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Sachs, H. (1933). The Delay of the Machine Age. Psychoanal Q., 2:404-424.

(1933). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 2:404-424

The Delay of the Machine Age

Hanns Sachs


History in all its branches deals with the unique event, which is never again repeated in exactly the same form. It can show the causal chains which led to an occurrence, but only with the aid of experiment can it be proven that, and why, an event does not, and cannot, occur as the result of a given cause. Psychoanalysis is in part an historical science—it teaches us to discern the reason, or more correctly, the important reasons, why a person develops just this symptom and has dreamed just that dream, but it does not permit us to predict who will remain free of symptoms or whose sleep will be dreamless. And yet psychoanalysis is not at all points confined to the bounds of the "historical": the exact and profound observation of phenomena which return in varying but still similar form, as well as the possibility of releasing or hindering psychic reactions, permits us to eliminate gradually the exceptional and irrelevant causal factors. And so psychoanalysis like the experimental sciences may arrive, though by quite a different path, at the establishment of universally valid laws whose influence on every event falling within its sphere of activity can be predicted with certainty. (How strong this influence is in specific cases, whether it is not limited or counteracted in its total effect by other laws, naturally remains indeterminate here as in every other science.) The same amplification appertains also to historical facts in so far as it is possible to ascertain in them the influence of empirically inferred laws or laws employed as a working hypothesis—and these are nearly always of a sociological or psychological nature. Political economy, as the "most finely perfected branch of sociology" (Ludwig Mises), should be especially well adapted to these methods.

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