WP 12: Orthodox

Productive Orthodoxy

Luis Recoder

It is meaningless to distinguish an “orthodox” psychoanalysis from an “unorthodox” one.1

—Otto Fenichel

In his 1948 eulogy to his friend and psychoanalyst Ernst Simmel, “Ernst Simmel and Freudian Philosophy,” initially read at a Memorial Meeting in Los Angeles, Max Horkheimer makes the following speculative remarks regarding the legacy of the Freudian orthodoxy:

What makes the greatness of Ernst Simmel, and his death an irreparable loss in the strict sense, is what might be called his productive orthodoxy. He did not swear in verba magistri. As a matter of fact, his life work was devoted, in one of his most decisive aspects, to attempt to go beyond his teacher’s doctrine, namely, to overcome the dualism of the libido theory […]2

By venturing to suggest that Simmel, in going beyond and thus overcoming Freud’s dualistic doctrine of the libido theory by no means betrays the validity of his teacher’s orthodoxy but in essence renders it productive, Horkheimer, I want to suggest, is honoring not only the “greatness” of his recently deceased friend but, just as significant if not more, the greatness and originality of the Freudian discovery. For what is at stake in Horkheimer’s concept of a “productive orthodoxy” in the wake of his eulogy exceeds the subject of “Ernst Simmel” and concerns a certain betrayal and possibly even death of “Freudian Philosophy.” In short, the eulogy doubles as a lamentation of the fatal self-castration of the psychoanalytic movement at the hands of those “analysts who have betrayed it.”3 The classic theorem of castration and betrayal is Adorno’s in his relentless attack against unFreudian Freudians and even an unFreudian Freud, forwarded in the 1944 aphorisms on the premature death of psychoanalysis in Minima Moralia, dedicated to Horkheimer as an epitome to their “shared philosophy.”4 My exposition investigates what I take to be their shared philosophy vis-à-vis their “shared psychoanalysis” in the wake of an obsolescent Freudian philosophy.

As a philosopher and not a psychoanalyst, Horkheimer opens his funeral oration by feigning the skeptic’s response to what may perhaps strike one as an ontologically dissonant pairing of disciplines: psychoanalysis and philosophy: “It may sound unorthodox to speak about Simmel and Freud as philosophers. The very concept of a Freudian philosophy appears almost as a contradiction in terms.”Midway through the paragraph, Horkheimer begins to unfold the key elements of a theorem, schematically formulated in the title, which we shall tenaciously pursue over the course of our exposition. The thought is the following: “Freud and his most congenial disciples, among whom Ernst Simmel certainly belonged, were the relentless enemies of intellectual super-structures including the metaphysical hiding places of the mind.”Horkheimer’s feigned skepticism goes to the heart of the matter: psychoanalysis and philosophy appears “almost” a contradiction in terms. On the one hand, it is a contradiction insofar as one subscribes to a philosophical account that would disavow the very notion that Western metaphysics as an intellectual superstructure shelters unconscious “metaphysical hiding places of the mind”; on the other hand, it is not a contradiction insofar as one is amenable to a philosophical account that is committed to the very notion that Western metaphysics as an intellectual superstructure is the raison d’être as to why there is even anything like “metaphysical hiding places of the mind” in the first place. Despite his allegiance with the post-metaphysical condition of the latter position, Horkheimer is under no illusion whatsoever that the hovering “almost” will ever be resolved. That the intellectual superstructure of metaphysics lends itself to undergoing analysis of a possibly concealed topography which encroaches on the psychic apparatus of individuals, merely entertains the plausibility of sketching the rough outline of an analogy with the historical materialism of a negative dialectics so as to demonstrate that Freud and his most congenial disciples will always almost and almost always be regarded as philosophers. The mere sight and sound of “Freudian Philosophy” is almost almost a contradiction in and of terms. I will come back to what I take to be the epistemic centerpiece par excellence of Horkheimer’s construction of a philosophically informed psychoanalysis schematically sketched in his eulogy.

For the moment I want to return to Horkheimer’s concept of productive orthodoxy in light of what has just been introduced as forming the elements of a theorem in defense of a claim regarding Freud’s disciples as the “relentless enemies” of “intellectual super-structures” which include the “metaphysical hiding places of the mind.” Now, it is my contention that these so-called relentless enemies are not so very different than those other congenial disciples of a shared philosophy, and perhaps even a shared psychoanalysis, with respect to a certain dialectical materialism rematerializing via Freudian philosophy. I am obviously referring to the philosophical mimicry in which Horkheimer and Adorno camouflage their combined conceptual cannon which conspires in ruthless, though by no means reckless, avant-garde warfare against the intellectual superstructures in order to blast open the metaphysical hiding places of the mind. What profoundly astounds Horkheimer in his eulogy to his dearly departed colleague, and what elicits the sublimity of his admiration, is the very stricture of the latter’s method of going “beyond” so as to “overcome” the dualism of the libido theory without betraying his teacher’s orthodoxy and yet (and this is key to the entire operation of an orthodoxy productivity) without swearing in verba magistri. In other words, the measure of “greatness” in Ernst Simmel’s Freudian Philosophy has everything to do with the fact that one of Freud’s most congenial disciples has miraculously managed to get behind the metaphysical hiding places of the master precisely in and against in verba magistri. Why?For the sole purpose of guaranteeing that the metapsychology does not go astray, that is, that it incessantly insist on the continuous auto-critique of its speculative apparatus in the face of residual antinomial symptoms lurking within the metaphysical remainder.

So what exactly is this “dualism” of the libido theory that Horkheimer claims Simmel overcomes and in so doing goes beyond his teacher’s doctrine?

