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Michael J. Horne » Book Review, Featured » Book Review: Jung and the Postmodern: The Interpretation of Realities.

Book Review: Jung and the Postmodern: The Interpretation of Realities.


Psychoanalytic Review. 91: 149-153.

Hauke, Christopher. (2000). Jung and the Postmodern: The Interpretation of Realities. London: Routledge: 304, xiv pp.

The establishment of psychoanalytic studies programs in Universities is creating an exciting collaboration between psychoanalysts and academics in the humanities. In this context, psychoanalysts are exposed to postmodernism which is revolutionizing all the traditional disciplines by critiquing their underlying presuppositions. Conversely, academics are exposed to contemporary psychoanalytic ideas that have the potential to elucidate a variety of the issues that concern postmodernism. This is in contrast to previous eras, in which psychoanalysts had very few philosophical tools with which to critique metapsychology, and academics had access to largely outdated psychoanalytic ideas in published form only.

Christopher Hauke is one of this pioneering group. He is a Jungian analyst in private practice in London, and a Lecturer in the Psychoanalytic Studies Program at Goldsmith’s College in the University of London. In Jung and the Postmodern, Hauke provides well argued claims for the postmodern elements in Jung’s writings, and a clear exposition of the development of these strands into a postmodern Jungian psychology. He brings a personal, playful and idiosyncratic tone, all postmodern traits, to his writing. This is especially evident in his discussion of the house that the postmodern architect, Frank Gehry, built for himself and his family, and the retreat that Jung built at Bollingen on Lake Zurich. In Gehry’s house, the underlying structure is visible, so that it commingles with the surface features. In Jung’s house, the contemporary and ancient elements are side by side. In both cases this juxtaposition negates any possibility of privileging of one element over the other, a key concept in postmodernism. Hauke uses these architectural examples to highlight the differences in Jung’s and Freud’s models of the mind. In Jung’s postmodern horizontal model, the mind is conceptualized as multiple selves in reciprocal relationships. This is in contrast to Freud’s modernist vertical model, in which he argues that deeper layers determine the nature of layers on the surface.

Hauke outlines another central aspect of Jung’s postmodernism by saying that he, “valorizes subjective experience as a legitimate approach to concerns of the wider, collective culture and to ‘scientific’ investigation in general.” (p. 1). This attitude to subjective experience, and the irrational in general, is the basis of the postmodern epistemology or mode of knowing (Rosenau, 1992). This is in contrast to modernist epistemology which privileges rationality.

At the turn of the century, several theorists from different fields proposed seemingly irrationalist epistemologies which challenged the modernist view (Rosenau, 1992). Freud made the most radical of these proposals when he asserted that humans have an unconscious mind that knows in ways that are quite different from the rational knowing of consciousness. Concurrently several irrationalist ontologies, or postulates on the nature of things, were proposed. One of the first of these was Nietzsche’s assertion of the motivational primacy of the will to power of which Freud’s theory of unconscious instincts was a derivative. However, the proponents of these alternatives, even though they were challenging rationalism, still made recourse to some deeper or originary principle of explanation. Since any explanation is a form  of rationality, these theorists are nowadays considered to be modernist.

By contrast, the postmodernists claim that there are no originary sources, such as instincts or forms that can explain the nature of things (Rosenau, 1992). Rather, they assert that existence is characterized by a perpetual need to become aware of, and to assimilate, otherness in all its guises. One of the originators of this postmodern ontology, Michel Foucault, has claimed that otherness is simply what is left out when we make an assertion (Foucault, 1972). In this view, all  dichotomies, especially rational/irrational, are linguistic constructions.

Hauke claims that it was Jung who initiated this ontological shift in psychoanalysis through his idea that the unconscious was the other that was established by the assertions of consciousness about the reality of its existence. Hauke points out that Jung claimed that the assimilation of unconscious knowledge by consciousness expanded its limited view into a pluralistic view of its existence. This is the sine qua non of postmodern epistemology and ontology.

Hauke shows that, not only did Jung have pluralistic view of the mind as a whole, but also, via his theory of complexes, the unconscious itself. He says that Jung viewed the complexes as autonomous sub-personalities, which “govern the affective and cognitive perceptions and actions of the personality in a way that is outside conscious control.” (p. 156). Hauke points out that Jung saw the ego itself as a complex. He quotes Jung as saying: “The fear of complexes (by the ego-complex) is a rooted prejudice, for the superstitious fear of anything unfavorable has remained untouched by our vaunted enlightenment.” (Jung, 1934).

Hauke demonstrates that Jung’s multiperspectivalism results in a dialogical view of the mind (Hermans, 2002), in which the attitudes of the ego-complex are being constantly challenged by those of the autonomous complexes. In his later theorizing, Jung added the concept of archetypes, which he said were inherited forms that organize experience. He said that complexes have an archetypal center. While Hauke notes that Jung sometimes described archetypes as “forms without content”, nevertheless, he has difficulty explaining as postmodern Jung’s ontological privileging of forms per se.

Jung’s concept of individuation, which Hauke paraphrases as “being fully oneself’, is also a modernist idea, in that it postulates an end state of psychic completeness. Hauke, however, gives this idea a multiperspecitival emphasis by saying: “This (individuation) means including parts of oneself that have been lost or neglected not only due to circumstances of personal history….but have also been lost or neglected due to the collective conditions of the era and culture.” (p. 109). However, elsewhere Hauke defines individuation in a modernist mode by saying it is, “becoming the person you were intended to be, or, becoming what one always was.” (p.108).

