Saturday, April 07, 2012

Jungian Marxism - Theoretical Groundwork

One accusation against Jung is that he is an idealist--that he is, as Alex Callinicos writes about Hegel, "tied down with the Enlightenment's conception of history as 'the progress of the human mind.' " [The Revolutionary Ideas of Karl Marx, p. 65]

Jung actually responds to this claim himself, and actually calls Hegel out on it himself, writing, "Hegel hypostatizes [or reifies] the idea completely and attributes to it alone real being. It is the concept, the reality of the concept and the union of both." I'll get to Jung's viewpoint on ideas in a minute, but first a quick overview on Jung's view on the evolution of the mind.

Jung's theory actually fits nicely within the field of Evolutionary Psychology. Jung, writing in 1921, hypothesizes an evolutionary understanding of the brain. In addition to the five exterior sensory organs, Jung hypothesizes four interior functions of the mind. Jung claims that each function lays claim to separate parts of our existence. Thinking claims exclusive validity within one sphere of life, and likewise, feeling, sensation and intuition each to their own spheres. Jung believe that these functions evolved evolutionarily, as a process of adaptation.
That is probably why there are different psychic functions; for, biologically, the psychic system can be understood only as a system of adaptation, just as eyes exist presumably because there is light. Thinking can claim only a third or a fourth part of the total significance, although in its own sphere it possesses exclusive validity--just as sight is the exclusively valid function for the perception of light waves, and hearing for that of sound waves. [Psychological Types, par. 158]
For Jung, ideas are not Ultimate Reality as for Hegel. In Jung's theory, archetypes originate from "primordial images", which arise when functions overlap and contents from one function get mixed up with contents from another. Jung uses the term “concrete” to describe these mixed-together mental contents. It would be like if you could see sound waves or hear light waves. It would probably be most distracting and difficult to cleanly decipher. Jung is claiming that is how our mental functions have evolved, though. Thinking gets mixed up with Sensation, Feeling, and Intuition. Sensation, the oldest and most refined of the functions, still sometimes gets mixed up with Thoughts, Feelings, and Intuitions, and so on. These overlapping contents--and NOT ideas--are precursors to Jung’s archetypes.

Other than the one small paragraph above, Jung rarely mentions the evoluationary aspect of his theory of mental functions, despite using the functions frequently in his analysis. I suspect he did not want to alienate religious readers, and therefore chose not to emphasize the evolutionary aspect of his theory. For this reason, many readers miss the fact that archetypes are derived from a materialist, evolutionary hypothesis. This is a common mistake made when reading Jung, as the following quote attests.
Again and again I encounter the mistaken notion that an archetype is determined in regard to its content, in other words that it is a kind of unconscious idea (if such an expression be admissible). It is necessary to point out once more that archetypes are not determined as regards their content, but only as regards their form and then only to a very limited degree." (C.G. Jung, CW 9, par.155 "Ps. Aspects of the Mother Archetype").
For more on Jung and Evolutionary Psychology, see Genes on the Couch: Explorations in Evolutionary Psychotherapy By Paul Gilbert, Kent G. Bailey.

Okay, so why do I think that Jung's theory agrees with Marx? After all, Jung dismisses communism multiple times in his writings, and Marx was a self-proclaimed atheist whereas Jung considered religion to be of utmost importance.

Two responses:
First, Jung married into a Swiss ruling-class family, was aware of his one-time mentor, Sigmeund Freud's, disapproval of communism, and also was understandably horrified at Stalin's religious persecution in the nominally-Marxist Soviet Union. Jung seems to have spent all his effort in writing trying to connect with religious-minded people and remain strictly scientific in his work, and largely ignored Marxism publicly, assuming he even seriously read Marx at all.

Second, here are two passages that I believe get at the heart of each writers' philosophies.

Here's Marx's closing paragraph to his essay "The Power of Money":
Imagine man as man and his relation to the world a human one. Then love can only be exchanged for love, trust for trust, etc. If you wish to enjoy art you must be an artistically cultivated person, if you wish to influence other people you must be a person who really has a stimulating and encouraging effect upon others.
Now here is Jung:
The psychological individual... exists consciously only so far as a consciousness of his peculiar nature is present, i.e., so far as there exists a conscious distinction from other individuals... Individuation is need to bring the individuality to consciousness. [Psychological Types, par. 755]
For Jung, individuation means exploring one's uniqueness, bringing previously repressed contents to consciousness. Jung believes this is accomplished through developing each of the four functions relatively equally. In fact, as Janice Hocking Rushing and Thomas S. Frentz, this is one of the layers of meaning Jung sees within the Christ myth [this excerpt is from a chapter on James Cameron’s film The Terminator]:
It is... typical... to interpret the Christ story exoterically--that is, in a way that reinforces the ego by keeping the unacceptable parts of the psyche (the shadow) separated and disowned. In this version, Satan carries the sins of the world, and Christ substitutes for us in deaing with Satan. In the Old Testament prophecy and in Paradise Lost, the messiah vanquishes Satan in glorious military combat, much as Sarah defeats the Terminator in the present and John is prophesied to do in the future. In the New Testament story, of course, Christ dies for our sins, much as Kyle Reese does in this film, so that we will not have to. In both exoteric versions, all that is required for redemption is belief, because the savior of humankind banishes that shadow for us.

