Critical Theory As A Psychoanalytical Approach To The Social Pathology Of Racism
One thing I have tried to accomplish through writing is bringing awareness to the reality that there is truth to what many people consider discredited conspiracy theory. For example, a book I refer to often, Brainwashing: A Synthesis of the Russian Textbook on Psychopolitics, (Chapter 2, p. 8) has been disregarded as an illegitimate source, despite describing many things we are witnessing today. There are direct correlations between the writings of Lavrenti Beria and the real-world applications of critical theory/critical race theory, which will be the focus of this article. Mainly in the way communists view individuals within a society. For example, in the communist structure man is a political organism, not an individual. Just as a malfunctioning organ in an individual makes up a misalignment of the whole body, so too does disloyalty to the state represent a sickness in society. Man is made up of a body of cells which must work in harmonious alignment for the individual to function properly, so too is the state made up of a body of men which must align to state ideals. Disloyalty to the state is treated in much the same way a malfunctioning organ is, with medical treatment.
Critical theory is a method of critiquing culture for the purpose of transformative change. A product of The Frankfurt School of Social Research, the aim is to free man from oppression and create a world that empowers humanity (Bohman, 2005). Because oppression takes many forms, many “critical theories” have developed. Critical race theory is one example. Feminist theory and the LGBT movement are also by-products of critical theory. Antonio Gramsci is credited for developing other theories of cultural criticism (Delgado, Stefanic & Harris, 2017, p. 5). His theory of counter-hegemony and the “war of position” developed because Marx’s ideas failed to unite the proletariat against the so-called bourgeois. The creation of other oppressed social groups, that share the status of being the underclass in a white supremacist hegemonic system, explains to a large degree the division we see in America today.
Critical theory is more than the mere criticism of society. It is a method of social change based on the idea that the society in question is suffering from a social pathology, a sickness that must be treated to properly align the nation. Racism, according to an article entitled Exploring the psychology of white racism through naturalistic inquiry (D’Andrea & Daniels, 1999) is a social pathology that continues to affect the lives of millions daily. Critical race theory, which developed as early as the 1970s in response to what its founders viewed as the failure of the civil rights movement to bring justice to America’s race issue (Delgado, Stefanic & Harris, 2017, p. 4), is a way to treat this social pathology. CRT is more than saying America is racist. It views racism as a societal illness which requires a psychological treatment of the society, just as a malfunctioning organ requires medical treatment to bring the body into proper alignment.
The critical theory which evolved out of the Frankfurt school took an analytical, diagnostic approach to the critique of society which mirrored the way medicine approaches illness (Verovsek, 2019). The article Social criticism as medical diagnosis: On the role of social pathology and crisis within critical theory, by Peter Verovsek, argues that because any corrective action taken in society requires self-reflection and awareness as the second stage of social criticism, this approach is more in line with Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis (Verovsek, 2019). Marxist theory revolved around materialist philosophy, which was no longer suitable to address the social issues of modern society (Verovsek, 2019) because it fails to address the psychological reasons social pathologies arise (Allen, 2016). In the article, Psychoanalysis and the methodology of critique, Amy Allen posits the idea that-
The methodology of critical theory can be understood as being somehow analogous to psychoanalytic technique. This analogy holds that the critical theorist stands in relation to the pathological social order as the analyst stands in relation to the analyst and that the aim of critical theory is to affect the diagnosis and, ultimately, the cure of social disorders or pathologies. (2016)
To put this in simpler terms, America, through the lens of critical theory/critical race theory, is being viewed as a society in need of psychoanalytic treatment. Systematic racism is a socially constructed term defining our nation, and her institutions, as being inflicted with the pathological disorder of racial hatred. The practical application of critical theory seeks to free the individual from the disease (Verovsek, 2019). A liberation, if you will, that frees the individual from any dependency on the treatment and allows him to act on his own accord to affect social change (Verovsek, 2019). Critical race theory, despite just now coming into the public consciousness, has been embedded in our education and legal system for decades. The reason the issues of race, white privilege, and systematic oppression are being thrust into the consciousness of our children is because self-reflection and self-awareness remain the core philosophies of behavioral and structural change driving critical theory’s application (Verovsek, 2019). Children, under the guise of critical race theory, are being forced to be self-critical and self-aware of concepts they are barely old enough to understand.
