Eli ZaretskyDec 2, 2015
Columbia University Press 2015
Back in the early 70s, Eli Zaretsky wrote for a socialist newspaper and was engaged to review a recently released book, Psychoanalysis and Feminism by Juliet Mitchell. First, he decided, he'd better read some Freud. This started a life-long engagement with psychoanalysis and leftist politics, and his new book Political Freud: A History (Columbia University Press, 2015) conveys the richness of his decades of reading Freud. Following his 2004 Secrets of the Soul: A Social and Cultural History of Psychoanalysis, Zaretsky's latest book, some would call it a companion, is comprised of five essays analyzing the complexity of the mutual influencing of capitalism, social/political history, and psychoanalysis, with particular attention to how and whether people conceive of their own interiority as political. (Particularly timely is chapter two: "Beyond the Blues: the Racial Unconscious and Collective Memory" which explores African American intellectual engagement with psychoanalysis as a tool for understanding oppression.) "Whereas introspection did once define an epoch of social and cultural history-- the Freudian epoch-- there were historical reasons for this, and it was bound to pass" says Zaretsky. But Political Freud is also a compelling argument for how badly we still need a conception of the self--or ego-- with a critical and non-normalizing edge. Eli Zaretsky is a professor of history at The New School, writes and teaches about twentieth-century cultural history, the theory and history of capitalism (especially its social and cultural dimensions), and the history of the family. He is also the author of Why America Needs a Left, Secrets of the Soul: A Social and Cultural History of Psychoanalysis and Capitalism, the Family and Personal Life.