La psyché démodée. Psychanalyse et objectivité sociale chez Adorno


The Old-fashioned Psyche: Adorno on Psychoanalysis and Social Objectivity

The paper discusses the problem of the possible relation between psychoanalytic concepts and social critique in the perspective of Adorno's social thought. The title refers to Adorno's idea that  psyche as individual spontaneity has now lost the weight it used to have in the liberal era. As a brief introductory remark, I clarify the status of theory for Adorno, i.e., the circularity between interpretation and description as grounded by the nature of the social object itself. Then I analyse his core idea of “social objectivity” as an impersonal mechanism which is at the same time produced by men and reified, heteronomous for them, and I argue that, for Adorno, the discontinuity existing between individual and society prevents an immediate shift of psychoanalytic concepts to the social world: the example of fascism clearly proves that the determining social forces today, while instrumentally exploiting deep psychical materials, are not themselves psychological. In the final part, I show how, for Adorno, psychology and sociology nevertheless need to be mediated with each other, while avoiding the superficial synthesis the so-called “revised psychoanalysis” aims to, and I point out some similarities between psychoanalytic practice and social critique as conceived by him.

Keywords: Adorno, Psychoanalysis, Critical Theory, Social Objectivity, Individual, Society, Dialectic, Frankfurt School, Fromm, Totalitarianism

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