Anti-Oedipal Collective Psychology

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Jaco Van Zyl:

"The West has enjoyed a confluence of various social, cultural and political advances over the last several decades, including:

  • rapid large-scale improvements of living standards of people,

technological advancements which led to safer, more comfortable and prosperous lives of hundreds of millions of people,

  • the absence of life-threatening conflicts, disasters and diseases (Covid-19 is a recent deviation from the norm),
  • proliferation of individual and property rights which led to freedoms never seen in the history of humanity,
  • and the emergence of social media where the individual has been put on public display with a reach never seen in history.

The above advancements have led to an inordinate prioritisation of individual preferences, styles, wishes, rights, needs and comforts. In oedipal terms, this cultural shift has led to an increased cathexis or psychological investment in the satisfaction of the subjective, while pleasure-denial, self-restraint, resilience, grit and endurance of discomfort have increasingly been pushed to the side as unnecessary at best, and oppressive, harmful and hateful at worst. Whole generations have lived with knowing mostly the maternal aspect of existence, with a very low appreciation of the paternal function of life. They grew up with three Great Untruths, two of which echo the failure of the oedipal myth: What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker, and Always trust your feelings (Haidt & Lukianoff, 2018, p. 14).

As Howard Schwartz (2016) wrote in his book on political correctness (summarised here), the above developments and Western society’s response to these, have led to an anti-oedipal collective psychology that has prevailed over at least two generations."