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Devereux, G. (1963). Sociopolitical Functions of the Oedipus Myth in Early Greece. Psychoanal Q., 32:205-214.

(1963). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 32:205-214

Sociopolitical Functions of the Oedipus Myth in Early Greece

George Devereux, Ph.D.

The psychoanalytic study of social and cultural phenomena seeks to translate subjective, unconscious, psychological processes into objective, sociocultural data. This problem was first broached by psychoanalysts primarily in terms of paleopsychological speculations regarding the origins of culture, relatively little information being then available regarding concrete examples of the manner in which—under pressures of stress—unconscious conglomerates of impulses and fantasies are transformed into myths or customs.

As the Oedipal myth is, from the psychoanalytic point of view, the nuclear example of this transformation of a subjective complex into a cultural phenomenon, it is proposed to discuss the probability that this myth—as distinct from the Oedipus complex—may have been evolved in response to certain sociopolitical stresses resulting from the ultimately successful pressure of the Sky-God-worshiping Hellenic invaders to impose patrilineal descent and patrilineal inheritance laws and practices upon the but half-conquered, Earth-Goddess-worshiping, matrilineal, pre-Hellenic inhabitants of Greece.

It is, of course, clearly understood that the Oedipus complex is a universal, developmental human phenomenon, wholly independent, in all its essential aspects, of the specific nature of the society and culture into which an individual is born. It is unnecessary to appeal to highly speculative paleopsychological arguments to provide a biological basis for the Oedipus complex, since there exists an observable biological fact, which readily explains the universality of the Oedipus complex in man, and only in man (5).

The human female is unique in being sexually receptive even during pregnancy and lactation.

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