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Communitarianism and distance: Freud and the homelessness of the modern self

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This essay argues that Freud's theory pictures modern selves as coping with a new existential and social predicament: a sense of homelessness within their own home. More specifically, Freud suggests that individuals feel estranged from parts of their own psyche (their super-egos) as well as feeling distant from their own culture and tradition (as they are represented by this psychic agency); in modernity, neither one's mind nor one's community can promise any longer a sense of ground. Because of this sense of perpetual and irrevocable displacement, Freud feared that modern selves might become semi-psychotic, selves lacking an inner social-normative voice. He calls on moderns, however, to overcome this bleak prospect and the related danger of political chaos by accepting the social norms imposed by their super-egos. But Freud champions only a conditional acceptance of tradition, one that involves ongoing scepticism, ambivalence and emotional distance. Freud's position could therefore be characterized as a unique type of communitarianism: it seeks a balance between admission of the constitutive force of tradition on the one hand, and the formation of an emotional detachment from its myths, practices and normative claims on the other.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Dept. of Political Science, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel.. Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 2002-01-01

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