YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

June 24, 2015

Hate speech, revisited

John Gast: American Progress, 1872

John Gast: American Progress, 1872

I have written many times about “hate speech” tracing its origins to the liberal establishment which had several big reasons to institutionalize the demand for politeness: 1. The ideological impulse to explain the rise of Nazism/race riots to rabble-rousing new mass media (https://clarespark.com/2015/05/16/what-is-hate-speech-and-where-did-the-notion-come-from/); 2. The belief that speech creates reality (derived from Plato and the social democrats who suppressed material explanations for social conflict; 3. The notion originating with internationalists that conflicts can be resolved with better communication (and the warring parties subjected to “neutral” mediation on behalf of the ethical state/UN, of course).

It is a common error on the Right to attribute the notion of hate speech (a.k.a. political correctness) to communists hiding under every bed and in every college classroom. What most fail to do is to face squarely the history of expansion in the United States, performed at the expense of Amerindians, slaves and Mexicans. Patriotism in the interests of national unity or Manifest Destiny is the preferred alternative, even if, in some quarters, the Civil War is still raging, with some Midwestern and Southern whites holding on  to the symbols associated with the good old lost cause.

Here is the irony of attributing hate speech and PC to the Reds. It was mostly New Leftist professors who, with anti-imperialist zeal inspired by the 60s-70s antiwar movement, invented “whiteness studies,” in the process failing to follow the lead of the Old Left that made class the category that mattered most to the revolution. You would think that such careful analysts writing in the tradition of Marx would have foregrounded the objective study of class, but no, they followed Lenin and Woodrow Wilson in the spirit of internationalism, ignoring the fictional categories of “race” and “ethnicity.” (See https://clarespark.com/2011/03/26/race-class-and-gender/ and https://clarespark.com/2014/06/07/marx-vs-lenin/, but even Alexander Saxton, my dissertation director, a proudly unreconstructed Stalinist, yielded to his contemporaries in promoting “whiteness studies,” as if all white people either all had the identical economic interests, or were hopelessly and permanently racist. (Saxton was especially disappointed in the white working class, apparently.)


This has put me, the director of the Yankee Doodle Society, in a quandary. In the late 1970s and 1980s, the composer Joseph Byrd and I reconstructed antebellum American popular music in the sentimental tradition, using the original lyrics, without expunging the N word. We produced one recording for a local company (Takoma), focusing mostly on Stephen Foster, Henry Clay Work, and George Root, but then got a corporate and then several government grants to produce not only the music of these and other composers agreeable to the middle class, but also we reconstructed the cultural context of such music. We ended up with a set of six-sided LPs and a mammoth 10 and a half-hour documentary played on Pacifica Radio in Los Angeles three times, all unexpurgated, unlike recent reconstructions of Stephen Foster that simply erase the “hate speech.”

The music by itself was distributed by Musical Heritage Society for ten years, and during that time, I got an offer from a Neo-Confederate distributor who would have been willing to cut us in on the profits. I never answered his letter.

The fact is that further distribution of these materials, which are unique and brilliantly performed by top musicians and actors, could lead to abuse by racist groups. As long as I can’t control the context, I hesitate to release them, for minority groups in this country have enough to contend with, without further insults dredged up from the American past.


What would you do in my place? I am sitting on several boxes of recordings that should be heard, but not by irredentists of any stripe or locale.



March 28, 2011

Index to multiculturalism blogs

As I have shown throughout this website, the turn to “cultural history” or “multiculturalism” marked a sea change in the writing of American history. But few have traced the intellectual history of multiculturalism. I attribute this to an upper-class “moderate” response to movements from below. Here are a few of the blogs I have written that trace this widespread social pedagogy to its origins in the reaction of German Romantics to the “mechanical materialists” of the earlier 18th century French Enlightenment, though tribalism (ethnic ties) has a long history in human history.





https://clarespark.com/2009/09/06/the-hebraic-american-landscape-sublime-or-despotic/ (quotes Herman Melville’s White-Jacket)












https://clarespark.com/2011/12/15/gingrich-and-the-socially-constructed-nation-state/ (on Gemeinschaft vs. Gesellschaft as defined by Toennies)



https://clarespark.com/2013/02/27/american-exceptionalism-retold/ (Read this first!)





September 22, 2009

Managerial Psychoanalysis: Jung, Henry A. Murray, and sadomasochism (3)

   [In the following conclusion to the three part study of Murray’s managerial psychoanalysis/psychiatry, “Isabel” refers to the Dark Lady of Melville’s novel Pierre, or the Ambiguities (1852). She was characterized by Philip Rahv (the editor of Partisan Review) as a “rebel and emancipator.” For a related blog to this one see https://clarespark.com/2014/09/08/why-progressive-social-psychologists-make-us-crazy/.

