Follow Countercurrents on Twitter 


Support Us

Popularise CC

Join News Letter




Editor's Picks

Press Releases

Action Alert

Feed Burner

Read CC In Your
Own Language

Bradley Manning

India Burning

Mumbai Terror

Financial Crisis


AfPak War

Peak Oil



Alternative Energy

Climate Change

US Imperialism

US Elections


Latin America









Book Review

Gujarat Pogrom

Kandhamal Violence



India Elections



Submission Policy

About Us


Fair Use Notice

Contact Us

Search Our Archive


Our Site


Subscribe To Our
News Letter

Name: E-mail:


Printer Friendly Version

“Portrait” That Failed!

By Anil Pundlik Gokhale

20 October, 2012

(Review and Critique of “The Indians: Portrait of A People” by Dr. Sudhir &Katharina Kakkar)

“With the progress of psycho-analytic studies the importance of the Oedipus complex has become more and more clearly evident; its recognition has become the shibboleth that distinguishes the adherents of psycho-analysis from its opponents' (Freud, 1905)

Introduction-Why Review of ‘Portrait'

I have always been an admirer of Dr. Sudhir Kakkar and read his fictions, non fictions and debates with admiration for powers of his imagination and intellectual capacities. Recently I stumbled against the book – The Indians, Portrait of a people, published by Viking- Penguin Books of India, published in 2007. My curiosity to glimpse through the Portrait by this prolific writer, the world renowned psychoanalyst, counted and profiled by renowned French and German weeklies as one of the top thinkers in the World, co- authored by anthropologist Katherine was heightened by the worldwide reviews (includes Le Monde & Die Zeit etc), overwhelming appreciation of the book from almost all quarters of Print and Web media.

As such it's a magnanimous job for a psychoanalyst to create even a fleeting Image of a people to create ‘Cultural Portrait' in black and white certainly, are an unusual difficult subject and a project, requiring conceptual clarity, scientific methodology and technical investigative skills par excellence.

As we know, ‘Indian' as a people, have been crusader of globalizing integration of civilization from ancient times and spearheading Global human discourse through Trade and Culture. Indus Civilization linked itself to Egypt , Mesopotamia , China , Greece and Europe . Reciprocally India as recipient of western cultural heritage is proud to have Terracotta and sphinx even in interiors of India . Integration of Western and Eastern Cultures formed the corner stone of India 's ‘Culture'. ‘Portrait' of Indian' must be reviewed on the background of this reciprocity. Author's have attempted to analyze the ‘Cultural character' of Indian people' driven and determined by powerful influencing remnants of its pre-historic and archaic mythologies.

I took upon the book with high expectations of his imaginative treatments like the one in “Mira and the Mahatma” or “Kama sutra”. Leading light of ‘Cinematic Culture', Shyam Benegal in OUTLOOK remarks, “A compelling work on the cultural character of the Indian people…both provocative and revealing”. A few critical reviews of the book however have sneered at the book, as marked by ‘determinism' and being a partial ‘Portrait' of life of middle classes, the main beneficiary of this process of globalization.

Adolf Hall calls “ The Indians , as sociology of the middle class, as a description of a section of society that is the bearer of globalization ”. Reviewer Rudolf Herdelia says, “The portrayal here is of the upper and upper-middle castes, and by the authors own admission, “others at the margins of Hindu society (such as Dalits and tribals or the Christians and the Muslims) will spot only fleeting resemblances”. “This book takes a psychological, or rather a psychoanalytical perspective from a culture-logical stance”.

My interest was spurned precisely by a very few reviews taking note of the ‘political conclusions and solutions ' spelt out in chapters ‘Hindu Muslim' conflict and ‘religious and spiritual life' and have termed them as “Brilliant”. These significant remarks prompted me to look out for truthful and insightful applications of psychoanalytic techniques and methods to discover ‘Portrait of Indian' since it represents critical test for Indian Psychoanalysis.

Objectives, structure of “Portrait' and ‘patriarchal family'.

In Sushi Kakkar's opinion ‘uniqueness' of the book lies in its articulation of “cultural-psychological unity, not in the sense of uniformity but in the sense of ‘family resemblances'”. In first few pages of the Book, Authors introduce objectives of his project. “It was to draw a portrait of the Indian, by raveling the cultural part of the mind and the attitude towards superiors and subordinates, the family life which shapes the relations between sexes and ideal relationship with god”. In chapter, ‘Health and Healing' Authors makes one interesting remark, “aim is to essay a cultural analysis rather than psychoanalysis of Ramnath's condition”. Authors elaborate further, “Indeed interested in focusing on the ‘conscious world of the Indians” and in demonstrating “the consciousness shaped by rituals and vast storehouse of mythological images”. Authors have also proclaimed that methodology adopted in ‘Portrait' is similar to or close to that of Twentieth century Austro- German Expressionist Painter Max Beckman and Oskar Kokoschka It will be interesting to see whether the promised endeavor in this ‘Cultural Analysis' is achieved.

