Postmodernists, the Id, and the Superego

I argued before that the thinking of post-modernist atheists is rooted in Freud’s notion of the Id.  Yet psychiatrist Dr. Tanveer Ahmed argues that their thinking is actually rooted in the super-ego. What is the super-ego?

The superego incorporates the values and morals of society which are learned from one’s parents and others…… The superego’s function is to control the id’s impulses, especially those which society forbids, such as sex and aggression. It also has the function of persuading the ego to turn to moralistic goals rather than simply realistic ones and to strive for perfection.

Here is the video of Ahmed making his case (HT: TFBW)

At first glance, it seems Ahmed has a point, as the self-righteous moralizing of the postmodernists would appear as if the superego is in control (and out of control).  But a closer look tells another story.

As mentioned in the link above, the function of the superego is to control the id’s impulses.  But I would argue that is not what is happening with your social justice activists.  What has occurred is some type of Freudian mutation, where the Id has learned how to control, and thus enslave, the super-ego.  While it may sound like social justice activists are moralizing when they speak, could it be that their Id is using their superego like a sockpuppet?

Keep in mind the Id’s basic impulses are sexual and aggression.  Now, notice how the social justice activists are using the superego to defend and advocate for these impulses.  When it comes to the sexual drive, it’s rather obvious.   We’re talking about a movement that treats one’s sexual identity as some type of moral accomplishment.  And apart from the issue of rape, which is used to bash white heterosexual men, all forms of sexual expression are treated as something akin to a moral good.  What’s more, the Id is using the superego to insist those who stand in the way of its impulses are bad.  Thus, we see stories trying to shame teen heterosexual boys for not wanting to date trans-girls.  We read scholarly papers arguing that the only reason heterosexual men don’t have anal sex is because they cling to a homophobic taboo and we need to help eliminate that taboo in high school sex ed courses.  We also see the polyamory crowd not merely rationalizing their swinging lifestyle, but actually begin to argue that monogamy is bad and the cause of various social ills.  The Id’s sexual drive is becoming part of the superego.

As for the aggression instinct, that too is being propped up by the social justice activists’ superego.  The obvious example here is their “Punch a Nazi” campaign.  Clearly, their superego is hard at work trying to morally justify the Id’s aggressive impulses.  That’s also why shutting down public talks with aggressive actions, even those that might include violence,  are viewed as something that is morally good.

So the postmodernists do not represents a superego that is out of control; they represent an Id that is in control of the superego.

And how did they get to this dysfunctional state?  I would propose this is where atheism comes into the picture.  If you take away the existence of God, this will weaken the superego for most.  For it is a belief in God’s existence that confers some form of authority to the superego, an authority strong enough to control the Id when no one is looking.  Thus, by denying the existence of God, the superego can become so weak that it is eventually hijacked by the Id.  While I am not saying this is the case for all atheists, it does help explain how atheism gave birth to postmodernism and today’s social justice warriors.

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3 Responses to Postmodernists, the Id, and the Superego

  1. TFBW says:

    I’m still not convinced that the tripartite Freudian psyche is much more than narrative gloss, but it seems to me that there must be at least two (possibly four) variations on the theme if we are going to employ it. The two main variations correspond roughly with the victim/oppressor distinction inherent in neo-Marxist identity politics.

    Victims are told that they are incapable of the sins enacted by their oppressors: for example, black people can’t be racist, because racism requires power, and the white people have the power. This narrative encourages the victim class to shrug off the superego: victim status grants entitlement, and other people have to respect those entitlements or they are the haters. This is dangerous, because the id goes unchecked, with all the self-gratifying excesses that implies.

    Oppressors are told that they are in a permanent state of sin: for example, white people are intrinsically racist, and attempts at non-racist behaviour can not be anything more than a veneer over an intrinsically racist core. The only way to atone is to subjugate themselves to the other races in an act of voluntary disempowerment. Even that is only a veneer over a core of white privilege, however, so true atonement is not possible: the best one can do is grovel in perpetuity. This narrative encourages the oppressor class to be under a constant, unappeasable barrage of guilt from the superego (e.g. “white guilt”). This produces self-loathing, with all the destructive consequences that implies.

    I think that these are the two main categories (victim with no superego, and oppressor with superego guilt overload), but two other minor categories are possible. Oppressor class with no superego (i.e. opportunistic sociopath) is also a distinct possibility. I think we see this a lot in the male feminists. The member of the oppressor class plays along with the culture without experiencing any actual oppressor guilt, hoping that it will create id-satisfying opportunities. Similarly, it’s possible for a victim class to have a functioning superego, albeit one bent to the identity politics narrative. Such a person does not experience guilt, but a burning sense of justice. The externally visible difference between this and the lack of a superego is subtle: one makes demands based on the entitlement of victimhood, and the other preaches that this is morally appropriate.

    Contra Ahmed, I see no reason to think of Trump as “the id of Western civilisation” — unless you happen to be a proponent of identity politics and want to censure him (and, by association, those who voted for him) for his abject lack of white guilt.

    On the subject of Michael’s comments regarding atheism, clearly I don’t see this as atheism resulting (for some) in the abandonment of superego. Rather, I see neo-Marxist identity politics as being an attractive alternative foundation for the superego in those who reject theistic scriptures (the other main alternative is usually dubbed “Enlightenment values”). The superego needs principles, and needs societal agreement on those principles. The erosion of superego is not directly attributable to atheism: it is, rather, a side-effect of neo-Marxist teaching to reject “the patriarchy”, which is jargon for “traditional Western values”. If you are a victim, then the new morality is “your wants and needs are the most important thing,” which is basically to say that the id rules.

  2. Dhay says:

    > So the postmodernists do not represents a superego that is out of control; they represent an Id that is in control of the superego.

    Michael Shermer’s dictum seems to apply well to SJAs; that “smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons”.

  3. stcordova says:

    “The obvious example here is their “Punch a Nazi” campaign. Clearly, their superego is hard at work trying to morally justify the Id’s aggressive impulses. That’s also why shutting down public talks with aggressive actions, even those that might include violence, are viewed as something that is morally good.”

    On some related note. Here in the DC area a member of my church was nearly killed by Social Justice Warriors while he was at work at the Family Reseach Council. The SJW perpetrator was only given 25 years for attempted murder of some 30 people:

    In other news, thing are bad when Sam Harris calls out the left:

    “This is how the left will die.”

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