On Aggression: Psychoanalysis as Moral Politics in Post-Nazi Germany

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herzog011801Max Weber Lecture


Dagmar Herzog, City University of New York
10 December 2014, 17:00-18:30,  Badia, Theatre


Dagmar Herzog is distinguished professor of history and the Daniel Rose Faculty scholar at the Graduate CenterCity University of New York. She has published extensively on the histories of sexuality and gendertheology and religionJewishChristian relations and Holocaust memory. She gives particular attention in her research to methodological innovations in critical source analysis and in gender and sexuality studies. 

Herzog was awarded a 2012 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship for a trans-Atlantic research project on the European and American histories of psychoanalysis, trauma, and desire. 

In this lecture Herzog examines the impact of Konrad Lorenz’s “On Aggression” in Post-Nazi Germany.

The heyday of intellectual and popular preoccupation with psychoanalysis in the West reached from the 1940s to the 1970s, from post-Nazism through Cold War consumerism to the anti-Vietnam War movement and the sexual revolution.

In each country the ensuing debates over the truth about how human beings are took unique form. Only in West Germany did debates about the value of psychoanalysis as a system of thought circle so intensely around the question of whether or not aggression was an ineradicable aspect of the human animal and whether or not it might best be conceived as a “drive” comparable in strength and form to libido.

This lecture analyzes the wholly unexpected consequences set in motion by the publication of ethologist Konrad Lorenz’s “On Aggression”, not only on the oeuvre of the preeminent West German psychoanalyst Alexander Mitscherlich, but also on the eventual shape taken by the New Left’s politics and theories of human nature.