As a matter of fact, his life work was devoted, in one of his most decisive aspects, to attempt to go beyond his teacher’s doctrine, namely, to overcome the dualism of the libido theory, the distinction between ego drives and object drives. This at least seems to me the implication of his theory of incorporation, of ‘devouring’.7

In the context of a rather cursory oratorical snapshot, Horkheimer merely intimates in passing what “seems”to him an essential metapsychological continuum between Freud’s alleged dualism of the drive between ego and object and Simmel’s ostensible theory of incorporation-devouring. Foregoing any details of the said implication beyond this evocative suggestion, Horkheimer’s discourse appears to be more concerned with alerting his audience that psychoanalysis “faces the danger of all victorious movements,” namely, that it “may lose its philosophical impetus and degenerate from a critical instrument into one of many auxiliary devices and techniques in the daily professional routine.”8 With the announcement of this danger, Horkheimer unveils a deeper motive animating his eulogy: “It is this danger which calls for our consciousness of the philosophical motive of psycho-analysis.”The danger here is none other than the encroaching establishment of ego psychology to dominate the field of psychoanalysis, as is evident in the following train of thought which praises what the unexplained theory of incorporation-devouring presumably accomplishes:

But the intention [of the theory of incorporation-devouring] was just the opposite of the fashionable adaptation of psycho-analysis to the wants and needs of to-day’s [sic] organized mass culture. He [Simmel] wanted to get closer to the unconscious sources, down to the point where they coincide with biological forces—not to translate them into terms of common-sense, ultimately rationalistic ego psychology. It is his uncompromising and at the same time subtle, tender attitude, based on the knowledge of universal human frailty, which makes him a real successor, a real philosopher in the Freudian sense.10

The vilification of a “common-sense, ultimately rationalistic ego psychology” in the guise of a “fashionable adaptation of psycho-analysis” has become, in Horkheimer’s West Coast American tenure, a catastrophically eclipsing intellectual superstructure. The relentless enemies of ego psychology mournfully assemble in the secret conventicle of a Memorial Meeting in and through which the critical lineage of authentic philosophers in the Freudian sense is solicited or interpellated.

Horkheimer’s candidacy of Simmel’s exemplary Freudian philosophy honors the ambitions of a self-critical psychoanalytic metapsychology in the face of a danger that threatens its epistemological authority. What is fundamentally in danger is the fate not only of this authentic edition of a self-critical apparatus, but infinitely more threatening, the obsolescence of all genuine self-critical editions inaugurated and authorized by the radical Enlightenment. Horkheimer and Adorno are the relentless enemies of an imminent (not to be confused with immanent!) ego psychology if for no other reason that for them, deep in the abyss of their shared schematism, the eclipse of psychoanalysis signals the closure of an epoch’s passion for auto-critique. Since Adorno is in principle the harsher adversary in the troupe, I will cite the archetypal formula—the grand theorem—which they incessantly recite in disparate constellations throughout their individual and collaborative researches. It is from the notorious passage in the 1944 section of Minima Moralia which shamelessly points the finger at ego psychologist Karen Horney, the film industry, and the soap opera as the harbingers of a “ready-made enlightenment” that banalizes away the “painful secrets” of the analysand’s history as nothing so out of the ordinary that the suffering cannot be reduced to formula – the ready-made psychoanalysis that “the orthodox method is already inclined to reduce to formulae [sic].”11 Always already inclined, that is, to reduce Freudian orthodoxy to a universal mechanism of subsumption in which instinct conflict is irrationally rationalized away under the categories of unFreudian ego psychological “complexes.” (Adorno here lists the reified neo-Freudian revisionist characterological typologies of the “inferiority complex,” “mother fixation,” “extroversion and introversion.”) Rather than gaining analytic insight and critical self-awareness, according to Adorno, psychic conflict is automatically absorbed as a “general evil” by the subsuming “mechanism directly identifying the individual with social authority” —an identification, moreover, that “finally abolishes not only genuine consciousness of the impulse but the impulse itself.” It is at this moment in the argument concerning the sublation of impulse wherein Adorno concludes, that because “psycho-analysis itself is castrated by its conventionalization,” the grand finale of a grand theorem (perhaps the grandest) comes to a close: “The last grandly conceived theorem of bourgeois self-criticism has become a means of making bourgeois self-alienation, in its final phase, absolute, and of rendering ineffectual the lingering awareness of the ancient wound, in which lies hope of a better future.”12 The grandiosity of this self-critical theorem is, or rather was, a theorem of a self-corrective and even self-reparative nature that heroically salvaged for a consciousness to come “the lingering awareness of the ancient wound” which is the vital nerve for “hope of a better future.” What should perhaps be emphasized here is that the self-critical bourgeois Enlightenment in its “final phase” as Freudian philosophy, unlike any other historical phase, inaugurates and organizes the elements of its guiding principles (i.e., repression, unconscious, infantile sexuality) purely via the fading light of a suffering awareness of that ancient wound that, for Freud’s disciples at least, shelters the lingering impulse of hope of a better future.13 The “hope,” in other words, that Freud’s disciples would be disciplined enough in the art of listening in on the archaic metaphysical violence assailing the metapsychology in order to compulsively repair their shared speculative apparatus, the one they obstinately cling to and insist on rendering productive.

The idea of Freudian philosophy as the last grandly conceived theorem of bourgeois self-criticism is the kernel of Horkheimer’s memorial in the wake of a dead disciple. As if in response to Adorno’s unadorned death sentence of the Enlightenment in light of psychoanalysis, Horkheimer does not dare put a nail in the coffin just yet. Wounded by the wound, the latter assesses the damage, the devastating and near fatal blow to an institution’s monadological narcissism cum American ego psychology. The death of a disciple, which for Horkheimer can only mean the death of a real philosophical successor in the Freudian sense, is the occasion, as we have already touched upon, which calls for the observance of a mourning ritual in order to solicit a meditation in and around a rather curious “consciousness of the philosophical motive of psycho-analysis.” Is this how philosophy mourns the death of psychoanalysis? Or how philosophy mourns its own death via psychoanalysis? To cut the story short, Horkheimer identifies the core governing protocol that psychoanalysis andphilosophy have in common: “radical demythification.”14 More precisely, the radical demythification of metaphysics. The elements of this theorem are drawn from Freud’s own concept of the metapsychology as a scientific critical theory that doubles as a critical theory of science and characterized by Horkheimer as a “critical scientific Weltanschauung.”15 Horkheimer then makes the classic post-metaphysical argument that if “science” is to “replace metaphysics” it must do so without disavowing its “philosophical force.” Freudian philosophy meets the critico-scientific criteria for a radical science of demythification, which promises, with one and the same stroke, to settle and perhaps close its lingering account with metaphysics.16 Horkheimer’s stringent criteria for radical demythification is as follows: “It should do away with metaphysical illusions such as prejudices and superstitions, but should carry over the basic concepts of rationality: truth, freedom, justice.”17

