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Bloomsbury, Freud, and the Vulgar Passions

Author(s): TED WINSLOW


Source: Social Research, Vol. 57, No. 4, Reception of Psychoanalysis (WINTER 1990), pp. 785-819
Published by: The New School
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Bloomsbury,
Freud,
and the
VulgarPassions*/
/_

BY TED WINSLOW

In spite of the vastnessof the literatureon Bloomsbury,


littleattentionhas been paid to its relationshipto
relatively
Freud.1This results,I suspect,fromthe factthat the four
mostcloselyconnected
membersand associatesof Bloomsbury
to psychoanalysis,
James and Alix Stracheyand Karin and
AdrianStephen,were peripheralto the group and fromthe
itself,2
that,in any
widelyheld view,supportedbyBloomsbury
of
event,there was no common set
Bloomsburyideas and
interestsso that the interestof one part of the group in
psychoanalysisremained, as Raymond Williams puts it,
fromLyttonStrachey'sinterestin historyor
"disconnected"
MaynardKeynes'sinterestin economicsor Leonard Woolf's
interestin politics.3
1The most
importantreferencesare: PerryMeisel and WalterKendrick,eds.,

Freud: The LettersofJamesand Alix Strachey1924-1925 (New York: Basic


Bloomsbury/

"The Woolfs'Responseto Freud:Water-Spiders,


Books,1985);J. Goldstein,
Singing
43 (1974): 438-476; Martin
Canariesand theSecondApple,"Psychoanalytic
Quarterly
MilieuofLytton
(New Haven:Collegeand University
Kallich,ThePsychological
Strachey
A CriticalBiography,
2 vols.
Press, 1961); and Michael Holroyd,Lytton
Strachey:
(London:Heinemann,1968).
2 See, for
1974),p.
(London:FuturaPublications,
example,QuentinBell,Bloomsbury
12; Clive Bell, Old Friends(London: Chatto8c Windus,1956), pp. 132-136; and
Leonard Woolf, BeginningAgain: An Autobiography
of the Years 1911-1918 (London:

HogarthPress,1964),pp. 25-26.
3
as a Social and Cultural
of Bloomsbury
RaymondWilliams,"The Significance
and theBloomsbury
P.
A.
and
in
Derek
Crabtree
eds.,
Thirwall,
Group
Keynes
Group,"
(London:Macmillan,1980),p. 64.
SOCIAL RESEARCH, Vol. 57, No. 4 (Winter1990)

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786

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Now while it is true that Bloomsbury cannot be associated


withany particularset of doctrines,and indeed that members
held verydifferentideas about art,philosophy,psychoanalysis,
etc., nevertheless,as even those who insiston this point make
clear, there was what might be called a Bloomsbury spirit.4
Moreover, the disconnections between the interests of the
various members and associates of Bloomsbury were not as
pronounced as has sometimesbeen claimed. Certainlyinterest
in Freud extended beyond those who became practicinganalysts.In fact,thereis evidence suggestingthatMaynard Keynes,
interLeonard Woolf,and LyttonStracheybecame sufficiently
ested to make significantuse of psychoanalysisin their own
work. Such influence is well-establishedfor Strachey.5In an
earlier paper I pointed to evidence suggestingthat it is also
present in Keynes's economics.6 This paper will point to
evidence of it in the politicalwritingsof Keynes and Woolf.
As I willattemptto show,it is in the appropriationsof Freud
made by these nonanalystmembers that significantinfluence
of what for lack of a betterterm I have called the Bloomsbury
spirit can be found. This cannot be said, however, of the
appropriations made by the Bloomsbury analysts. Such
influence is not evident, for example, in the Stracheys'
translationsof Freud.7 The resultis thatthe Bloomsburyspirit
seems to have had little if any direct impact on the
4 Woolf
(BeginningAgain, pp. 129-130) quotes a passage from Henry Sidgwick'sA
Memoirin which the word "spirit" is associated with attitudescharacteristicof the
Apostles, attitudesthat Woolf claims were also characteristicof the individuals who
formedthe nucleus of Bloomsbury.
5 See
Holroyd, LyttonStrachey,esp. 2:442, 585-587, 615-616, and Kallich,
Milieu.
Psychological
E. G. Winslow, Keynes and Freud: Psychoanalysisand Keyness Account ot the
'Animal Spirits'of Capitalism,"Social Research53 (Winter 1986): 549-578.
7 In their
translations,the Stracheysconsciouslyattempted,and many (see, e.g.,
Meisel and Kendrick, Bloomsbury/
Freud, pp. 318-321) would argue managed very
successfully,to avoid interpretation.The main criticismmade of the translationsalong
these lines, that they fail to bring out the humanisticcharacter of Freud's thought,
points, in any event, to an interpretiveelement which,even if present,could not, I
think,be traced to Bloomsbury.If anything,the Bloomsburyinfluenceought to have
led the Stracheysto unduly emphasize the humanisticside of Freud.

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BLOOMSBURY AND FREUD

787

in Britainsincethe appropriadevelopmentof psychoanalysis


tionsof Freud whichcan be said to have been significantly
influencedby thisspirithad no effecton thisdevelopment.8
Though bothKeynesand Woolfmade whatcould be called
Bloomsburyappropriationsof Freud, they reached very
different
politicalconclusions.In each case Freudentersas the
providerof a frameworkfor understandingwhat Keynes
called "the vulgarpassions."Woolf,however,makes use of
Freud to argue that authoritarianeconomic, social, and
politicalarrangementsare the source of the expressionsof
thesepassions,whichare the mainimpedimentto civilization.
as a necessarypart
sees sucharrangements
Keynes,in contrast,
fromthevulgarpassions.
of thedefenseof civilization
The firstpart of the paper providesan account of the
Bloomsburyspirit.The second and thirdpartsexaminethe
on thepolitical
influenceof boththisspiritand psychoanalysis
ideas of Woolfand Keynes.
The Bloomsbury
Spirit

The Bloomsburyspirit was comprised of three main


elements:anti-Victorianism,
G. E. Moore'sethics,and beliefin
the importanceand danger of irrationality.
These elements
8 The association with
Bloomsbury did, of course, significantlyaffect the
developmentof Britishpsychoanalysisin other ways. It connected psychoanalysisto a
"powerfulintellectualelite" (Gregorio Kohon, ed., The BritishSchoolof Psychoanalysis:
The IndependentTradition[London: Free Association Books, 1986], p. 46). It also
influencedthe kind of psychoanalysiswhich developed, but thiswas more because of
the particular characteristicsof the associates and relations of Bloomsbury directly
involved in the psychoanalyticmovement than of anythingthat might be called a
Bloomsbury interpretationof Freud. Such features of British psychoanalysisas the
more importantand independent role given to lay analysts,the greater abilityof
psychoanalysisin Britainto "remain a cultural as well as a therapeuticor professional
pursuit" (Edward Glover, "The Position of Psycho-Analysisin Great Britain,"British
MedicalBulletin6, nos. 1-2 [1949]: 31), the influenceof Melanie Klein, etc., result in
part at least from the characteristicsand interests of the Bloomsbury analysts,
particularlythose of James and Alix Strachey (see Meisel and Kendrick,Bloomsbury/
Freud,"Introduction"and "Epilogue").

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788

SOCIAL RESEARCH

to a sympathetic
receptionof Freud.9
predisposedBloomsbury
As we shall see, theyalso influencedthe appropriationsof
Freud made byWoolfand Keynes.
Fromitsbeginningsas a groupof friendsat
Anti-Victorianism.
Cambridge,Bloomsburywas profoundlyanti-Victorian.Describingthe earlybeliefsof thisCambridgegroup,Leonard
Woolfwrites:
When in the grim,grey,rainyJanuarydays of 1901 Queen
Victorialaydying,we alreadyfeltthatwe werelivingin an era of
involvedin
incipientrevoltand thatwe ourselvesweremortally
this revoltagainsta social systemand code of conductand
moralitywhich,for conveniencesake, may be referredto as
We did notinitiatethisrevolt.Whenwe
bourgeoisVictorianism.
went up to Cambridge,its protagonistswere Swinburne,
BernardShaw, Samuel Butlerin The WayofAll Flesh,and to
on theside
someextentHardyand Wells.We werepassionately
of these championsof freedomof speech and freedomof
thought,of commonsenseand reason.We feltthat,withthem
as our leaders,we werestruggling
againsta religiousand moral
whichproducedand condonedsuch
code of cantand hypocrisy
social crimesand judicial murdersas the condemnationof
Dreyfus.10

Partly,of course, this involveda rejectionof Victorian


but by no meansonly,Victoriansexual
morality,
particularly,
More
however,the revoltwas an
fundamentally,
morality.
Love of
expressionof rationalismand antiauthoritarianism.
9 The members of
Bloomsbury did not all become supporters of psychoanalysis,
however.Clive Bell appears to have been hostile(see, e.g., "Dr. Freud on Art,"Nation
and Athenaeum,
Sept. 6, 1924), and VirginiaWoolf,though she seems to have changed
her attitudenear the end of her life,wroteof psychoanalysisin a 1924 letterto Molly
McCarthy:"We are publishingall Dr. Freud, and I glance at the proof and read how
Mr. A. B. threwa bottleof red ink on to the sheets of his marriage bed to excuse his
impotence to the housemaid, but threw it in the wrong place, which unhinged his
wife'smind,- and to thisday she pours claret on the dinner table. We could all go on
like that for hours; and yet these Germans thinkit proves something- besides their
own gull-like imbecility"(Nigel Nicholson, ed., The Lettersof VirginiaWoolf,vol. 3
[London: Hogarth Press, 1977], p. 134-135).
10Leonard Woolf,
of the Years 1890 to 1904 (London:
Sowing: An Autobiography
Hogarth Press, 1960), pp. 151-152.

