YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

March 21, 2015

Great Goddess feminism: the Phyllis Chesler model

Stone Age Venus of Willendorf

Stone Age Venus of Willendorf

I have been rereading Phyllis Chesler’s Women and Madness (Doubleday 1972), and wonder if it is still relevant, and how Chesler’s Jungian, mythic approach to female sex-roles and role models fits into the second wave of feminism.

This blog will focus on the promise of sexual liberation as opposed to what experience hath shown are more realistic approaches to the demands of motherhood and the welfare of children.

Phyllis Chesler and son

Phyllis Chesler and son

First, we examine the context of second wave feminism. College-age women, active in the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s, deeply resented being relegated to waitresses and secretaries, serving the males coffee and typing manifestoes, while such heroes as black power advocate Stokely Carmichael relegated them to sex objects (though his intended meaning is contested by allies; in 1964 he had declared “”The position of women in the movement is prone”).

So the second wave of feminism came out of the Left, and then some argued about whether or not they should be “Marxist-feminists” or “Feminist-Marxists.” At the same time, real communists (Stalinists) were dismissing feminism as a bourgeois deviation. As I have suggested here, the intellectual ancestors of feminist stars were not 1930s leftists, so much as anti-killjoy womanizers of the 1940s social democratic “left”; i.e., anticommunist “liberals” who admired Jung, but not his mentor Freud, another killjoy with his settling for “everyday unhappiness” as opposed to the adrenalin rush of Romantic defiance. (See https://clarespark.com/2015/03/16/who-were-the-precursors-of-the-new-left-the-wasp-establishment-or-communists/. The New Deal-affiliated social psychologists I studied all identified Hitler with Romanticism,  e.g., with the arch-Romantic, Lord Byron.)

Enter numerous feminists (arguably the progenitors of the gay rights movement) who were averse to what was imagined as the humdrum life of MOM, stuck indefinitely in boring marriages and chained to motherhood. Unlike the leftist feminists, they were attracted to Goddesses and “spirituality,” and aroused the ire of the (materialist) Left. But whatever the flavor, feminists were of course reacting (indirectly?) to “attachment theory” as presented by John Bowlby in 1958. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attachment_theory, and note that Bowlby was describing the infant’s need for object constancy, but not a jail for ambitious women that would last forever.)

Numerous activist women in the arts and humanities saw a chance for instant fame when they promoted a distinctive woman’s sensibility and the loveliness of free love, including lesbianism. Of all these book-writing young women, psychologist Phyllis Chesler remains relevant today, for she has not only offered a Goddess/Amazon book in her youth (who doesn’t enjoy the pagan, naughty Greek myths and Jungian archetypes?), but she claims expertise in the “new antisemitism” that speaks to renewed fears for the safety of Israel. But even more, Chesler saw Muslim abuse of women up close in her marriage to an Afghani (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phyllis_Chesler). So while her competitors are either mocked, deceased, or forgotten, Phyllis Chesler has developed an appreciative lay audience for the emancipation of women.


Meanwhile, feminism seems to have adopted Chesler’s brand. The Hunger Games trilogy is a boffo success with youngsters and mothers alike (at least in my family), and the challenge of monogamous marriage and competent child-rearing is taken up all too rarely, and when it is, as in the NBC miniseries The Slap (the intelligent woman’s guide to motherhood: exhausting, negligent, over-indulgent in turn), it arouses howls of rage in television critics, who don’t want to tamper with archetypes of the Happy Mother and/or “likeable characters.”


I helped promote the women artists’ movement on the radio, and considered myself to be one of them. I continue to believe that it is a man’s world, and bitterly resent all double standards.

It is only in retrospect that I have come to realize how intellectually and emotionally demanding motherhood (like marriage) really is. Moreover, the time frame when developing youngsters need ’round-the-clock mothering and fathering is shorter than young, single women realized in the salad days of second wave feminism.