Horkheimer’s train of thought in this post-metaphysical theorem circles around the orbit of Freud’s own ambition to transform metaphysics into metapsychology: “We venture […] to transform metaphysics into metapsychology.”18 As early as 1896, in a series of correspondences with Wilhelm Fleiss in which he announces his “move from medicine to psychology,” Freud coins the term “metapsychology” to replace “psychology” and in so doing claims to realize the fulfillment of his young adult wish to acknowledge “no longing other than for philosophical knowledge.”19 The philosophical ambition of the metapsychology in the Freudian sense would thus require the minimal critical criteria of marking a transition not only from medicine to psychology (whatever these respective fields signified for Freud), but also, from psychology to something beyond its official limit as a science, though not so far afield that Freud’s own psychologistic intentionality is completely lost sight of. The transitional movement in this procession schematizes the transformation of metaphysics into metapsychology within the field of science so as to replace, or rather displace, the former with the latter. My sense is that Horkheimer is offering an alternative account of the transformation of metaphysics as a silent protest against the Heideggerian model, as Adorno will rigorously demonstrate in Negative Dialectics: “The things which Freud, the anti-metaphysician, taught about the id come closer to a metaphysical critique of the subject than Heidegger’s metaphysics, which he does not want to be metaphysics.”20 Interestingly, Adorno, in his penultimate chapter “Meditations on Metaphysics,” proposes negative dialectics as a mediating forcefield in which “metaphysics migrates into micrology”—micrology, that is, notas a critique or necessarily “overcoming” of metaphysics but as a meditation or even consolation (the lingering eulogy) of metaphysics “at the time of its fall.”21

Furthermore, it should also not be overlooked that the philosophico-psychoanalytic working through of radical demythification is fundamentally a critico-scientific Weltanschauung in its secularizing disenchantment of world views or world pictures only insofar as these negatives are the precipitous projections of non-identity registered in the so-called clinical picture. The doctrinal core of Freudian orthodoxy for Horkheimer and Adorno is the libido theory ostensibly founded upon and propped-up (Anlehnung) via the clinical picture of the “instincts” (Triebe). The danger of losing the controversial and widely disavowed, because scientifically unverifiable, instinct theory which forms the “theoretical core of Freud’s work, his biological materialism,” is for Horkheimer, the anxious raison d’être for a return to Freudian orthodoxy. The scientificity of an alleged biological materialism “Where Freud spoke of ‘Lebensnot’, i.e., of very material conditions as the basic cause of certain psychological conflicts,” staunchly conforms to the clinical view of a “materialist psychology” precisely where “Freud spoke about erogenous zones” as the libidinal corein and through which profoundly antagonistic tendencies undergo their analysis in an effort to translate and “resolve the psychological into the physiological and even physical.”22 What is at stake in Horkheimer’s rather compressed, and somewhat elliptical, summary account of Freud’s materialist psychology is, in my estimation, the thought that the emergence, nay, inauguration of a “critical scientific Weltanschauung” literally breaks out, effracts, via the very material conditions of the psyche’s Lebensnot. If such is the case, then Adorno’s notion of a self-reflective organon as the lingering agency forged by a wound cutting through the phylogenetic continuum is profoundly coterminous with the very conditions of possibility in which the psychoanalytic impulse can even begin to emerge from the depths of a dream which awakens its scientific vocation. To mutilate originary psychoanalysis is to murder the philosophical organon par excellence which single-handedly devotes itself to deciphering the imago of infinite suffering in and through which the afterimage of reconciliation survives.23 Lebensnot or not, the point of no return is ultimately decided on whether or not Simmel’s death will be redeemed by a genuine successor. Horkheimer recruits the remaining cadets for one final battle to the death. His sketch of Simmel’s productive orthodoxy is the belated projection of a dying art’s fading schematism that ought to be strictly observed, according to the former, only in its capacity as a fundamental materialist psychology—a biological materialism of the drive that is perhaps the analytic (and I would venture to say anaclitic) complement to a dialectical materialism wielded by a critical theorist who, in his desperate appeal to the converted, heralds the obsolete conviction that “it is the more necessary to stick to Freudian orthodoxy in this fundamental sense.”24

With the dying art of originary psychoanalysis also dies the anamnesis of the archaic wound. And here I come back to what I take to be the fundamental origin and source for all of Horkheimer and Adorno’s various theorems (bourgeois or not) equipped so as to get behind the metaphysical hiding places of the mind. It would be their grand (maybe even the grandest) theorem of self-criticism if only they could decipher Kant’s enigmatic message addressed to his real philosophical successors of an interminable problematic at the heart of the transcendental schematism, namely, the lingering obscurity haunting the applicability, the subsumption, in and through which the appearances are prefigured, predigested, and hence assimilated beneath the genetically a priori categories of the mind. In the schematism chapter of the first Critique, Kant postulates that schemata are not images per se but that which initially makes images become “images.” Schemata are intelligible and yet sensible “pureimages” of mediation devoid of all empirical content; what they mediate is the subsumption or sublation of images under concepts. Schemata are the monograms of pure figures in space, gestalts or delineations, for example, of “the concept ‘dog’” which, according to Kant, “signifies a rule according to which my imagination can delineate the figure of a four-footed animal in a general manner, without limitation to any single determinate figure such as experience, or any possible image that I can represent in concreto, actually presents.”25 At this precise moment, and amidst the conceptual projection of a pure image of “dog,” Kant, as if in media res, barks back at his deductive flow of the transcendental conditions of possibility animating the schematism, thereby reverting to what appears to be a pre-critical possibility of its fundamental impossibility. My suggestion, already alluded, is that Horkheimer and Adorno incorporate Kant’s plausible condition of impossibility into the critical body of their shared epistemophilia with all the force of a seduction, an enigmatic message which postulates the following aporia: “This schematism of our understanding, in its application to appearances and their mere form, is an art concealed in the depths of the human soul, whose real modes of activity nature is hardly likely ever to allow us to discover, and to have open to our gaze.”26 Despite Kant’s momentary lapse into an aesthetic of the obscure and indistinct, or rather because of it, Horkheimer and Adorno emphatically direct and force our gaze to take a plunge into the uncanny art of the human soul or psyche in their estranged epoch. What they discover is no profound “art” whatsoever absolutely concealed from the metaphysician’s critical gaze; instead, what is diagnosed, clinically speaking, is the compulsive and even fetishized self-preservative impulse of an incorporating-devouring “art” that feeds off of a ready-made mass schematism whose indigestible substance lodges like a pathogen in the gastrointestinal psyche. As we shall soon see, Horkheimer and Adorno’s shared schematism, particularly prominent throughout the 1940’s, taps into the subterranean crypts of Kant’s depth metaphysics of the human soul vis-à-vis Simmel’s depth psychology of the gastrointestinal primacy of the ego.