The structural setting of the book on ‘Culture' unfolds chapter by chapter beginning from Ancient pre historic Hindu civilization and uncovers inexorable force exercised by the remnants in stabilized cultural relations in current Modern India . Authors unfolding of the portrait begin with portraying the hierarchical man, raveling the ‘inner experience of caste', conflicting cultures of Indian women: traditional and modern, sexuality and sexual repression, health and healing: dying and death, conflict: Hindus and Muslims and closes the book with religious and spiritual life of Indian. The ‘Cultural portrait' aims at expounding compelling heritage of these pre historic cultural remnants in the Indian behavior today, “to present a composite portrait in which Indians will recognize themselves and be recognized by others.”

For curious readers the closer look at the structure will reveal that there is another deeper sub-structure leading the readers into ‘anti- western' cultural recesses of Indian mind, chapter by chapter to establish ‘Indian ness' by sharp discriminative differentiation with the ‘western' with its moorings in his concept of ‘Hindu Gene-pool' . Author's profound skepticism about ‘West” is carried forward in to his “Book of Memories” on Confessions & Reflections, since he has not found an answer till then as to whether psychoanalysis ever stands a chance of catching on in the tradition-bound societies of South-Asia.

Authors have focused their investigation on the key building Blocks of ‘Indian ness' or Indian identity , “ an ideology around personal and especially family relationships” which are “profoundly influenced by the institution of caste, an image of the human body and bodily processes that is based on the medical system of Ayurveda, “ cultural imagination teeming with shared myths and legends, especially from the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata, a "romantic" vision of human life (in contrast to a more "ironic" vision prevalent in the West.”)

Authors' hard line against Western Fathers' and Ideology stands in contrast to soft and lenient line adopted in identifying Head of Indian family described as conservative but ‘benevolent patriarch' and Indian father as ‘Benevolent' father. He further defends Indian Authority as “ laying the foundations for a less hierarchical and closer father-son relationship. On the surface of the book core contrast appears to be ‘traditional and modern' within the conservative, male dominated Family Life of ‘Indian'. In the modern context Authors opinion that the early experience of fathers who are no longer distant and forbidding figures, who are available to both sons and daughters, often as playmates. It is incredible that Authors have not neither attempted to uncover the total suppression of matriarchic traditions of Indus and Dravidian pre history by Aryans nor have attempted to uncover the process of reification of ‘Autarchy' of fathers that turned function of woman in family as procreator and the making sexuality as moral only when it is in service of ‘procreation' which forms the core of reactionary behavior, ideology and politics shaping the character of patriarchal middle class family.

In last three chapters Authors expound conflict of characters, Nationalist and Flexible (Secular) within religious and spiritual life of Hindus. Last but one chapter which I call as ‘political chapter' Authors have focused on conflict of Hindus and Muslims, ‘building up' of communal violence, role of demagogues in facilitating violence. Authors have advocated and prescribed a readily available solution of ‘state intervention' to prevent it's spilling over of cataclysmic events like, Babri demolition and Gujarat Riots of 2002'. Here Authors stress pivotal and conclusive role of Indian Family not only as carrier and epitome of retrograde-regressive primordial reactionary ideology but as medium and springboard for aggression on devilish ‘Other'. Authors statement like “Hindu is born only when Muslim enters the scene' or “Cultural traditions—including the beliefs regarding the devilish ‘Other' – are transmitted through the family and have a line of development separate from the political and economic systems of a society” attempt to bring forward the ‘pivotal role' of patriarchal family.

Last chapter of the book is saddening that leading psychoanalyst has made peace with ‘Religion' and reposed their faith in ‘non religious religion'. Ending note of the book by ‘world renowned psychoanalyst' deals with spiritual facets of Indian Mind (to be precise hard core Hinduites from upper castes) and comprehending this world, constituted by three building blocks- Moksha, Dharma & Karma and thus complete the ‘Portrait' founded on family resemblances'.

The tame and pessimistic ending of the book reminded me of another book of renowned psychoanalyst, William Reich, on the same subject (The mass psychology of Fascism-First published on August 1933) of Culture, who stressed pivotal, mediating and reactionary function of ‘patriarchal family' in articulation and fostering the ‘Aryan Culture' of the Austro German people during an epoch which is regarded as darkest period of modern human history. William Reich went down into annuls history as true remarkable fighter against what Authors call ‘communal violence' of Nazis. His finest, highly insightful work on same subject elucidated regressive and dreadful role of ‘Patriarchal Family' which mediated the cultural articulations facilitating triumph of Nazism and Hitler. In contrast, Indian Authors, psychoanalysts agreeing to the same retrograde function of ‘patriarchal family' still are engaged in presenting to the world ‘Cultural Identity and Image' of the Indian, middle classes, as bearer of globalization. Authors seem to be highly disturbed by the catastrophic events of Babri demolition and Gujarat carnage of 2002 but did not see in them the advancing shadows of Fascism. Is it not worth asking the question to the Authors of Portrait, why two psychoanalysts dealing with same material should draw diametrically opposite conclusions on shape of the things unfolding before their eyes?