January 3, 2015

Cass Sunstein: Nudnik-in-chief

Execmed007014Before you read this blog you might want to consult these sources:



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cass_Sunstein (“libertarian paternalism”)


Harvard Magazine’s first issue of 2015 features an eight page profile of Cass Sunstein, author, Harvard Law professor, and former Obama administration official. Sunstein, who has made enemies on both Right and Left, served as the head of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs from 2009 to 2012. Lauded as “The Legal Olympian,” Sunstein remains a major player in propagandizing for the New Deal and the welfare state it spawned.

Indeed, the author of the piece, the liberal lawyer and journalist Lincoln Caplan, takes care to quote from FDR’s [populist] “Second Bill of Rights” (equated by Sunstein with The Declaration of Independence): “…rights to ‘a useful and remunerative job”; for “every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies”; to “a decent home”; to “adequate medical care”; to “adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment”; and to “a good education.” “For unless there is security here at home, there cannot be lasting peace in the world.”

Caplan assumes that Sunstein quoted from the “Second Bill of Rights” because “no one really opposes government intervention” (quoting Sunstein’s italicized sentence) but the date of Roosevelt’s fireside chat, 1944, suggests that FDR was aware that wartime spending, not New Deal largesse in the spirit of Keynes, was responsible for increased employment during the war years, and that many Americans predicted another Depression when the war was over.

But Harvard’s purpose in featuring the profile of the controversial Sunstein, seems to me to be an affirmation of typical Harvard strategies. Note that the cover photo of Sunstein shows some of his library: many books on social psychology are present. This cover article probably is intended to continue the irrationalist social theories of the Harvard social relations department; one that has been described frequently on this website as proto-fascist. A kinder term would be the continued rule of Ivy League philosopher-kings. For are they not all Olympians in their fields, now annexing the new fields of neuroscience and “choice architecture,” the better to control the masses, strategically placing food choices so that apples will be freely chosen, and not Fritos? Behind this lengthy puff piece that attempts to convince ordinary people that the biggest possible government is desirable in this best of all possible worlds, is the notion, clearly stated in the Jungian pschoanalyst Henry A. Murray’s notes to Melville’s novel White-Jacket, is that the masses are not trained to rule. Indeed, in Carl Jung’s opinion, Hitler was a guttersnipe, the man of the mob who had too much power in the modern world. Here is what Jung had to say about Hitler at the end of World War 2: mass politics had produced the modern wasteland.

[Jung:] “As I said before, the upheaval of mass instincts corresponds to a compensatory move of the unconscious. Such a move became possible because the conscious state of the people had become estranged from the natural laws of human existence. Because of industrialization, large parts of the population became uprooted, and they were herded together in large centres. And because of this new form of existence–with its mass psychology and its social dependence upon the fluctuations of markets and wages, an individual was created who was unstable, insecure, and suggestible…Germany…is by no means the only nation threatened by this dangerous germ. The influence of mass psychology has spread far and wide. It was the individual’s feeling of weakness, and indeed of non-existence, which was compensated by the upheaval of hitherto unknown desires for power…Nothing but materialism was preached by the highest intellectual authority….Hitler…was the most prodigious personification of all human inferiorities. He was a highly incapable, unadapted, irresponsible, psychopathic individual, full of empty childish fantasies, but cursed with the keen intuition of a rat or guttersnipe. He represented the shadow, the inferior part of everybody’s personality, in an overwhelming degree, and this is another reason why they fell for him.” C.G. Jung,”Individual and Mass Psychology,” Essays on Contemporary Events (London: Kegan Paul, 1946): xiii-xv. Originally broadcast on the BBC, Nov. 3, 1946.

And just to make sure that we get the point, the Caplan essay concludes with this adjuration derived from Cass Sunstein: “He argued that the justices of the Supreme Court should resolve questions before them as narrowly as possible, to encourage elected officials to deliberate on decisive issues and test their answers before the voters….It would energize American democracy by making it more deliberative.” Caplan goes on to defend the [living Constitution], now the preferred opponent to “tradition’s constitution.”

And so Harvard Magazine continues to leave the reader in the same old double bind: advocating for both freedom and welfare, ever the “moderate men.” We may not know what is good for us, left to our own flawed devices, but cleverly manipulated environments, arranged by nudniks, will nudge us in the correct direction, choosing apples, not Fritos.