Here is where it gets interesting. The founder of critical theory, Max Horkheimer, was not concerned with discovering truth as it is understood by the natural sciences (Verovsek, 2019). This could be related to the claim made by Raymond Bauer in The new man in Soviet Psychiatry, (1952, p. 26) that the Soviet Union issued a decree introducing the dialectical process of materialist philosophy to the scientific method, particularly concerning human behavior. Therefore, the objectivity of the problem-solving approach, based on critical theory, is questioned (Verovsek, 2019) as the problem itself may be identifiable, but the treatment, based on some grand utopian vision of the world (Verosvek, 2019) remains largely subjective. This means the idea of accusing the entire nation and her history, culture, and identity, of being racist to solve the so-called problem of racism, is delusional and only based on the opinions of those employing the method.
Critical race theory has ignited a firestorm of opposition in recent months. The reason for this can be found in the psychoanalytic approach of critical theory. According to Verosvek (2019), Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis posited the idea that introducing reasoned information can give rise to resistance and cause one to give excuses for pathological behavior. This can be viewed from either the right or left view. D’Andrea and Daniels (1999) have argued that explaining why America is racist has resulted in exactly that. The rationalizing of racist behavior justifying systematic discrimination. The more they push this theory the more resistance builds not to justify, or make excuses for our racism, but to show the hypocrisy of the left’s position. For instance, the book Critical Race Theory: An Introduction (Delgado, Stefanic & Harris, 2017, p. 8), makes the contradictory claim that taking a color-blind approach can only solve the most elemental causes of discrimination while also claiming that race is socially constructed and that we ignore the things that all humans have in common in favor of judging people on their skin color. Those two views cannot co-exist. If we as Americans take a color-blind approach it is because we see the similarities which bind us as human beings. We genuinely believe in the principle of equality under the law, whereas the first tenet of CRT, is to question that notion. The left wants to find racism in everything because it is racism that is being used as a vehicle of transformative change. On this topic, Amy Allen stated the following-
insofar as critical theory is a project of rational insight or enlightenment, it is not only insufficient for motivating emancipatory social change … but that it may actually be counterproductive. (2016)
While this article focused on the finer points of critical theory and critical race theory, the bigger point was drawing a correlation to what many people consider being a conspiracy. The book Brainwashing: A Synthesis of the Russian Textbook on Psychopolitics, is described as being the writings of Lavrenti Beria and the psychological methods of indoctrinating a nation into the tenets of communism, without them even being aware. Chapter two discusses the view that man is nothing but a political organism who is a part of a larger body, the state. This article showed that the application of critical theory is incorporated very much in keeping with that view. That society itself is sick and to fix the problem, the individual cells which make up the larger body must be corrected.
Allen, A. (2016) Psychoanalysis and the methodology of critique. Constellations, 23(2) pp. 244-253.
Boham, J. (2015) Critical Theory. Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy Critical Theory (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Bruner, J. S. (1952) Foreword in The New Man in Soviet Psychology, p. xx. London. Oxford University Press.
D’Andrea, M., & Daniels, J. (1999) Exploring the psychology of white racism through naturalistic inquiry. Journal of counseling and development 77(1) pp. 93-101
Delgado, R., Stefanic, J., & Harris, A. Critical race theory: An introduction (2017) New York University Press
Verovsek, P. (2019) Social criticism as medical diagnosis: On the role of social pathology and crisis within critical theory. Thesis eleven, 155(1) pp. 109-126
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Article posted with permission from David Risselada