Eleven years before he lengthily denounced Melville’s Pierre, Dr. Henry A. Murray had unmasked the Red Decade’s “Radical Sentiments” as irrational and insincere:

    “[The radical]…favours modern art, the rejection of sex taboos, socialism, the freedom of the press, the elimination of religion, nudism, progressive schools, the humane treatment of criminals, etc.  Radicalism is usually opposed to authority, to any force that restrains liberty.  It favours the weak, the dissatisfied, the oppressed minority.  Thus [!], radicalism is often an indication of suprAggression (inhibited) and infraNurturance.  It may be an expression of the stern father and rebel son thema.” [But these people don’t act]…the most radical sentiments were expressed by succorant, abasive and infavoidant subjects. “[1]

In 1940, working on his Melville biography (which he would relinquish that year, ostensibly because of “the fall of France,” but perhaps he was also agitated by the subject of shifting and murky identities, revolution and counter-revolution in art and life), Murray sharply defined himself against experimental psychologists, behaviorists, and Freud’s rigidly contained following; arguing however for the partial incorporation and reform of psychoanalysis.  Ever the optimistic pragmatist and Progressive, Murray viewed psychoanalysis not only as an efficient and efficacious diagnostic tool in the treatment of physical and mental illness, but  indispensable to the prediction and control of the future through preventive politics: a regular lighthouse from which presidential brains could monitor the night-time antics of flooding limbic legislators [292, 298].  Murray, offering himself as a Lincoln-esque tower of rectitude and appropriately democratic fatherhood, explained that Freud’s (corset) is

“clearly limited to certain spheres of functioning and is more applicable to some types and some conditions of men than to others.  It is chiefly designed to interpret what a man says when he lies on a couch and his memories are canalized by his desire to appease an analyst’s consuming and insatiable interest in his sexual adventures.  It does not fit all of the people all of the time.  Consequently it will have to be expanded to encompass much that up to now has been neglected.”  [2]

   Murray was a primitivist rebel, whereas Freudian psychoanalysis would modernize the unconscious, renouncing childish things and replacing destructive ids with adaptive egos (in a never-ending contest for control).  Murray agreed that individuals would always be at war with social strictures [299], but Freud had wrongly compared sex with aggression.  The latter was not a positive appetite (like hunger and sex) that must be satisfied periodically” but was “probably due to some residual tension in the need engendered by a long series of frustrations, which tension can generally be dissolved by reciprocated love or recognized achievements.” [302]  Against Freud’s allegiance to “St. Augustine and the Calvinists,” Murray, ever the progressive optimist, sided with the better id forces which are the source of “romantic idealism,” prophecy, and pacifism, and suggested that the ego function is not so bad:

 [Freud has left out “two classes of phenomena”]: “those associated with the will and the satisfactions of self-mastery, and those associated with integration and the reasonable ordering of one’s drives–the Hellenic ideal of harmonious expression.  In practice I am inclined to assign moral responsibility to the ego, and I attempt to judge the work it has to do by estimating the strength of the insurgent tendencies (which vary from one individual to another) that must be managed.” [302-303]

Murray, like Melville, comes home to classicism where (he hopes) balance is pleasantly restored:  he understands (along with Greek rationalists and other ego psychologists) that the “insurgent tendencies” “must be managed.” Indeed, they can be managed, hardly the tragic vision of Freud or Melville [303].[3]  But lest Protestant psychoanalysts be accused of deviations from the American way, Murray distances his management style from fascism. As in the Walter Langer report of 1943 (which gave weight to the rumor that Hitler’s grandfather was the Baron Rothschild), Murray linked other autocratic Jews to Hitler. Freud, a Bad Jew, having been turned into “the Fuehrer” by the “cocksure inflexibility” of his “apostles” [307] could be Americanized (rescued and purified) by revision and selective appropriation. Only as Good Jew could Freud be recruited to surveillance in the guise of the Great Emancipator: (Jewish) negativity, pessimism, and passivity had to be detached from Freud’s critical method and banished from the Republic. Temporarily elevated (then fenced in and walled up?), perhaps Isabel’s brilliance could be exploited without the anxiety of a hostile takeover. “Genius is full of trash,” said the liberal Murray, quoting Mardi, urging his listeners to cast off dogmatists (“clinging slavishly to all of Freud,” in whose “psychoanalytic society free speech is as expensive as it is in Nazi Germany”), but to preserve the adventuresome, independent, creative, scientific side of the master by availing themselves of this “Alberich[‘s]” “ravished gold” which “has the power of casting long rays into the heretofore mysterious and appalling regions of the psyche….” [306]:

” What a man does and says in public is but a fraction of him. There is what he does in private, and the reasons he gives for doing it. But even this is not enough. Beyond what he says there is what he will not say but knows, and finally, what he does not know. Only a depth psychologist can reach the latter. “[298]

Murray thought that Freud had been too hard on the id and too much under its sway: Murray’s id (later identified not only with Hitler, but with Isabel and darkest Africa), properly directed, like Freud himself, could be transmuted into a treasure trove of mineral resources and higher intelligence: where id was, let a tactical alliance between man and nature, management and labor, be.

 Better Beaten Boundaries

Murray believed that academic psychologists should merge their discipline with rectified Freudian psychoanalysis, and reconceive the training of “personologists,” who would  study not only hard sciences but anthropology, sociology and the arts. (Murray does not mention history or politics). As for the contentious issue of psychology, Murray’s audience was invited to follow his and Jung’s rebellious path into holistic psychoanalysis and away from every type of philistinism. Murray confessed that he, like other unanalyzed, myopic academic psychologists, had once naively  reduced “a groomed American in a business suit, traveling to and from his office, like a rat in a maze [to] a predatory ambulating apparatus of reflexes, habits, stereotypes, and slogans, a bundle of consistencies, conformities, and allegiances to this or that institution….”[299].