Ideological Framework and ‘Cultural Identity' in ‘Portrait'

Rudolf HERDIA makes a critical comment on Author's methodology. “Thus the authors insist that the cultural part of personal identity is wired into our brains as the “software” with which a child grows up, leaving limited possibilities for fluid and changing identities in adulthood. Such cultural determinism would not be in agreement with liberals and others, who hold on to the necessity and even inevitability of multiple flexible identities”. Authors of Portrait exhibits same determinism further. “He (child turning into adult) will not acquire full understanding of other cultures since the brain passes through the bottleneck of “culturalization”. Hence changing identities in adulthood are rather limited and moreover rarely touch upon the deeper layers of the psyche”. So in a sense we are Spanish or Korean --- or Indian” (p. 2). It indicates that Authors have adopted a non-psychoanalytic model.

Rudolf's criticism of ‘biological determinism' cannot be viewed as rooted in Freudian philosophy. I suspect that idea of the book ‘Portrait' germinated and grew on the basis of Dr. Sudhir Kakar's two contributions made elsewhere and are non psychoanalytic postulates. First, his Essays, ‘Culture in psychoanalysis' and second, his interview with Mr. Livio Boni both indicate his intrusion on regressive non-psychoanalytic path. Influenced by Eric Ericson, Authors have attempted to explore the application of his ideas to Indian context and to bring ‘culture' at the centre of his scientific paradigm. Sudhir kakkar in his detailed debate within psychoanalysis in chapter on ‘Culture in Psychoanalytic theory' has hailed Eric Erickson as “the most radical thinker on the issue of culture”. What were Erickson's contributions for Dr. Sudhir Kakkar? “He not only sought to bring the individual's cultural environment into the centre of the theoretical discussion….. “ but “Erickson saw the relationship between culture and self in terms of adaptive fit, the creation of a communal identity being indispensable to the individual identity ”. Sudhir Kakar's entire terminology in ‘Portrait', “culture doing the work of adaptation”, “culture giving specific meaning” to early childhood, “protecting individual members against anxiety” are all derived from Erikson's presentation and identification of this Model as “Organ modes and social modalities”. It is clear that these concepts, notions, ideas and theoretical ‘adaptation' framework have been knit into the fabric of ‘Portrait'. This inheritance is completely ‘non psychoanalytic'. It becomes evident when we read Dr. Sudhir Kakkar's remarks. “Language (Eric's) very different from traditional psychoanalytic description”. This notorious framework provided by Ericson has been conveniently adapted for the ‘Portrait' to pitch ‘Indian' identity against ‘western'.

Behavioral Psychologism and Defense of conformism!

Author's commitment to theory of ‘Hindu civilization' seems to be unflinching and buries the pre-Aryan and ‘ Indus civilization' deep into coffins along with its Cultural treasure house. Critique Sreenivasa Rao focuses on adopted confines of Kakkar's subject and object of enquiry. “Indian-ness in terms of a pre-eminently Hindu civilization that has contributed the major share to what he calls the “cultural gene pool” of India 's peoples”. Mughal and British civilizations have been ‘been gradually assimilated' hence relegated to the background! On the surface of the Book, Authors central focus appears to be ‘conflict' of ‘Modern Vs Traditional' as ‘L Monde' has commented. But Authors have added one more discriminative dimension to this framework, ‘Western Vs Indian' which I have called as ‘Sub structure' of the book, which takes the readers into next layers of the recesses the ‘social attitudinal' and behavioral traits'. Here, Authors' fundamental investigative and analytical postulates beneath the mighty conflict between ‘Western Culture and Indian Culture' need attention.

Conflict and Differentiation of Indian and Western can be summarized in Authors' own quotes, (scattered in the book) on fundamental attitudes and behavior. “A young Indian neither seeks a radical demarcation from the generation of his parents nor feels compelled to overthrow their authority ” (p. 15) this is in stark contrast to the west where ‘generational conflict is not only necessary …. For the renewal of the society's institutions … to be universally valid psychological truth” or “in spite of rapid social changes in the last decades, an Indian continues to be part of the hierarchically ordered and above all stable network of relationships” or “another legacy of Indian childhood in the superior subordinate or the reader follower relations is the idealization of the former”. “CEO of a modern company is here is the recipient of far greater if idealization than is usually the case in the west” (18). The repetition of same concept of ‘ homo hierarchic us' which means, ‘socio-ideological, historical-cultural and structural hegemony' is applied by Authors in chapter ‘Inner experience of caste' to identify behavior of the ‘lower castes' to follow the path provided by upper castes'.

This conflict of Indian and Western characters and behavior is carried forward to users of Ayurvedic and Western Medicines. Central to ‘Ayurvedic treatments of ‘Hindu Body and Mind' are two notions. One-conservation and transfer of semen from the lower realms of sexuality to the higher aims of spiritual development. Other one- Hindu mind treats the disease as “disturbance of the harmony between life- body and environment”. In contrast the western mind treats disease as something foreign caused by bacteria etc. This is extended to the notion of death. “Hindu mind as opposed to St. Paul's promise mitigates the universal dread of death by viewing it as interval between the present life and new- next life in the cycle” The universal dread of death is viewed by Hindu mind as interval between the present life and new- next life in the cycle”. In Authors' view these are ‘culture specific' fundamental ‘conformist' and submissive attitudes and qualities of Indian mind. Authors have undertaken “cultural analysis rather than psychoanalysis” on the basis of attitudes.

