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Lowenfeld, H. (1971). The Freudian Left. Wilhelm Reich, Geza Roheim, Herbert Marcuse: By Paul A. Robinson. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 1969. 253 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 40:141-146.

(1971). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 40:141-146

The Freudian Left. Wilhelm Reich, Geza Roheim, Herbert Marcuse: By Paul A. Robinson. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 1969. 253 pp.

Review by:
Henry Lowenfeld

The author of this work had the interesting idea of studying what he calls the 'question of Freud's ideological location along the spectrum from conservatism to radicalism'. He is obviously intrigued by every concept that is 'radical'. To the term, radicalism, he assigns different meanings: sexual, political, and 'stylistic', by which he refers to a 'propensity for extreme statement, for pursuing a line of argument in a relentless, some would say inflexible, fashion'. Robinson likes to apply remarks like reactionary or progressive, which would seem somewhat out of place in a scientific book. But they point to his major interest, which is more political or ideological than psychological. His book has found a wide audience and is much discussed in academic intellectual circles. It is a lively and challenging book which deserves to be read by psychoanalysts.

Robinson explores the intellectual biographies of three interesting thinkers. Reading it, one is often not clear whether he is dealing with psychology or with politics. Was Freud, the author asks, truly the 'apologist' of sexual and political repression, or was he a revolutionary? In the author's opinion the sentiment of the majority is that 'Freud's great enterprise implied instinctual renunciation and political reaction'. In the writings of Wilhelm Reich, Géza Róheim, and Herbert Marcuse, Freud appears as 'a prophet in the tradition of Karl Marx'.

Robinson begins with Reich who is for him the social philosopher 'who, perhaps more consistently than anyone else, worked out the critical and revolutionary implications of psychoanalytical theory'. Reich tried to create a synthesis of Marx and Freud. He fought for a sexual revolution which would secure once and for all the sexual rights of children and adolescents. Only after the revolution would the prevention of neurosis be possible. He encouraged childhood masturbation and adolescent sexual intercourse, assuming that this would prevent juvenile delinquency, neurosis, perversions, etc. Aggression was also a manifestation of the inhibition of sexuality.

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