The Christ story can [also] be taken esoterically--that is, the way in which specially initiated persons would understand it... In this interpretation... as an infant, Christ is the “divine child,” a personification of the Self archetype, the potential for wholeness in all of us that is constantly threatened by hostile forces and must be carefully guarded and nurtured. To move toward wholeness, a person follows Christ’s example as an adult and sacrifices one’s self, or, in psychological terms, the ego, on the “cross,” symbolizing the opposites of consciousness and the unconscious. Although Christianity does not deal explicitly with the problem of technology, it does, when understood esoterically, address the problem of the shadow, that rejected part of us all which is projected onto an Other, a devil figure that carries the sins of humanity. In contemporary times one form of this shadow is technology. Taken as an example, Christ’s crucifixion models what each person must do him- or herself--namely, let ego “die” as the sovereign center of the psyche so that the Self can take its place. Light cannot be brought into the world--the shadow cannot be raised to consciousness, the divided self united--without this willingness to suffer and let the old ways die. [Projecting the Shadow, p. 180]
To summarize the esoteric interpretation, Jung draws the following symbolic correspondences:
God ->unconscious
Christ -> Self (or God-image)
Incarnation -> integration of the unconscious
Satan ->shadow
Salvation or Redemption -> individuation
Crucifixion or sacrifice on the Cross -> realization of the four functions or of wholeness
- [Jung, Collected Works, XVIII, p. 736]

The result of seeking wholeness within each of the four functions is to give up on the idea of maintaining a social persona with one, extra-developed function:
"A direct attack against the predominance of the one differentiated and socially valuable function, since it is the primary cause of the repression and absorption of the inferior functions,... would signify a slave-rebellion against the heroic ideal [[reinforced by the exoteric interpretation]] which compels us, for the sake of one [differentiated, socially valuable function], to sacrifice the remaining all... The direct outcome of this renunciation is individualism, i.e.the necessity for a realization of individuality, a realization of man as he is." [Psychological Types, par. 167, 168]

The realization of the four functions can also be described, as Frentz and Rushing put it, as letting "ego 'die' as the sovereign center of the psyche so that the Self can take its place." In other words, an imbalanced development of one function at the expense of the others throws off the connection between ego and Self.
Marx and Jung are talking about the same thing here! Marx claims the removal of money will allow individuals to truly develop their unique potentials, to explore what elements of one's uniqueness has a "stimulating and encouraging effect". Similarly, Jung claims uniqueness is discovered when we are freed from the competitive market-demand that we develop one, specialized function to maximize the price of our labor, and thus are able to pursue the religious experience of Christ--the "crucifying of the ego", which contains one's most developed function-- and the development of the other functions that have been repressed into the inner, unconscious world.


  1. I am interested in utilizing the above image in my dissertation. Are you the copyright holder? If so, may I please have your permission to use it? If not, would you be so kind as to direct me to the rightful owner? Thanks in advance.
    Heidi Wolfson

    1. Sorry for not getting back to you Heidi. I created it in MS Paint. There is no copyright, so feel free to use it!

  2. I have recently made a research on Jung's psychology and studied a little of Marxism. In these two works, I see an interesting connection between Jung's Self and Marx's Communism. They both share the same degree of human consciousness. Jung's Self is the telos of individuation. Marx's Communism is the telos of the stages of history. (Both are empiricists and scientists.) Jung's Self is the structure of Marx's communism. :)

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  4. There are some good points and connections here. But you have grossly oversimplified individuation as to conform the ideas--it is not just a matter of 'uniqueness'. Individuation is a matter of becoming in-divisible, whole. Uniqueness is better associated with individualism, a kind of Rousseau-ian Romanticism. Jung loathed 'isms'. Yes, it is true that each individual has their 'unique' individuation path, but that is entailed in that by being an individual one is a distinct being. This leaves the question: why would Jung elucidate our teleological process as something that is logically evident? In fact, a fixation on one's uniqueness is more properly an egoism.
    Personally, I find painting parallels of Jung and Marxism, unless one is psychologically analyzing, to be utterly disrespecting Jung. There are similarities because communism becomes a by-passing to individuation, an external substitution for the Self. The most devout communists, even after having reported on their family and friends only to be betrayed in the end too, still remained loyal upon their deaths. This is pure delusion; or, in typological terms, incommensurate extraverted feeling--a zombie directed by its all encompassing drive (hunger), yearning to be satiated by brains, the 'thinking' mind.