|Driving Miss Hillary||Biography|
by Christopher Chantrill
February 07, 2005 at 12:04 pm
CONSERVATIVES have always had a problem with Freud. Liberals have not. When I read Freud, said the playwright, the scales fell off my eyes. Conservatives experience Freud as a charlatan; artists experience him as a revelation.
Freuds psychology may seem to conservative Americans as a sudden, unlooked for outburst from Europe. But his psychology is a natural synthesis of Kants conscious ego, Fichtes creative ego, Hegels stage theory of consciousness, and Schopenhauers theory of repression. The key link in this chain is Fichte, because he isolates a key component in the development of human knowledge: humans.
How does knowledge come into the world? Descartes thought that knowledge came from the scientist making logical inferences from known, indubitable facts to a necessary theory. But Fichte showed that facts infer nothing. It is the free imaginative act of the scientist that creates a new theory. And that act comes from impulse: All our thought is founded on our impulses, he wrote. Living a century after Fichte, could Albert Einstein have developed special relativity without bold leaps of impulse and imagination?
Of course Fichtes discovery applies not just to scientists but also to artists, writers, and playwrights. In the nineteenth century Fichtes ideas electrified a whole generation of them. In the twentieth century Freuds ideas drove the whole artistic culture. Freud taught the young artist to regard his dreams as a holy font of impulse welling up from the unconscious id. And let him beware of repressing the unconscious impulse; that would make his creative soul sick with neurosis.
For the middle-class conservative, this all seemed crazy. Western religion emphasized the importance of commandments and covenants; democratic capitalism demonstrated the primacy of the rule of law, the sanctity of contract, and the value of cooperation and compromise. How could the untrammeled creative ego be reconciled with the rules? Surely it could not. And so conservatives brushed Freud aside.
But rejecting German psychology means going back to the psychology of Locke and Hume. All of that, any German will tell you, ended when Kant awoke from his dogmatic slumber over 200 years ago. Without an answer to the call of Freud conservatives cannot hope to graduate from their successes in politics and economics and start to influence the modern conversations in the arts and the humanities. Conservatives need a psychology that can meet and beat the insights of Fichte and Freud on creativity, an intellectual system that can reconcile conservative rules and tradition with liberal creativity and then go one better.
Fortunately, such a theory already exists. Developed by American psychologist Clare Graves in the 1960s and 1970s, it was published as Spiral Dynamics by Don Beck and Christopher Cowan. Its a stage theory developed from Maslows hierarchy of needs and brightened up with a bit of color. (Link here for more details.) Heres how it tells the story of the American Dream.
Americas immigrants, huddled masses yearning to breathe free, arrive in the city barely able to function in the new land. They are impulsive red, knowing only power and powerlessness. Powerless victims, the impulsive reds spiral downwards until they find salvation in the life of rules, the One True Way, living as purposeful blue in the world of the enthusiastic Christian and the respectable middle class. But the children of the middle class want a little adventure. Finding that life in safe suburban Scarsdale a hell they discover that they can change the rules a little and treat life as an adventure. They become creative orange, playing the business game or the arts game to win the glittering prizes. But children of inventive entrepreneurs reject the heros journey of creativity. They choose instead the inner journey of spirituality and long to cooperate and share rather than create and compete. They become communitarian greens. Beyond green, of course is integral yellow where the compassionate conservative, shall we say, comprehends all the levels below and understands that each stage transcends and includes the ones before it. Above this ridge, of course, new peaks will rise.
The way to understand the power of this system is to put it to work. The enquiring mind might wonder whether it is a good idea for the welfare state to treat everyone as an impulsive red victim. Might not the red victim rise out of squalor to purposeful blue competence with a little tough love, say a time limit on welfare benefits? In the matter of education, might not a red immigrant mother choose a education in blue discipline for her children while the college professor might choose an education to encourage orange creativity and green cultural enrichment? And might we not respect the choice of each?
With a psychology like this conservatives can get past Freud and win the culture war.
Buy his Road to the Middle Class.
[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists, she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican
[T]he way to achieve a system of determining admission to the public schools on a nonracial basis,
Brown II, 349 U. S., at 300–301, is to stop assigning students on a racial basis. The way to stop
discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.
Roberts, C.J., Parents Involved in Community Schools vs. Seattle School District
[T]he Liberal, and still more the subspecies Radical... more than any other in these latter days seems under the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able[.]
Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State
[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050
[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.
[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm
[Every] sacrifice is an act of impurity that pays for a prior act of greater impurity... without its participants having to suffer the full consequences incurred by its predecessor. The punishment is commuted in a process that strangely combines and finesses the deep contradiction between justice and mercy.
Frederick Turner, Beauty: The Value of Values
Within Pentecostalism the injurious hierarchies of the wider world are abrogated and replaced by a single hierarchy of faith, grace, and the empowerments of the spirit... where groups gather on rafts to take them through the turbulence of the great journey from extensive rural networks to the mega-city and the nuclear family...
David Martin, On Secularization
What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph
These emerge out of long-standing moral notions of freedom, benevolence, and the affirmation of ordinary life... I have been sketching a schematic map... [of] the moral sources [of these notions]... the original theistic grounding for these standards... a naturalism of disengaged reason, which in our day takes scientistic forms, and a third family of views which finds its sources in Romantic expressivism, or in one of the modernist successor visions.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self
There was nothing new about the Frankish drive to the east... [let] us recall that the continuance of their rule depended upon regular, successful, predatory warfare.
Richard Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion
The Union publishes an exact return of the amount of its taxes; I can get copies of the budgets of the four and twenty component states; but who can tell me what the citizens spend in the administration of county and township?
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America