Authors' farfetched exercise is intended to draw the readers close to the bottom of the ‘sub structure', instinctual portion of Portrait of Indian. This postulate is intended to put up challenge to the fundamental postulates of Freudian Psychoanalysis in Indian context . Thus the conflict between Western and Indian cultures revolve around validity or rather invalidity of ‘Father –Son' conflict ( ‘Oedipus Complex') and resulting patricidal outbreak in adult life. Portrayal of the role of Indian father as benevolent caring figure, with “his emotional love for sons and co-existence” is defended by Authors on the foundations of “ a less hierarchical and closer father-son relationship. The early experience of fathers who are no longer distant and forbidding figures, who are available to both sons and daughters, often as playmates”.

The style and thrust of Authors' argument is not new. It has been part of the culture of ‘Indian psychoanalysts' to somehow protect their parochial positions by descending western fathers. It existed since founding of psychoanalysis in India by its exponent Mr. Girindrashekhar Bose in Calcutta , in thirties of last century. My exercise will be to explore theoretical assumptions of ‘Portrait' formulated elsewhere.

“Hierarchical Institutions” and ‘Counter Cultures' of descent.

Authors have defended their theses of “ stable network of relationships ” as foundations of Indian Culture.

“The deeply internalized hierarchical principle, the lens through which --- earliest years of child's life in the family, a grasp of the psychological dynamics of family life is vital not only for the understanding Indian behavior towards authority but also in a wide variety of other social situations” (8)

“If there is one ‘ism' that governs Indian society and institutions,” Authors state, “it is familyism.” It is an “ideology of relationships,” the unwritten rule of business and politics, built around the “joint family” in which brothers after marriage bring their wives into a parental household”.

Authors have pushed the discussions further in to chapter dealing with “The inner experience of caste” to investigate into the rule of hierarchy and the ‘eternal consciousness' of rank, a legacy of thousands of years of caste distinctions. It is intended to understand the ‘anatomy' of the ‘ossified' and ‘putrefied' caste system and its inescapable psychological rule. Authors point out that the entire immobility, clogging and repressive cultural network is associated not only with India but either existed or still exist in various countries including Japan, Korea, Europe, Hawaii, Arabia, and Africa with ‘strikingly parallel notions of ‘purity' and ‘pollution'. The ‘ Varna ' and ‘Jati' system is anchored and entrenched deeply in to our bones and blood by the words and notions, ‘purity' and ‘dirt'. Psychological training to associate ‘purity' with clean and ‘pollution' with dirty begins at the childhood in Hindu households but de-facto caste hierarchy also exists among the Christians, Muslims and Sikhs of India.

For the upper-caste child, a dalit is a member of a group that is permanently and irrevocably dirty. Authors almost connote and claim that Child's knowledge and identification of Dalit with Dirty is “pre-verbal”. Child mimics from the close family relatives the disgust and revulsion when Dalit comes close to it linking it to his own “gloriously dirty” state of his own body. This “preverbal” identity is questionable. This phylogenetic determinism is further stretched to defend ‘absolutely unshakable rigidity of social relations and pre determined life path of child's transformation into adulthood. Authors write, “ Modern egalitarian ideologies have led to a process of questioning by lower castes, but they have not broken the hold of hierarchy on the Indian mind”. “The argument appears to be well intended when Authors continue, “Though caste obligations can be more easily repudiated today, kinship claims still remain resilient”. The entire thrust of Author's treatment of caste system appears to be rational, progressive but Author's abyssal silence, throughout the book on socio-political rebellion by lower castes against the plight and pains inculcated over centuries and the impact they made is incomprehensive and intended to veil the defiance and insubordination by lower castes! Authors' concepts are fostered and dictated by ‘Adaptive ‘Ericksonian model'. The subjects, which are in subversive conflict with adaptive Erickson's Model, such as, revolt by the down trodden, destruction of Indus Culture, suppression of matriarchy by coercive installation of ‘patriarchal- hierarchy' and influence of ‘Mode of production' on ‘Culture' have been eliminated from the adaptive model of the ‘Portrait'.

Significantly Authors have not even taken note of two vibrant mass movements which shook the foundations of professional bondage of monolithic Hindu caste system in Indian history. First, the ‘Bhakti' (Devotion) Movement in 15 TH, 16 TH & 17 Th century, led by saints mostly born in oppressed castes, who provided universal poetic expressions to centuries of painful repression, tyranny and horrors of human conditions. The movement ended up with rise Ramadas, the protagonist of Ram devotee Hanuman by end of seventeenth century. Next wave of descent and rebellion came as revitalization of same ethos, intense economic, socio-cultural awakening and unrest of lowest folds of social order, Dalits led by Jotiba Phule, Ambedkar and Periyar. Both ‘counter currents' do not find place in Authors' ‘adaptive frame work'. Both movements were assertive and subversive! Lastly, religious conversions- to Christianity or Islam also have the same subversive force. These rebellious Movements, the ethos created by ‘cultural counter currents' and the liberal influence on intelligentsia have laid the foundations of Indian secularism. These have left out, to retain validity of Erickson's adaptation model .