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BLOOMSBURY AND FREUD

789

truth,a taste for discussionin pursuitof truth,complete


in suchdiscussioncombinedwithmutualrespectfor
frankness
each other'spointof view- these,accordingto QuentinBell,
LeonardWoolf,and others,weretheattitudesmostcharacteristicof Bloomsbury.11
Moore'sEthics.Though they were opposed to both the
authoritarianism
and the content of Victorian morality,
relationsbetweenmenand women,
thatgoverning
particularly
not
without
an ethic.They claimed,however,
was
Bloomsbury
to be able to groundethicalbeliefsin reason.Their guide and
teacherin this area was G. E. Moore. It was Moore who
providedmanyof thespecificideas whichcan be said to have
been characteristic
of Bloomsbury.12
Accordingto Woolf,the
main thingstheyderivedfromMoore's influencewere "his
and commonsense,and a
peculiarpassionfortruth,forclarity
belief
in
certain
values."13
passionate
For Moore,as Rod O'Donnellpointsout,"ethicsis a science,
and a subjectin whichreason is capable of providingtrue,
objectiveand syntheticanswers."14The basic questions it
attemptsto answer are: What is good? What things are
11
Keynes, in his criticismof aspects of these discussions in "My Early Beliefs,"
suggests,however, that other elements were also involved. The discussions were, he
claims, in accordance with "Moore's method," with Moore's claim that knowledge of
what statesof mind are good is the product of "directunanalysableintuition"aided by
"the instrumentof impeccable grammar and an unambiguous dictionary" (John
in The CollectedWritings,
ed. Donald Moggridge,
Maynard Keynes,Essaysin Biography,
30 vols. [London: Macmillan, 1971-90], 10:437, 440). By 1938 Keynes had become
quite criticalof this method. He says of it, for example, that it produced a kind of
intellectualcombat in which"strengthof characterwas reallymuch more valuable than
subtletyof mind" {ibid.,p. 440). Consequently,"victorywas withthose who could speak
with the greatestappearance of clear, undoubting convictionand could best use the
accents of infallibility"
{ibid.,p. 438). Keynes, it should also be said, came, as we shall
see, to believe there was something positive and worthyof "reverence" in Victorian
arrangements.Woolf did not (see Woolf, Sowing,pp. 153-154).
12
Woolf, Sowing,p. 144-157; Woolf, BeginningAgain, pp. 24-25.
13
Woolf,BeginningAgain, p. 24.
14R. M.
Economicsand Politics(London: Macmillan,
O'Donnell, Keynes:Philosophy,
1989), p. 133. In what followsI have made use of O'Donnell's own excellentsummary
of Moore {ibid.,pp. 133-137).

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790

SOCIAL RESEARCH

intrinsically
good?Whatoughtwe to do? Good, Mooreclaims,
is a simpleobjectindefinablein termsof otherobjects.Thus,
forexample,good is notpleasure,thoughpleasuremaybe an
elementin thingswhichare good. Our knowledgeof thegood
comesthroughdirectacquaintance,throughdirectunanalyzable intuition.Moore claimsthat "by far the mostvaluable
things we can know or imagine are certain states of
consciousness,which may be roughly described as the
pleasures of human intercourseand the enjoymentof
beautifulobjects."15Virtuallyall goods are complexorganic
unities,unitiesin whichthegoodnessof thewholeis notequal
whatwe
to thesumof thegoodnessesof theparts.Practically,
are obligedto do, whatwe oughtto do, is to act so as to bring
itaboutthat"as muchof them[goods]as possiblemayat some
timeexist."16
We are morallybound to performthoseactions
which"willproducethe greatestpossibleamountof good in
and
the Universe."On thebasisof premisesabout probability
about the knowledgerequiredto act in accordancewiththis
dictum,Mooreclaimsthat
withregard to any rule which is generallyuseful, we may assert
that it ought alwaysto be observed, not on the ground that in
everyparticularcase it will be useful, but on the ground that in
everyparticularcase the probabilityof itsbeing so is greaterthan
that of our being likelyto decide rightlythatwe have before us
an instanceof itsdisutility.In short,though we may be sure that
there are cases where the rule should be broken, we can never
know which those cases are, and ought, therefore,never to
break it. It is this factwhich seems to justifythe stringencywith
which moral rules are usually enforced and sanctioned.17

Moore'sdoctrineswerenotswallowedwhole.In responding
to them,the membersof Bloomsburyremainedtrueto their
beliefin criticalrationalism.
Woolf,forexample,appears not
15G. E.
Moore, PrincipiaEthica(Cambridge: Cambridge UniversityPress, 1903), p.
188.
16
Ibid.,p. 189.
17
Ibid.,pp. 162-163.

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BLOOMSBURY AND FREUD

791

to have accepteddirectunanalyzableintuitionas an adequate


in ethicsor otherpartsof
methodforgroundingpropositions
philosophy.He condemnsits use by others,e.g. Bergson,as
"intellectual
He frequently
quackery."18
expressesa preference
forskepticism
overanyformof foundationalism:
By metaphysical
quackeryI mean the abandonmentof and
contemptfor reason as a means to truth in non-political
for it of so-calledintuition,
speculationand the substitution
A
and
determined
and honestapplicationof
mysticism.
magic
reasonto theuniverseas we knowit seemsinevitably
to lead to
and agnosticism,
to a disbeliefin whatappear to be
skepticism
absolutetruths,
to a conviction
thatthetruthwhichseemsto us
mostcertainly
trueand mostrigorously
proved,thebeliefwhich
we are totallyunablenotto believe,even reasonitself,all these
are dubiousand precariousand maywellbe merelydelusions
and superstitions,
theshadowdreamsof shadows.19

Keynes,who, under the influenceof PrincipiaEthicaand


Russell's Principlesof Mathematics,
spent most of his early
intellectual
lifeworkingon thephilosophyof probability,
early
on came to theconclusionthatthe premisesabout probability
on which Moore's advocacyof obedience to general moral
rules was based were mistaken and so rejected the
conclusion.20As we shall see, as he grew older he parted
companywithMoore in othersignificant
ways.
Anotheraspectof theBloomsbury
Irrationality.
spirit,an aspect
particularlyimportantto an examinationof Bloomsbury's
In
appropriationof Freud, was its attitudeto irrationality.
oppositionto an argumentKeynesmakesin hisautobiographicalmemoir,"MyEarlyBeliefs,"QuentinBell arguesthatfrom
the beginningBloomsburywas acutelyaware of the terrible
resultsof irrationality:
18Leonard
Woolf, Quack! Quack! (London: Hogarth Press, 1935), p. 183.
l*Ibid., pp. 160-161.
'"
in CollectedWritings,
vol. 8, ch. 26.
Keynes,A Treatiseon Probability,

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The sleep of reason engendersmonsters,the monstersof


ifcharity
wereto
violence.It wastherefore
absolutely
necessary,
awake.
survivein theworld,thatreasonshouldbe continually
This I think was the assumption that determined
toneto itsartand to
attitudeand gavea distinctive
Bloomsbury's
itsconversations.
No one today could for one momentsuppose that the
forcesin life,thelove of deathand of violence,were
irrational
not presentin the world,or thattheydo not lie somewhere
withineach ofus,butwhereasto someofus theyare notmerely
to be embracedand acceptedwithjoy,
immanent
butsomething
connectedas theyare withso manygreatspiritualexperiences,
for Bloomsburytheywere somethingto be chained,muzzled
and as far as possible suppressed. The great interestof
the thoroughnessand,
Bloomsburylies in the consistency,
the
almost
impossibledifficulties, successwithwhichthis
despite
was done.21

Anti-Victorian,rationalist,aware of the threatposed to


somemembersof Bloomsbury,
civilizedvaluesbyirrationality,
in psychoanalinterested
becamesufficiently
notsurprisingly,
ysisto makeuse of it in theirown work.

