Faithful readers of this blog will know of my antipathy to Hegel. Nevertheless, I believe in giving even the devil his due, so I will confess that this morning during my walk, as I was delivering in my head the opening of my first Freud lecture, I found myself reflecting that only now do I truly understand why I have chosen to give YouTube lectures on Freud and Marx. The owl of Minerva does indeed spread its wings only with the falling of the dusk, as Hegel observed.
Here, in brief, is the reason [I shall open my lectures with this explanation.] The great members of the Frankfurt School – Adorno, Horkheimer, Arendt, Marcuse, Fromm, Benjamin, and the rest – did their most important work struggling to make sense of the collapse of the Weimar Republic and the rise of Nazism. In this undertaking, they brought to bear both the insights into structural features of capitalist society afforded by Marx and the deep understanding of the non-rational sources of individual human behavior provided by Freud. The effort to wed Marx and Freud produced such classic works as Marcuse’s Eros and Civilization [with its brilliant concept, surplus repression] and One-Dimensional Man, Adorno and Horkheimer’s The Authoritarian Personality, and Arendt’s Origins of Totalitarianism.
We now confront the sickening reality that fascism is come to America. Each of us is tasked to do whatever he or she can to resist this home-grown twenty-first century variant of the defining evil of the twentieth century. My forthcoming lectures on Freud, and the lecture series I shall record on Marx in the fall, are my tiny contribution to what must be a national effort. Lord knows, they will not by any stretch of the imagination be important contributions to that effort, but perhaps they will amuse and entertain some folks after a long day of protesting and political work.