In modern times, Freud’s ideas are often fused along with that of Karl Marx and Ferdinand de Saussure into one amalgamate theory of social formation. Under this theory, the commodity form, which is fundamental to capitalist exchange, is “complemented by a paradoxical alteration in the relations of consumers and products, through, first, the evolution of a sign exchange system and a change in the consumer in the direction of intensified narcissism.” (Gane, 1991, p. 61) Baudrillard chips in to synthesize this theory, by suggesting a ‘concept of personalization through the commodity.’ (Gane, 1991, p. 61) He contends that under the capitalist exchange human beings are to varying degrees alienated from one another. They also suffer depersonalization to the extent that what passes for popular culture is one of people acting like combinatorial machines. Instead of being an intricate and intellectually engaging experience, culture is reduced to the ‘smallest marginal difference in style and status’ among the constituent individuals. Extending on Freudian Theory, Braudrillard asserts that the new culture is far from being a complex syntax. Instead, its basic elements are mixed together “in multiples such as the structure of the basic question and response survey. The individual is summoned to choose from a range of objects, and a range of questions, and a range of credit companies. This is a consumer society.” (Gane, 1991, p. 61) It is fair to claim that Freud would have assented to this condemnation of social formation witnessed in capitalist societies.
One of the key contributions of Freudian Theory is its articulation of family relationships in terms of assuaging primal fears or satisfying primal instincts. The development of the concept of the superego is of particular interest as it showed “the admixture of childhood fear and idealization of the father as essential elements of the internalization of authority, both the personal authority of the father and bourgeois authority relationships in general. This meant that children of either sexes tend to willingly submit to paternal authority in the knowledge that it would offer them a protective figure. Sacrificed in this bargain is expectation of unconditional love from the father, which is naturally sought from and offered by the mother figure. The psychological aspects of family structure and organization inform and build Freud’s theorization of social formation. (Langman, 1991, p. 168) For example, Freud believed that many of an adult’s predispositions toward politics and cultural sensitivities are determined to a great extent by parental values and socialized character. Authoritarianism as a dimension of character “could explain a number of seemingly unrelated aspects of economy, class and political ideologies.” Through the theory of depth psychology Freud helped augment another dimension to modern Marxist thought. In particular, it threw light on the processes of socialization
“through which a society transformed desire and domination into willing assent to secure its reproduction. Just as ideology obscured the operations of an economy, the individual’s defences mystified his or her behaviour to the person. But further, it showed in more precise ways how the social formation fostered suffering.” (Langman, 1991, p. 168)