   But really, the body (imagined as an explosive legislative branch of government), is full of surprises. Murray’s advice was to know thyself (and thy businessmen subjects or patients) through psychoanalysis:

“A personality is a full Congress of orators and pressure  groups, of children, demagogues, communists, isolationists, war-mongers, mugwumps, grafters, logrollers, lobbyists, Caesars and Christs, Machiavels and Judases, Tories and Promethean revolutionists. And a psychologist who does not know this in himself, whose mind is locked against the flux of images and feelings, should be encouraged to make friends, by being psychoanalyzed, with the various members of his household.” [299]

Repressed, impersonal, bureaucratizing psychologists and unreconstructed  Freudian psychoanalysts (Murray’s Margoths and Nazi slaves) are probably too far gone to respond to Murray’s (Rolfe’s) appeals. But perhaps more doctors might be returned to natural history  [unskeptical religion? 295] if they would look away from the blank-making, stony, sublunary wasteland of modernity, the rusty iron-colored soil of melancholy (that the Judases created, Murray/Melville tells us throughout his writing). Murray would prefer us to linger in  the densely informative, premonitory (and moist) museum somewhere inside us all (and which created, then evacuated, but still manipulates and sheds light on, Margoth, Ahab, Judas, Freud, you and me):

“…Hinting of the nature of id processes we have dreams and fantasies, and the mental life of children, savages and psychotics. Their thought, primitive and prelogical, is marked by more emotive and symbolic imagery (fewer abstract words) and exhibits a greater number of instinctive, lower-order tendencies than does that of normal adults.

” The theory of the unconscious (of the alter ego or shadow-self) helps to explain contrasting phases of behavior, ambivalence, sudden explosions, regressions, conversions (“He was not himself”; “I would not have known him.”) It throws light on fixed and refractory frames of reference, settled sentiments and beliefs. It is essential to an understanding of illusions, delusions, morbid anxiety, compulsions and insanity. It is invaluable in interpreting neurotic accidents and illness. The unconscious is an historical museum of the breed and of the individual, exhibiting tableaux of development. But also, in a sense, it is the womb of fate, the procreating source of new directions, of art, and of religion. It is here that one must seek for novelty, for the incubating complex that will govern the next move. No creator can afford to disrespect the twilight stirrings of the mind, since out of these arise the quickening ideas that are his life. [italics added, 298].

Jung and Murray understand that there is more, much more than sex and aggression down there: Freud’s unconscious was too narrowly conceived:  In contrast to the mediocre, spell-binding “Nibelungs” (Freudian Bad Fathers like Hitler, inflated and egotistical [306]), Murray presented Jung and himself as judenrein Good Fathers, scientifically objective and universalist, hard-bitten undeceived materialists, but kind, and thus the bearer of values firmly opposed to gold-abuse, self-delusion, the Seven Deadly Sins and moral relativism:

“[By limiting his theory of instincts to sex and aggression] It is evident that Freud was attempting to bring order out of chaos by pure thought; for at no time did he review the simple facts, subjective and objective. It seems he never asked himself, What motives and actions are universally distinguished? or what behavioral trends can be objectively discerned in animals and men? He was guided, without doubt, by some obscure unconscious frame of reference. Otherwise he never would have omitted thirst, excretion, repulsion, acquisition, the lust for power and approval….

” A number of drives might well be added to the list; to begin with–since the analysts are interested in vice–two or three of the five remaining deadly sins: Sloth, Avarice, Gluttony, Pride and Envy. Is there any significance in the fact that fancy-priced practitioners have never acknowledged the profit motive, the immorality of greed, robbery and exploitation? May their superegos work on this!” [301].

     Alberich and the dwarfs are not only perverts and the blinkered agents of Mammon, decimating concepts of Mind and Soul, but seducers, declining to exercise their paternal responsibilities by picking up the pieces and applying the expertise of “mental hygiene,” the “knowledge” which Murray hopes “will lead eventually to power, to a more sagacious management of infant life, to fruitfulness and the self-development of finer men and women, to happier societies.”[291].

 “…Freud’s theory, I submit, is an utterly analytic instrument which reduces a complex individual to a few primitive ingredients and leaves him so. It has names–and the most unsavory–for parts, but none for wholes. It dissects but does not bind up the wounds that it has made. Unconcerned with psychosynthesis and its results, it is of little use either in formulating progress in personality development or in helping a patient–after the transference neurosis and the levelling [!] that an analysis produces–to gather up his forces and launch out on a better way of life. This is the flaw which Jung was quickest to detect and remedy, by directing his therapeutic efforts to an understanding of the forward, rather than to the backward, movements of the psyche. The unconscious, in his opinion, is more than an asylum of but half-relinquished infantile desires; it is the breeding ground of enterprise….

