email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
A Basic Theory of NeuropsychoanalysisA Cursing Brain?A Dream of Undying FameA Map of the MindAfter LacanAgainst AdaptationAgainst FreudAn Anatomy of AddictionAnalytic FreudAndré Green at the Squiggle FoundationAnger, Madness, and the DaimonicAnna FreudAnna Freud: A BiographyApproaching PsychoanalysisAttachment and PsychoanalysisBadiouBecoming a SubjectBefore ForgivingBerlin PsychoanalyticBetween Emotion and CognitionBeyond GenderBeyond SexualityBeyond the Pleasure PrincipleBiology of FreedomBoundaries and Boundary Violations in PsychoanalysisBuilding on BionCare of the PsycheCarl JungCassandra's DaughterCherishmentConfusion of TonguesContemporary Psychoanalysis and the Legacy of the Third ReichCrucial Choices, Crucial ChangesCulture and Conflict in Child and Adolescent Mental HealthDarwin's WormsDesert Islands and Other Texts (1953-1974)Dispatches from the Freud WarsDoes the Woman Exist?Doing Psychoanalysis in TehranDreaming and Other Involuntary MentationDreaming by the BookEnergy Psychology InteractiveEqualsErrant SelvesEthics and the Discovery of the UnconsciousEthics Case Book of the American Psychoanalytic AssociationFairbairn's Object Relations Theory in the Clinical SettingFed with Tears -- Poisoned with MilkFeminism and Its DiscontentsForms of Intersubjectivity in Infant Reasearch and Adult TreatmentFour Lessons of PsychoanalysisFratricide in the Holy LandFreudFreudFreudFreudFreudFreudFreud and the Question of PseudoscienceFreud As PhilosopherFreud at 150Freud's AnswerFreud's WizardFreud, the Reluctant PhilosopherFrom Classical to Contemporary PsychoanalysisFundamentals of Psychoanalytic TechniqueGenes on the CouchGoing SaneHans BellmerHappiness, Death, and the Remainder of LifeHate and Love in Psychoanalytical InstitutionsHatred and ForgivenessHealing the Soul in the Age of the BrainHeinz KohutHeinz KohutHidden MindsHistory of ShitHope and Dread in PsychoanalysisImagination and Its PathologiesImagine There's No WomanIn Freud's TracksIn SessionIn the Floyd ArchivesIntimaciesIntimate RevoltIrrationalityIs Oedipus Online?Jacques LacanJacques Lacan and the Freudian Practice of PsychoanalysisJung and the Making of Modern PsychologyJung Stripped BareKilling FreudLacanLacanLacanLacan and Contemporary FilmLacan at the SceneLacan For BeginnersLacan in AmericaLacan TodayLacan's Seminar on AnxietyLawLearning from Our MistakesLove's ExecutionerMad Men and MedusasMale Female EmailMelanie KleinMemoirs of My Nervous IllnessMental SlaveryMind to MindMixing MindsMoral StealthMourning and ModernityMovies and the MindMurder in ByzantiumNew Studies of Old VillainsNocturnesNoir AnxietyOn Being Normal and Other DisordersOn BeliefOn IncestOn Not Being Able to SleepOn the Freud WatchOn the Way HomeOpen MindedOpera's Second DeathOvercoming Destructive Beliefs, Feelings, and BehaviorsPhenomology & Lacan on Schizophrenia, After the Decade of the BrainPhilosophical Counselling and the UnconsciousPractical Psychoanalysis for Therapists and PatientsPsychiatry, Psychoanalysis, And The New Biology Of MindPsychoanalysisPsychoanalysis and Narrative MedicinePsychoanalysis and NeurosciencePsychoanalysis and the Philosophy of SciencePsychoanalysis as Biological SciencePsychoanalysis at the MarginsPsychoanalysis at the MarginsPsychoanalysis in a New LightPsychoanalysis in FocusPsychology, Psychotherapy, Psychoanalysis, and the Politics of Human RelationshipsPsychotherapy As PraxisPutnam CampQuestions for FreudRe-Inventing the SymptomReading Seminar