October 19, 2011

Sex Without Freud

    I have been trying to estimate when the “dumbing down” of America began. I asked my Facebook friends to guess when it started. One denies that it ever happened; another blames it on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the lowering of standards to accommodate affirmative action, another on television, yet another on the transformation of American history from a positive to a negative view of American “identity.”  My own concern as a historian is the attention now given to sexuality as a major engine of history. I first noticed this in graduate school, as the followers of Michel Foucault were the hippest of academics, and for Foucault, anything goes or went. Yesterday I was queried by a twenties-something (wrong! see comment below) scion of an old American family if I did not think that Abraham Lincoln’s recently discovered [or alleged] gay sexuality was not a major discovery. I asked him how sex could have affected Lincoln’s governing of America during the Civil War, and the answer agreed with my own opinion that it was irrelevant.  Yet this young man, very bright, and a published author, was stoked about what was for him a major change in the historiography on Lincoln.

Feminists in the late 1960s and 1970s fervently believed that we were in the midst of a gender revolution and nothing would ever be the same. We all objected to the reduction of girls and women to sexual objects. Yet we find ourselves in the year 2011 in a society where sex and sexual appeal, featuring the objectification of both women and men, to be more overt than ever, worse than even the supposed flaming 1920s.* And yet feminist artists often explored sexuality as a way of appealing to the art-buying public, while indulging their narcissism. Was it not interesting that many bonded with left-wing men, notorious for their womanizing?

Some 1970s feminist theorists also rejected Freud as a traitor to his early female ‘hysterical’ patients, who, it was alleged, were really abused by fathers and uncles, and not themselves the initiators or willing collaborators with dirty old men.  So the Oedipus complex was considered not only wrong, but a travesty. In graduate school, I was told to revere a book that said psychoanalysis was a Jewish invention of use solely to [typically carnal] New York Jews (see Berger and Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality.)

While conducting my dissertation research into the construction of the humanities curriculum in America and England, especially during the interwar period, I noted that Freud was even more disreputable than Marx (though both, unlike Carl Jung, were verboten. See https://clarespark.com/2010/05/10/jungians-rising/). This is an intellectual calamity, for Freud, who wrote about the horrors of civilized countries at war with each other in 1915, did not elevate sexual acting-out as many of his upper-class followers believed. Rather, he emphasized the study of libido as a life force and, like aggression, a motive that often went unexamined as the source of psychogenic illness. Neo-Freudians appealing to the counter-culture  might celebrate Eros (like Wilhelm Reich or Herbert Marcuse, see https://clarespark.com/2011/10/21/did-frankfurters-kill-the-white-christian-west/), or, in my view, they might have more fruitfully focused on the mother-child attachment and issues such as object constancy (like John Bowlby, or Winnicott or Mahler). But such a focus on separation from the mother and the importance of managing that crucial event in maturation, was not sexy enough, and perhaps could not be co-opted into the subject of popular culture growing ever more primitivist, crude, and aggressively nihilistic.

Ironically, it was Herman Melville’s first modern biographer, the overtly gay Raymond M. Weaver, who was impressed by Freud (as interpreted by A. A. Brill), and who spotted the intense and troubled attachment of Herman to his mother, Maria Gansevoort Melville. Weaver has yet to be forgiven for his insightful efforts at understanding the ever mysterious “greatest American writer.” (For more on the 1920s reception to Freud, see https://clarespark.com/2009/11/13/supermen-wanted-early-freudians-and-the-mob/.)

*Cf. E. Digby Baltzell on the sex and booze-crazed 1920s (https://clarespark.com/2011/10/15/baltzell-on-the-good-jews/), the decade that witnessed the beginning of “the Melville revival.” Yet if we consult Hemingway’s short novel The Sun also Rises (1926), the characters are indeed a lost, vicariously shell-shocked generation, reduced by the recent slaughter to meaningless wandering about France and Spain, promiscuous coupling, a fascination with violence (the bull-fight),  and regression to conversation at about the level of young children (though Hemingway probably saw his style as natural and purified).  Has our literature and/or popular culture ever recovered?

[Illustrated, Marie Stopes, author of Married Love, eugenicist, and later admirer of Hitler. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Married_Love, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Stopes.]

