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Graham Harman: In Defense of Freud


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At the website of Repeater Books—a UK-based small press publishing short, intellectually adventurous theory books—Graham Harman has a brief appreciation of Freud. Contrary to a lot of post-structuralist denunciations of Freud, Harman regards him as a humble, accessible, and daring thinker. An excerpt:

We are all constantly reminded of what’s wrong with Freud, from so many different angles (anti-woman, unscientific, dogmatic, authoritarian, and some borderline racist remarks about half-black people and aboriginals). But what’s right with him? So many things.

First, I challenge you to find any better prose writer from the 20th century. Freud does everything a writer should do. He teaches you: despite occasional references to his clinical authority and experience that he will be unable to share, for the most part he does not condescend to readers the way someone like Heidegger so often does (and to some extent Derrida let that habit of Heidegger’s rub off on him, along with a few other bad Heideggerian habits). Instead, Freud generally treats the reader as someone with sufficient intellectual ability to learn the things he himself has learned. My best guess is that this style took shape during his decade-long period without allies, as if he needed to show a certain gentleness and camaraderie with readers in order to gain any allies at all. He is lucid, often disarmingly so. He is rarely if ever pedantic, having no time to waste given the number of topics in which he has a sincere interest. These are some of the reasons he was short-listed for the Nobel Prize in Literature, and really he should have won it over one of the many forgettable Laureates the prize has awarded.