Woolfon Politics

is on therole
The mainemphasisin Woolf's politicalwriting
in thedetermination
of whathe calls"communalpsychology"
of politicalevents.The threevolumesof his majorworkare
subtitled"A Studyin CommunalPsychology."22
By communal
he means:
psychology
withinthemindsof individuals,
theideas,beliefs,and emotions,
regardingthe communityof which they form a part and
regardingthe relationsof individualsto it and to one another;
21
Quentin Bell, Bloomsbury,
p. 105.
22 Leonard Woolf,
2 vols. (London:
AftertheDeluge: A Studyof CommunalPsychology,
Communal
A
Politica:
idem,
Press,
1931-39);
Psychology
Studyof
Principia
Hogarth
(London: Hogarth Press, 1953).

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BLOOMSBURY AND FREUD

793

whenanalyzed,it is foundto consistof an intricate


massof
andideals.23
traditions,
customs,
beliefs,
passions,
Woolfassignscommunalpsychology
a veryimportantrole in
and
civilization.
Civilization
"consistspartlyof the
history
actual structureof society. . . and partlyof thiscommunal
psychology."Historyis "largelydeterminedby communal
It is the outcomeof thispsychology
psychology."
interacting
withthe structureof society,changesin the structurebeing
partlythe cause of changes in communalpsychologyand
changesin communalpsychologyproducingchangesin the
structure
of society.
In makingthis claim, Woolf explicitlyrejectsthe notion
which he associateswith many Marxists(though not with
Marx) thatideas and ideals "have littleeffectupon the social
historyof human beings."24As we shall see, the role Woolf
and ideals is verylike the role Keynes
assignsto psychology
assigns.
TheInfluenceofMooreand Marx. Woolf's treatmentof the ideal

owesmuchto Mooreand to Marx.In Principia


Politica(a book
whosetitleis due to Keynes25)he providesa briefaccountof
theethicaltheoryon whichhisapproachto history
and politics
is based.26The accountfollowsMoore veryclosely.He argues
thatvalues are objective,thatthe thingswhichhave intrinsic
value, includingthe thingswhichhave what he calls "social
value,"are nearlyalwayscomplexorganicunities,and that,in
thecase of individualvalues,theyare "complexpsychological
states."The main novel elementis the notion of a "social
value."Such value attaches"to any 'bodyof humanbeingsin
some kindof relationship,'
ifin thoserelationstheindividuals
23

Woolf, Principia,p. 15.


"Leonard Woolf, Barbarians at the Gate (London: Victor Gollanz, 1939), pp.
108-109. Woolf reproduces extractsfrom Engels's 1893 letterto Mehring in defense
of his claim that it is his interpretationthat is closest to Marx (ibid.,pp. 220-221).
25
Woolf, Principia,p. vi.
26
Ibid., pp. 90-94.

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794

SOCIAL RESEARCH

have thisparticularattitudeof mindand wayof living[think


forthemselves
and
and have thecourageof theirconvictions]
the body of men, by its manners,customs,organization,or
or passively,
laws,actively
encouragestheattitudeof mindand
Valuesofthiskind,whenacceptedor attained
wayofliving."27
a
Woolf
calls "social standards of value" or
by
society,
"standardsof socialvalue."28The "civilized"societiesin which
suchstandardsobtainare, of course,complexorganicunities:
The structureof a civilizedsocietyand the psychologyof a
civilizedman are not simpleentitieswhichcan be describedor
definedin a singlesentence;theyare complexesand in those
complexesthequalityCivilized'dependsupon theexistenceof a
elements.29
numberof different
/

The objectof "practicalpolitics,"


which,as Woolfunderstands
is
is
a
branch
of
it,
practicalethics, to maximizetheamountof
socialvalue in theworld.
Woolf pointsto a numberof social values. The principal
ones, thosewhichdefinethe civilizedsociety,are happiness,
equality,and freedom.These are the essentialelementsin
whathe calls the democraticideal.30By happinesshe means
is one whichenables everyoneto
thata civilizedcommunity
realizehappinessand whichregardseach individual'shappias anyother's.He creditsBenthamand
nessto be as important
withintroducing
thisidea intomodernthought
theutilitarians
but departsradicallyfromtheirconceptionof the sourcesof
happiness and fromwhat Keynes called Benthamism,the
of happinesswithmoneyand theassociatedauri
identification
sacrafames.For a lifeto be happy,it mustbe good in Moore's
sense.
By equality,he means,as mightbe expected,equal rights
27
Ibid.,p. 97.
28Ibid.
29
Woolf,AftertheDeluge,2:42.
30 Leonard Woolf,"Can
DemocracySurvive?,"in MaryAdams, ed., TheModernState
(Port Washington,N.Y.: Kennikat Press, 1969 [1933]), pp. 23-63.

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BLOOMSBURY AND FREUD

795

and equalitybeforethe law. He also means muchmore than


this,however.He means equalityin all the means,including
the economic means, to a good life, equalityof economic
status,and so on. For thisreason,the good societyinvolves
communalcontrolof economicas wellas politicalpower.
The thirdelementin complexeshavinghighsocialvalue is
freedom.Woolf claims it is an essentialelement in those
complexeswhichhave the highestvalue. By itself,however,
value. Indeed, itspresence
freedomdoes not possessintrinsic
can add to theevilof particular
organicunities,forexample,in
thelivesof individualswho wishto tortureothers.31
In additionto the obvious connectionto Moore, Woolf's
treatmentof ethicsand the ideal societyis, as he himself
influencedby Marx. In
explicitlypoints out, importantly
Barbariansat the Gate,he describeshimselfas a "Marxian
socialist-butonly'up to a point'."32
The reservations
are those
he believesa criticalrationalistmust make withany other
writer'swork, those he also makes, for example, in his
generally very positive evaluations of Freud. Only the
"doctrinallunatic"treatsanotherperson'sideas as whollytrue.
Woolf frequentlymakes use of passages fromMarx in his
accountof the ideal society.In particular,he frequently
uses
31This
points to an aspect of Woolf's account that is incompatible with Marx.
ConsistentwithMoore, Woolf treatsrelations,includingthe relationbetweenelements
making up organic unities, as external rather than internal relations. Freedom, for
example, is treated as externallyrelated to the other elements making up an organic
complex. Marx regards such relationsas internal.He would not, for example, regard
the tortureras a free person. She/he is a slave to irrational passions. Freedom is
internallyrelated to the other elements of a good life. Moore (Principia,pp. 33-34)
explicitlyrejectsthisconception of organic unityas internalrelations,a conception he
associates with Hegel.
This is only one of the Hegelian aspects of Marx that Woolf too readily rejects as
nonsense (Barbarians,pp. 123-124). In fact, it is these aspects, which include the
notionof objectivefreedomas well as the notion of internalrelations,whichunderpin
those features of Marx to which Woolf points in defending his own interpretation
against the interpretationsof many Marxists.In any event,as we shall see, barbarism,
as Woolf understands it, cannot be characteristicof a trulyfree person. He adopts a
Freudian explanation of barbarism which makes the barbarian the slave of his
passions.
32
Woolf,Barbarians,p. 124.

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796

SOCIAL

RESEARCH

the followingpassages from the Communist


The
Manifesto.35
ideal societyis "an association in which the free development
of each is the condition for the free development of all." It is
also one where "accumulated labour is but a means to widen,to
enrich,to promotethe existenceof the labourer." Accordingto
both Marx and Woolf, the good societyis one in which "the
ultimate end is the widening and enrichment of the
individual's existence, the creation of an association in which
the free development of each is the condition for the free
developmentof all."34
At the end of Barbariansat the Gate, Woolf provides the
followingsummaryof his view of the good society:
the fulldevelopmentof a societyof free
Westerncivilization,
a
in
men, community whichthefreedomofeach is thecondition
forthefreedomof all- it is necessaryto sayit again forthelast
time-requiresthreethings:
of communalpower,
(1) Communalcontrolof the controllers
whichwe maylegitimately
call forshortdemocracy;
(2) Communalcontrolof economicpower,whichis Socialismor
Communism;
(3) An active,passionatecommunalacceptanceand pursuitof
certainsocialideas, principles,and standardsof value without
whichfreedomand equalitycannotbe maintainedand without
which to talk of wideningand enrichingthe existenceof
individualmenand womenis eithercynicaldishonesty
or mere
and
are
truth,
tolerance,
humanity.35
they justice,
stupidity:
This then is Woolf's vision of the civilizedideal. It stands in
sharp contrastto what he calls the barbarian ideal. The two
ideals differmostabout freedomand authority.Freedom is an
essential element in the complex organic unitywhich constitutes, for Woolf, the civilized ideal. For the barbarian, in
contrast,the highest social value is obedience and the ideal
societyis the societyof mastersand slaves. Woolf claims these
33
E.g., ibid.,p. 66.
~
Ibid.,p. 70.
50
Ibid.,p. 216.

