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Political Theories of Narcissism: Towards the Self-Reflection of Knowledge and Politics from the Psychoanalytic Perspectives of Erich Fromm and Shōzō Fujita

Sakurai, Takamichi

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My research re-introduces two social and political thinkers, Erich Fromm (1900-80) and Shōzō Fujita (1927-2003). It would seem that there is no need to go into any detail about the former. He has been generally regarded as a German-American social psychologist who integrated Marx’s historical materialism with Freud’s instinct theory by way of Weberian sociology. The latter is most commonly regarded as a Japanese political thinker who focused on the study of the Tennō system (Tennōsei) as a Japanese system of government. As we shall see later, it appears that Fromm and Fujita share no link, in the sense of different disciplines and historical backgrounds. Despite these clear differences, however, their academic works have much in common in some respects. First, they both concern themselves with psychoanalytic theory with a focus on the concept of ‘narcissism’ in the social range. Second, they are both in favour of some important theoretical tools and components of philosophy, such as ‘dialectic’ and ‘immanent critique’. Third, they warn against the contemporary tendency and attitude to be indifferent to others and things that do not concern oneself and to exploit others to one’s own advantage in terms of one’s unconscious narcissistic state of mind. Perhaps the first and third common viewpoints are profoundly associated with their contemporaneousness, as both lived chiefly in the twentieth century. In other words, their standpoints are concerned with contemporary phenomena widely seen in many industrialised societies, and it is therefore quite natural that both theorists should lay stress on these two perspectives, particularly taking account of their academic foundations. Apart from these two examples of common grounds, it should be noted that the second common point of view is also related to their similar academic backgrounds. Roughly speaking, both Fromm and Fujita absorbed their intellectual knowledge primarily from Hegel, Marx and Freud. From this perspective, it is not surprising that they have similar theoretical ingredients. In this respect, it is even possible to believe that they are exact heirs of traditional Critical Theory in favour of the task of achieving Mündigkeit, even though many scholars are opposed to this view of their works despite Fromm’s early contributions to the Institute for Social Research and Fujita’s theoretical components capturing the essence of critique.

Having said that, my research shines a light not only on their positive theoretical conventions but also on the common negative ingredients in their theories of narcissism. Both their standpoints regard narcissism as a major hindrance to social life. For this reason, we have considerable difficulty in dealing with the problem and therefore in curing the disease by applying their social and political theories due to the fact that narcissism is one of the most fundamental human needs. For the purpose of surmounting this theoretical aporia, I introduce Heinz Kohut’s psychoanalytic theory, which is in favour of and accepts the desire and existence of narcissism concerning human nature. On the basis of his stance on narcissism, as we shall see below, my research examines how we perceive and experience our democratic life.

Item Type: Dissertation
Supervisor: Seifert, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang
Place of Publication: Heidelberg
Date of thesis defense: 25 March 2014
Date Deposited: 03 Jun 2016 11:51
Date: 2016
Faculties / Institutes: Philosophische Fakultät > Dekanat der Philosophischen Fakultät
Subjects: 100 Philosophy
320 Political science
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