Paradigm shift in ‘Portrait' and the restless Oedipus

The Book ‘Indian Identity' has become synonymous with total ‘conformism' and marked by devaluation and suppression of ‘subversive' cultural thrusts! “Indians are tough negotiators, Indian CEOs being the epitome of the Indian Civilization” and are at the helm of globalization. Despite criticism of gender based parenting and archetypical patriarchal societies, Authors are bent on differentiating ‘Indian Father' from Western Fathers. Authors of ‘Portrait' have projected their image as vocal advocates of reformed modern ‘Neo- Patriarchy' and Authoritarian Economic order. Authors black out on any level of instinctual ‘subversion', ‘revolt' or ‘descent' has led me to question what lies at the bottom of ‘plot' of portrait and deliberate ‘overlook'.

(a)Author's first analytical postulate is his founding concept of ‘ Ganesha Complex' coined in order to differentiate his ‘Psychoanalysis' from Sigmund Freud's. This attempt is not new! Right from the founding of psychoanalysis by Mr. Girindrashekhar Bose, Indian Psychoanalysis has suffered from some sectarian parochial complex and compulsion to differentiate from Freudian ‘Oedipus Complex'. Based on his experience with ‘Bengali patients', Mr. Bose had attempted to project ‘Indian Identity' and Indian version of ‘Oedipus Complex'. Sarcastically, he and his followers drubbed Freudian Psychoanalysis as ‘Father Religion' or ‘Son Religion'. It appears that the entire exercise of the ‘Portrait' in is hoisting up of ‘Indian Vs Western' differentiation and amplification is part of the same discourse. ‘ Ganesha Complex' is a astonishing postulate governing the ‘Conformism' of Indian Child and its progressive emergence as CEO bowing before and toeing his hierarchs to hide timidity in the garbs of becoming subdued ‘tough negotiators' for ‘economic benefits'. Author's attempt to confront ‘Indian and Western Cultures' is intended to challenge Freudian shibboleth ‘ Oedipus Complex' as Culture specific postulate !

Sudhir Kakkar follows the footsteps of G. Bose who had sent ‘Vishnu on Garuda' idol on the occasion of Freud's birthday, to differentiate ‘Imperial Vs Colonial' conditions. Same fashion Kakkars provides mythological illustration to differentiate Indian Psyche from Western. It is Ganesha Complex- where Shiva beheads his son- filicide or castration complex is constituted, as universal or dominant form of ‘Oedipus Complex' in Indian culture. (See Sudhir Kakkar's Interview by Livio Boni). The interview fully reveals Author's methodological circumvention. “In other words, what I call Ganesha complex inverts the psychoanalytically postulated causality between the fantasies of parricide and filicide. It is charged with the fear of filicide and with the son's castration by the father, as a solution to father-son competition rather than the oedipal guilt of parricide. An enduring genital inhibition —Ganesha as the perpetual boy—and a renunciation of all competitive feelings with the father seem to be the typical Indian solution of the Ganesha complex”.

The entire interpretation is not only unbelievable but unfortunately also underscores the strengths of Freud's fundamental postulates on primordial social relation! Let me confront him with Authors' antagonist ‘leftist psychoanalyst' William Reich (The Mass Psychology of Fascism) who counts and comprehends Freud's discoveries. “third great discovery was the fact that infantile sexuality—which includes the most essential part of the child-parent relationship, the "Oedipus complex"—is usually repressed because of fear of punishment for sexual thoughts and actions (basically, "castration anxiety"). As a result, infantile sexuality becomes excluded from activity and disappears from conscious memory . The repression of infantile sexuality removes it from conscious control ”.

Reich's further interpretation is more relevant, “This does not, however, deprive it (castration anxiety) of its strength; o n the contrary, it intensifies it and thus enables it to manifest itself in [22] various psychic disturbances”. This brilliant exposition provides insights in to the process by which the instinctual rage is held back (enduring genital inhibition) , repressed but expressed and transferred on to the ‘Other' in hazardous, abnormal situations'. The conflict never extinguishes, it persists and the anxiety is collectively expressed as rage against ‘Other' or as volcanic violence or alternatively as extreme depression. In every sense ‘Ganesha Complex' postulate becomes more dangerous and hides highly destructive rage.