August 9, 2011

Index to blogs on Henry Murray, Jung, and S-M

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January 25, 2011

American Slavery vs. Nazi genocide

Paul Rusconi’s gloss on an Ed Ruscha image

[Added 2/13/11 and 2/18/11: I now have the book under review below, and it has an epigraph from Reinhold Niebuhr. The use of “evil” or “darkness” or “the Shadow” as a fundamental component of human personality is a notion from Manichaean religion (they also cite Jung) that strongly affected the corporatist liberal social psychologists tracked on this website. It tended to erase material motives for destructive behavior and “prejudice”, attributing such conduct as the projection of inner evil onto “the Other.” Moreover, the book (The Problem of Evil: Slavery, Freedom, and the Ambiguities of American Reform) is dedicated to David Brion Davis, who, following Niebuhr,  forthrightly has declared that it is the task of the historian to moralize about the American past. Furthermore, the editors (Steven Mintz and John Stauffer) say we not only confront our past, but we must overcome it. Given the approval of D.B. Davis to massive government programs, I must assume that a form of reparations is intended, and that this remedy is intrinsic to the social democratic teaching of American history and a sop to black nationalists. Added 2-16-11: In his polemic Moralists and Modernizers, Steven Mintz delineates two trajectories for antebellum reform movements. One trend encompasses the moralizing abolitionists and leads to the compassionate 20th century welfare state (presumably reducing “income inequality”); the other moralizers/modernizers are associated with laissez-faire capitalism and the Christian Right (hard-hearted Social Darwinists). Published by Johns Hopkins Press in 1995, the book is an intervention in the culture wars. I do not question the sincerity or remarkable accomplishments of these historians, but rather their implied acquiescence to the more extreme claims of the civil rights movement (in its black nationalist phase).]

[This blog is not about the Civil War or its causes, but about the hijacking of American history by some leftists, who write like the militant black nationalists I encountered at Pacifica Radio, and that David Horowitz described at length in his Hating Whitey. The year  2011 could see a huge upsurge in articles about whether that conflict could have been prevented by better statesmanship, the causes and objectives of the war, what exactly happened in the war, and what was the course of Reconstruction. I have already written a research paper on Reconstruction and its interpretation by Herman Melville in his poem on Robert E. Lee. The link is here: https://clarespark.com/2008/05/03/margoth-vs-robert-e-lee/.]

Here are two paragraphs from a book review by Miami University history assistant visiting professor Oleta Prinsloo, and posted on the NEH-funded Humanities-Net websites: “H-Civil War” and  “H-Slavery.” They are remarkable for their Doublespeak and unblushing partisanship. For while erasing historicism, they pretend to present examples of the historian’s craft. Instead of depicting the past as best they can using available sources, they proudly claim the role of activist scholars, specifically they aim to undermine the “conservative” idea of  American exceptionalism. Here are two paragraphs from the review:

“While the fashion in American history writing has been for historians to pretend to moral neutrality, (Steven) Mintz and (John) Stauffer argue that Americans cannot move forward (nor by implication can they honestly contemplate the significance of 9/11) until there has been a moral reckoning with the American past.  Mintz writes that “history without a moral dimension is antiquarianism” (p. 1).  Their undertaking is modeled on German writers since WW II who have tried to come to terms with the implications of Nazism on the past, an undertaking called _Vergangenheitsbewaltigung_.  Mintz defines the word as the “wrestling with the demons of German history through reflection, remembering, and moral reckoning” (p. 1).

“The editors chose the essays according to five criteria: the wrestling with a fundamental moral problem, the centrality of ideas or an ideology “to connect economic and political interests and the realm of ideas” (p. 2), . the recognition of culture as involving contests for power, the placing of the U.S. experience into larger processes of modernization, and the relation of slavery to an understanding of modernity.  Most of the essays contain themes prominent in history writing on slavery, abolition, reform, and freedom since the 1990s.  By historicizing evil, these essays work to undercut the conservative American exceptionalism interpretation of U.S. history.” [End, Prinsloo excerpt}

