A Personal Reflection on Jewish Devotees of Psychoanalysis—and of Radical Leftism

Jan. 30 2017

In the early years of psychoanalysis, it was not uncommon to hear the new psychological theory referred to as “the Jewish science”; in Sigmund Freud’s inner circle of colleagues and disciples, Carl Jung was the sole Gentile. Since then, its association with Jews has not diminished. Barbara Kay, reminiscing about growing up in Toronto in the 1940s and 50s in a household where psychiatrists and psychoanalysts were venerated, explores the grip that Freud’s theories and, for others, Communism had on a generation or more of Jews:

Some kids’ moms felt they missed their calling as dancers or writers. Mine, a high-school graduate with native intelligence, but underdeveloped critical-thinking skills harnessed to overdeveloped self-confidence, was an analyst manqué. I simply accepted that “what do you think you/she/he really meant by that?” was a normal response to even the most banal assertion at our dinner table. I assumed all families were like that, but they weren’t. It really was a Jewish thing. . . .

Looking back, I can see that blind faith in psychiatry as the Answer was a kind of mania in the 1950s and beyond for Jews who had lost touch with the faith of their fathers, but were too bourgeois and socially conformist to find appeal in far-left political radicalism. Smart, striving, secular Jews, [by contrast,] who couldn’t for one reason or another complete the upstream leap to material good fortune, tended to gravitate to political ideology. And there were enough of them to make up a massively disproportionate share of the Communist movement in the West. . . .

In both cases, the appeal was a universal belief system in which Jews might melt—unChosen, unChosen at last!—into the general polity, whether the defining authority was the universal Unconscious or an international classless society presided over by Big Brother. The two faith systems also had in common the belief that human unhappiness was the consequence of non-rational laws and taboos. And God knows Judaism is more chockablock with those than any other religion I can think of. . . .

When my mother thought the cure for anti-Semitism was psychological hygiene, her hopes were buoyed by the post-Holocaust orgy of self-recrimination that swept through Western nations. Her generation—and mine, too—really believed anti-Semitism was a dying animal. The re-establishment of sovereignty in the Jews’ indigenous homeland was a miracle to my parents’ generation, and mostly to mine. She could not have foreseen, and would have been utterly confounded by, the next iteration of universal-panacea Jewish inventions bent on unChoosing the Jews: a social-justice movement in which Israel would feature as a villain. Anti-Zionism’s Western leadership is made up primarily of progressive academics, and of them a huge disproportion is Jewish. This would have been a source of turmoil and shame for her.

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Read more at Walrus

More about: Canadian Jewry, Communism, History & Ideas, Psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy