Oedipal Conflict

Essay by GoorslyUniversity, Bachelor'sA, March 2006

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Relying on material from his self-analysis and on anthropological studies of totemism, Freud developed the Oedipus complex as an explanation of the formation of the superego. The traditional paradigm in a (male) child's psychological coming-into-being is to first select the mother as the object of libidinal investment. This however is expected to arouse the father's anger, and the infant surmises that the most probable outcome of this would be castration. Although Freud devoted most of his early literature to the Oedipus complex in males, by 1931 he was arguing that females do experience an Oedipus complex, and that in the case of females, incestuous desires are initially homosexual desires towards the mothers. It is clear that in Freud's view, at least as we can tell from his later writings, the Oedipus complex was a far more complicated process in female than in male development. Freud used the term "Oedipus complex" for both males and females, and did not like the way rivals had coined the term "Electra Complex" for the process in girls.

The infant internalizes the rules pronounced by his father. This is how the super-ego comes into being. The father now becomes the figure of identification, as the child wants to keep his phallus, but resigns from his attempts to take the mother, shifting his libidinal attention to new objects of desire.

Philosophers Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze, along with radical psychoanalyst Félix Guattari, have used their work to show how internalized power structures are a function of the world order we live in, bent on disciplining the subject. Discipline is meant by Foucault in both its senses, arguing that the science of man has created its own object, relying on Friedrich Nietzsche's concept of the will to power. According to this theory the Oedipus Complex...