XXReinventing the SoulRelational Theory and the Practice of PsychotherapyRelationalityRepressed SpacesRevolt, She SaidSecrets of the SoulSerious ShoppingSex on the CouchSexuationSigmund FreudSoul Murder RevisitedSpectral EvidenceSpirit, Mind, and BrainStrangers to OurselvesSubjective Experience and the Logic of the OtherSubjectivity and OthernessSubstance Abuse As SymptomSurrealist Painters and PoetsTaboo SubjectsTalk is Not EnoughThe Arabic FreudThe Art of the SubjectThe Brain and the Inner WorldThe Brain, the Mind and the SelfThe Cambridge Companion to LacanThe Challenge for Psychoanalysis and PsychotherapyThe Clinical LacanThe Colonization Of Psychic SpaceThe Condition of MadnessThe Couch and the TreeThe Cruelty of DepressionThe Dissociative Mind in PsychoanalysisThe Dreams of InterpretationThe Examined LifeThe Fall Of An IconThe Freud EncyclopediaThe Freud FilesThe Freud WarsThe Fright of Real TearsThe Future of PsychoanalysisThe Gift of TherapyThe Heart & Soul of ChangeThe Knotted SubjectThe Last Good FreudianThe Letters of Sigmund Freud and Otto RankThe Mind According to ShakespeareThe Mystery of PersonalityThe Mythological UnconsciousThe Neuropsychology of the UnconsciousThe New PsychoanalysisThe Power of FeelingsThe Psychoanalytic MovementThe Psychoanalytic MysticThe Psychoanalytic Study of the ChildThe Psychoanalytic Study of the ChildThe Psychodynamics of Gender and Gender RoleThe Puppet and the DwarfThe Real World Guide to Psychotherapy PracticeThe Revolt of the PrimitiveThe Seminar of Moustafa SafouanThe Sense and Non-Sense of RevoltThe Shortest ShadowThe Social History of the UnconsciousThe Surface EffectThe Symmetry of GodThe Tragedy of the SelfThe Trainings of the PsychoanalystThe UnsayableThe World of PerversionTherapeutic ActionTherapy's DelusionsThis Incredible Need to BelieveThoughts Without A ThinkerTo Redeem One Person Is to Redeem the WorldTrauma and Human ExistenceTraumatizing TheoryUmbr(a)Unconscious knowing and other essays in psycho-philosophical analysisUnderstanding Dissidence and Controversy in the History of PsychoanalysisUnderstanding PsychoanalysisUnfree AssociationsWalking HeadsWay Beyond FreudWhat Does a Woman Want?What Freud Really MeantWhen the Body SpeaksWhere Do We Fall When We Fall in Love?Whose Freud?Why Psychoanalysis?Wilhelm ReichWinnicottWinnicott On the ChildWisdom Won from IllnessWittgenstein on Freud and FrazerWittgenstein Reads FreudWorld, Affectivity, TraumaZizek
Modern feminism has been with us for decades. Are you of the opinion
that it has done more harm than good, that society is suffering
as a result, or that it goes against the most fundamental nature
of the human condition, specifically that of the human psyche?
If so, then this book may be what you have been searching for.
Howard S. Schwartz analyses the psychological forces responsible
for feminism and political correctness through the lenses of a
modern Freudian theory, since he believes that psychoanalysis
provides the best means for making sense of irrational mental
processes. What appears to be a "war between the sexes"
is something much more dangerous, "it is nothing less than
a revolt of the primitive against the mature, driven by the most
powerful forces within the psyche" (p. xiv). He therefore
endeavors to show that underlying any of the forms that give feminism
its expression is a fundamental unconscious force. "Properly
speaking, it should be called 'primitivism' because it represents
the expression of the deepest and most primitive elements of the
psyche" (p. xv).