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BLOOMSBURY AND FREUD

797

barbarianidealsare notmerelymistaken;theyhavetheirroots
in irrationality.
Irrationalityand the Influenceof Freud. Contradicting what

Keynessaysof earlyBloomsburyin "MyEarlyBeliefs,"Woolf


claimsalwaysto have believedin the importanceof human
What he disbelievesis the conceptof original
irrationality.36
a potential
sin. Humans have the potentialfor rationality,
whichis onlyrealizedwherethe environment
permits.Woolf
disagreeswithKeynesnot about the existenceof irrationality
butaboutitsorigins.As we shallsee, Keynes,following
Freud,
claims these are innate and hence irremovable.Woolf, in
claimstheyare locatedin the socialenvironment.
In
contrast,
particular,he claimstheyare the outcomeof authoritarian
socialrelations,relationswhichKeynes,by 1938,had come to
see, givenhis viewof the originsof barbarism,as a necessary
frombarbarism.37
It is here,
partof thedefenseof civilization
in his analysis of irrationality,
that Woolf makes use of
psychoanalysis.
The centralidea in Europeanhistoryto whichWoolftraces
oppositionto civilizedvaluesis "thesenseof sin."This
andmetaphysical
butitsspellwas
doctrine,
beganas a religious
36

Woolf, Afterthe Deluge, 2:205; Leonard Woolf, The War for Peace (London:
George Routledge & Sons, 1940), pp. 240-241.
37
Quentin Bell (Bloomsbury,
p. 95) points to an even more strikingdifference
betweenWoolf and Clive Bell. "Clive Bell sees civilizationas somethingthatexistsonly
in an lite and fromwhich the helots who serve that lite are permanentlyexcluded.
The manner in which civilisation is to be preserved is immaterial; if it can be
maintainedby a democracyso much the better,but there is no fundamentalobjection
to a tyrannyso long as it maintains a cultured class with unearned incomes. To
Leonard Woolf it appears that all attemptsto make a civilisationwhich relies upon
militaryor ecclesiasticalpower are doomed, for these forcesare bound to turnagainst
reason when reason threatenstheirsupremacy; the only hope for civilisationis that it
shall find support in the masses.
"The differenceof approach is of enormous importance;it is the differencebetween
one who would and one who would not submitto fascism.Neverthelessthere is some
common ground, for while both would in the end accept the use of force,the one in
resisting,the other in establishinga tyrant,to both the idea of violence was extremely
painful,and painful in part because it implied the abdication of reason."

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798

SOCIAL

RESEARCH

so potent,its implicationsso widelysubtle,that it gradually


penetratedthe whole field of European life and thought,
ideas and beliefswhich
forminga vastganglionof interrelated
affectedor infectednot onlymen'sreligions,but the wholeof
theirsocialand politicallife.It was,ofcourse,an important
part
of that spiritualmatrixin which the minds of Europeans
receiveda commonform.It was not oftena systemof ideas
as a rational
consciouslyused by the individualor community
motivefor action.But it lay in the backgroundof all men's
all their
minds,entangledin all theirthoughts,impregnating
beliefs;itcolouredtheirwholeoutlookon theworld;in religion
and in thesocialand politicalorderingof theirlivesitkepttheir
eyesand mindsalwaysturnedin a certaindirectionso thatthey
could scarcelysee anythingsane or humanewhichfelloutside
this foggycircleof sin and punishmentand hell. Finally,it
alwayslayin thebackgroundand in thedepthsof theirminds,a
vastreservoirfromwhicheveryman mightat anymomentfish
up some fairytale withwhichto rationalizehis passionsor
excusehisdesires.38

This sense of sin, he claims,"accountsfor the rigidityand


viewof politics."
of theauthoritarian
persistence
to explainthe sense of
Woolfmakesuse of psychoanalysis
sin:
Thanks to Freud,we knowtodaya greatdeal more thanour
ofthissenseofsin.Likeall
ancestorsabouttheoriginand effects
Freudwas
greatmenwhobreaknewgroundin humanthought,
not infallible,and his doctrines,unlike those of religious
or politicalreligions(e.g. commureligions(e.g. Christianity)
nism),are notabsolutetruth,but scientific
perpetuhypotheses
allysubjectto revisionin thelightof newfactsor newtests.One
may doubt the truthof a good manyof Freud's speculative
but
and ofhisbrilliantly
interpretations,
complicated
hypotheses
there can be little or no doubt that his contributionto
in his analysisof the workingof theconsciousand
psychology,
unconsciousmind, is as new and importantas were the
of Newtonand Darwinto othersciences.Andjust
contributions
or hypotheses
as Newton'sand Darwin'sdiscoveries
profoundly
affectedspheresof thoughtand knowledgefar outside the
sciences in which they were made, so Freud's discoveries
not
regardingthe unconsciousare of immensesignificance,
38

Woolf,AftertheDeluge, 1:223.

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BLOOMSBURY

AND FREUD

799

but also forreligion,ethics,


merelyforindividualpsychology,
thatwhichis
politics,and sociology.Of all his contributions,
probablythe most fundamentaland far-reachingconcerns
man'ssenseof sin.
I believethatthissense of sin and the wayin whichhuman
beings deal with it, and thereforewith the question of
punishmentand standardsof value, are one of the keys to
civilization.
To be a slave to it is barbarism;to controlit is
To understandit is essentialto an understanding
civilization.
of
thebreakdownof civilization.39
He points particularlyto Freud's account of the Oedipus
complex.40
Woolf also points41to a specific psychoanalyticaccount of
the origin and role of the sense of sin, the account found in R.
E. Money-Kyrle'sPsychoanalysis
and Politics.42He says of this

factsand argumentsseem to me
account:"Mr. Money-Kyrle's
to provide new evidence for the view taken by me of
in itsrelationto socialvalues."
communalpsychology
twotypesof moralcharacter:the
Money-Kyrle
distinguishes
democraticand the authoritarian.He associatesthese with
different
of conscience.These structures
structures
are traced
in turnto different
familybackgrounds.He also pointsto the
influenceof workrelations.He provides,in otherwords,an
accountof theauthoritarian
in termsof the"sense
personality
of sin," an account which,like Woolf's,connectsthis to a
particularsocialcontext.
initial interestin the light psychoanalysis
Money-Kyrle's
in a study
mightshed on politicsgrewout of his involvement
of the psychological
rootsof fascismand Nazismin Germany.
He claimstwotypesof individualwere readilyidentifiable
in

39
Woolf, Principia,pp. 64-65.
40
Ibid.,pp. 66-67.
41
Ibid.,p. 269.
4 R. E.
and Politics(London: Gerald Duckworth,1951).
Money-Kyrle,Psychoanalysis

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SOCIAL RESEARCH

postwarGermany:thedemocraticcharacterwitha humanistic
conscience and the antidemocraticwith an authoritarian
conscience.43
His accountof thedevelopmentof thesetwotypesis importantlyinfluencedby the workof Melanie Klein.44It can be
as follows:In earlyinfancy
summarized
themechanisms
briefly
createa fantasy
ofsplitting
worldsplitintogood
and projection
and bad objects.Ego developmentis influencedby the introjectionof theseobjects.The firststageof thisdevelopmentis
or "paranoid"position.SplitwhatKleincallsthe"persecutory"
of
the
with
projection the infant'sown anger and
tingalong
attackand
rejectioncreatesa worldof enemiesthreatening
In
the
next
the
stage splitting
possession(throughintrojection).
is undone.Good and bad qualitiesbegintobe seenas aspectsof
cometobe directedat
thesameobject.Love and hatetherefore
the same object.The child believesits aggressivewishescan
these
bringharmtotheobject.Giventheambivalence,
magically
wishesare nowseen to threatenan objectwhichis lovedas well
as hated.This producesthefeelingsof depressionwhichcharacterizewhatKleincallsthe"depressive"positionin thedevelopmentof theego.
This Kleinianviewof developmentprovides,accordingto
a basis for an accountof the developmentof
Money-Kyrle,
differenttypes of "moral character"-specifically,of the
characters.These reflectdifferdemocraticand authoritarian
whichare expressed
of conscience,differences
ent structures
of
of
senses
different
guilt, sin, produced by each
by the
We are thusled backto Woolf's "senseof sin"as the
structure.
the democraticfromthe authorielement
distinguishing
key
tarian character. "Moral behaviour may be defined as
The sense
behaviourdictatedbythefearof a senseof guilt."45
of guilt is a compound of two feelings-persecutoryand
43

Ibid.,pp. 11-12.
Klein s influence in England owed much, ot course, to her relation to
Bloomsbury,particularlyto James and Alix Strachey.
45
and Politics,p. 54.
Money-Kyrle,Psychoanalysis