[Clare:] This entire project and its presentation as a foray into uncharted waters is simply astounding. American historians have been preoccupied with the problem of slavery from the inception of the discipline. To be sure, estimations of its character and the causes of the Civil War have been strenuously debated. But the first thing we learned in graduate school in U.S. history was not to allow our own distaste or horror at the institution (or any other individual or institution) to interfere with our representations of the American past. (The common tendency to project our own morality into past societies was described as “present-mindedness” and promoted by Howard Zinn.) However, not only are the historians mentioned in the review openly identified with the Left (another no-no for objective historians), they are 1. transmitting a well-known theme in post-60s history writing in a line suggested by Eric Williams and others that the filthy lucre derived from slavery made capitalism possible, that slavery, capitalism, and modernity are chained together and coterminous (as opposed to slavery being an archaic,  quasi-feudal institution, and its overcoming a triumph of the bourgeoisie that, in so doing,  laid the foundation for a prosperous new nation built upon free labor); and 2. entirely misrepresenting the theory of American exceptionalism.

What made America exceptional was the lack of a hereditary aristocracy with its rigid class system. After 1787-89, the U.S. could boast of  a “constitution of liberty” (Hayek)  that made it possible for any common person to rise in income and status. In other words, America offered a meritocracy that rewarded hard work and skill–it was a land of limitless opportunity for free white men, rights that were gradually extended to freedmen and women. Because America fought a civil war and then pursued an extended and still persistent civil rights movement, the sin of slavery was purified  by the blood of over 600,000 casualties (as some Christians saw it). And yet many “interdisciplinary” scholars continue to indoctrinate their students with the notion of “white skin privilege,” in some cases blaming the Jews for inventing the slave trade, a myth strenuously opposed by such as Yale professor David Brion Davis, a major scholar mentioned elsewhere in the review as if he were in their camp. This fashionable notion is further carried over in the post-60s representation of American national character, said to be imperialist, patriarchal, racist, genocidal, and ecocidal. Obviously, such crimes demand reparations or even revolution, and revolution is what I believe that some postmodernists/post-colonial scholars are advocating (I do not include D. B. Davis or his students in this group: they are likely strong supporters of the Obama administration). Do not delude yourself, dear reader, into thinking that such voices are only marginal in current history departments.

What the reviewer reports in the excerpt above is even more outrageous in appropriating the German movement to “work through” its Nazi past in order to propose a similar breast-beating here.  This is tantamount to claiming that American history is Nazi-like in its essential character. I understand  that not all readers of this blog will make the same leap, but then they may not read between the lines as strenuously as I do.  I would argue that American scholars have not, as a group, worked through the antisemitism that pervades our particular political culture, especially in its populist variant. In his show of Monday January 24, Jon Stewart presented a lengthy segment quoting various Fox News personalities who apparently were comparing certain leftists as resembling Nazis in their rhetoric. This as his riposte to Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen’s accusation that Republicans were spreading “the big lie.” These guys–all of them–should spend more time in the groves of academe where the destruction of history is perpetrated daily, with little notice in the blogosphere or in the presentations beloved by the hipsters among us.

[Added 1-28-11, my response to criticisms by two history professors who subscribe to H-Net’s History of Antisemitism discussion group:

Dear list, the two negative responses to my blog https://clarespark.com/2011/01/25/american-slavery-vs-nazi-genocide/, were instructive on several grounds. I was reproached for criticizing activist scholars, and for ignorance of the last three decades of historiography, but there was also a criticism that I had abused my source by claiming that the American history of slavery was being compared to the history of the Third Reich.

Just today, I received an email from the UCLA Department of History announcing a meeting with activist scholars whose knowledge of history would illuminate the current debates on same-sex marriage. This was the department that awarded me the Ph.D., and while there I was immersed in social history, a sub-field beloved by New Left, Stalinist, and Trotskyist activist scholars, because it enabled the would-be historian to stand with the oppressed and generally support revolt by the lower orders we exclusively studied. One of their number, the prolific and powerful Gary Nash told his students straight out that study of “literary sources” (i.e., the writings of decision-makers and leaders in general) was by its very nature “elitist.” Thus Nash’s seminar on colonial America completely ignored intellectual history in favor of the study of slavery and native American wars instigated by the invading “whites.”

