Politzer, Georges (1903-1942)
POLITZER, GEORGES (1903-1942)
Georges Politzer, a French philosopher, was born May 3, 1903, in Nagyvarad, Hungary, and died on May 23, 1942, in Mont-Valérien, France, where he was shot by a firing squad. Born into a Jewish family, Politzer's father, a doctor, is said to have participated in the 1919 communist regime in Budapest. Young Politzer was soon confronted by the upheavals that shook Central Europe following World War I. Forced to leave Hungary, he stayed briefly in Vienna, where he appears to have embraced the work of Sigmund Freud, then moved to Paris in 1921.
Politzer majored in philosophy at the Sorbonne, where he studied with Léon Brunschvicg, whose rationalism had a profound effect on his thinking in spite of his later repudiation of the man. He became a naturalized French citizen in 1924 and received his philosophy degree in 1926. In 1930 he became a professor as well as a political militant, apparently losing all interest in psychology.
His interest in psychoanalysis can be traced to 1924 and the publication, in the review Philosophies, of two articles, "Médecine ou philosophie?" and "Le mythe de l'antipsychanalyse" (in Politzer, 1969). Two themes emerged from these publications: Freud had revolutionized the science of man by inventing a method that could be used to grasp the individual in his singularity while avoiding the abstraction that characterized contemporary psychology. But when Freud tried to establish a theoretical foundation for his general intuitions, he fell into the grip of classical psychology with its emphasis on formalism, abstraction, and realism. This is discussed in Politzer's Critique des fondements de la psychologie (1928), where Freud's thought is used as a weapon against conventional psychology and as a model for the construction of the object of the concrete psychology of the future — the drama, or the dramatic life to the extent that it is the subject of a story. Politzer makes use of Freud's texts in a way no French philosopher had until then, especially The Interpretation of Dreams. The first six chapters are described to be exemplary for concrete psychology; the last, however, is strongly criticized, especially the passage in which Freud discusses regression, where Politzer sees a resurgence of psychological realism in the materialist concept of the psychic apparatus. He also felt that the concept of the unconscious belonged more to nineteenth-century philosophy and traditional psychology, and was an obscure concept that negated the real inspiration of psychoanalysis. He outlined the conflict between Freud's method and his theories, a dichotomy later picked up by many other philosophers.
Politzer became a member of the Communist Party in 1929. That same year he published "La crise de la psychanalyse" in La Revue de psychologie concrète and "Un faux contre-révolutionnaire, le freudo-marxisme," which appeared in 1933 in Commune, and in 1939, on the occasion of Freud's death, "La fin de la psychanalyse" in La Pensée (republished in Politzer, 1969). These articles articulate the split between a committed Marxist and psychoanalysis, which he condemned for its supposed dogmatism.
Politzer's 1928 book has influenced a number of French philosophers, especially Sartre and Merleau-Ponty, through the author's critique of the unconscious and the importance he gives to meaning in understanding human behavior. In 1946 Jacques Lacan wrote a glowing encomium to Politzer's life and work.
See also: France; Marxism and psychoanalysis; Philosophy and psychoanalysis; Psychic apparatus.
Politzer, Georges. (1994). Critique of the foundations of psychology: the psychology of psychoanalysis. (Maurice Apprey, Trans.) Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press. (Original work published 1928)
——. (1969).Écrits 2. (J. Debouzy, Ed.) Paris:Éditions Sociales.