Before language : the rage at the mother
The thesis argues that psychoanalysis is a necessary component of cultural analysis. It is argued that existing syntheses of psychoanalysis and political theories tend to limit the recognition of the relative autonomy of psychic reality by offering accounts of the social determination of subjectivity. The contemporary reappropriation of psychoanalysis by feminist theorists has formulated new explanations of the social position of women as the 'second sex'. The challenge of feminism to traditional theories of culture and society includes questions of how sexual difference informs the transformation of thought into language, how language determines theory, and how theory conceptualises the difference between subjectivity and objectivity. The contradictions within existing syntheses of structuralism, Marxism and feminism are described, and the differences between psychoanalysis and sociology are traced through the the critical reception of Freud's Totem and Taboo by anthropologists. The validity of Freud's concept of the Oedipus complex is explored, and it is suggested that despite the limited acceptance by anthropologists, Totem and Taboo contains a valid theory of the relation of the subject to society. Freud's work is relocated within the paradigm of evolutionary biology to provide a materialist analysis of psychic structure that is not based on linguistics. A study of the origins of language reveals the complexity of the historical factors determining the co-evolution of representation, the maternal function, and the structuration of psychic reality. New discoveries about the pre-Oedipal dyad that underlies the Oedipus complex have shown the effects of infantile dependence and maternal care on adult subjectivity, and it is argued that factors such as the unconscious fear of dependency and of women are of particular significance for feminist thought. It is argued that the theory of pre-Oedipal and prelinguistic subjectivity can make intelligible aspects of ideologies of racism and sexism that are not fully explained by sociological or political theory. The mechanism of projection or projective identification, it is argued, provides a specifically psychoanalytic contribution to existing theories of culture.