The postmodern privileging of multiperspectivalism contradicts the modernist notion of the unitary subject constituted by its indubitable rationality. This multiperspectivalism, both in the production of texts, and in texts themselves, makes an indubitable subject unlocatable, since no one viewpoint is considered to be ultimately authoritative.  Jung’s concept of the subject is his formulation of the ego-complex. Hauke points out that this is a postmodern concept as Jung sees the ego-complex as having no substantive reality since it is a constructed narrative or text that it (the ego-complex) writes for itself.

In his discussion of the postmodern critique of the subject, Hauke proposes another re-interpretation of Jung’s theory of individuation. He does this by exploring the plight of the contemporary individual’s sense of its subjectivity in a postmodern culture. He notes that it has no stable referents by which to constitute itself. Baudrillard has called this environment, in which all “reality” is re-presented by imaginary substitutes, the “hyper real”, the prime example of which is Disneyland (Baudrillard, 1994) . Hauke sees individuation as being the individual’s process of establishing its subjectivity via its consciousness consciousing itself. By this he means that consciousness that is able to tolerate multiple perspectives enlarges its capacity each time it absorbs an alien point of view. While this is an interesting attempt to avoid the modernist pitfalls of Jung’s individuation theory, it is still modernist in that the subject is the author of itself in its activity of consciousing.

Although the subject has been singled out by postmodernists as problematic in its own right, it is just one example of the critique they make of representation. Not only do they point out the arbitrary nature of linguistic and iconic representation of meaning, but the impossibility of re-presentation in general. They maintain that in every act of re-presentation something is inevitably left out. For example, they say it is impossible for an elected representative to speak for his/her individual constituents, or for a work of art to represent the reality it purports to depict (Rosenau, 1992).

In his discussion of Jung’s approach to representation via mental imagery, Hauke clearly demonstrates Jung’s postmodernist point of view. He shows that Freud sought the latent meaning behind mental images. Jung, by contrast, saw them as having intrinsic meaning that could be developed by having the patient make associations to the image itself. Jung called this process amplification.  As Hauke shows, Jung later developed the modernist notion that certain images were the expression of archetypal forms. Despite this modernist reversal, Jung still privileged the non-representatonal nature of the image, by continuing to use the method of amplification to reveal the multiperspectival nature of the image.

Hauke goes on to discuss the point of view of an evolving group of postmodern Jungians, who have seen Jung’s idea of the image as being that of the mediator of the unconscious as the not-known. This view of the unconscious is in contrast to modernist views of the unconscious as a structured entity. The Jungian postmodernists refer to the unconscious as the not-known, the unmediated, and the unexperienced to emphasize that nothing can be assumed about its contents or structure. Hauke points out that this view of the nature and role of the unconscious is similar to that of Bion who calls the not-known beta elements. He, Bion, says that the mediator of the not-known is alpha function, and the mediated alpha elements provide the building blocks for thought (Bion, 1977).

Hauke continues by saying that, in Bion’s later thinking, he called the not-known O. He says that O is the ultimate reality that, when mediated, allows for the emergence of the mystical or numinous. Grotstein, a Kleinian analyst, has called this realm the Subject of subjects, or the ineffable Other (Grotstein, 2000). Hauke notes that Lacan calls this realm the Real (Lacan, 1981). Jung was the first analytic theorist to describe this domain, calling it the Self. However, he gave it a modernist cast by saying that it was  the origin and the organizer of new experience.

Hauke points out that, in contrast to Bion, Grotstein, and Lacan, the postmodernist Jungians eschew both a naming of the not-known, and any system for its representation. In this respect, they are similar to the postmodern psychoanalysts (Elliott & Spezzano 2000). The postmodernist Jungians also show similarities with the postmodernist psychoanalysts in their emphasis on the primacy of affect. Postmodernists, in general, place great emphasis on the importance of affect as a primary orienting factor for being in the world. These commonalities between the postmodern psychoanalytic and Jungian perspectives point to postmodernism as perhaps providing a set of assumptions that could re-unite Jungian and psychoanalytic psychologies.

In summary, Hauke’s book not only gives a clear and comprehensive account of postmodernism and its expression in a variety of Jung’s concepts, but also points to the development of  a contemporary postmodern Jungian school. He also shows an intriguing set of similarities between this school and contemporary postmodern psychoanalysis.

Baudrillard, J. (1994). Simulacra and Simulation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Bion, W.R. (1977). Seven Servants. New York: Jason Aronson.
Elliott, E., Spezzano, C. (2000). Psychoanalysis at its Limits: Navigating the Postmodern Turn. London: Free Association Books.
Foucault, M. (1972). Power/Knowledge. New York: Pantheon.
Grotstein, J.S. (2000). Who is the Dreamer and Who Dreams the Dream? London: The Analytic Press.
Hermans, H.J.M. (2002). ‘The dialogical self as a society of mind’. Theory and Culture. 12: 147-160.
Jung, C.G. (1934). ‘A review of the complex theory’. CW 8.
Lacan, J. (1981). The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis. London: W.W. Norton.
Rosenau, P.M. (1992). Post-Modernism and the Social Sciences: Insights, Inroads and Intrusions. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Michael Horne
Seattle, Washington
Michael Horne M.D. is a Jungian analyst in private practice in Seattle, Washington. He is a member and the training director of the North Pacific Institute for Analytical Psychology (Jungian) and is a Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Washington where he teaches contemporary psychoanalysis to psychiatric residents. He is interested in using philosophy to explicate metapsychology and processes of psychic transformation. E-mail:

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