We know that for Sigmund Freud ‘castration complex' was variant of Oedipus complex. Freud illustrates ‘castration complex' through several legends and myths about Father's despotic power. King Laius himself executes plan to kill his son, Oedipus to escape from the inevitable curse! He illustrates how ruthlessly Kronos devoured his sons, (Red. IOD). In contrast, Author toes A.K. Ramanujam. “ In Indian literature the aggressor is often the father and not the son, as in the classical Oedipus tale (how erroneous), because the father is jealous of his wife's devotion to her son” (1983, p. 252). Contrary to Dr. Kakkar's claims there are innumerable legends and myths. In Indian context– Hiranya Kashapu attempts to kill Bhakt Pralhad but what ends finally Narsimha – half man half lion kills arrogant Hiranya Kashapu by circumventing the protective boons! Father son conflict ended on the same note of Parricide! In medieval ages father son conflicts and wars of succession in Mughal dynasty, Cholas Kingdom and Maratha Kingdom are well and popularly documented. Author cannot escape the fundamental or primal conflict deeply buried in to unconscious and “ excluded from activity and disappears” from control of ‘conscious'. Freud's concern was to differentiate ‘primary repression' from the secondary and which is fundamentally responsible for distorted, displaced fetishistic, veiled representations of the archaic unconscious desires and drives. The relaxation of repression occurs under conditions of sleep expressed in dreams, neurosis, or hypnotic spells of speech in several modern psychological disorders or ‘violence on streets! This completely repudiates and demolishes Sudhir kakker's efforts to differentiate Indian and western cultures on the basis of Oedipus Vs Ganesha Complex' .

It is significant that both, Dr. G. Bose and Dr. Sudhir Kakkar not only opposed central, revolutionary and ‘subversive' core of the Freudian ‘Oedipus Complex' but have challenged corner stone of ‘psychoanalytic experience'. Secondly it misses completely Sigmund Freud's greatest contribution to philosophy, in inverting and relocating philosopher Hegel's ‘Master- Slave dialectic' from arena of ‘conscious' relationship in to the folds of ‘unconscious', which is played out through transference and counter transference. Freud's discoveries finally repudiated the claims of ‘consciousness' that it is master of its own house'. This discovery finally ended the dominance of ‘formal logic' so popular with ‘ruling psychological' theories. Dr. Sudhir Kakkar's r educing ‘Oedipus Complex' to enduring repression and inculcation of fear amounts to abandoning the rational and revolutionary core of Freudian dialectical method and techniques of investigation. It amounts to announcing obituary of dialectical logic. Author's ‘Portrait' endorses formal logic as methodology of Portrait!

(b) Author's second postulate of ‘Portrat'relates to his debate on cultural environment or what is ‘Culture in Psychoanalysis' (Essay from Culture and Psyche-Oxford University Press- 1997). Authors admit that Freud's interest in culture revolves around object of his investigation- Mighty conflict of Civilization (Culture) and primal, instinctual human world. However Authors have selectively eliminated, what Freud focuses on relations of ‘Culture and Repression', when he says, “We believe that civilization (material, intellectual, scientific, philosophical creative achievements) has been created under the pressure of exigencies of life at the cost of satisfaction of the instincts' and each individual making fresh entry repeats the ‘sacrifice of instinctual satisfaction for the benefit of the whole community' and instinctual forces, specifically the sexual impulses take part in the ‘process of sublimation” – diverted from original aims and diverted to socially higher aims”. I have claimed elsewhere how Freud' conceptual framework just misses Marx's concept of capitalist process of ‘reproduction' and ‘exploitation of human labor' by which sublimation ‘instinctual aims' for socially higher aims are constantly achieved under capitalism..

In this lecture, Authors discuss about influence of Marxist thoughts in the wake of social upheavals (Revolutions) in late 1920's and 1930's in Europe , during which ‘society' ‘began to play important role in the writings of psychoanalysts'. (Authors should note that in formative period, Sigmund Freud assimilated radical theories of social repression and innovatively and rigorously internalized them to coin concepts of ‘primary and secondary psychic Repression'. Dr. Kakkar sarcastically refers to ‘a group of analysts' with William Reich at its exponent, as ‘Leftist Psychoanalysts' to water down their contributions. Sudhir Kakkar argues, “The social class aspect of the environment, especially the production relations of society” is only ‘economic factor' in Freud's view in the development of personality, “a society's mode of production bringing about a specific social character”. He counter poses their theories to Freud's concept of class as ‘social tradition'. It is painful that Author treats this trend as ‘outcast' or ‘ostracized' instead of unbiased evaluation of this tradition which interpreted Fascist rage as displaced expression of ‘unconscious patricidal instincts'. Family remains initial ‘cultural circumstance' of child's first encounter with Authority while ‘mode of production' becomes the compelling and conditioning historical force in ‘sacrificing'. It also shapes child's experiences in its subsequent encounters with hierarchy of institutions. Reification of these experiences and relations provide the child its class identities . However expression of radical ‘counter culture' is left to maturity of struggle. Enterprise of these ‘leftist psychoanalysts' was a desperate struggle to find way to stop annihilation of globalizing culture created by working masses through infinite sacrifices, human destruction in the wake of installations of fascist dictatorships in Italy, Spain and Germany and which loomed large over Europe and across globe.

The ‘leftist psychoanalysts' stood for promoting quest for freedom and awakening of the masses from the regression facilitated by the ‘ Familial Supra-patriotic ideology '. For William Reich, the mode of production and the learning processes of working classes in the course of mass struggles plays out its most important part in what Freud identifies as ‘cultural tradition' .

