Why Freud Survives – The New Yorker

“As Crews is right to believe, this Freud has long outlived psychoanalysis. For many years, even as writers were discarding the more patently absurd elements of his theory–penis envy, or the death drive–they continued to pay homage to Freud’s unblinking insight into the human condition. That persona helped Freud to evolve, in the popular imagination, from a scientist into a kind of poet of the mind. And the thing about poets is that they cannot be refuted. No one asks of ‘Paradise Lost’: But is it true? Freud and his concepts, now converted into metaphors, joined the legion of the undead.


For readers with less skin in the Freud wars, the question is: What is at stake? And the answer has to be Freudianism–the theory itself and its post-clinical afterlife. Although Freud renounced his early work on cocaine, Crews examines it carefully, and he shows that, from the beginning, Freud was a lousy scientist. He fudged data; he made unsubstantiated claims; he took credit for other people’s ideas. Sometimes he lied. A lot of people in the late nineteenth century believed that cocaine might be a miracle drug, and Crews may be a little unfair when he tries to pin much of the blame for the later epidemic of cocaine abuse on Freud. Still, even starting out, Freud showed himself to be a man who did not have much in the way of professional scruples. The fundamental claim of the revisionists is that Freud never changed. It was bogus science all the way. And the central issue for most of them is what is known as the seduction theory.”

I’ve always found it surprising that Freudianism remains a thing. As this article points out, he has been debunked, and his ideas are about as useful today as phrenology. My guess is that there are a lot of people with investments in maintaining his ideas, but even then, why have others kept on swallowing these ideas?

Source: Why Freud Survives | The New Yorker