The Kantian problematic of the human soul or psyche with its hidden “art” makes its appearance as early as Horkheimer’s 1937 Critical Theory manifesto, “Traditional and Critical Theory.” Horkheimer discovers the art of schematism in no obscure realm whatsoever other than that of enveloping the subjectivity of the subject as a product of society, or rather, the transcendental unity of the subject as an objective synthesis of social forces, and this especially in Kant’s milieu. “The activity of society,” Horkheimer observes, “thus appears to be a transcendental power, that is, the sum-total of spiritual factors.”27 A level of “depth and honesty,” or deep honesty, is detected in the supreme Kantian concepts themselves, registered in the antinomial “two-sidedness” of their inner tensions and contradictions which, Horkheimer suggests, preserves the traces of an irreconcilable antagonistic thinking that is but the fundamental conflict of the individual with internalized forces of a supra-individual transcendental power.28 The profound antagonism for Horkheimer here is the transcendental power of an “objective necessity” that goes so far as to conceal from the very structure of Kantian thought itself the vital nerve between philosophy and psychology: “The unresolved problem of the relation between activity and passivity, a priori and sense data, philosophy and psychology, is therefore not due to purely subjective insufficiency but is objectively necessary.”29 The insistence on deep honesty authorizes Horkheimer not only to recast the notion of a concealed human psyche via the social psyche, but more tellingly, authorizes an unprecedented opportunity to gaze stereoscopically into the metaphysical hiding places of a major metaphysician’s mind in an effort to expose the traumatic wound that severs philosophy from psychology.30

The two-sidedness of Kant’s supreme concepts, which Horkheimer characterizes as “their supreme unity and purposefulness, on the one hand, and their obscurity, unknownness [sic], and impenetrability, on the other,”31 is an observation that Adorno further elaborates in his concept of the Kantian “block.” In his 1959 lecture on Kant’s first Critique, Adorno proposes that “the vital nerve of Kant’s philosophy as a whole lies in the conflict between these two aspects, the impulse towards system, unity and reason, and, on the other hand, consciousness of the heterogeneous, the block, the limit.” “These two elements,” according to Adorno, “are in a state of constant friction and he is always being brought up short by this block.”32 Just as in Horkheimer’s diagnostic, Adorno observes that the medium of this “friction”33 takes place in the transcendental conditions of an objective necessity. For Adorno, what is ultimately reflected in the “doctrine of the block” is productive for “a kind of metaphysical mourning, a kind of memory of what is best, of something that we must not forget, but that we are nevertheless compelled to forget.”34 In short, the Kantian block mourns precisely what psychoanalysis will come to mourn—only better—in the future of its invention: the lingering awareness of the concealed art of the human psyche that holds the key toward a better future. The proto-Kantian metapsychology of mourning is Adorno’s psychoanalytic addenda to Horkheimer’s diagnostic of critical philosophy’s depth and honesty. In the lecture on “Psychology,” Adorno assumes as a given that the talk of “depth” as it appears in passing in the schematism chapter be subsumed via the categories of “modern depth psychology,” i.e., orthodox psychoanalysis, despite Kant’s anti-psychological philosophy, or rather because of it.35 “Ernst Simmel and Freudian Philosophy” belongs to an enlightened philosophical succession that not only mourns the Kantian block, but more urgently, it addresses the lingering wound that severs philosophy from psychology. Adorno traces the origin of this splitting to Kant’s first Critique, especially the second edition with its revamped anti-psychological addenda which sets the tone for post-Kantian philosophy to come.36

Horkheimer’s dialectical-materialist account of Kant’s schematism chapter in the first Critique is reworked vis-à-vis Freudian philosophy in his and Adorno’s analysis of the mechanism of projection that runs throughout their 1944/47 magnum opus, Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments, and which culminates in section VI of the chapter “Elements of Anti-Semitism: Limits of Enlightenment.” Kant’s theorem of the conditions of impossibility is ushered in to underwrite Freud’s and Simmel’s shared metapsychology of paranoia. In Horkheimer and Adorno’s account, the isolated clinical picture of hallucinatory psychosis as a pathogenic case of transcendental delusion—beyond the normative quota of illusion— delineates the internalized sedimentation of a mass psychopathological paranoia that works to confirm and objectivize the psyche’s private paranoia. This is the way I interpret the fundamental Kantian theorem shot through the reified automation of the subject’s defense mechanisms violently stripped and desublimated to the crudest and most primitive ontogenetic phase in the early ego’s nascent art of projection: “In this way his objective world has been constituted as a product of ‘an art concealed in the depths of the human soul, whose real modes of activity nature is hardly likely ever to allow us to discover, and to have open to our gaze.’”37 Horkheimer and Adorno’s application of Kantian anthropology continues with the following proposition: “The system of things, the fixed universal order of which science is merely an abstract expression, is, if Kant’s critique of knowledge is applied anthropologically, the unconscious product of the animal tool in the struggle for existence – it is the automatic projection.”38 The culmination of Kant’s transcendental schematism applied anthropologically is formulated in the following hypostatizing thought which aims to disclose the extreme pathological limits of Enlightenment: “Paranoia is the shadow of cognition.”39 My suggestion is that this axiomatic formula at the heart of Dialectic of Enlightenment is thought through not only Kant’s schematism chapter, but also, the appendix to the transcendental dialectic in which the “pathology of cognition”40 is specifically attended to. When Horkheimer and Adorno observe that the symptomatic “blindness” of a “subject which naively postulates absolutes” is not only diagnosed as “sick,” but more crucially, diagnosed as simply caving into the immanent and thus “constitutive element of all judgment,” it is indubitably Kant’s transcendental doctrine of a “necessary illusion” that is being anthropologically applied in the wake of Freudian philosophy.41