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BLOOMSBURY AND FREUD

801

guiltis based on "fearof punishment,"


depressive.Persecutory
of
depressiveon "fear injuring,desertingor disappointing
somethingthatis loved." The responseto guiltdepends on
whichfeelingdominates.Persecutoryguiltarouses propitiabehaviour.
tory,depressivereparatory,
and benefacLaterin developmenttheinternalpersecutors
tors created by introjectionin early infancybecome the
of conscience.This willbe "paranoid"
superego,the structure
or "depressive"dependingon whichinternalobjectdominates.
Dominationby the good object produces the humanistic
In
bad object,theauthoritarian.
character;bythepersecutory,
theformercase guiltwillbe principally
depressive;in thelatter
case it willbe persecutory.
thetwokindsof moralcharacter
Accordingto Money-Kyrle,
is measured
of
involvedifferent
Rationality
degrees rationality.
by the degree to whichbeliefsare the outcomeof logic and
perception.On this measure, the humanisticis the more
rationalcharacterbecause the depressiveguiltassociatedwith
it arises fromacceptanceof the realityof the unityof the
object.Moreover,deep analysis,whichbringsmoreand more
of the unconsciousto consciousnesswhereit can be subjected
to the tests of logic and perception,i.e., which increases
invariably,accordingto Money-Kyrle,
rationality,
produces
in
from
moral
character
the
authoritarian
and
"away
changes
towardsthehumanistic
end of the scale."46
In fact,fullrationality
wouldbe associatedwiththecomplete
absorptionof the superegointo the ego for the reason that
resultsfromthe superego'sembodimentof
nonassimilation
previouslyprojectedsadismand aggressionand fromunconscious and hence irrationalfear of contaminating
the good
partof the superegoby bringingit intocontactwiththe ego.
Withfullrationality,
theinternalsourceof
superegomorality,
"is predominantly
of
guilt,which,accordingto Money-Kyrle,
an authoritariankind," would disappear. There would,
46

Ibid.,p. 18.

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802

SOCIAL RESEARCH

however,stillbe an externalsourceof guilt.Insightintoone's


would produceempathytowardothers.This
own personality
empathywouldmakeus feelguiltyshouldwe injureor neglect
them.Reason and love hence produce,in the limit,the fully
democraticcharacter.
Money-Kyrlealso traces the two types of characterto
particularsocial and familycontexts.He downplaysthe
influenceof heredity.47
He also claimsthatit was
veryeasy to correlatethesetwo typesof conscienceboth with
different
typesof occupation
typesof homeand withdifferent
. . . almostall the humanistscame fromhomesin whichthere
and
had beenan unusualdegreeofbothfreedomand affection;
those
who
had
to
be
found
were
more
among
frequently
they
followedartor scienceas a careerthanamongthoseconcerned
with an
with administration.
Conversely,the authoritarians,
almostmonotonousregularity,
spoke of the strictpatriarchal
nature of their early environmentto which they gratefully
theirown regardfordiscipline.. . . [In addition]the
attributed
was ... by no means
influenceof occupationalenvironment
and
negligible-especiallywhenit operatedin an antihumanist
direction.48
pro-authoritarian

In consequence,"the authoritarianmorality,whichparades
obedienceto someexternalpoweror innercode as thehighest
formof virtue,is a typicalproductof theoedipuscomplexas
this develops in an authoritariansocietyand a patriarchal
home."49
Woolfoffersa verysimilaraccountof theroleplayedbythe
and patriarsocialenvironment,
by authoritarian
particularly
of character.To beginwith,
in thedevelopment
chalrelations,
viewof the
bit
a
albeit
he shares,
Money-Kyrle's
tentatively,50
respectiveweightsto be givento heredityand environment.51
Second,he providesan elaborateproposalforgreatly
reducing
47

Ibid.,,p. 82.
Ibid., pp. 12-13.
49
Ibid.,pp. 72-73.
50
See, for example, Woolf,AftertheDeluge, 1:253.
51
Ibid.,pp. 264-266.

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BLOOMSBURY AND FREUD

803

the authoritarianelementin child rearing,the elementhe


Because he accepts
findsmainlyresponsibleforbarbarism.52
he does "not
Freud's account of the primal instincts,53
individual
to
thenecessities
believethatanyadjustmentof the
of modern communal life is possible without external
compulsionof the child. But there remainsa fundamental
differencebetween the authoritarianand the libertarian
solutionof the problemof civilizinginfantsand children."54
for the
The libertarianapproach "consistsin substituting
sanctionsof fear and sin those of love (in the widestsense)
and- I hesitateto introducesuch an unfashionableideareason."55Woolf relies for most of his evidence on his
animals(theWoolfs,ofcourse,were
experiencesdomesticating
successful.
childless).The discussionis, I think,notcompletely
The problemis partlytheresultof hisuncritical
acceptanceof
Freud'spremisesaboutinstincts,
premiseswhichare incompatible with the wider philosophicalframeworkof Woolfs
approach.
For Woolf,in anyevent,authoritarian
are the
arrangements
sourceof thedangerto civilizedvalues;not,as we shallsee in
Keynes, a necessarydefense against it. Woolf is a social
optimist;Keynesa socialpessimist:
The democratic
offree,
ideal,as I havedescribed
it,is a society
each
and
man
his
citizens,
active,
equal,
intelligent
choosing own
and willingthatothersshouldchoose
wayof lifeforhimself
theirs.The democratis, you see, an optimist
abouthuman
natureand humansociety;
he wantsus all tobecomelikegods,
52Woolf,
Principia,
pp. 109-141.
53"Manis bornwith
instincts
and hisdesiresand inclinations
are determined
byhis
In orderto be civilized,indeedin orderto liveat all as a memberof any
instincts.
the individualhas to learn,somehowor other,to thwart,
control,and
community,
directhisinstincts,
hisdesires,hisinclinations.
In orderto be freehe mustlearnhow
to lose his freedom"(Woolf,Principia,p. 112). Woolf repeatsthis claim fairly
in hispoliticalwriting.
frequently
54Woolf,
Principia,
p. 112.
JJ
Ibid., p. 113.

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804

SOCIAL

RESEARCH

free,independentpeople, formingour own viewsabout the


in theStateand in politics
and all cooperating
worldand politics,
to buildup a societyin whichmencan liveand thinklikegods.56
Keyneson Politics

Like Woolf,Keynesgives an importantrole to ideas and


ofeconomicand politicalevents.In
idealsin thedetermination
a letterto RoyHarrodon thesubjectofJanTinbergen'searly
the methods
workin econometrics,
Keynes,in differentiating
appropriatein the moralsciencesfromthoseappropriatein
the naturalsciences,emphasizesthe role of values,motives,
and psychologicalfactors."Economicsis essentiallya moral
scienceand not a naturalscience.That is to say,it employs
introspectionand judgments of value."57 This point is
in anotherletterto Harrodon thesame subject:
reiterated
thepointabouteconomics
I also wantto emphasise
strongly
beforethatit deals with
beinga moralscience.I mentioned
haveaddedthatitdeals
I
with
values.
and
might
introspection
One has
uncertainties.
withmotives,
psychological
expectations,
on guardagainsttreatingthe materialas
to be constantly
It is as thoughthefalloftheapple
andhomogeneous.
constant
itis
on whether
tothegrounddependedon theapple'smotives,
the
wanted
the
whether
and
the
to
worth
ground
ground,
falling
of
on
the
calculations
mistaken
on
and
to
fall,
part the
apple
the
earth.58
of
the
centre
from
it
was
how
far
as
to
apple
of valuesowed muchto Moore. This
Keynes'sunderstanding
influencedhis politicalviews.59
understanding
significantly
TheInfluence
ofMoore.Thoughhe wasneverin completeagreementwithMoore,Keynes,as "My EarlyBeliefs"makesclear,
56
Ibid.,pp. 67-68.
57
in
John Maynard Keynes, The GeneralTheoryand After-Defenseand Development,
14:297.
CollectedWritings,
58
Ibid.,p. 300.
59 For recent discussions of the influence of Moore on
Keyness politics, see A.
Clarendon Press, 1988),
A
New
Political
Vision:
(Oxford:
economy
Fitzgibbons,Keynes'
and O'Donnell, Keynes.

