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Moses and Civilization: The Meaning Behind Freud's Myth

by Robert A Paul Yale University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 278 pages
AU$39.99 NZ$41.73
Product Status: Available in Approx 5 days
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Freud's major cultural books, Totem and Taboo and Moses and Monotheism, have long been viewed as failed attempts at historical reconstruction. This book, by an anthropologist and practicing psychoanalyst, offers a brilliant reinterpretation of these works, presenting them instead as versions and unwitting analyses of the great mythic narrative underlying Judeo-Christian civilization, found principally in the Five Books of Moses.Synthesizing aspects of structural anthropology, symbolic anthropology, evolutionary theory, and psychoanalysis, Robert A. Paul reveals the numerous parallels between Freud's myth of the primal horde and the Torah text. He shows how the primal-horde scenario is the basis for the Christian myth of the life and death of Jesus. And he details the way Freud's myth corresponds to the unconscious fantasy structure of the obsessional personality'a style of personality dynamics Paul sees as essential to maintaining the bureaucratic institutions that make up Western civilization's most distinctive features. Paul thus corrects and completes Freud's project, creating a valid psychoanalytic account of Western civilization that rests not on faulty speculation, as Freud's did, but on a detailed reading of the biblical text and of the legends, folklore, commentaries, and social practices surrounding it.
Winner of the 1996 National Jewish Book Award (in the category of Jewish Thought)

Winner of the 1996 Heinz Hartmann Award given by the New York Psychoanalytic Institute

Winner of the best book in cultural anthropology from the American Anthropological Association

Winner of the 1996 Boyer Prize given by the Society for Psychological Anthropology

"This very important book is a fascinating psychoanalytic reading of the Torah that frequently illuminates texts that have been quite mysterious."'Daniel Boyarin, University of California, Berkeley

"In Moses and Civilization Robert Paul confronts a baffling intellectual puzzle which, in a tour de force, he tackles with the skill of a master puzzler. Although not everyone will agree with his proposed solution, no one, whether Freudian or anti-Freudian, will deny that it is achieved with rare insight and intelligence. It is a genuine intellectual treat."'Melford Spiro, University of California, San Diego

"Were the murders of the primal horde repeated in the saga of Moses, and did they lead to the birth of civilization and Judeo-Christian morality? Paul's hypothesis to this effect offers new understandings of the Bible, of Freud, of Western civilization, and of the primal horde as mythic paradigm rather than discredited reconstruction of ancient history."'M.D. E. Moore, m.d., co-editor with Bernard Fine of Psychoanalysis: The Major Concepts and Psychoanalytic Terms and Concepts.

Robert A. Paul is Charles Howard Candler Professor of Anthropology at Emory University and associate professor in the department of psychiatry there. He served as editor of Ethos: Journal of the Society of Psychological Anthropology (1984-96) and as president of the Society for Cultural Anthropology (1993-95). He is on the teaching faculty of the Emory University Psychoanalytic Institute.