Conscious inhibitions: Freud, anti-Semitism, and Hobbesian imagination

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This work aims to portray the effects of Freud’s anxiety about anti-Semitic violence on his political theory and metapsychology. Taking as its entry point Freud’s reorientation of anti-Semitism as aggressive action, I argue that Freud’s fear of the violent mob can be located in three interconnected dimensions of his work, all deeply informed by Hobbesian imagination. First, Freud accepted a Hobbesian vision of social antagonism into his political theory; second, he formulated a deeper, more efficient defence mechanism against mob violence with his notion of psychical guilt; third, Freud’s fears penetrated his metapsychology. Suffering from anti-Semitism, Freud was not only quick to accept a Hobbesian perspective – he also reconstructed it to a degree that radically changed its meaning. Freud’s third and most pervasive manoeuvre destabilized one of Hobbes’s fundamental theoretical tenets by suggesting that the Hobbesian State of Nature is inherently a non-human reality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349-365
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Modern Jewish Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • anti-Semitism
  • Freud
  • Hobbes
  • political theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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