  anti-Semitism:

Writes Crews in his review of Roudinesco’s “Freud: In His Time and Ours”, appearing in The NY Review of Books, February 23, 2017:

“Freud was slow to recognize the Nazi menace to Jews in general and psychoanalysis in particular [and] obsessed with his privately chosen enemy, the Roman Catholic Church, blind[ed] himself to the greater threat [of Nazism].”

In fact, within the same paragraph of “Civilization and its Discontents” (Standard Edition, v. 21, pp. 114-115)––three years before Hitler’s rise to the Chancellorship––Freud observed, back to back, the anti-Semitism of both the Church and the impending Nazi state: “The intolerance of the part of Christendom toward those who remain outside it” and “the dream of a Germanic world-domination called for anti-semitism as its complement”.

We do not know how many of us caught this fake news, since the NY Review gave reader reply (including my own) short shrift––only one letter compared to the unprecedented response to Crews’ 1993 essay on “The Unknown Freud”.

My attention to this matter comes from my own work on the impact of growing National  Socialism on the new prominence of the destructive instinct in psychoanalytic theory. My  article, “The Uses of Guilt in the Treatment of Dehumanization”, appears in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 2017, 98, 473-489.

Hervey Peskin
past president, Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California (PINC)


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