Freud and the wars


The views held by Sigmund Freud on war, a phenomenon understood as a social symptom, are collected. It brings together his ideas on war throughout his work, especially in the period around the First World War and the years leading up to the Second Great War. Freud’s starting point was the individual psyche and social relations, analysed from a theoretical framework developed for the understanding of the functioning of the psyche. With a critical analysis of the concept of drive – of life and death – in Freudian psychoanalytic theory.

Sigmund Freud, war, peace, education, life drive, death drive, psychoanalysis

[Automatic translation from Spanish]:

[…] Disputes in the psychoanalytic movement preceded the war, and those who had opposed Freud lost some battles. Adler, Jung, and his followers were «victims» while Freud saw no reason to question his military capabilities. It took for granted the peace that had occurred in a stable world where students, patients, money and ideas freely crossed international borders, facilitating the spread of psychoanalysis (Breger, 2001). The declaration of war put an end to this situation. Freud’s writings about war, not being a first-order subject in his work, coincided with the outbreak of World War I in 1914, on the occasion of World War I’s development and end in 1918, and in the 1930s, with the pre-World War II social conflicts in September 1939 and the exile in London, where he was able to go through Marie Bonaparte, and where he remained for a year.


Freud called for death to be linked to the reality of life, rather than not considering it as it was happening, offering a living presence of death that is more and more bearable, because preserving life leads us to try to remain alive. We know that death is a social taboo, especially some expressions of death. Some are persecuted and tried morally, as we have seen in social and partisan opinions about suicide and euthanasia. This is happening today and it was happening more than a century ago, so that Freud’s writings on this taboo were from […]

Iñaki Markez
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