This essay attempts to formulate a more convincing understanding of the new anthropological type than one finds in The Authoritarian Personality, one rooted in Adorno’s work but never articulated by Adorno himself. It begins by challenging Adorno’s use of the term ego weakness, for the primary reason that so much of his writing is devoted to describing an incipient rigidity and instrumentality in thinking that is most aptly characterized as a form of ego strength. The central claim is that the new anthropological type is not in fact a psychological type but rather an emergent tendency in anyone who can be called a subject of late capitalism, and that it is a tendency that pulls us in two directions simultaneously: one toward an exacting but prescribed rationality and the other toward a wild and unthinking irrationality. The new anthropological type can and does serve two masters but at the expense of the superego, in theory the developmental heir to id energy and moral adversary of the ego. The superego, in this view, is what creates the kind of inner psychic tension of which Adorno was constantly bemoaning the loss.
Research Article|October 01 2018
The Psychic Makeup of the New Anthropological Type
Benjamin Y. Fong
South Atlantic Quarterly (2018) 117 (4): 757-771.
Benjamin Y. Fong; The Psychic Makeup of the New Anthropological Type. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 October 2018; 117 (4): 757–771. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-7165845
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