In 1932 the League of Nations approached Albert Einstein (1879-1955) with the suggestion that he exchange ideas with a person of his choice on a topic of his choice. Einstein chose Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and the theme "Why War?". The two did not meet, they exchanged letters. Einstein's question not only had the greatest consequences, he also hoped for clarification from the psychoanalyst.
Now there are classic wars, civil wars, partisan wars, asymmetric wars and cyber wars, just to name a few, are there also psychological wars?
This means less psychological warfare, but the war that is being waged inward, that everyone has to fight with themselves, so very personally. But aren't there motives here that can be extended to society as a whole, which are inscribed in the modern social formation as such?
Then a psychological analysis of the war would not only be artificially added, but would hit the mark. The psychological constitution of the individuals would provide information about the constitution of society and its deficits, which can turn into violence.
Einstein asks: "Is there a way to liberate mankind from the fate of war?" Einstein builds, without being certain, on education for peace from an early age and goes on to ask: "Is there a way to direct the psychological development of people in such a way that they become more resistant to the psychoses of hate and destruction?"
Freud answers in general terms: "Everything that promotes the development of culture works against war." But it quickly turns out that he himself isn't convinced, and that's unsettling.
From kitchen psychology, the tenet could follow that war is an act that bundles and discharges excess aggression from many individuals. But the drives are not so monocausal. Every drive is confronted with the opposite drive, the aggressive or destructive drive with the love drive. More simply, it is a dualism of Eros and Thanatos.
Freud pointed out that each drive contains elements of the other. They are alloyed. The love instinct requires a mastery instinct in order to lead to success. Any falling in love that is initially associated with a certain detachment and caution feeds on the urge to want to have control over the other (people).
But who among us hasn't experienced the end of a relationship when it occurred to the other person that it's nicer somewhere else. One would like to set all the dogs from heaven and hell on his or her neck.
Only in rare cases does violence occur as a result. Freud locates its source in early childhood. In toddlers, relationships with the environment are objectified, and if this object relationship is broken too abruptly, the urge to love quickly turns to hate. Or also in narcissism, the self-love that gets by without the connection to other people. Narcissism is then the commandment for self-preservation without beating around the bush.
The aggressive instinct is short and good part of Eros and vice versa. The living being preserves its own life by destroying that of others. Doesn't this sentence, which describes the possible psychopathological development of a human life, also pass as war rhetoric?
That may sound like an exaggeration. Killing fantasies usually do not turn into reality. But in connection with wars, isn't the "license to kill" spoken of? Freud: "What is otherwise denounced as selfish and inhuman is not only allowed in war, but even desired." And in anticipation of the SS henchmen, who killed en masse, he writes: "Bad intentions can officially become bad deeds."
Freud continues: "Even in the blindest destructive rage one cannot fail to recognize that its gratification is linked to an extremely high level of narcissistic enjoyment."1 Disinhibition is the most important psychological preparation for war.
Einstein signed an appeal against war in 1914. In 1915 Freud published contemporary articles on war and death. Both described themselves as pacifists. Einstein explains what that is: "Isn't it better to die for a cause you believe in than to suffer for a cause you don't believe in, like war?"
War also squanders resources that would be sufficient for a decent life on the planet.
Pacifism as a product of the nervous age
While Freud would describe himself as apolitical, Einstein often got away with his "emotional socialism". Because he had an ambivalent relationship to the actually existing socialism in the Soviet Union. Sometimes he tried to justify political persecution and convictions, sometimes he branded them as "desperate acts of an in