Recent conversation about feminism and Lloyd deMause's theories



I think that if asked Lloyd most certainly would declare himself a feminist, but there is a way in which his own theories would enable him to remain such while still establishing feminists as those who repudiate all self-blame by projecting it onto (white working class) men, as you say... for according to where we're at in his conception of historical cycles, exactly no one is to be expected to be at their functioning best. 

Lloyd wrote that after wars or huge depressions there is a sense that self-growth / self-activation makes almost no one nervous, everything that had been discouraged seems suddenly allowed, and so for example for the three decades after WW2 we had a society where everyone prospered. After this, self-growth becomes a problem... the six horsemen of the apocalypse, the inner maternal predatory alter, the Killer Mother, the superego, is getting set to strike. Groups of poorer childrearing, those who had mothers who were so unloved they experienced their children's natural desire for individuation as their deliberate abandonment of them, and crushed them for it, no longer allow the more progressive members of their society to lead them into becoming their better selves -- thus part of the explanation for the late '70s until now, split: those who can't allow themselves to participate in growth masochistically want a society which will depress their ability to succeed. 

The other part of the explanation for our current split, for our society of one-percenters, however, lies in the fact that most people who had childhoods that permit them to continue self-activating -- members of the liberal managerial class, most notably -- cannot do so without some considerable dis-ease, hence their need to maintain equilibrium by projecting everything about themselves they need to disown onto some other, onto men... onto white working class men, especially. These are our most progressive people, those with most considerable ability to empathize, those with the largest capacity to see the world absent projections, proving unable to do so for so strongly needing containers for their poisons to ward off a sense of apocalyptic abandonment that would come if they kept it all within themselves, perhaps in an effort to be fair to everyone in the world, no matter their overt deplorableness. (An interesting and somewhat devastating account -- for it being like Frederick Crews to Freudian psychoanalysis, in that it comes from one of their own, and as well for it being reviewed well in both the New Yorker and Jezebel -- of feminists' / liberals' use of men as "shit containers," is to be found in Jessa Crispin's "Why I am not a feminist.")  

The thing is, according to Lloyd's theories, what follows this stage of Manic Growth is not some helpful correction of a good instinct gone... not exactly bad, but certainly very much less good, but the War Phase, where basically the majority now have absented themselves of any means of justifying their "guilty" self-growth (current means of doing so are to try and occlude from their own minds that their finances are ample, might be judged excessive, and by their trying to identify themselves not as the id they kind of do appear to be in their hyper-consumptive ways but as superego, as the only responsible grown-ups in the room, who accepted that the world will always change and thus greet the world in a spirit of adaptability and who are ready to own up to past sins and take on global warming), and where everyone who remains truly progressive is being looked to to be disposed mostly for the fact that they represent bad boys and girls behaving selfishly, who won't head their nation's call for self-sacrifice and to make Her long-ignored needs our primary priority. 

If I had to defend Lloyd as a clear feminist, I would show someone how he describes feminists during innovative Weimar Germany period and during the innovative 1960s (Freedom Phases)... they are perhaps the key group targeted by those under rule of the Killer Mother, those of loveless families, for representing societal "license," that is, for representing genuine societal growth. So chapter 5 of "Origins of War in Child Abuse," and chapter 6 of "Emotional Life of Nations." But he can be excommunicated a hundred different ways for the things he says... but so too right now typifies much of the writing of Philip Roth and John Updike -- giants who I'm sure will come back in full. The innovative 1920s has been described as a period where feminists themselves loved Freud because he created a patriarchal father "deity" which could be used to destroy the Victorian Matron, destroy the Victorian "Titanness," whom they believed was the foremost obstacle to societal innovation... apparently, there have been times in the past, greatly innovative times, where everyone wants to eschew the intimacy of the mother for the strong father. After this just-beginning War Phase we're in has ended, mightn't it be possible we'll be back to such an era, and people can read the sort of stuff in Lloyd DeMause that right now almost no one can find excuse for, not only without blanching much but in a spirit of open receptivity? 

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There is a way in which you can read deMause and make all his dark descriptions of childrearing seem actually evolved, not as nightmarish. If you start with where our species began where infants survived only because they were great anti-depressants for their depressed mothers... where essentially love as we know didn't exist at all and children were grossly abandoned just as soon as they ceased to serve as stimulants, any subsequent phase he describes where there was some means of securing love, even if means killing others or ending your own life, sounds like a miracle. In chapter 7 of "ELON," Lloyd says that in giving birth to a child, the mother revisits her own memories of how she was raised... and that somehow in that recall there represents a chance to improve, to give a bit better than you received, by working through your own memories. His focus is on what can happen on the working-through process, on any working-through process, but ostensibly where hope comes from is the fact that in just living an adult life the mother may have herself improved sufficiently so that there is a greater her taking on the process -- it's not just her as she has always remained from early childhood on being drawn to recall her past, which sounds more like an instigator to re-stage without improvement than to work-through and thereby improve. 