Needless to say, antisemitism was never discussed in seminars or in the numerous conferences staged by the U.S. field. It was my own study after 1986 that instructed me in the propaganda disseminated by Nazis* and Soviets regarding the control that Jews exerted over the United States.  Here is one example of Soviet propaganda, penned by Dmitri Volkogonov in _The Psychological War_ (1986):

“The capitalist mass media are greatly influenced by the Zionist circles.  For example, Zionist organisations in the United States control half its magazines, more than half of its radio stations, and a large number of press and radio bureaus abroad.  In other capitalist countries the picture is very much the same.  In addition to that, various Zionist organisations run more than a thousand publications in 67 countries.  This is where the military-industrial complex draws its ideological support. The capitalist mass media spread outright lies about socialism, create a climate of fear for the future, of gloom and doom.  The main idea of this vast system of disinformation is to prove that “socialism is bad” and the “free world” is good. This is how the capitalist mass media are waging the psychological war against the Soviet people, also against their own people whom the bourgeois radio centres feed with disinformation.  This is how opinions in the West are shaped when people are unable to understand the true state of things, when they think and act only under the influence of the extraneous forces that manipulate them.”

I do not find it a stretch to say that the more powerful history professors at UCLA were as explicit as Volkogonov in attacking the notion of the “free world.” True, they were not explicit anti-Semites, though Harold Cruse’s famous diatribe against “Jewish” Communists (_The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual_) was assigned in the seminar that introduced new grad students to the various sub-fields of U.S. history, and when I wrote a paper complaining about the invidious distinction Cruse drew between Jewish and gentile Communists to be disturbing, Nash passed off Cruse’s book as typical 1960s overstatement, suggesting to me that I was oversensitive to anti-Jewish smears (though I kept this thought to myself). If one wanted to study antisemitism, one became a Europeanist and/or studied with Saul Friedlander or joined the [anti-Zionist] Jewish Studies program initiated while I was still a graduate student. The U.S. field in the Department of History was ideologically judenrein.

Notwithstanding Professor Nash’s preferred sub-field of social history (with its constant emphasis on inequality), he and his co-professor Mary Yeager warned the incoming students not to be present-minded by imposing current moral standards on the past. Still, by directing the students to resistance from below to the various oppressions that bedeviled them, Nash’s morality was expressed clearly enough.

So much for my ignorance of the historiography of the past three decades. As for my objection to comparing the German movement to “working through” the Nazi past to the call for the injection of morality into the study of American slavery (as if it still existed in this country, or perhaps as if insufficient reparations had been made to the descendants of slaves), I stand by my original message. Black nationalism was alive and well at UCLA where I received my training. It remains a powerful influence today. Ralph Bunche’s memoranda to Gunnar Myrdal warned him about the rampant antisemitism in black nationalist organizations. As I wrote about it in my published article on the Bunche-Myrdal dispute over _An American Dilemma_, Myrdal’s response was to frequently trash Bunche and “the Howard boys” as economic determinists and to hint in his endnotes that Jews were the worst exploiters of blacks. For a summary of my published paper, see https://clarespark.com/2009/10/10/ralph-bunche-and-the-jewish-problem/.

*Space does not permit me to cite examples of Nazi propaganda that viewed the U.S. as controlled by Jews.

For an outstanding article on the impropriety of comparing the slave trade with the Holocaust, see Seymour Drescher, “The Atlantic Slave Trade and the Holocaust,” in Is The Holocaust Unique?, ed. Alan Rosenbaum (Westview Press, 1996).

May 10, 2010

Jungians Rising

Cover art: Carl Jung’s Red Book

The Library of Congress is hosting a symposium June 19, 2010 to consider the significance of Jung’s long concealed Red Book, edited by mystic Sonu Shamdasani. I consider the popular adoration of Carl Jung a calamity, and have blogged frequently about his nefarious influence on the humanities and in education. Here are the links to my prior blogs with material gathered over a period of decades.








I also recommend that readers of these blogs consult the two books on Jung and Jungians by Richard Noll. They should put to rest any idea that Jung was not a racist and anti-semite. Noll’s books are The Jung Cult and The Aryan Christ.

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