A Critical Perspective on Freud's Theory of Parricide and Crime in General

Phillip Chong Ho Shon, University of Illinois - Chicago

Parricide is often thought to be a psychoanalytic crime, with motives that can be reduced to psychological variables. Consequently, social structures such as class, race, gender, and general rate of violence are thought to be irrelevant in explaining parricide. The psychoanalytic theory of parricide (and crime) is best illustrated in the work of Freud who always turns the analytical lens inward. In this paper, I argue that by doing so, he misses a rudimentary lesson in crime and punishment: what gets defined as a crime and who gets defined as a criminal is not determined by an already existing, immutable, independent law of nature, but always a function of power. Crime, that is, what get defined as one, is more linked to economics, politics, and law than psychology. I argue that Freud has no theory of parricide in particular and crime in particular.

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Updated 05/20/2006