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The superego and its vicissitudes in contemporary society

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Assuming that psychic reality and social phenomena are two sides of the same social totality, this article attempts to discuss the building up of the concept of superego in the Freudian text emphasizing its social roots and the function it performs as the representative of the symbolic law. Critical turning points in the development of the concept are presented and possible theoretical consequences of Freud's argument in "Civilization and its Discontents" are questioned when considered against the background of our present society determined by globalization and consumption. The author concludes by suggesting that the contemporary superego may represent an erractic reaction against the conditions prevalent in the social realm. Thus it appears to be rather the heir to the initial state of helplessness than the result of a paternal identification. That could account for its role as the representative of the symbolic law.
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Keywords: guilt feelings; helplessness; narcissism; oedipus complex; paternal law

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2003

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