Our view of the relationship between psychoanalysis and sociology will be mainly determined by our view of the relationship between the individual and society. Direct sociological applications of psychoanalysis are impractical unless the forces which dominate the mental life of the individual likewise exercise a decisive influence in the life of society, or at least unless social happenings are deducible from individual behavior. But apart from the consideration that psychoanalysis has not yet effected a comprehensive differential study of the individual, the investigator may well be restrained from any such attempt by his recognition of the unique nature of society. Psychoanalysis, therefore, is still far from exercising an exhaustive or even an extensive influence in the domain of sociology. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that even today psychoanalysis, leaving its own immediate field to enter the field of social science, can render here services of considerable importance.
Apart from this, there is an indirect but more promising point of contact between the two disciplines. The point is interesting because psychoanalysis is in this matter sharply distinguished from the other branches of psychology, and acquires in this connection a character peculiar to itself. I refer to those achievements of psychoanalysis which elucidate the part played by society in individual development. Psychoanalytical study has gone far to convince us that purely individual psychological categories are solely explicable through their relationships with one’s environment and community. In this way, psychoanalysis, without propounding the priority of society in any metaphysical sense, has been led to recognize the existence of an intimate mutual determinism between individual and society. Psychoanalysts, indeed, have been much occupied with the study of this mutual determinism, though not so much from the standpoint of society as from that of the individual, and above all from that of the psychopath.
At the outset, psychoanalysis was nothing more than a branch of psychiatry. Now our science has greatly transcended these limits, not only in a psychological direction, but also in a sociological direction, but it is critical to note that this transcendence is not a broadening of focus but a deepening of analysis. The causes of these new developments are various. The most important point of all is that psychoanalysis is avowedly physiological, that one of the main impulses for its development has come from those who were satiated with phrase-making concerning the nervous system and the ‘nerve centers.’ In addition, psychoanalysis is metaphysical, in so far as its essence lies in the descent into a stratum of facts with which no one has until now been systematically concerned. Consequently, it has become necessary to throw a new light on the mutual relationships of individuals.
Nevertheless, analytical treatment is predominantly social in character, since it does not consist of physical influences, but of the psychical collaboration of another human being, the physician. It is true that the same assertion might be made of all branches of psychotherapeutics. But there is an obvious and important distinction. Other methods of psychotherapeutics endeavor to work through persuasion, suggestion, hypnosis; they do not aim at unlocking and rebuilding the suffering soul but at its mechanical guidance. Now the whole spirit of psycho-analysis is not mechanical but organic. Psychoanalysis is not sorcery but work. Society manifests itself quite differently in the analyzer and in the hypnotist respectively; utterly different is the aspect of individuality in the subject of psychoanalysis and in the subject of suggestion. The act of persuasion is as it were pseudo-rationalistic, external, and physical; the act of psychoanalysis is as it were intensely rationalistic, internal, and social.
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