Part II: Freedom in Adorno
In this section, Rozmarin employs the critical theory of Theodore Adorno (from the section on ‘Freedom’ in his work, Negative Dialectics) and the philosophical archeology of Foucault to describe how subjectivity and notions of freedom change with historical shifts in power, government, and what constitutes ‘truth’. In place of the power of absolute monarchy and the king’s arbitrary rule, the Enlightenment placed self-sufficient ‘Reason’. Rather than being subjected to the sovereign’s techniques of bodily discipline and punishment, new state technologies created a self-governing subject who internalized ‘an obligation to be normal’. Exterior power that regulates acceptable behavior became an interior power resulting in the pressure to conform to the norms of others. It is at this historical juncture, Rozmarin explains, that the psychoanalytic subject was born (p.325).
Adorno sees the superego as ‘the subjective trace of the old king’ (p.325), which casts a spell over the subject, dimming his/her individual will and consciousness in order to effectively maintain the subject’s state of compliance to the norms of society. Adorno realized that a critique of the superego would have to be a critique of the society that produces the superego. Adorno claims that psychoanalysis failed to pursue this possibility and instead became a repressive discourse of social control. What is freedom when the subject of psychoanalysis is under the spell of a superego that maintains an internalized pressure to comply with the demands of society for ‘normalcy’ (these demands being most effectively communicated through the social institution of the family)?
Adorno claims that the idea of a ‘pure subjectivity’ is a perverted notion that denies the reality of the subject’s inseparability from the world. Therefore, any idea of freedom must be conceived of as a relation between the subject and others and between the subject and the collective. This is illuminated by Adorno’s further reflections on the superego as ‘the presence in the subject of all that is other than the subject, of the interests and needs of others, of sociality in general…’ (p.327). This expanded notion of the superego points to the possibility of new forms of freedom. Rozmarin now clearly elucidates the kind of freedom that he believes can be sought through psychoanalysis:
The potential for freedom lies in the difference between a subject who is conscious of his embeddedness in society and his consequent dependence and responsibility and a subject intent on defying his embeddedness, destined to existence in self-estrangement in a foreign world that is hostile to his pleas (p.328).
Rozmarin passionately asserts that psychoanalysis must not condemn individuals to an illusion of separateness and unquestionable social normativity where the only question that the individual in trouble can ask is ‘What’s wrong with me?’ ‘For there to be freedom we must also ask and allow the subject to ask “What’s wrong with the world?’ (p. 329).