The curious thing, though, is that for hundreds of thousands of years whatever this thing that life itself can provide... something that can't come from other human beings, for there not now being any love in them, wasn't sufficient to allow any improvement in the psychogenic pump, any improvement in mother-daughter transfers. Hundreds of thousands of years, essentially without any societal change... and then, suddenly, take-off, into, first, matriarchal civilization, then patriarchy. For me, this could be explored further, I think... one gets the sense that somewhere in time some benevolent alien must have visited to give this mechanism the kick it needed to get out of its rut! Mind you, as is, one certainly gets a sense that there was nothing about societal evolution which was inevitable... even as a species which raised children in such an abandoning way that people couldn't make a garden or build a home without feeling so likely to be apocalyptically destroyed for it that they had to follow through by scouting for human sacrifices, we remained equal to our environments... it was "good enough," even if not quite in the Winnicotian way, in that it remains by our standards objectively horrifyingly lousy; nothing to remain content with.  

Lloyd isn't the only one I've seen discuss the history of human evolution this way, btw... and I'm not thinking Steven Pinker, who de-emphasizes, as I recall, the idea that over time people have become more loving for favouring thinking of them as becoming more reason-ruled, but rather James F. Masterson, in, I think, "The Personality Disorders." Masterson does some of the same individual-childrearing-writ-large-equals-society stuff (specifically, in regards to Japan and Israel) that Lloyd does, but his main focus is to show what therapists can do to provide their patients with what their parents failed to provide them... on how you take patients and get them over the gap that almost no one can get past unaided -- the abandonment depression that arrives when you begin to live life more happily, more true to your real self. I know there are huge number of self or ego psychoanalysts that do as much, but Masterson is the one Lloyd refers to primarily, so if you find his work intriguing, perhaps he would be the logical lead for further thinking on how loving attendance can get people over the life-blockade of Growth Panic? 

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The '30s and '40s became all about the importance of the mother. According to Eli Zaretsky, Freud's "father" was banished in favour of Klein's pre-Oedipal mother, and everyone longed to the be the good son and daughter at service to their beleaguered mother nation. I think we're entering an era like this once again, so I suspect that the idea of the great importance of the maternal contribution is going to make a comeback. Feminists will see this as an attempt to quarantine them, to limit female influence owing to insensible, aroused male anxieties... about irrational male bullying. But I think Lloyd largely argues a period like this as one where the Mother sadly comes to permeate all aspects of society: the opposite, in a sense, of quarantine. 

So Lloyd would argue that we're about to enter an era where feminists are attacked, not just for recalling the empowered enveloping mother, but perhaps mostly for their legitimately representing righteous human presumption, and thus achievement -- male or female -- that speaks too much of individual accomplishment will become taboo. That is, it is possible that if one's foremost interest is giving individuals their due, in restoring what has been unfairly withdrawn, one is better off praising Scandinavia where identify politics don't oppose but go hand-in-hand with implicit recognition of the huge importance of creating mothering (and fathering) geniuses -- parents better than ever before seen -- than participating in a "correction" that'll be about grouping all of us into some kind of indistinct, denatured, homogenous folk, looked over by our ostensibly benevolent mother countries... that'll put all of us, in a sense, back inescapably cloistered within our nurseries, which'll make us feel good for making our moms happy again, but which'll smother into oblivion whatever unique thing we might have hoped to add to the world.

I don't think there's any of Lloyd's work that I disagree with (well... maybe not so his earlier portrayal of the fetal matrix... and as well, there are some parts that don't seem to quite match up, or need clarifying -- like his various discussions and counter-arguments on how exactly societal paranoia develops... but you get the point: so much the bulk of it I agree with that it seems most accurate to go with "whole" than equivocate, part ways, from the start). I also agree with Masterson that the father is the miracle "other" that visits the child just when s/he requires an out from the maternal matrix, something that will begin to seem stifling actually regardless of how loving the mother... that to us all, the mother and father always have very different associations and that naturally mother is always "the initial all, home" and father is always "the enticing outside," even if this tells us not a whit about where women and men should locate themselves in society (an office, a headquarters, just as much as a home, can be redolent of associations both maternal and paternal, of both known and unfamiliar, when they're not built out of an inclination to confuse anything womanish with past experiences of exploitation). But I personally haven’t picked up on any cues that would have me cheer on any of the attacks on identify politics that are emerging right now. I mean not just from the right but from the left too, which are nearly as ample. 