” This is not the place to examine the probing, disintegrating, and deflating tendency in psychoanalytic practice. Well might someone write a treatise on the subject, fixing his eye on the intention that designed it, that decided what data should be chosen for consideration, what aspects exhibited in concepts, how the whole dissection should proceed [Murray’s mother]. It would be noted first of all that the patient, who in the end almost invariably seeks, and needs, advice–since it is as hard for him to synthesize as to analyze himself–gets none; gets none from the only man–his analyst–who knows him well enough to judge his powers, the man who has reasons to be much concerned, selfishly and unselfishly, in his future welfare, the man whose business it is to know not only what makes for illness but what makes for health. An inquirer into such matters would listen skeptically to the analyst’s rationalizations of his refusal to give positive suggestions. He would note his lack of interest and talent for just this, and his sharply contrasting eagerness to impose the dogma of analysis–more and more analysis, reversing the life process. The direction of the will that underlies all this, the theory and therapy is fairly obvious. One might have thought that the Freudians, so quick to see perverted streaks in other men, would have been polite enough to tell us frankly what sublimated promptings were back of their sublimated labors. It would then have been unnecessary for some rude unmasker like myself to speak of voyeurism, depreciating sadism, and the id’s revenge on culture, the superego and the ego. Why not expose and prove the value of these motives? Being sociable with the id myself, I cannot but sympathize with its efforts to get on to a new Declaration of Independence. But the question is, have the Freudians allowed the id enough creativeness and the ego enough will to make any elevating declaration? What is Mind today? Nothing but the butler and procurer of the body. The fallen angel theory of the soul has been put to rout by the starker theory of the soulless fallen man, as result–as Adam, the father of philosophy, demonstrated for all time–of experiencing and viewing love as a mere cluster of sensations. Little man, what now? Freud’s pessimism, his conviction that happiness was impossible, his melancholy patronage of the death instinct, should put us on our guard….”[305,306].

Murray thought that  his type of managerial psychoanalysis could effectively unmask and oppose “the mechanical advance of mediocracy.” This type however was curiously both tolerant and controlling: “…I am inclined to assign moral responsibility to the ego,” but the ego is instructed by the psychoanalyst.  He recommended full disclosure (such as the one he had just made) and an ongoing commitment to truth (“with the theories of all schools democratically assembled in my head” [295], Freud worked); there is even a word of comfort:

“To be psychoanalyzed is, in my opinion, not a requisite for all, but highly desirable for most. If you can afford it, pick a trained analyst whom you respect, and enter into the experience humbly and without reserve, prepared to render up the whole confused welter of your being. You need not be ashamed or proud.  You are only a little bit responsible for what you are. And when you come to weave what you have learnt into the structure of psychologic theory and deliver lectures, do not water down the facts, palliate, and equivocate.  Science cannot grow by subterfuges.” [310]

In this and other publications, Murray has told us that “depth psychology” is the most valuable (golden) way to extract hidden fantasies from the men whose personalities and behavior élites may wish to assess, predict and control; men who, having toured “the womb of fate,” will inform on themselves before the fact! But etiquette requires that the matter be put less plainly. So the Progressive antifascist psychoanalyst dispenses fatherly advice: Trust me. The managed impulses are potential members of one harmonious family (like the Harvard clinicians who created Explorations in Personality (1938), including democrats, fascists, communists, anarchists, etc.).

However, in other writings, Murray lamented the superficiality of intercourse in a pluralistic society, the lack of a common belief system in English-speaking countries, their pragmatism and materialism, and the disparate objectives of soldiers in World War II. [OSS, 26, 27]. Murray was  comfortable neither with polite evasions nor unmanageable impulses: he admired Michael Rogin’s psychoanalytic study of Melville but angrily criticized its “Marxism;” he was a fervent anticommunist (but not a Reagan supporter); and (apparently) he was quicker to gather the secrets of other Melvilleans (a trait bitterly resented by the other scholars), than to disclose his own (however shadowy), even to himself [author interview, 11/4/87; Leyda Papers].

Much as he raged against Freudian dualisms [301], Murray refused to be emancipated into the world of acceptable mixed feelings: he tells us that he abandoned his own nearly-forgotten psychoanalysis with Franz Alexander after a “nine month’s voyage,” a journey during which Murray (perhaps revising an earlier attachment) was “too busy, other-wise attached and happy to be transferable.” [295] In other words, Murray avoided the crucial relationship with the analyst which could have brought out repressed anger at the sins of the fathers, illuminating the paradoxical question he posed for himself but never answered: “My own father was a mild, good-natured, unreproachful man, and yet I am peculiarly quick to jump at the throat of tyranny and dogmatism.”[295] By refusing grey, by wandering off from the negative and divisive feelings (anger, rage, guilt, shame) that accompany disillusion with “the lovely family” (in this case, surely the weak father who failed to protect the nine-year old son from the authoritarian, intolerant, fascinating mother), Murray consigned himself to the darkness of unattainable neo-Tory perfectionism (the goal of the S-M ritual). “Give me a present to take along to the Underworld,” he ordered in his Ahab-ish, charming and self-deprecating way during our interview, pumping a ruthless Isabel seven months before he died, and wondering what she had on his hero and bête noir, Herman Melville.[4]

In the Fall of 1943, Murray psychoanalyzed Hitler for President Roosevelt (a project begun in 1938). Hans Gatzke insists that the OSS-sponsored Langer report on Hitler’s mind (also produced in 1943) leaned heavily on Murray’s production, a point hotly, but unpersuasively refuted by Walter Langer in 1973. But there are distressing resemblances between Murray’s and Langer’s historical imaginations in ways not mentioned by Gatzke: the Langer team  suggested that Hitler had been sexually indulged by his mother, was accordingly effeminate, and also possibly Jewish. Four years later (while fretting about “our shocking crime record,” “scientific criticism, skepticism” and “cynicism” in the colleges, and the glorification of Huckleberry Finn), Murray portrayed an adolescent, feminized [Jew] as the source of American decline: Pierre was the impediment to Manifest Destiny.