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BLOOMSBURY AND FREUD

805

hislifetobelievein important
continuedthroughout
aspectsof
In
ethics.
he
continued
to
Moore's
believethatgoodparticular,
nesswas an objectivepropertyof certainstatesof mind.Good
statesofmindwerecomplexorganicunities.Theywereachieved
bycontemplating
appropriateobjects.Keynescontinuedto believe,withMoore,thatlove and beautyweresuchobjects.
The agreementwithMoore was nevercomplete,however.
As early as his undergraduateyears at Cambridge,Keynes
insisted,forexample,that"good" could onlybe a propertyof
statesof mind;itcould notbe a property
of theobjectsof such
states.The appropriate
in
the
case
of objectswas of
judgment
"fitness"ratherthan"goodness."Duringthisperiod,he also,
as I pointed out above, rejectedMoore's implicitpremises
about probability
and the conclusionsMoore based on them.
These disagreements
withMoore increasedas Keynesgrew
older. Keynes appears, for example, to have abandoned
Moore's atomism in favor of organicismand to have
abandoned importantaspects of Moore's method of doing
philosophy.60
The most importantdifferencebetween his early and
maturebeliefsto whichhe pointsin "MyEarlyBeliefs"is that
betweenhis earlyand maturepsychological
beliefs.He claims
to have abandoned the belief that "human nature is
reasonable."This led to significant
changesin bothhis ethical
and his politicalbeliefs.Keynes's view of the nature and
implicationsof human irrationality
appears to have been
influencedby Freud. As in the case of the
significantly
influenceof Freud on Keynes's economics,however,the
evidenceis almostentirelyindirect.61
It consistsmainlyof the
60 For more detailed discussions of these
"
changes, see E. G. Winslow, 'Human
Logic' and Keynes's Economics," Eastern EconomicJournal 12 (October-December
1986): 413-430, and E. G. Winslow, "Organic Interdependence, Uncertaintyand
Economic Analysis,"EconomicJournal,December 1989, pp. 1173-82.
The direct evidence is not insignificant,however. It is outlined in Winslow,
"Keynes and Freud," pp. 554-556. There is evidence suggestingthat the relatively
infrequentexplicit referencesto Freud and psychoanalysisin Keynes's writingresult

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806

SOCIAL RESEARCH

consistencyof Keynes's argumentswith Freud's. In fact,


Keynes'sarguments,thoughtheyseldom make directreference to Freud, are more consistentwith Freud's than are
Woolf's.62
and theInfluenceof Freud. In "My Early Beliefs,"
Irrationality

earlyethicalbeliefshad been
KeynesclaimsthatBloomsbury's
based ... on an a prioriviewof whathumannatureis
"flimsily
like,bothotherpeople'sand our own,whichwas disastrously
He
mistaken. . . theviewthathumannatureis reasonable."63
claimsthat"in fact,humanaffairsare carriedon aftera most
irrational fashion."64The belief that human nature is
reasonableignored the "deeper and blinderpassions,"the
"vulgarpassions."65It overlookedthe "insaneand irrational
springsof wickednessin mostmen."66
Keynes'sabandonmentof the beliefthathuman natureis
reasonablechangedhis ethicalbeliefsin the followingways.
Paradoxically,it led him to accept an aspect of Moore's
practicalethicswhichhe had earlierrejected(and whichhe
to rejectso faras his own morality
continuedin his maturity
traditional
now
wasconcerned).He
acceptedthatconventions,
standards,and inflexiblerulesof conductshould governthe
ethicallives of the majority.His reasons for acceptingthis
differedfromMoore's,however.
He argued that habits of uncriticalobedience must be
inculcatedin mostpeoplebecausemostdo notpossesseventhe
from his conscious employmentof what Freud called "poetical economy." See Ted
Fall 1989,
Winslow,"JohnMaynard Keynes's Poetical Economy,"JournalofPsychology,
pp. 179-194.
bJFor an
example of Freud adopting a view of the origin and implicationstor
civilizationof the vulgar passions almost identical to the view attributedto Keynes
below and at the same timereactingskepticallyto Woolf's kind of social optimism,see
Sigmund Freud, "Future of an Illusion," in Sigmund Freud, Civilization,Societyand
Religion(Harsmondsworth:Penguin, 1985), pp. 184-189.

p. 447.
Keynes,Essaysin Biography,
*
Ibid.,p. 449.
OD
Ibid.,pp. 449, 450.
bb
Ibid.,p. 447.

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807

rudimentsof whatis requiredforrationaljudgment.67They


lack "the wisdom,experienceand self-control"
necessaryto
In
successfully
"judge everyindividualcase on its merits."68
consequence, "immoralism"is not an appropriate ethical
stanceforeveryone.For thoselackingthecapacityforrational
judgment,moralitycannot be left a matterfor individual
judgment.Most people cannotbe "safelyreleased fromthe
ofconvention
and traditional
outwardrestraints
standardsand
inflexiblerules of conduct,and left,fromnow onwards,to
theirownsensibledevices,pure motivesand reliableintuitions
of the good."69"Customarymorals,conventionsand traditionalwisdom"mustbe respectedand upheld because they
fromthe "insaneand irrationalspringsof
protectcivilization
wickednessin mostmen."70
Civilizationis "a thinand precariouscrusterectedby the
and thewillof a veryfew,and onlymaintainedby
personality
rules and conventionsskillfullyput across and guilefully
preserved."71"Traditionalwisdom" and the "restraintsof
custom"deserverespectas do "theextraordinary
accomplishmentof our predecessorsin theorderingof life"and
theelaborate
whichtheyhaddevisedtoprotect
framework
this
67

Keynes once said of Marxism: "How can I adopt a creed which, preferringthe
mud to the fish, exalts the boorish proletariat above the bourgeois and the
intelligentsiawho, with whatever faults,are the quality in life and surely carry the
seeds of all human advancement?"(Keynes,Essaysin Persuasion,in CollectedWritings,
9:
258). Most of Keynes's remarksabout Marx are, in contrastto Woolf's, highlycritical
and dismissive.They are also oftenveryfoolish.For example, in "My Early Beliefs" he
calls Marxism "the finalreductioad absurdumof Benthamism."This dismissiveattitude
preventshim from seeing that Marx's economics is constructedon philosophical and
psychological foundations remarkablylike his own (see, however, Keynes, General
and After,p. 81).
Theory
There is a passage in "My Early Beliefs" (Essaysin Biography,
p. 442) in which Keynes
unfavorablycontraststhe visionof the ideal found in what he calls "Freud cum Marx"
with the vision found in Moore. This is not a rejection of Freudian ideas, however.
Freud and Marx would themselves have rejected the vision of the ideal found in
"Freud cum Marx."
Keynes,Essaysin Biography,
p. 446.
oy
Ibid.,p. 447.
70 Ibid.
71 Ibid.

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808

SOCIAL

RESEARCH

order.Platosaid in hisLawsthatone of thebestof a setof good


lawswouldbe a lawforbidding
anyyoungmanto enquirewhich
of themare rightor wrong,thoughan old man remarking
any
to a ruler
thisobservation
defectin thelawsmightcommunicate
or to an equal in yearswhenno youngman was present.72
Once we understand the role convention, traditional
standards,and inflexiblerules of conduct play, we should, as
early Bloomsburydid not, include "the order and patternof
life amongst communitiesand the emotions which they can
inspire" among "the objects of valuable contemplation and
communion."73To threatenthem by ridicule, as Keynes and
his friendshad done in theiryouth,was to threatencivilization
itself.The two essays,"Dr. Melchior: A Defeated Enemy" and
"My Early Beliefs" (essays which deserve close attention,
among other reasons because theywere published "in order to
carryout an express desire in [Keynes's]willthatthese papers,
and these alone of his unpublished writings, should be
printed"74)have this as one of their main points. Keynes is
admittingto and apologizing for the disrespect and irreverence of his youth.
The change in Keynes's psychologicalviews also led him to
add "spontaneous, irrational outbursts of human nature""spontaneous, volcanic and even wicked impulses"-to his list
of possible characteristicsof intrinsically
good statesof mind.75
In Civilizationand Its DiscontentsFreud explains the sort of
value such outburstshave. "The feelingof happiness derived
fromthe satisfactionof a wild instinctualimpulse untamed by
the ego is incomparablymore intense than that derived from
sating an instinct that has been trained."76 Although the
development of rationality and aesthetic sense through
72
Ibid.,p. 448.
'*
Ibid.,p. 449.
74 David Garnett,in ibid., 388.
p.
75 In the
passage cited above (n. 21), Quentin Bell disconnects this view from
Bloomsbury.
76
and Its Discontents
(London: Hogarth Press, 1963), p.
Sigmund Freud, Civilization
16.

