Psychoanalysis & Punk Rock

One of the things that runs through several episodes of InForm: Podcast is the question: Does psychoanalysis need to be marginal? The claim that I've made is that psychoanalysis does need to be marginal. What I've offered to back up this claim comes from the book Psychoanalytic Politics by Sherry Turkle.

Only five years after his American visit, Freud noted that something was going wrong in America. Americans were accepting psychoana­ lysis too easily, and Freud took this as a sure sign that they were misun­ derstanding it, watering it down, and sweetening it to their taste. [...] Freud believed that too easy an acceptance meant that psychoanalysis was being denatured, and he also believed the converse: resistance to psychoanalysis suggested that it was being taken seriously. For Freud, psychoanalysis was so deeply subversive of common-sense ways of thinking about the world that to understand it was to resist it.

I've talked with several people about this, and not everyone sees things the way I do. Be that as it may, I've never been convinced that psychoanalysis would do better if it were more mainstream. The people who practice/sell psychoanalysis might make more money if it was mainstreamed, but I don't think the practice of psychoanalysis would do better.

If you've been following along with the [S][J][P] blog postings, you may have noticed I'm pulling text/quotes from two sources.

Miller makes the point that applied psychoanalysis is psychoanalysis applied to a problem that someone has; it is a psychoanalysis that is consumed by those who use it as analysands/patients to achieve some kind of therapeutic effect.

Pure psychoanalysis is the sort of psychoanalysis that produces psychoanalysts, and it is a psychoanalysis that keeps going beyond the therapeutic effects. Pure psychoanalysis is what creates the conditions necessary to reproduce the means of production of the practice of psychoanalysis. In its pure form, psychoanalysis becomes something for people who desire the continuation of psychoanalysis as a practice.

Azerrad's book is about a kind of music we would probably call punk rock. As I read Azerrad's book, I think his writing about punk rock helped me understand what Miller and Turkle write about psychoanalysis.

Miller observes:

Psychoanalysis produced, nourished, encouraged its own semblance, and that this semblance thereafter enveloped it, passed over it, vampirized it. I say vampirized because one could give to this history a Gothic style in the manner of Edgar Allan Poe, something like “Psychoanalysis and its Double.” Once we display the resemblances, the intermittent confusions of person, the interchangeable character of the original and the double, the story would conclude with the substitution of the double for the original, the original ending up expropriated, exiled, in the rubbish, eliminated.

To re-state what Miller is saying in my own words would be that the original psychoanalysis was born out of a desire to explore the unconscious. It was the result of Freud's curiosity about the unconscious.

However, as psychoanalysis became more recognizable within society, as more and more people were willing to pay for analysis or seek out the thoughts and opinions of analysts, a demand emerged. The demand was to turn psychoanalysis from a desire/curiosity into a profession that society would respect. This demand led to the creation of the International Psychoanalytic Association (IPA). After WW II and the death of Freud, the IPA turned up the volume on the demand that psychoanalysis become reputable and professional. This turned psychoanalysis into a highly regulated profession with standardized training programs.

I think the IPA and the demand for psychoanalysis to be a "respected profession" is the semblant that the original desire of psychoanalysis created. I agree with Miller that this form of professionalized psychoanalysis then vampirized the original (pure?) psychoanalysis that was more interested in the unconscious than it was in being accepted and respected.

The more accepted, respected, and mainstream psychoanalysis became, the more it became oriented by being seen as "valid" and less oriented by its "deeply subversive" desire to create an experience of the unconscious.

Azerrad Observes:

Punk rock was the subversive act of making music that was not concerned with being successful (i.e., selling lots of albums and arena packing tours). Punk rock aimed to create an experience for those who listened to it, an experience of connecting with something that had been socially repressed.

(Also of interest: Pure punk rock is the kind of punk rock that makes new punk rock bands, it is the kind of punk rock that was played at band practices, and it went beyond the kind of punk rock that was making records and playing shows. I think pure psychoanalysis is kind of like psychoanalysis as band practice, and applied psychoanalysis is psychoanalysis that is similar to a punk rock show where the band is in the position of the analyst and the audience the position of the analysand. )

In both cases (Psychoanalysis & Punk Rock):

I think that it is clear what becoming"commercially successful" does to both psychoanalysis and punk rock: It gets them to turn away from the desire to produce a subversive experience and turn towards what Miller calls a semblant. The semblant would be doing psychoanalysis or punk rock in a way that resulted in the generation of wealth, power, and privilege for psychoanalysis or punk rockers.

My claim is that no psychoanalyst or punk rocker would want to become someone so successful they cared more about making money than they did about making psychoanalysis or music.

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