Murray’s article in Survey Graphic, March, 1947, “Time for a Positive Morality,” is illustrated with a 5”x6” photo of a pensive and grave young man with likely Jewish  features (and posed as a thinker, like Murray and Melencolia in the frontispiece to Shneidman’s edition of collected Murray essays). The photo caption reads “What positive ideal do we set before today’s insecure youth?” [196] Murray had warned on the page preceding:

” A good boy often means a namby-pamby sort of fellow, tied to his mother’s apron strings. There is no exhilaration, no adventure in the picture. Or our ideal is that of mere respectability, too low an aim to offer a challenge to the child.” [195]  Murray then challenged the legatees of negative Puritanism and of “vague and unreal” notions of “moral excellence” inherited from the Victorian middle-class: ” We have demonstrated that as a nation we are capable of mobilizing all our powers to destroy something, but we have not shown that we can mobilize on a comparable scale to create something–good world citizens and a good world order [196].” [5]

The October 1948 issue of Survey Graphic carried Murray’s article “America’s Mission,” reporting that Murray’s article of 1947 had been “widely quoted and reprinted.” Now Murray was joining Benjamin Rush (who viewed the passion for pluralism as having destroyed “the Grecian Union”; 415) in mobilizing the Progressive élite: delegating certain powers  to an unequivocal  global government  was the only hope in averting a catastrophic nuclear war: “…the survival of our society hangs by a thread and one member’s action or inaction might make the minute difference that will save or wreck the whole.” Murray held up the federalism of American Founding Fathers as the  model for an international order that would “settle disagreements among nations in an orderly and peaceful manner”; that would end the sacrifices demanded by wars without reducing freedom. Rather, One World, like “the city police force,” would permit us to “gain the privilege of pursuing our different paths without having to devote time and energy to the defense of our lives and our possessions.” But there were cowardly congressmen and diplomats, either reluctant to meet the responsibilities of world leadership or irrationally attached to nineteenth-century diplomatic theories of balance of power and compromise.  Worse, there was the stubborn trickiness of Soviet Mothers who might not see the advantages to joining up, and the irresistible attraction they will exert on the credulous and weak “smaller nations”:

“If Russia proves adamant it will mean she is determined to carry out her present plan to convert by infiltration one country after another (if possible by not committing any action that would justify the declaration of a shooting war) and thus to build step by step a world order of her own, ruled dictatorially from Moscow. What can check the advance of this endeavor except an equally competent and sustained endeavor to organize a more mature, just, and humane form of world order?

“It is not likely that many of the smaller nations can for long resist independently the relentless terror tactics of Russian-trained Communists in their midst. They must go to one side or the other. [cf. Jung] Food may lure them to our side for a hungry season, but their affections can not be won and bound with dollars.

“Nor can we make a strong impression by preaching the virtues of democracy to peoples who are not inclined by temper [!] or fitted by training to make democracy work–at least in a chaotic environment with the storm cloud of Russian Communism looming over their horizon. Nations must be offered the assurance of mutual friendship and security within a dependable world order. This world order can not be another totalitarian dictatorship with Washington as its capital. It must be a democratic world order with a superordinate government in which all nations are properly represented.” [413].

Murray does not really expect Russian leaders to abandon “Lenin’s assumption that war with the non-Communist nations is inevitable.” If Russia is unrelentingly opposed to world federation, it indicates that she does not want to abolish war, but to wage it when her time for it has come.” We must act quickly before Russia massively re-arms with atomic weapons; with the rest of the federated world perhaps we could fight her and win:

“Thus [cf. Lasswell’s “hence”: Murray implies that his speculations have already been proven], if we fail, through lack of sagacity or courage, to form a partial world government to checkmate her at her own game, we shall lose our sole chance to create the one institution which could eventually eliminate war, or could, if war is thrust upon us, unify all the rest of the world in subduing the aggressor.” [414].