Sigmund Freud, the challenger of the German ruling powers in his ‘Revolutionary dream', heralds the title page of his ‘dream book' with Latin Legend, “"Flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo" (“if I cannot bend the higher powers I will shake the foundations”) to picture the efforts of mighty instincts against ‘primal repression' and portrays ‘mighty conflict' with Civilization. Authors does the opposite, by shifting the pivot to ‘Culture'. Both postulates mark a ‘paradigm shift' and fully compliment Authors community based Ericksonian ‘adaptive' model. The plot of the ‘Portrait' stirs up ‘super patriotic' ideology, and annuls the globalizing ethos of psychoanalysis.

Mature Political theory & Crisis of “Indian-ness of Psychoanalysis”

The above reviews of objectives, framework of the book and critical evaluation of postulates led me into straight jacket of Author's ‘political chapters'. Concluding chapters of this Book, “Religious and spiritual Life” and “Conflict of Hindus and Muslims” have been regarded by reviewers as “brilliant” and aimed at exploring our ideas of ‘Other'. Yes, Authors were engaged in articulating their mature political theory . Authors have portrayed the practices of confrontations between the secularists and blind militants, between faiths of the stereotypes and aggressors inspired by mythical archetypes. Authors quote at length speeches of Sadhvi Ritambara and Muslim fanatic leaders invoking hatred against ‘Other' and transforming sexual energies into venomous fire. These chapters rotate on pivots of two cataclysmic events, Demolition of Babari Mosque and Gujarat Carnage 2002. Authors similes of bursting of boil cannot rescue Authors from identification of riots merely as ‘communal'. Authors have forgotten to mention the process of displacing the seething instincts on ‘other', have watered down the roles of deadly organized strikes by the insane mobs, the systematic planning by fascists organizations and role of state in these ‘volcanic episodes'. Authors identify these events as ‘communal violence' and treats communally poisonous oratories of ‘enemies' as two sides of the same coin. Readers get the impression that Authors are trying to be seen and establish themselves as ‘Neutral' ‘independent' psychoanalysts! I was however struck by strange comments in Portrait and other writings regarding sexual assault on women during the violence. “Women have been spared from sexual violence” or “accounts of sexual violence are highly exaggerated” or “The existence of the empathy, even in a time of murderous violence, prevents a complete dehumanization of the ‘enemy” are appalling. Sexual violence in anti Sikh massacre, post Babri carnage and Gujarat genocide bare the truth of obsession with sexual assaults. Burning the ‘enemy' and sexual assaults are forms and fundamental tools used for crashing rage on ‘Other', to annihilate pride, identity and unity of the minorities and establish hegemonic ‘self identity'.

Realizing the magnitude of violence Authors concludes that the modernizing and “globalizing process has ended the ‘composite culture' of the ‘Indian' and era of ‘multi culturalism' has began”. Authors suggests, “However in the short run and in absence of political will” he quotes, Donald Horowitz, “there is no alternative …. For prevention of ethnical riots all over the world, namely effective deployment of force by the state …. before the major outbreak of violence” It seems that the Authors have blinked their eye at the role of the state and not identifying Gujarat riots as holocaust and near Nazi type carnage. Secondly have ignored the responsibility of psychoanalysis to understand and address to the psycho-pathological disorders running havoc on streets of Ahmadabad as gigantic catastrophe and calamity. It is like outbreak of ‘plague in Thebes ' the neurosis exploding on the fabric of ‘Culture of intolerance'. By identifying them as ‘communal riots' Authors have missed the opportunity to stand by the sanity, human values, educate the masses and middle class intelligentsia. Instead of pursuit of truth and self analysis Authors have preferred to endorse ‘compromise'.

I suspect that Sudhir Kakkar, trained in Germany & Austria for more than a decade have probably overlooked remarkable similarities with Indian ‘patriarchy' and forgotten the lessons of European History. History of anti Semitism maturing for centuries in Europe and engulfed Weimer Republic in matter of just 15 years after world War I, after defeat of workers revolution. Crouching Fascism ambushed the Jews, opponents and working class organizations. Portrait does not see in Gujarat riots shadows of advancing Fascism!


Here we must return to the pages from Portrait (page 12) wherein Authors have claimed that methodology adopted in ‘Portrait' is similar to or close to that of Twentieth century Expressionist Painter Max Beckman, Oskar Kokoschka. Authors Europe and Nazi reference is clear and loud . The deeper psychic processes brewing beneath the ‘Advancing Culture' was ‘sensed' by these creative Artists. Dream images, fantasies, distortions and mythological symbols came under critical treatment of painters, artist and Human Sciences! Psychoanalysts as well as painters and intellectuals who attempted to grasp these cultural undercurrents, kept up with times and reflected. Composite Images and Montage became the word of creative art. Both Painters became victims of ‘anti-Semitism', were stripped of from academic high profile positions in the wake of Nazi rise to power. Both were hooted out by Nazis, paratroopers terrorized them and both had to flee from the respective countries. Both portrayed the ‘unusual elements, expressed the inverted fabric of social order. The painters used ‘ancient symbols and myths' to create images intended to explore fundamental themes of obscenity, vulgarity, distortions of human existence and portrayed figures compressed into torturous frames, Terrible events marked with , haunting atmosphere and agonies of the epoch were portrayed into their stark gaudy faces.