The proposed anthropological application of the first critique is, as a matter of fact, a supplementary method which Kant himself self-authorizes and applies generously in the appendix to the transcendental dialectic when he postulates, in light of pure reason’s stubborn insistence on forcefully seeking “the systematic unity, order, and purposiveness of the arrangement of the world,” the admittance “into this idea [schematized by Horkheimer and Adorno as the ‘system of things, the fixed universal order of which science is merely an abstract expression’] certain anthropomorphisms which are helpful to the principle in its regulative capacity.”42 In short, Kant’s anthropological appendix functions as the critique’s regulative metapsychology in order to delimit the delusions characteristic of the transcendental employment of pure reason which “has a natural tendency to transgress these limits”—limits which even the severest criticism (i.e., Kant’s very own doctrine) “can barely succeed in neutralizing.”43 Pure reason’s natural transgression of even the staunchest of self-imposed regulative norms sets the stage for Horkheimer and Adorno’s concept of the “Limits of Enlightenment.” The unconscious “animal tool” of “automatic projection” which they introduce into their mass schema of paranoia is miraculously anticipated in Kant’s preventive propaedeutic when he elaborates that reason’s delusional insistence on systematic unity is “only a projected unity, to be regarded not as a given in itself, but as a problem only.”44 The problematic of a pathogenically projected unity introduced by Horkheimer and Adorno in section or thesis VI of the limits of Enlightenment chapter, and in negative relief to Kant’s problematic of treating the projected unity as a “problem only,” undergoes a critico-scientific prognostic as if it were “a given in itself.” The as if “almost” character of their account of the “limits” of Enlightenment is by no means vicariously entertained but ultimately decided vis-à-vis the metaphysical horror of a projective transgression that outlines the “elements” of anti-Semitism.

The projected unity of Horkheimer and Adorno’s mass schema of paranoia is succinctly formulated in the closing paragraph of thesis VI as the “negative of reconciliation.”45 (In what follows, I will call this the negative reconciliation thesis.) As if it were a given in itself, they hypostatize the already hypostatized dialectical negativity at work in their grandly conceived theorem of genocide: “The anti-Semites are realizing their negative absolute through power, by transforming the world into the hell they have always taken it to be.”46 In the mass psychopathological transference of their internalized persecutor projectedonto a living Jew, the paranoid anti-Semites omnipotently transform their environment into the hell on earth they have always phantasied it to be. In other words, the objectivization of a satanic negative absolute is the work of a rancorous retribution in the form of genocide wherein the anti-Semites recast the negative phantasy of their internal battalion of persecutors as themselves. Negative reconciliation is Horkheimer and Adorno’s formula for the anti-Semitic schema of a totalitarian and brutally fascist unity in destruction. It is the anti-Semitic principle of a negative identification with the persecuting agency and psychogenetic core of their fundamental aggressivity—an identification that Adorno, in his “Meditation on Metaphysics” in Negative Dialectics, will characterize as the catastrophic historical confirmation of “the philosopheme of pure identity as death.”47

How all this correlates with orthodox theory is sufficiently demonstrated via the classical clinical picture which schematically shows that only in the sadistic phantasy of destroying its internalized persecutor is the paranoid-schizoid negatively reconciled with its adversary; that is, via an incorporating-devouring mortification of the dreaded part object that is by no means pathological if the early ego monad sticks to the precarious psychogenetic time-table which holds it riveted to the phase of its oral sadism.48 This phantasy of unity in destruction, and what I am claiming forms the metapsychological basis for the theorem of negative reconciliation, is at the center of Simmel’s theory of incorporation-devouring, which Horkheimer momentarily acknowledges as a key condition for a productive orthodoxy. The key texts are “Self-Preservation and the Death Instinct” (where the question of Freud’s alleged dualism of the libido theory is ostensibly overcome) and, most importantly for Horkheimer and Adorno’s general thinking of the psychotic element of anti-Semitism, “Anti-Semitism and Mass Psychopathology.” It is in light of the latter text that Horkheimer, in touching upon the “emancipatory tradition of psycho-analytic philosophy” in his eulogy, observes that “Simmel was the first one to give a more than metaphorical meaning to the term massdelusion [sic], by pointing out that race hatred is essentially closer to psychosis, and toparanoia in particular, than to neurosis.”49 For Horkheimer, moreover, it is precisely Simmel’s “intense interest in the study of race prejudice which constituted the basis for that intimate collaboration between him and the Institute of Social Research”—a collaboration which included the 1944 “Symposium on Anti-Semitism,” hosted by the San Francisco Psychoanalytic Society. The symposium proceedings, including the paper “Anti-Semitism and Mass Psychopathology” and separate contributions by Horkheimer and Adorno, were later published in an edited volume by Simmel, titled Anti-Semitism: A Social Disease.50