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BLOOMSBURY AND FREUD

809

and theartistto obtain"finer


enablesthescientist
sublimation
. . . theirintensity
is mildas compared
and highersatisfactions,
withthat derived fromthe satingof crude and instinctual
impulses;it does notconvulseour physicalbeing."77
The matureKeynesrepudiatedhis earlier"thinrationalism
skippingon thecrustof thelava,ignoringboththerealityand
and
the value of the vulgar passions,joined to libertinism
irreverence."78
He also adopted a viewof the
comprehensive
nature and operation of these passions very similar to
Freud's.
Keynes'smaturebeliefthatmostpeople are innatelystupid
and barbaricmay have been partlyanchored in something
thatfoundanotherexpressionin
otherthanreason,something
his "arrogance."79Certainlythe mature belief did not
representas big a change for Keynesas "My Early Beliefs"
suggests.In 1904,in a paper on Burke,he made thefollowing
remarksaboutBurke'sargumentopposinguniversalsuffrage:
in [Burke's]lineof arguThere is,prima
facie,a greatplausibility
of arriving
ment.. . . Thereis no verygreata prioriprobability
at
to the decisionof a vastbodyof
desirableresultsby submitting
to delivera rapersons,whoare individually
whollyincompetent
tionaljudgmenton theaffairat issue.But whatevermaybe our
conclusions
theeventualbenefits,
thatare likelyto be
concerning
derivedfroman ultrademocratic
formof government,
itmustbe
admittedthatthe disastersforetoldby its opponentshave not
come to pass. Democracyis stillon trial,but so far it has not
disgraceditself;it is truethatitsfullforcehas notyetcomeinto
and thisfortwocauses,one moreor lesspermanent
in
operation,
itseffect,
theotherof a moretransient
nature.In thefirstplace,
whatever
thenumerical
ofwealthmaybe,itspower
representation
willalwaysbe out of all proportion;and secondlythe defective
of thenewlyenfranchised
classeshas preventedany
organisation
in
alteration
the
balanceof power.80
overwhelming
preexisting
77
Ibid.,pp. 16-17.
Keynes,Essaysin Biography,
p. 450.
79On
Keynes's arrogance, see Clive Bell, Old Friends,pp. 47-57, and Woolf, Sowing,
pp. 145-146.
U
Keynes, as cited in O'Donnel, Keynes,p. 282.

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810

SOCIAL RESEARCH

The judgment found here about the abilitiesof ordinary


people and about the implicationsof this for "an ultraare not thatmuchdifferent
democraticformof government"
fromhis maturebeliefs.These includebeliefin authoritarian
politicaland economicstructures.
For example,a passage in a 1925 address to the Liberal
SummerSchool,a passageexcisedfromtheversionpublished
endorsesauthoritarian
in Essaysin Persuasion,
politicalparty
Should it come,theclasswar,Keynesclaims,will
structures.81
findhim on "on the side of the educated bourgeoisie."
This,
however,is nottherealreasonhe willnotbecomea memberof
the Labour party.The real reasonis that,because "questions
of societywill[infuture]be far
abouttheeconomicframework
and awaythe mostimportantof politicalissues"and because
"the right solution will involve intellectualand scientific
elementswhichmustbe above the heads of the vastmass of
more or less illiteratevoters,"the partymachine must be
autocratic"to preventthismass fromexercising
"sufficiently
too much influenceon policy. Of the three parties,the
are "in muchthe best position"on thismatter,
Conservatives
were "sufficiently
the Liberals,who traditionally
autocratic,"
have made "ill-advisedmovementsin the direction of
democratisingthe details of the party programme,"and
elementsin the
Labour is so democraticthat"theintellectual
control."
partywillneverexerciseadequate
He believed
Keyneswas also an advocateof corporatism.82
a
evolve
would
corporatisteconomic
naturally
capitalism
structurethroughthe gradual divorcingof ownershipfrom
on theexerciseof
controland the developmentof constraints
thatcontrolin the formof a need to placatepublicopinion.
he claimed,had a tendency"to socializeitself."
Big enterprise,
It should be emphasized,however,that these differences
81
Keynes,Essaysin Persuasion,pp. 295-296.
8
m Collected
Ibid.,pp. 288-290; see also Keynes,Social,Politicaland Literary
Writings,

28:32-34.
Writings,

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BLOOMSBURY AND FREUD

811

withWoolfwerenotprimarily
differences
aboutthenatureof
the Ideal (though,as I pointedout above, Keynes'sunderled to differenceshere as well).
standingof irrationality
Keynes'sbeliefin originalsin, in the innatenessof human
barbarismand irrationality,
led him to the conclusionthat
Woolf's civilizedideal, howeveraccurate it mightbe as a
descriptionof the best of all conceivableworlds,was not a
He did,however,wantto
possibleworld;itwasimpracticable.83
as
to
it.
as
close
He
an
was
advocate,forexample,
possible
get
of institutional
theliberationof
changeswhichwouldfacilitate
all women,includingworking-class
from
the tyranny
women,
ofthepatriarchal
scornfulof the
family.He wasalso extremely
ideal
with
its
on
the
love
of
capitalist
emphasis
moneyand
power:
The decadentinternational
butindividualistic
in the
capitalism,
hands of whichwe found ourselvesafterthe War, is not a
success.It is notintelligent,
it is notbeautiful,it is notjust,it is
not virtuous-and it doesn't deliverthe goods. In short,we
dislikeit and we are beginningto despise it. But when we
wonderwhatto put in itsplace,we are extremely
perplexed.84

He also wrotea movingjustification,


in Moorean terms,of
Julian Bell's decision to volunteer for service on the
Republicanside in the SpanishCivilWar,a decisionthatcost
Bell his life.85
The "Republicof myimagination,"
Keynesonce said,"is on
theextremeleftofCelestialspace."86His elitismhad theresult,
however,that systemswhich suppose a rough equalityin
83
Keynes may have believed thatin the verylong run Woolf's visioncould be made
practicable through selectivebreeding. He remained a supporter of eugenics to the
end of his life. In some 1946 remarksto the Eugenics Societyintroducingthe Society's
gold medal winner for that year, Alexander Carr-Saunders, he describes eugenics as
"the most important,significantand, I would add, genuinebranch of sociologywhich
exists" (Keynes, "Opening Remarks: The Galton Lecture, 1946," EugenicsReview38
[1946]: 39-40; cited in O'Donnell, Keynes,p. 341).
*
21: 239.
1931-1939, in CollectedWritings,
Keynes,Activities
OD
Keynes,Essaysin Biography,
pp. 358-360.
Keynes,Essaysin Persuasion,p. 309.

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SOCIAL RESEARCH

812

such as Guild Socialismor Marx's


potentialfor rationality
Woolf
communism
(as
it)werejudged impracticable.
interprets
On theotherhand,extremeauthoritarianism,
as in fascismor
with
the
state socialism,was inconsistent
amount of liberty
was
attainable.
however,
Liberty,
mostlyusefulto the
actually
underthreatfromthe barbarians.
exceptionaland constantly
This bringsus to anotheraspectof the influenceof Keynes's
mature psychologicalbeliefs on his politics,his views on
reform.As we shall see, manyof the reformshe proposed
fromthebarbarismof the
weredesignedto protectcivilization
majority.
This aspectof Keynes'sapproachto reformis broughtoutin
his review of H. G. Wells's The Worldof WilliamClissold.He

with
beginsthereviewbysidingwiththosewhoare dissatisfied
and
institutions"
and
wish
to
see
existing"laws,customs,rules,
thosein the vanguard,
themchanged."Mostbut particularly
find themselvesand their environmentill-adaptedto one
another,and are for this reason far less happy than their
forebearswere or theiryet more-sophistiless-sophisticated
cated descendantsneed be."87 He characterizesthe third
volumeof Wells'sworkas an inquiryintothe question"from
whenceare we to draw the forceswhichare 'to change the
of theworld'?"88
laws,customs,rules,and institutions
The problemis that"the creativeintellectof mankind"is
and great modernbusinessmen,
found among the scientists
which
butthis"typeof mindand characterand temperament"
of
the
task
is alone capable of undertaking
restructuring
and intellecof
immense
task
"a
practicalcomplexity
society"The
in
it.
no
interest
has
tual difficulty"remouldingof the
worldneeds the touchof thecreativeBrahma.But at present
Brahma is serving Science and Business, not Politicsor
Wells- and here Keynesis also in agreement
Government."89
sl

Ibid.,p. 318.
Ibid.
89
Ibid.,p. 319.

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BLOOMSBURY AND FREUD

813

thelabormovement"as an immenseand
withhim- represents
and
dangerous force of destruction,led by sentimentalists
who have 'feelingsin the place of ideas'."
pseudointellectuals,
It followsthat"theextremedangeroftheworldis,in Clissold's
words,lest'beforethe creativeBrahmacan get to work,Siva,
in other words the passionate destructiveness
of labour
to
limitations
and
its
needless
maymake
privations,
awakening
Labor is assumedto have onlya
Brahma'staskimpossible'."90
for
sublimation.91Instinctsin an
limited
very
capacity
"insaneand
unrepressedform-"passionatedestructiveness,"
irrationalsprings of wickedness"-are incompatiblewith
however.Labor's instincts
have to be repressedif
civilization,
is to be maintained.The problemis thatlabor is
civilization
"awakening";repressionis beginningto breakdown and thus
threatencivilization.The fact that existinginstitutionalized
formsof repressionimpose "needlesslimitations
and privations"points,however,to a reformist
out
of
the
dilemma.
way
Whatreconstruction
mustaim at is removalof the"needless
limitations
and privations."
The purposeis not,as in Woolf,to
create a contextin whichmost people can develop a high
since mostare assumed to be innately
degree of rationality
incapable of such development;it is, rather,to keep the
bottledup in orderto preventthemfrom
dangerousinstincts
In otheressays,Keynessetsout specific
civilization.
destroying
reforms
designedto accomplishthisaim.Again,thereis a close
with
parallel
argumentsto be foundin Freud.
In 1925,forexample,he suggesteditwas timeto puton the
90ibid.
91
Keynes's premise that only a few individuals are able to deflect their vulgar
passions into the civilized pursuits of science and art, that only a very few are so to
speak Apostolic, matches Freud's claim about sublimation. "The weak point of this
method [sublimation]is that it is not applicable generally;it is accessible to only a few
people. It presupposes the possession of special dispositionsand giftswhich are far
frombeing common to any practicaldegree" (Freud, Civilizationand Its Discontents,
p.
17). Of Clissold and another businessman, Keynes says that they "flutterabout the
world seeking for somethingto which theycan attach theirabundant libido.But they
have not found it. They would so like to be Apostles. But theycannot. They remain
businessmen"(Keynes, Essaysin Persuasion,pp. 319-320).