In a nutshell, I voted for Hillary and would vote for her again because I just don't think that there are many people out there who aren't now mostly taking directions from the inner Killer Mothers, calling for a sacrifice of the like of our "self-important and privileged" university students and progressives... of, truly, our actually most individuated citizens. (Lloyd argued that developments in psychohistory has become stalled for this being the condition now for most psychohistorians as well. "Emotional Life of Nations" was reviewed by a good many psychohistorians in "Clio's Psyche," and Lloyd's response to each of them -- exempting, I think, Stein -- was, "well, you can’t be fair to my work because you're operating under orders of your angry maternal alter, and so are you, and so are you, and so, very clearly, are you.” Contra Denis, I think he has addressed the feminists who charge him with not sufficiently taking into account the duress a patriarchal society inflicts on mothers. Still, mostly he'd be thinking that whether he had or hadn't beside the point, as he'd gauge the attack made mostly to elide arousing the angry mothers in their own heads who absolutely do not want anything bad said about them, and who give praise to the good children of hers who succeed in taking attention off of them -- again, a condition he'd guess that almost everyone finds themselves in now.) 

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And the reason I think deMause has responded to the charge that his theories don't account for the damage incurred on mothers owing to patriarchal oppression, is because in his theories there is no such thing as patriarchal oppression that is built, independent of incurred maternal oppression... of having known mothers who in rejecting us and torturing us, made us feel early in our lives a sense of oblivion. The only reason patriarchy exists, in his judgment, is to help ward off early feelings of being abandoned and abused by terrifying abandoning mothers -- it's a tool to allow civilization to exist at all, given a sufficiently unloved populace, which will of course find itself replaced by some societal structure that isn't defensive, that is in all ways better, once childrearing improves. Terrifying mothers aren't created out of someone else's villainy, but only a previous society's not especially evolved level of initial maternal care, and the corresponding societal forms, whether patriarchal or matriarchal, incurred as a result of it. It might school a different kind of hate than your mother's own of you, a patriarchy might, but not a higher degree of it. You see a patriarch, and you see the mother who terrified and abandoned him; you see the terrifying mother, and you should see the terror her own mother inflicted on her -- for if you're only looking at the patriarchal structure in place, its overt, hyper-masculine, intended intimidation, you're really looking at the aggregate adult result of everyone's childhoods, which again mostly means you're looking at their mothers... what their mothers could not help but doing to them. That is, here too, despite appearances, once again you're really looking at mom.  

As far as the idea that in a patriarchy men are nevertheless more valued and thus garner more self-esteem, Lloyd would say that this in fact never happens... and in fact that in all societies and cultures boys receive less love than girls, are viewed much more suspiciously by mothers than are their girls. Why? Girls stay, boys leave -- some version of Chodorow's thesis, I think. Admittedly, there is some equivocation, some contradiction, here in there with this argument in his works, though he meant it to be the mainstay. 

We started off hundreds of thousands of years ago as a species that really didn't know love, according to deMause (and Stanley Greenspan, and James F. Masterson). Children were stimulants for depressed mothers, fathers didn't care for their children -- weren't really parents -- and used their wives. Everyone was awful, had no choice but to be awful, and we corresponded well with a red-and-tooth universe. Evolution, nature, is really the only legitimate "other," the only outsider, that stands against them, that is, against oppressed women, in a way which doesn't also reflect back upon themselves. If feminists see something in patriarchal culture they want to oppose, they're absolutely right to do it, for patriarchy is only an enlightened construction for very primitive, very afflicted, very love-starved people; but if it doesn't result in their becoming healthier and more loving mothers, in their provisioning other mothers to be the same, the patriarchy will regrow after they're gone, in its previous form -- the need to defend for society to exist, remains intact. 

Fortunately, everyone I know who declares themselves a feminist is for a capaciously providing social welfare state... almost without exception, they're progressives, and want far more for a better world for everyone than do their opponents, who ultimately see themselves as so guilt-ridden, so inescapably deserving of punishment, they want to follow attacking progressives and becoming nation-loyal "good boys and girls" by, as well, ending themselves. So feminists in charge means an improvement in childrearing; means a better world now, and tomorrow. 


Link to full conversation, to be found at real psychohistory.   



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