Murray’s readers would understand that the democratic world order will not be designed  by nervous nellies who flunked the OSS recuitment test (that selected leaders who were unseduceable, cool and inspiring team players, able to meet the unforeseen and to solve problems); the heroic task falls to moderate conservative élites:

” One thing we must all concede [certainly not our property, C.S.]: the advance to world government will be impeded by countless obstacles and pitfalls, foreseeable and unforeseeable. It is perhaps the most difficult enterprise that fate [Jung’s id!] has ever required of mankind. But what of that? Is the genius of the human race played out? If our physical and biological scientists [elsewhere referred to as Judases] have proved capable of inventing the perfect means of exterminating societies, our political scientists, jurists, and statesmen should prove capable of inventing the perfect means of conserving them.” [414]

Murray’s conclusion, formulated in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, should give pause to New Leftist critics who believe Melville and his critic share a common conception of Manifest Destiny and the Protestant mission to renovate mankind:

“To take the initiative in the creation of a democratic world government–this is our mission, our manifest destiny, because it is in our power to achieve this thing and in no other nation’s power; and mankind expects it from us. [cf. “no bloody hands will be lifted” by the “political pagans” to stop us, WJ.]   A hundred and sixty years ago our ancestors successfully performed a comparable experiment; they conceived a federal government and made it work, and all breeds of men and women who  have since migrated to this land and learned to live here side by side in peace and confidence have found it good. The United States is the abstract of the One World which now awaits creation. It seems fitting then, that leadership in executing this last and most difficult experiment should have fallen to our lot.”

     But Murray wonders: ambiguity and materialism have made dangerous inroads; we may simply wander off, but he insists there are untapped resources (in Jung’s revised Unconscious?) that will bring us to transcendence, which means accepting the leadership of the WASP élite which has brought so much peace and confidence to “Indians,” Latinos, African-Americans, “Manilla-men,” Jews, workers, women, &c. Herman Melville agrees with him:

  ” Perhaps fate has summoned us at a time when we are not capable of acquitting ourselves with honor. On all sides one sees the classical symptoms of moral breakdown, manifestations, to quote Lewis Mumford, of the “cult which denies the fundamental discriminations between good and bad, between higher and lower, which are the very bases of human development.” But despite these discouraging evidences, I hold that there is still some unspoiled latent stuff in us which, quickened by this emergency, can carry us beyond our common selves to become once more “the pioneers of the world,” as Melville described us, “the advance guard, sent on through the wilderness of untried things, to break a new path.” [6]

Finally, the good Fathers (“at the top level, a few constructive statesmen of the caliber of Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Mason, Morris, James Wilson, and at least one man whose charity is as inexhaustible as Lincoln’s”) or, he says (protecting his left flank from populist criticism by quoting The Texas Spectator), even the people, (atypically) rising to greatness “without a leader” will bring us to “the only prospect of security that can counteract the lures of every form of totalitarianism.”[415].

In 1962, Murray’s colleagues in social psychology were still undetached from the “immaculate Scientism” he had criticized throughout his career, ever since the Melville rescue in the mid-1920s. In his presidential address to the American Psychological Association (1962), Murray reviewed “The Personality and Career of Satan,” linking the destructive Satanic spirit to Ahab and Hitler. He was still concerned about do-nothing (pseudo) radicals:  “In this day of non-authoritarian parents, of independence training, of the precocious emancipation of youth, and of teenage killers, Satan’s ascensionist hopes (perfect illustrations of the Adlerian craving for superiority) are not likely to be regarded as ample cause for everlasting ostracism and damnation. But of course this judgment of our time may be nothing but a consequence of the Devil’s having pretty nearly realized his unswerving ambition to subvert our natures.” [527]

Certain creeds: Judaism, Catholicism, Mohammedanism, Communism [sic], Murray argued, continue to embody the Satanic spirit, and are propagating views of human nature that impair self-transformation and social reconstruction (unlike the conservatively enlightened Protestant élite which does not suffer from narcissistic self-inflation), promoting only nihilism and despair.

There is an etiquette of victimization; strenuous acrobatics are required to fulfill its requirements. The tight-lacer who accommodates to permanent dubiety by saying this is sanity, this is integration, is held to be the mature, blissful, whole person.[7] And yet these “mavericks,” (Joseph Campbell) these “conscious primitives” (Cabanne on Picasso) scour the earth for masks. At one point in a friendly four hour interview, a short time after I had observed that he was skillful at strewing misleading clues to conceal his true identity, Murray suddenly turned his face away, covered his eyes and exclaimed, “Don’t look at me; I’m afraid you can see into all my secrets.”

[1] Written by staff at the Harvard Psychological Clinic, Explorations in Personality (New York: Science Editions, 1938), 226-27. “Infavoidant” means the need to avoid criticism and humiliation. Murray wrote most of the book, including this passage. The group that formulated the theory of personality included “democrats, fascists, communists, anarchists,”[xi]. Walter Langer was in the group that produced the study.

[2]”What Should Psychologists Do About Psychoanalysis? reprinted in Shneidman, p.300. Paper given to American Psychological Association symposium, printed in Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 35, 1940, 150-175.

[3]Exemplified in Murray’s well-known menage a trois. Shneidman felt Murray’s Introduction to Pierre was a roman a clef; that he felt guilty about his long-standing affair with Christiana Morgan, co-originator of the Thematic Apperception Test. Murray gave me “a present” during our  interview, Nov. 4, 1987: “I’ll give you a symbol, a tower,” he said.  Shneidman told me Murray had built a tower for Christiana in which mystic symbols were displayed.

[4] I told him about the recently discovered letter from Maria to Augusta commanding her to pressure Lizzie into marrying Herman.

[5] Several months later, Survey Graphic printed a cartoon in which another tousle-headed thinking adolescent is explicitly reading Marx and worrying mothers.