In Simmel’s paper we find the following theory of anti-Semitism which roughly covers the same ground as Horkheimer and Adorno’s mass schema of negative reconciliation vis-à-vis genocide: “Assimilation of the Jews, identical with totally devouring them, […] would deprive the anti-Semite of his object,—which he needs so badly.”51 Simmel’s mass psychopathological theory of devouring is a theory of unity in destruction. In short, it is a pure theorem of identity, identification, and hence assimilation in the exact sense of negative reconciliation formulated in thesis VI. Simmel’s exposition on anti-Semitism is a mass psychopathological diagnostic that recasts his own unique metapsychological contribution to the genetic theory of the libido summarized in his early paper “Self-Preservation and the Death Instinct.” In an autobiographical footnote early in the text, the author reveals that the theories contained in the latter paper have circulated in the form of lectures and previous publications since 1921 and summarized in the 1924 paper “Primary Repression and Intestinal Libido.” Simmel’s theory of incorporation-devouring which Horkheimer flags in his eulogy is introduced in the 1943 paper as the discovery of a stage prior to the oral phase: the gastrointestinal zone. “My fundamental thesis,” states Simmel, “is that the most primitive stage of libido development is not the oral, but the gastrointestinal libido organization […]”52 So when Horkheimer invokes the speculative opening up of “orthodoxy” with the theory of incorporation-devouring, it is with this more primordial erogenous zone of early ego development in mind. Just to reiterate, Simmel’s productive orthodoxy, according to Horkheimer, is the achievement of a life’s work that ostensibly goes beyond and overcomes the dualistic doctrine of Freud’s libido theory, i.e., the distinction between the ego and object drives. What is interesting is that Simmel does not at all view his gastrointestinal theory as going beyond or overcoming any alleged dualism of the drive in the said orthodoxy. As a matter of fact, Simmel paints a portrait of Freudian orthodoxy as emphatically auto-productive in the sense that it is Freud himself who incessantly goes beyond and overcomes Freud. For instance, Simmel points out that it was nobody but Freud who complicated the dualism between ego and object, so that in his earlier accent on the instinct of self-preservation, the terms of ego and object capture “conflict with the ego”; and in his later theory of the death instinct, drive differentiation is located as a “conflict within the ego.” Thus, the dynamic core of Freudian doctrine, according to Simmel, is the orthodox doctrine of a fundamental dualism in the metapsychology of the drive that would completely lose the object of its essence if it were to be overcome: “the principle of a dualism reflecting the dynamics of two instinctual and opposing energies.”53 What Simmel ultimately stresses is that this principle, despite the rigid formalism of its dualistic structure, demands its incessant reexamination in order to maximize the most productive modifications in the field of the libido theory.

The productive principle of dualism in the Freudian doctrine is productive for the libido theory’s expansion. Simmel’s contribution thrives off of this expansion that Freud’s own expansive principle of dualism opens up. Simmel wants his theory to “fit” and thus integrate into the vicissitudes of Freud’s dualistic mind and to follow it precisely where, according to the former, it opens up a ceasura that leads his successors toward a “new field” in which “nothing more was done than to pass through a door which Freud himself had opened without entering.”54 That Simmel’s gastrointestinal theory passes precisely through this door that Freud holds ajar, so to speak, indicates how Horkheimer may have construed such a productive phantasy into a productive orthodoxy. What Freud himself had opened without entering, according to Simmel, is the thought that the earlier dualism, which is ruled by the concept of self-preservation, and the later one, which is ruled by the concept of death, may actually be disparate vicissitudes of one and the same drive. In this case the “dualism” of a drive monism is conceived by Simmel as a “conflict of ambivalence.” With the expansion of the libido theory, Freud holds the door ajar for a concept of ambivalence that is, in my estimation, thoroughly compatible with the concept of negative dialectics: “Freud himself finally broadened the concept of libido to such an extent that we have no practical or theoretical difficulty in including the destructive energies within the libidinal nature of the instinct of self-preservation.”55 Horkheimer and Adorno’s shared concept on the compulsive drive of self-preservation, especially throughout Dialectic of Enlightenment, can be gleaned from Simmel’s accent on the destructive character of an expanded concept of the libido. The theory of the gastrointestinal libido is productive for further specifying the devouring and destructive drive of self-preservation at the uttermost limits of Enlightenment. One of the key elements in the metapsychology of anti-Semitism that Horkheimer and Adorno tirelessly isolate is the unconscious love-hate relationship of the aggressor in the ambivalent assimilation with its victim. Simmel’s formula in his paper on anti-Semitism and mass psychopathology, previously cited, is the theoretical prototype for negative identification: “Assimilation of the Jews, identical with totally devouring them, […] would deprive the anti-Semite of his object,—which he needs so badly.”56 What the conflict of ambivalence ultimately demonstrates in a formula such as this is nothing short of the unconscious desire “of becoming one with the Jew” which, according to Simmel, reaches critical mass as the dwindling supply of the sacrificial meal forces the anti-Semite to turn its cannibalistic cravings on its own race: “If they were to succeed completely [i.e., “of becoming one with the Jew”], there would be no Jews left as objects of devouring aggression, and then the Aryan people would again have to revert to destroying one another.”57 For Simmel, the medium through which the self-preservative principle of anti-Semitism keeps its self-devouring telos in check is via the agency of Hitler’s “schizophrenic” unconscious. Attuned to the unconscious of his followers and sensitized precisely to the underlying panic of an imminent immanent self-devouring genocide, Hitler short-circuited the national anxiety by cultivating the cult and culture of National Socialism’s death drive and plugging into its totalitarian intestinal body politic an international gastronome. In short, Simmel’s theory of mass psychopathology is the hypostasized prognostic of a clinical picture become world picture of the negative absolute of hell on earth.

Simmel’s fundamental theorem of “oneness” in the formula “of becoming one with the Jew” is radically rehearsed in a section titled “Interest in the Body” in the “Notes and Sketches” chapter of Dialectic of Enlightenment, where Horkheimer and Adorno characterize the typology of the modern anti-Semite executioner: “He now makes everything one by making it nothing, because he has to stifle that oneness in himself. For him the victim represents life which has survived the schism; it must be broken and the universe must be nothing but dust and abstract power.”58 According to the authors, this is the direct opposite of the “lost immediacy, the original oneness” of a “free sexuality” wherein “sexuality is the body unreduced.” The negativity of the oneness theorem is that of negative reconciliation. The mass psychopathology of paranoia reverses and undoes the original or originary oneness of the unreduced libidinal psyche-soma, regresses to the part object gastrointestinal zone of sadism in which the love-hate conflict of ambivalence is at the height of its violence, devouring-destroying the battalion of its phantasied persecutors. What is being acted out in the negative oneness of anti-Semitism’s devouring phantasy (“all the werewolves lurking in the darkness of history”) is, according to Horkheimer and Adorno, the apocalyptic “rancor against reification.” In other words, the mass psychosis of anti-Semitism is itself a protest against reification, though a protest that is but the infernal symptom of the repressed which compulsively repeats, in distorted fashion (i.e., genocide), the paranoid philosopheme of pure identity as death (or death as pure identity). Anti-Semitism’s unconscious rancor against reification elicits the blind rage whereby it resolves the conflict of ambivalence by way of a curious form of destruction that simultaneously preserves its object. Dis/integration or disintegration of the persecuted is the compromise formation of a negative oneness that cannot be overcome simply because the negative schematism of projective paranoia deflects and splits off the critical moment of self-refection. What is profoundly concealed in the depths of this paranoid psyche is, Horkheimer and Adorno diagnose, the ontogenetic and phylogenetic traumata of reification: “the splitting of life into mind and its object.”59 Pure identity as death is the primitive schematism of an archaic negative absolute and hence mythic force soliciting the anti-Semitic mass to incessantly falter catastrophically upon addressing the lingering awareness of its archaic wound, the one it manically repairs via negative reconciliation. In realizing the negative absolute of hell on earth, the mythic element of anti-Semitism scandalously transgresses and thus transcends the limits of Enlightenment. The horror of metaphysical disavowal hypostatizes the hyperbolic phantasy of a self-devouring metaphysics that Adorno will grandiloquently schematize:

Thus deeply embedded is the history of metaphysical truth—of the truth that vainly denies history, which is progressive demythologization. Yet demythologization devours itself, as the mythical gods liked to devour their children. Leaving behind nothing but what merely is, demythologization recoils into the mythus; for the mythus is nothing else than the closed system of immanence, of that which is. This contradiction is what metaphysics has now coalesced into.60

*          *          *

Adorno, in his addenda to his and Horkheimer’s chapter on the “Culture Industry: Enlightenment and Mass Deception” in Dialectic of Enlightenment, suggests that we read the pure schema image in the ontogenetic and phylogenetic sense of an imago. In his “The Schema of Mass Culture,” Adorno proposes that the transcendental schematism of mass culture is imprinted or embossed like a hieroglyphic script or rebus on the surface of the film industry’s motion pictures, which automatically, as it were, triggers the “poetic tremor,” the “‘Oh!’ of astonishment” at the sight of a close-up that enforces the impression of its stamped imago via the “blurted out” soundtrack of “lyrical musical accompaniment.” “The tremor,” Adorno explains, “lives off the excess power which technology as a whole, along with the capital that stands behind it, exercises over every individual thing. This is what transcendence is in mass culture.”61 Further along in the paragraph, Adorno describes the eclipse of the imagination (of any and all imagination whatsoever, productive or reproductive) by what has become the mass industrialization of an imago become a reality (a Ford automobile is offered as the archetype): “Imagination is replaced by a mechanically relentless control mechanism which determines whether the latest imago to be distributed really represents an exact, accurate and reliable reflection on the relevant item of reality.”62 Capital’s technocratic determination of the latest imago is one that harnesses the abstract power, which automatically destroys and pulverizes the obsolete imago of a fading world. For Adorno, this is nowhere more evident than in the mass consumed schemes projected in the cinema and fatally brought home with the technical wonders of color film: “The colour [sic] film demolishes the genial old tavern to a greater extent than bombs ever could: the film exterminates the imago.”63 Walter Benjamin’s theorem of the destruction of the aura is radicalized by Adorno as the fascist annihilation of the authentic imago of homeland that the film is meant to celebrate. What the filmic extermination of the old imago ultimately achieves is the universal liquidation in which the movie-going public “assimilate themselves to what is dead.”64 Again, we meet the oneness theorem of a unity in destruction: negative reconciliation at the movies. And yet, the ready-made cine-schemes of the latest feature imago at the box office, in spite of their exterminating films, harbor the double-edged excess power that potentially renders even itself obsolete. “Whoever goes to a film,” and Adorno seems to speak for himself as lone wolf in this passage, “is only waiting for the day when [the] spell will be broken, and perhaps ultimately it is only this well concealed hope which draws people to the cinema.”65 Here we pause to linger not in the null darkness of uncritical cinema but in Adorno’s innermost concealed hope that the art of projection is ambiguously poised, such that the retrogressive reversal of the ray may some day shatter the virtual monstrosities of mass culture’s unnecessary illusions, its reigning focus imaginarius.66

What was it about the older and now obsolete imago that the schema of mass culture exterminated? Recall what Adorno hypostasizes in his cutting remark against ego psychology and the film industry in Minima Moralia: “Now that depth-psychology, with the help of films, soap operas and Horney, has delved into the deepest recesses, people’s last possibility of experiencing themselves has been cut off by organized culture. Ready-made enlightenment […]” In this aphorism we discover exactly what kind of experience the culture industry castrates, namely, “Terror before the abyss of the self,” which, Adorno observes, “is removed by the consciousness of being concerned with nothing so very different from arthritis or sinus trouble.” The bottom line for Adorno’s shared philosophy in light of the Hollywood film, the television soap opera, and American ego psychology is the axiomatic doctrine of Critical Theory that necessarily follows in the wake of an epoch which has decimated even the sublime terror before the abyss of the self: “Thus conflicts lose their menace.” If there is a “doctrine” in first generation or originary Critical Theory, it is the negative imago of a positive one that registers the fundamental antagonism of the self, the “productive tension”67 of a multilayered socio-psychological topography embedded in significant cultural productions, and which schematizes the heroic art of rebellion between the inner and outer worlds of the individual.68 The negative of the positive imago of this productive tension is automated by “The eye of the camera which has perceived the conflict before the viewer and projected it upon the unresisting smoothly unfolding reel of film” —a freewheeling projected film reel which Adorno thinks “has already taken care that the conflicts are not conflicts at all.”69 So when Adorno takes note that even the disruptive montage techniques of the avant-garde “come to resemble the lack of resistance of the cinematographic technique” (he is thinking of Brecht’s belated “attempt to salvage theatre” [sic]), it becomes all too evident that the mechanically reproducible “age of film after the disintegration of psychology”70 officially confirms that the terror before the abyss of the self has been terrorized away by mass media. In short, film exterminates the imago of psychoanalysis.

