Freud and Marx

Freud and Marx it can be argued were both, as individuals,
dissatisfied with their societies. Marx more plainly than Freud, but Freud
can also be seen as discontent in certain aspects such as his cynical view of
human nature. Each were great thinkers and philosophers, but both seemed
unhappy. Perhaps the social ills and trouble each perceived in the world
about them were only the reflections of what each of the thinkers held within
themselves. Each person observes the same world, but each of us interprets
that information in a different way. They both saw the world as being injust
or base. Each understood the disfunctions in society as being caused by some
aspect of human greed or other similar instinct. They did however, disagree
on what the vehicle for these instincts’ corrupting influences are. Freud
claimed that tension caused by the stuggle to repress anti-social instincts
eventually was released and caused the social evils he observed. Marx also
saw instincts at work but not the tensions and Id that Freud saw, Marx simply
credited man’s greed and the subsequent oppression of other men as the root to
all that was wrong with civilization. It is interesting to note that both
Freud and Marx saw conflict but each traced it back to sources each was
respectively educated in.
Freud was a Psychoanalyst and his understanding of the mind was very
conflict oriented. He saw man as a kind of glorified animal who had the same
desires and needs as any other animal. The only true difference between the
human-animal and other animals was that the human-animal possessed an
intellect. Freud divided man’s psyche into three parts, the Id, Ego, and
SuperEgo. What differed the human-animal from any other animal was the
SuperEgo, which arose from man’s intellect. The Super-Ego as Freud theorised
it is the values of one’s parents internalised. He went further to then
explain that unhappiness in life is caused by the conflict between the Id and
the SuperEgo. As stated, all of Frued’s philosophy was very conflict oriented
so it is not difficult to understand then how Freud applied this view
macrocosmically to society as a whole.

Freud addressed this in his essay, “Civilization and It’s
Discontents”. In it, Freud claimed that civilizations are developed through
the channeling of anti-social erotic and aggressive urges into constructive
outlets. He went further and explained that social ills are caused by those
members of society who are not satisfied with the substitutes supplied by the
channelling of anti-social instincts into social creative energies. Such
repression causes a certain tension which after awhile cannot be repressed
and is released in socially unacceptable behaviour. As Freud explained it,
“Civilized society is perpetually menaced with disintegration through this
primary hostility of men towards one another”. Freud saw humanity as being
destined to stuggle as long as humanity exists. In his own words, “This
struggle is what all life essentially consists of and the evolution of
civilizations may therefore be simply describes as the struggle for the life
of the human species”.

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Although like Freud, he saw conflict within society, Karl Marx had
radically different ideas and perceptions about humanity and civilization.

Marx saw the same things as Freud, but chalked it up to inter-economic
class conflict instead of conflict within one’s psyche. This class conflict
was caused by one class, the Bourgeois, which he characterized as having the
great majority of wealth and power and having rule over the lower class, or
Proletariots, which worked for the Bourgeois. This view of economic class
strife was just one stage of Marx’s idea that all of history was leading up
to some finality and that at such a time all of man would be able to live in
a Utopia. Marx also applied this idea in reverse and attempted to explain that
the Proletariot class and Bourgeois class have existed in varying forms for
all of mankind’s history. He tried to illustrate using the example of slavery
and feudalism that each time a form of oppression by a class of another class
was destroyed a new form took it’s place. Marx felt that it was a Communist’s
responsibility to awaken the mostly ignorant Proletariot to this and help to
abolish the concept of private property, which he also believed was the
primary means of the Bourgeois to oppress the Proletariot workers. Marx
predicted that Capitalism and it’s Bourgeois patrons would eventually become
thin out due to competition and therefore the wealth would become
increasingly more centralised in fewer people’s pockets. The spread of wealth
would eventually become so uneven and lop-sided that a revolution would occur
and the Bourgeois would be overthrown. Marx believed that Capitalism was
probably the last form of oppression and once overthrown, everyone would live
as a single society where all men could live in peace without rule over one
another, Utopia.

Freud and Marx although similar in some ways, held very different
views about the world around them. Aside from the obvious difference that
Freud believed the cause of social evils was within man himself and Marx saw
the problem as being an economic one as long as history itself, there are
other more specific differences. Freud saw the conflict as being internal
and therefore expressed within the society in which a man is part of, but
Marx saw the conflict in a more black-and-white sense. To Marx, it was
between two groups of people, the oppressed and the oppressors. Marx however
was also generally more optimistic, especially when it came to predictions
of the future. He saw the underdogs, the Proletariots eventually overcoming
adversity and establishing Utopia. Freud is much less exciting for all he
could divine was that humanity would continue to struggle. Freud seemed
perhaps to believe that the meaning of life was struggling. Freud saw nothing
of the occasional revolutions Marx did, it was all one long struggle to him.

Freud and Marx theorised about and observed the world around them and
interpreted it in the terms and ways they were most accomplished at and
familiar with. The question remains unanswered though, did Freud and Marx
simply observe the true reality of the world and state what they saw, or was
the world about them in actually reflecting themselves.