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Gay, P. (1982). Liberalism and Regression. Psychoanal. St. Child, 37:523-545.

(1982). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 37:523-545

Liberalism and Regression

Peter Gay, Ph.D.


PSYCHOANALYSIS IS THE PSYCHOLOGY OF LIBERALISM. FREUD, we all know, emphatically denied that the discipline he had founded either established or served any Weltanschauung: he placed it wholly into the universe of science. His position amounts to the argument that psychoanalysis does not claim, and cannot be claimed by, any of the competing metaphysical schemes clamoring for allegiance among the philosophical schools of Freud's day. But to embrace science is to adopt a guiding principle: to follow paths to knowledge wherever they may lead, no matter how remote or unpalatable that knowledge may prove to be; and to surrender the most tenacious illusions, no matter how soothing and comforting they may long have been.

Freud's world view embraces a second tenet, just as implicit and as indispensable as the first: the ideal of mental health. I bring you no news when I tell you that the most successfully analyzed human being can never fully realize that ideal.

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