“Extermination” in Adorno’s film theory or cinema studies can only mean, as we have already broached, the theorem of negative reconciliation: unity in destruction or dis/integration. The lethal reduction of the orthodox method to ready-made formulas is poignantly unpacked in Adorno’s early 1950’s television studies at the Hacker Foundation in Beverly Hills. The serial soap opera is, for Adorno, the clearest indicator that the imago of Freudian philosophy has turned-round-upon-itself in a manner famously coined by Leo Löwenthal and whom the former cites in the topsy-turvy formula “psychoanalysis in reverse.” Löwenthal’s suggestive schema is fruitfully worked out in Adorno’s “Television as Ideology” in the following way: “Psychoanalysis, or whatever type of psychotherapy involved [i.e., in the “stereotypes operating within the schema” of the written television script71], is reduced and reified in a way that not only expresses disdain for this type of praxis but changes its meaning into its very opposite.”72 A psychoanalysis (and its psychotherapeutic application) which reverses and flips its meaning on its head, so to speak, ultimately abdicates in fascism’s formula for desublimation, one that is administered via the television sets of millions of viewers. “The difference between the sketch and psychoanalysis,” delineated by the schema of mass media, “is simply that the sketch exalts the very same syndrome which is treated by psychoanalysis as a reversion to infantile developmental phases and which the psychoanalyst tries to dissolve.”73 The ideology of a psychoanalytic reversal (in the wake of Horney’s neo-Freudian revisionism no doubt) weakens and undoes the ego’s mechanisms of defense, thereby ultimately chiseling away at the resistances of the viewer. Recasting Löwenthal’s dialectically enlightened formula, Adorno is sketching “with the aid of depth-psychological categories”74 the mass schema of dis/integration (adaptation, assimilation, liquidation) vis-à-vis a grand theorem of desublimation. The same “depth-psychology” that Adorno deploys is precisely the one he disavows in his aphorism against mass media and unorthodox revisionism: “Now that depth-psychology, with the help of films, soap operas and Horney…” Psychoanalysis in reverse is the reversal of depth-psychological categories which define the multilayered topographies of the psyche, as Adorno observes: “The implication [of applying Löwenthal’s formula to mass media] is that somehow the psychoanalytic concept of a multilayered personality has been taken up by culture industry, but that the concept is used in order to ensnare the consumer as completely as possible and in order to engage him psychodynamically in the service of premeditated effects.”75 In other words: in order to consume the consumer.

This procedure, by the way, was shockingly anticipated by the polymorphously perverse reversals of psychoanalysis among the founding members of the orthodox movement itself. Take Sandor Ferenczi, for instance, who Adorno views as marking the “historical transformation in the function of psychoanalysis from a radical medium of enlightenment to practical adjustment to existing conditions.”76 Adorno is here criticizing Ferenczi’s concept of the “rationalizations of the superego” as forging the normative imago that lays the groundwork for the institutional superstructure and official cultural psychotherapy of ego psychology. Adorno’s productive orthodoxy salvages psychoanalysis as a “radical medium of enlightenment” analogous with the “Marxist doctrine of ideology”; as in Horkheimer’s productive schema, Freudian critical philosophy for Adorno endeavors to disclose the compulsive rationalizations which conceal unconscious defense mechanisms in an effort “to bring about what was hidden to light.”77 The unconscious, in other words, that is but the topography of a battlefield ruin, the disenchanted terrain in which metaphysical hiding places of the mind delineate the monogrammatology of a lingering wound wherein hope lies for a better future. The concealed art of psychoanalysis discovered in the depths of the human psyche promises to shatter the phantasmagoria of Kant’s enigmatic message at the heart of the transcendental schematism. This collaborative art between psychoanalysis and philosophy culminates in the posthumous exhibition which displays the recovered collection of lost etchings each presenting a unique palimpsest: “The specific differences between individuals are equally scars inflicted by society and emblems of human freedom.”78

*          *          *

The imago of Simmel in Horkheimer’s eulogy curiously repeats the imago of Fenichel in Simmel’s 1946 eulogy “Otto Fenichel”79—all of which reinforce the imago archetype of Freud, forged in the discursive crucible (of funeral oration after funeral oration) that preserves in verba magistri precisely in the sublation of the master’s discourse. Simmel, in his eulogy to Fenichel, enunciates the enigmatic message by means of which orthodoxy as a productive force obstinately refuses to die: “For with Fenichel’s death, Freud has died once more.”And similarly: “With Fenichel we lose Freud once more.”80 This is implicitly meant as an echo of Simmel’s earlier eulogy to Freud: “In losing Freud we lose our leader.”81 What is particularly moving in this speech is that, while the psychoanalytic community mourns the death of their leader, Simmel observes that Freud has already prior to his death and as if in preparation for it freed himself from the burden of succession. Simmel formulates it in the following terms: “Freud dismisses us after carefully having prepared us to bear his loss.”82 How does Freud “prepare” his followers for his loss? Simply put, Freud prepares the reception of his own death via his later theoretical insight that “identification is displaceable.” Freud assists his future mourners in how to mourn the death of their psychoanalytic object par excellence, namely, their fading imago of the metapsychology always already prone to the imminent-immanent danger of eclipsing intellectual superstructures. Simmel’s thought is that because “Freud was not confident that his followers would succeed in identifying themselves with him as a person and remain faithful to his work,” he therefore embarked on a way to overcome his anxiety over the very question of succession.83 Over the course of sixteen years prior to his death, Simmel observes, Freud labored over his theory of identification in light of his earlier theory of mourning in which the loss of a loved object is incorporated-devoured only to lose it once more. Returning to Horkheimer’s eulogy, we might suggest the following coda: In losing the object of psychoanalysis, philosophy loses not only Freud, but also—and more urgently—the penultimate edition of enlightened philosophy itself. Horkheimer and Adorno’s shared philosophy dismisses its critical successors by preparing them to mourn the death of Critical Theory.


Luis Recoder is a visual artist and thinker working primarily in the medium of film. His work was recently featured in the group exhibition “Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905-2016” at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and “Celluloid: Tacita Dean, João Maria Gusmão & Pedro Paiva, Rosa Barba, Sandra Gibson & Luis Recoder” at the EYE Film Museum in Amsterdam. The solo exhibition “Light Spill: An Installation by Gibson + Recoder” is currently on view at the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, New York through March 26, 2017.

For further information and to contact the author: www.gibsonrecoder.com & www.resettheapparatus.net

The author and guest editor of “Orthodox” wishes to express his gratitude to dissertation committee members at The New School for Social Research, Simon Critchley and J.M. Bernstein, for their generous support and feedback on an earlier draft of this paper. “Productive Orthodoxy” is part of a broader study on Adorno’s lifelong encounter with psychoanalytic theory.