[6] Rigid classifications, e.g.,“obdurate Persian dualism” in the tyrant, Freud, were denounced by Murray in 1940 (300-301), applauded in Mumford in 1948.

[7] Joseph Campbell’s claim in his interview with Bill Moyers, broadcast May 23, 1988, KCET, part of a popular series praised for its profundity and challenge to the public television audience.

September 3, 2009

Manifest Destiny or Political Liberty?

de Chirico imagines Apollinaire

The poet Apollinaire once wrote that he was more interested in what divided men than in what united them, and most of all, he said, he wanted to know what gnaws at their hearts. That sentiment remains uppermost in my thoughts, especially at this time when the U.S. is confronted with a health reform bill that proposes funding for preventive medicine and mental health services, even though there is zero agreement among practitioners as to what constitutes sound protocols in either of those fields. All my prior blogs have addressed this problem (see the entries on panic attacks, sadomasochism, social psychologists defining civilian morale and preventive politics or psychoanalyzing Hitler, embedded antisemitism, the Pacifica memoir, etc.).

Whatever I have learned throughout my long life about the human heart and its tangled emotions, the most original contributions have been gleaned from very close reading, particularly during the many years spent with Herman Melville (1819-1891), both as  man and writer. One reason that Melville has been claimed by readers and propagandists with incompatible politics is his constant switching from one point of view to another, changing sides or positions with breathtaking speed.  As I have argued throughout my book on the so-called Melville Revival, he never feels safe or at home wherever he may be on the questions that agitated the American nineteenth century–Jacksonian political styles and mass politics, westward expansion and Indian removal; abolitionism, Civil War, and Reconstruction; angry de-skilled artisans and a potentially mutinous new working class; evolution and the higher Biblical criticism; nascent socialism in Europe; naval discipline; and the growing power of women in the family–especially in their role as moral reformers, to a degree, displacing paternal authority.

[From Hunting Captain Ahab:]  The switches from one unsafe prospect to another are diverting. As “White-Jacket” (1850), Melville abruptly rejected the piecemeal reform he had just been advocating: his proposed ban on flogging could not end injustices meted out to enlisted men whose class interest in pacifism was “essentially” opposed by glory-seeking officers. White-Jacket fatally defined the situation that class collaborationists, fascist and antifascist alike, have ever attempted to render invisible:

“…can men, whose interests are diverse, ever hope to live together in a harmony uncoerced? Can the brotherhood of the race of mankind ever hope to prevail in a man-of-war, where one man’s bane is another man’s blessing? By abolishing the scourge, shall we do away with tyranny; that tyranny which must ever prevail, where of two essentially antagonistic classes in perpetual contact, one is immeasurably the stronger? [i]

Moreover as the black cook “Fleece” pointed out in Moby-Dick, “the sharks” did not care to be converted. Such “dark” perceptions were dangerous but essential to a morally ambitious artist faithful to social reality. If moral reform is only a blast of hot air, then structural transformation is on the agenda.

[i] 19. Quoted by H. Bruce Franklin, The Victim As Criminal And Artist, 39. Franklin uses this passage to make a claim for Melville as primitive communist. In Chapter XVI of his unpublished biography, the Progressive Henry A. Murray revealingly distorted the passage, minimizing Melville’s description of a structural antagonism. Rather, Melville is describing point of view as dependent on one’s place in the hierarchy: “War, for example, which offered officers their only opportunity for glory, was anticipated more eagerly by them than by the seamen.” Although Harvard professor Alan Heimert has identified Ahab with John Calhoun, neither White-Jacket nor Ahab condones coercive harmony. However, noting the differing interests of sailors and officers does not make Melville a Marxist. Cf. John Calhoun’s defense of slavery as a positive good: “…there never has yet existed a wealthy and civilized society in which one portion of the community did not, in point of fact, live on the labor of the other…There is and always has been in an advanced stage of wealth and civilization, a conflict between labor and capital. The condition of society in the South exempts us from the disorders and dangers resulting from this conflict.” Quoted in Frederick Jackson Turner, The United States 1830-1850 (New York: Norton paperback, 1965), 197. [end book excerpt]

In my last blog, I distanced myself from the postmodernists, particularly those who rejected modernity and Enlightenment as elevating the protofascist “mob society” to use Hannah Arendt’s famous term. Melville, in one of his many personas, could do that too, perhaps because he suffered from double-binds that seemed specific to a science-driven world that was challenging the traditions that once made people feel at home in their skins. Astonishingly, in all my reading in the cures offered to “neurotic” or “nervous” patients from the late nineteenth century on, I found no recognition of the conflicts that Melville himself had identified throughout his oeuvre, but most blatantly in his “crazy” novel, Pierre, or the Ambiguities (1852), which I view as Moby-Dick brought home to the family, with the writer Pierre as analog to Captain Ahab, two of Melville’s traveling company of Prometheans.

