This essay examines three texts that were published in 1950: Aimé Césaire’s Discourse on Colonialism, Adorno et al.’s The Authoritarian Personality, and Octave Mannoni’s Prospero and Caliban: The Psychology of Colonization. I use these texts to examine critical theory’s colonial unconscious through its silence on the colonial problem and the marshaling of psychoanalysis to justify colonialism. In its first part I look into how Césaire’s Discourse challenges Adorno’s historiographical narratives, civilizational units of analysis, conceptual building blocks, and modality of critique in The Authoritarian Personality. I then engage Césaire’s critique of Mannoni’s deployment of psychoanalysis to account for the dependency of the colonized on the colonizer. I conclude by highlighting how both Adorno’s notions of the liquidation of the individual by an increasingly standardized society and colonial notions of weak individuality (Mannoni) rely on a psychoanalytic notion of ego weakness. These critical diagnoses lamenting the deficit of individuals, which no longer exist in a late capitalist era characterized by standardization in the metropoles or have not yet come into being as they are still entangled in culture in the peripheries, foreclose the possibility of emancipatory political practice and internationalist solidarity by excising revolutionary subjects and their practices from the domain of the political.

You do not currently have access to this content.