Is this book commendable? It rightly attacks much that is problematic
in political correctness, such as that subjectivity has precedence
over objectivity, i.e. subjective approaches select those "facts"
which are in accordance with preconceptions and ignore those facts
that do not accord with them (p. 28). Political correctness therefore
is often not in pursuit of what is correct, but rather of what
is subjectively held to be good or politically expedient (p. 124).
The book, however, has numerous shortcomings and bases on which
it may be criticized to which I wish to draw attention. These
pertain to fundamental problems of psychoanalysis, method of argumentation,
and the absolute discrediting of feminism.
I wish to question the premises from which Schwartz argues. The
first is that his argument rests on psychoanalytic foundations.
Since the rise of psychoanalysis, the question of whether the
discipline is a science, a pseudo-science, or something sui
generis has not been definitively answered. Moreover, the
psychoanalytic movement has given rise to many separate theories
without any decisive way of deciding in favor of one or another.
On this basis the revised Freudian theory presented by Schwartz
has to be questioned too. The difficulty pertaining to psychoanalysis
is that it is not easily subjected to testability and does not
readily capitulate to falsification reports. The narrative account
of psychoanalytic approaches is also not always convincing due
to the difficulty in verifying them, which makes The Revolt
of the Primitive all the more unconvincing.
When confronting feminist claims, such as that men commit more
violent crimes than women, Schwartz misses the point by arguing
with counterexamples that women are capable of committing violent
crimes too (p. 14). Furthermore, the claims made by Schwartz do
not always accord with fact. For instance, when arguing against
women in the military, he states that those countries that have
tried it abandoned it shortly there after and that the consequences
of making a mistake in adopting it are incalculable (p. 163).
Counterexamples abound; Israel is an obvious one.
Schwartz fails to draw distinctions where they are necessary.
He argues against feminism, all forms of feminism, as though there
were only radical feminism. It ought almost to be unnecessary
for me to point out that many feminists do not identify themselves
with the conceptions, aims, or methods of argument employed by
radical feminism, but are rather of a different kind, such as
liberal feminism. This, however, leaves Schwartz unperturbed:
"I do not wish to get into dealing with the usual distinctions
among types of feminism .... My point is rather that there is
an unconscious element in much of feminism that underlies the
conscious views of many who think of themselves as feminists,
independent of the conscious content of their feminism" (p.
Feminism is depicted as a destructive force, having only adverse
consequences for society, employing means that are not always
ethical, such as when they falsify research results so as to tailor
them to the aims of their movement, operating with the conviction
that the end justifies the means. Schwartz rightly points out
numerous such examples. Yet although such occurrences are regrettable,
not all that feminism has brought about is negative - feminists
have many ways of achieving their goals.
Feminism has undoubtedly achieved significant improvements for
women: the right to vote, access to education, property rights,
the liberty to choose from a diverse group of careers, and equal
opportunity legislation. Are these achievements detrimental to
society's well-being? I cannot agree with Schwartz that they are.
The depiction of the whole movement as destructive is wrong at
best and ultraconservative propaganda at worst. I therefore cannot
agree with Schwartz who believes that feminism, or the revolt
of the primitive, has produced a generation of "confused
and helpless male children, of women intoxicated by self-worship
and victimized by their own grandiosity, decomposition of the
family, destruction of the educational system, castration of the
military ..." (p. 212).
With this review, I do not commend this book. Doing so would undermine
my credibility as a reviewer. Although, as I have stated, if you
believe that feminism has done more harm than good, that society
is suffering as a result, or that it goes against the most fundamental
nature of the human condition, specifically that of the human
psyche, then this book may indeed be for you.
© 2001 Markus Wolf
Markus Johann Wolf is
a doctoral student in philosophy at the University of South Africa,
a distance education institution, and lives in Austria. He has
particular interest in philosophical problems of social and ethical
matters, his main field of interest being ethics. His doctoral
thesis deals with the ethical justification of punishment.