A good teacher is supposed to state clearly the hoped-for outcome of a curriculum (and this website is a sort of syllabus), so here goes:

Ideally, readers of my blogs should be able to identify ambiguities or conflicts (reconcilable or irreconcilable) specific to modernity. These include the search for truth vs. (upper-class) Order; intellectual independence vs. unswerving loyalty to family or state; capital vs. labor (? I used to think that this was so); science vs. religion; and (“rootless”) cosmopolitanism vs. narrow “racial” or “ethnic” identification or “pluralism” as “rooted” cosmopolitanism.  To the extent that the pseudo-moderate men attempt to reconcile conflicts that may be irreconcilable, they place citizens in Orwellian double-binds:  inverting knowledge and ignorance, praise and humiliation, freedom and slavery. It follows that participatory politics and other processes intended to legitimate authority are stymied if these inversions operate inside us.  So we end up with unquestioned allegiance to a favorite pundit, and relinquish thinking for ourselves.

It is not my claim that no reforms should be advanced short of total structural transformation by which I mean a revolution in social property relations; it is a question of conceptual clarity.  Tactical compromises and coalitions are pointless unless located in the realm of the possible; utopian fantasies of unattainable social harmony lead to disillusion and perhaps despair followed by violence or apathy. Social conflict should be analyzed with a view to real difference of interest: ethnocultural or gender categories as the primary source of “identity” are not only essentialist; they mystify internal class conflicts in that group or gender or nationality and sink the dissenting individual (e.g., as modern artist or scientist).

Moreover, insofar as “identity politics” posit self-contained “communities” such categories deflect attention from interdependence with other groups and with nature.  But most crucially, the search for “identity” is an imperative formulated by reactionaries worried about “continuity” and “cohesion” in those modern societies that continually question authority; the modernists (deemed iconoclastic by their opponents) seek new forms of order that may “de-skill” kings and clerics.

How do competing “historicisms” alleviate or worsen the pressures of double binds? I contrast two of them: one is now dominant in the humanities, while the second one promises potential advance in our undercivilized war-ridden world.

A. Historicism as “blood-and-soil” pluralism or “ethnoculturalism” or “ethnopluralism”: the “identity politics” created by the pseudo-moderate men.  Defining itself against the New Unpredictability, i.e., the open-ended inductive methods of science, the new civil liberties and miscegenating “rootless cosmopolitanism” of the radical Enlightenment, ethnopluralism denies the existence of universal truths or ethical standards since there are only “group facts”; hence there can be no conflict between the independent thinker and the group.  These corporatist[1] thinkers (pluralists and cultural relativists) may attempt to restore a racially or ethnically homogeneous “community” which is innocently erotic, harmonious, pre-capitalist, myth-loving and patriarchal (i.e., ruled by the wisely integrative good father); free of the disintegrating Enlightenment (Hebraic, radical Protestant, technocratic, consumerist) intellect: everyone is protected, rooted and comfortable with her/his place and modest possessions, not tormented by the expectation of autonomy (which is caricatured as leading to anomie or the insatiable will-to-power or masochism).

B. Historicism as critical historical analysis. We should understand that the imagination has a social history that must be retrieved if we are to transcend the irrational politics of the past.  A critical history will not simply look at class, “race,” and gender in a static fashion to detect “positive” and “negative” images, or heroic myths, or gender/racial/ethnic archetypes, or instincts for “innate aggression” or “Thanatos.”  Rather, a critical history examines all the institutions that limit or expand opportunities and choices; people and their emotions are in motion, (partially) accepting or rejecting inherited narratives that diagnose difficulties and recommend solutions.  Even if some human characteristics are proven to be genetically transmitted, aggression for instance, it should be explained why some people seem out of control while others master their instincts in the interest of peaceful conflict-resolution: What are the ideological and environmental conditions that limit or expand choices?  Unlike some postmodernists or “new historicists,” I do not conclude that people are stamped or inscribed by discourses/ environments, even though individual and social conflicts are historically concrete and require site-specific contextual analysis.  Nor does this historicism automatically preclude comparisons and contrasts with institutions and conflicts in other cultures and earlier periods as some conservative cultural relativists would have it.

My final goal is the reclamation of the amelioration, critical thought and universalist ethics promoted by the Radical Enlightenment: Can there be a preformulated good myth, a “narrative of resistance” (Richard Slotkin), or is perpetual improvisation and the open-ended process of anti-mythic narrative (analysis, revision, and reconfiguration of past and present) the enlightened alternative to the Symbolist politics of the Progressives?  For example, their paternalistic “reform-or-ruin” prescription for preventive politics (Lasswell and Murray) does not remove, however gradually, what may be structural causes of conflict, hence is a form of psychological and political warfare, not the social and individual progress it wants to be.

I will end with some deathless words from Melville’s character, the abolitionist Father Mapple:

“Delight is to him- a far, far upward, and inward delight- who against the proud gods and commodores of this earth, ever stands forth his own inexorable self. Delight is to him whose strong arms yet support him, when the ship of this base treacherous world has gone down beneath him. Delight is to him, who gives no quarter in the truth, and kills, burns, and destroys all sin though he pluck it out from under the robes of Senators and Judges.”

In the context of this particular blog, the “sin” is yielding to another, however admired or adored, our critical capacities as citizens with both rights and duties.

[1] Corporatist does not refer to modern corporations and their power, but to the institutional style associated with  medieval Europe and the Christian-Platonic tradition.  It is the cultural style of the organic conservatives who believe that hierarchies are natural and beneficial; all diversity the gift of a perfect God.

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