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Kovel, J. (1984). On Being a Marxist Psychoanalyst (and a Psychoanalytic Marxist). Free Associations, 1(Pilot):149-154.

(1984). Free Associations, 1(Pilot):149-154

On Being a Marxist Psychoanalyst (and a Psychoanalytic Marxist)

Joel Kovel

It is a dubious distinction, but I am probably the only officially graduated practitioner of classical Freudian psychoanalysis in the United States who is also a Marxist — at least in my generation, and at least of ‘my kind of Marxism’. There is another analyst about my age who espouses Soviet-style Marxism, and is, I think, a member of the Communist Party of the USA. We are on friendly terms but don't have much to do with each other. Then, of course, there are other sorts of psychoanalysts who call themselves one kind of Marxist or another, along with progressives who are psychoanalytically inclined but not, so to speak, fully trained. There are many ways to slice these things, and not much point in doing so. What counts is that there is in no sense any coherent movement of Freudo-Marxists in the United States who practice psychoanalysis or even psychotherapy along psychoanalytic lines. There have been a number of attempts during the past decade to launch one by pulling together like-minded people. A few years ago, one such venture in New York seemed to be getting off the ground. But it suffered from egoism and careerism; intra-group squabbling ensued, and the project sputtered and crashed. It survives now mainly as a psychotherapy group-practice in Greenwich Village.

Contrast this with the standard, apolitical practice of psychotherapy (and psychoanalysis) in the United States. Now, everybody knows that bourgeois psychoanalysis is washed up and basically good for nothing except satire.

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