As a reader and reviewer I naturally expected Authors to follow the footsteps of these great expressionist painters and caution the Indian and international audience to listen to the alarm bells of crawling but threatening strides of irrationalism originated from ‘Indian Family' life, women's subordination, sexual repression. Authors were expected to echo the painters by creating imagery of the regressive ideology when propelled by hypnotic spells of myths and archaic symbols vomiting fire against ‘Other'. In the concluding chapters of ‘Portrait' of Indian People, rational readers will experience crash of their expectations!


In concluding chapters Authors have brought in part played by “Cultural traditions—including the beliefs regarding the devilish ‘Other' – are transmitted through the family and have a line of development separate from the political and economic systems of a society”. We may again confront Authors with William Reich's statement regarding role of Family (“Mass Psychology”) in birth of Nazi culture, “In this interplay between economic and structural facts, the authoritarian family stands out as the most important place where reactionary thinking of any kind is reproduced: it is the factory of reactionary (social and political) ideology and structure” . If both ‘psychoanalysts' have the same perception then why diametrically opposite are their discourse and conclusions?

Restless Freud, visualizing the threat and possible collapse of civilization under the frightening ascendance of ‘anti Semitism' in Europe and elsewhere feared ‘Return of the repressed', return of the instinct to their primitive aims of satisfaction, writes Freud in his “civilization and its discontent”. How painful it must be for Freud to leave the Austro-German soil while sarcastically commenting, " I can most highly recommend the Gestapo to everyone ...”. Nazism triumphed, destroyed the civilization as result of ‘return of the repressed”.

In the light of the threat to civilization the world renowned Indian Psychoanalyst discusses about the ‘Hindu world view under its three building blocks— Moksha, Dharma and Karma' to comprehend Indian culture and complete his Portrait. Elsewhere Sudhir kakkar unveils his own beliefs, when he says, “I am a believer in 'religion less religion”. It's a misfortune that ‘adherent of Psychoanalysis confronts Sigmund Freud who ‘ deconstructed the role of religion' to pave way for the rationality. The ultimate solution offered by Authors is astonishing and completes his Portrait of Indian people' that has failed!

Let me sum up my criticism.

Severe limitations ofthe book are visible in ‘adaptation concept' inherited from Eric Erickson. This has made Authors to limit their enquiries into the Behavioral identity of the Indian middle classes and practicaly renounce psychoanalysis and its focus on ‘universal. In fact, Erickson Model did not permit Authors to peruse the ‘proclaimed' methodology of Austro- German painters Max Beckman and Oskar Kokoschka. It did not allow him to integrate either the ‘counter culture' or the sweep of the ‘irrational' into portrait to regenerate a composite image. Failure of the ‘Portrait' owes to ‘paradigm shift' and non- adherence to psychoanalysis .

Authors treatment of mythology is not comparable to deeper insights already provided by the great Indian Research Historian Dr. D. D. Kosambi. It is absorbing to read discoveries of outstanding mathematician and Marxist Historian scholar Dr. D. D.Kosambi on Indian pre history, genesis of old civilization and influence of European, Egyptian Greek, Chinese mythologies and insights into linguistic and cultural heritages of Indian Culture. D.D. Kosambi has made frontal criticism of those glorifying the Indian Cultural Traditions and ignoring matriarchal tradition. “Those who deplore the brutal western tradition might briefly consider the undeniable fact that Hellenic sati vanished at the dawn of Greek history, whereas the practice of burning widows alive really gained its gruesome force in India in medieval and feudal times”. Author's pride and claims of ‘Indian ness' of Ramayana and Mahabharata will evaporate into thin vapor and fetish if they decide to study Dr. D.D. Kosambi.

It was painful for me to read this book from great Author of so many fictions and non-fictions, Dr. Sudhir Kakkar. However the fall of this non adherent was expected in Authors ‘paradigm shift'. Author's ‘political perspectives' seems to be intended to address and play to the popular ‘Indian Patriotic gallery' and position themselves as Behavioral Scientists, cultural psychologists and mythologists rather than being identified as ‘psychoanalysts'. Failed Portrait reminds us of quote from Sigmund Freud. “With the progress of psycho-analytic studies the importance of the Oedipus complex has become more and more clearly evident; its recognition has become the shibboleth that distinguishes the adherents of psycho-analysis from its opponents” (Freud, 1905)

Anil Pundlik Gokhale is an Engineer by profession and have been a reader and student of Marxist and Freudian literature for last four decades.He has been a professional translator of medical and other literature from English to Marathi. As a non regular writer on political literature he has always been attempting to intigrate Psychology and Marxism.He has t recently published book ‘Condensation And Condescension In Dreams And History: Essay - From Sigmund Freud To E P Thompson' by Author House London.



Comments are moderated