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814

SOCIAL

RESEARCH

politicalagenda some relaxation of the rules governingdrugs


and mass entertainmentssuch as carnivals:
How far is bored and suffering
humanityto be allowedfrom
a stimulus,
a possibility
of
timeto timean escape,an excitement,
to
Is
it
allow
that
is
the
possible
importantproblem.
change?reasonablelicence,permitted
Saturnalia,sanctified
Carnival,in
conditions
whichneed ruinneitherthehealthnorthepocketsof
the
and willshelterfromirresistible
the roisterers
temptation
in
are
called
addicts.92
class
who, America,
unhappy
The purpose of liberalizationin these areas would be to get the
mass of the population to accept needful limitations and
privations.
A similarargumentis made in Civilizationand Its Discontents.
For those incapable of the sublimatedpleasures of the scientist
and artist,drugs and carnivals,according to Freud, provide an
occasional necessaryescape fromthe miseriesof life. "Life, as
we find it, is too hard for us; it brings us too many pains,
disappointmentsand impossible tasks. In order to bear it we
cannot dispense with palliative measures." Three types of
palliative measures are available: "powerful deflections"
exemplifiedby science; "substitutivesatisfactions"exemplified
by art; and "intoxicatingsubstances."93A subsequent passage
reiteratesthis claim about the role of drugs and points to the
dangers of addiction.94Elsewhere Freud points to "permitted
Saturnalia, sanctifiedCarnival" as another device for getting
the majority to accept the repression which civilization
demands. These work by temporarilyundoing the separation
betweenthe ego ideal and the ego, a separationthat"cannot be
borne for long . . . and has to be temporarilyundone."95
Keynes also claims thatVictorianattitudesto and laws about
sex impose limitations and privations which are not only
92
Keynes,Essaysin Persuasion,p. 303.
93 Freud, Civilization
and Its Discontents,
p. 12.
^
Ibid.,p. 15.
*
and theAnalystsof thetgo (Mew York: Morton,
Sigmund Freud, GroupPsychology

1959),p. 63.

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BLOOMSBURY

AND FREUD

815

unnecessaryto civilizationbut in fact threatenit by imposing


sacrificeson the majoritywhich they now refuse to accept.96
This too he claims ought to be an important item on the
modern liberal political agenda. Here he has in mind the
interconnectedquestions of sexual repression and sexism. He
claims interestin these mattersis by no means limitedto "the
crust on the human boiling."97"There are no subjects about
which the big general public is more interested;few which are
the subject of wider discussion. They are of the utmostsocial
importance."They are "mattersabout whicheveryonewantsto
know and which deeply affecteveryone's life." The object of
reform would be to reduce sexual repression and sexual
discrimination:
Birthcontroland the use of contraceptives,
marriagelaws,the
treatment
of sexual offensesand abnormalities,
the economic
of
the
economic
of
the
position women,
position
family-in all
thesemattersthe existingstateof the law and of orthodoxyis
stillmedieval-altogether
outof touchwithcivilisedopinionand
civilisedpractice and with what individuals,educated and
uneducatedalike,sayto one anotherin private.98
For "working women" birth control and divorce reform
"suggest new liberty,emancipation from the most intolerable
of tyrannies."
The working class is not the only class for whom the
maintenance of needed repression requires reform. Keynes
claimsin the GeneralTheory
thatthe repressionand sublimation
of "dangerous human proclivities" are facilitated "by the
existence of opportunities for money-making and private
wealth":
can be canalisedinto comparaDangeroushuman proclivities
"
Freud, of course, makes very similar claims about 'civilized' sexual morality"
" 'Civilized' Sexual
and
Modern Nervous Illness," in Freud,
(Sigmund Freud,
Morality
Civilization,
Societyand Religion,pp. 27-55).
Keynes,Essaysin Persuasion,p. 302.
98Ibid.
9

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816

SOCIAL

RESEARCH

for
tivelyharmlesschannelsby the existenceof opportunities
and privatewealth,which,if theycannot be
money-making
in thisway,mayfindtheiroutletin cruelty,
thereckless
satisfied
and
and
other
formsof
of
authority,
pursuit personalpower
It is betterthata man should tyrannise
self-aggrandisement.
overhisbankbalancethanoverhisfellowcitizens;and whilstthe
formeris sometimesdenouncedas being but a means to the
at leastit is an alternative."
latter,sometimes
Keynes argued in A Tract on MonetaryReformthat the

"investment
system"whichcanalized both the anal and the
For
sadisticpassionscould not surviveseverepriceinstability.
the reasonjust given,thissystemis part of the conventional
whichdefendcivilizationfrom
and customaryarrangements
barbarism.It followsthatthe monetaryreformsnecessaryto
are also necessary
of reasonablepricestability
thepreservation
to the preservationof civilization.Althoughthe particular
canalizationof libido whichthe investment
systemprovided
of the investingclass,
could, on accountof the irrationality
betweenbeliefs
withstand
a certainamountof incompatibility
about moneyvalues and the facts,it could not withstandthe
sortof revolutionin moneyvalues thatoccurredduringand
afterWorldWar I. As the riseof fascismand Nazism(which
were most stronglyrooted in the lower middle class) was
to show,thishad broughtabout a changein the
subsequently
of themiddleclasseswhichmade them
communalpsychology
a muchmoredirectthreatto civilizedvalues.100
in monetary
arrangements
Keynessaw certainconventional
and other mattersas necessaryto the preservationof the
workedto bottleup
The conventions
of civilization.
possibility
He was a
civilization.
would
if
released
which
destroy
passions
in the sense that,givenhis low opinion of the
conservative
99
7:
Interest
and Money,in CollectedWritings,
ofEmployment,
Keynes,TheGeneralTheory
374. Freud provides an almost identical account of the psychologicalrole played by
"opportunitiesfor money-makingand private wealth" (Civilizationand Its Discontents,
pp. 50-51).
Keynes's analysisof the psychologicalroots of Nazism is verysimilarto Woolt s.
See, for example, Woolf,Barbarians,pp. 128-137.

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BLOOMSBURY AND FREUD

817

motivesand the intelligenceof the ordinaryperson,he felt


thatall sortsof traditionalrulesand practices,althoughthey
would be judged inappropriateif we could assume that all
werecompletely
membersof thecommunity
rational,could be
showntobe appropriatewhenwe noticethatthisassumptionis
to be itself
He foundmuchorthodoxconservatism
unjustified.
a threatto civilization,however,because it maintainedan
irrationalattachmentto particularconventionalrules and
of the factthatin contemporary
practicesquite irrespective
had notonlyceased to protect
circumstances
suchconventions
the
civilization
by bottlingup
dangerousand vulgarpassions
but had themselvesbecome the main factorthreateningto
forcesuchpassionsbackout of thebottle.In theprefaceto the
notionsconsider
Tracthe saysthat"nowheredo conservative
themselves
morein place thanin currency;yetnowhereis the
need of innovationmoreurgent."101
and Conclusion
Summary

I have attemptedto showthatthe appropriations


of Freud
found in Woolf's and Keynes's political writingswere
influencedbyattitudesand ideas characteristic
of
importantly
The
more
Bloomsbury. anti-Victorianism,
expressed
positively
as criticalrationalism,is evidentboth in the insistenceon
and in the use of Freud as a basisfor
readingFreud critically
important
aspectsof the critiqueof Victorianvalues. Keynes,
ofcourse,camein hismaturity
to viewVictorianarrangements
in a more positivelight.Even in this,however,he appears to
have been significantly
influencedby Freud.
The influenceof Moore is evidentboth in the general
featuresof the philosophicalframeworkwhich Woolf and
of Freud (thebeliefin
Keynesemployin theirappropriations
the objectivity
of values, the importancegiven to statesof
101
in CollectedWritings,
4: xiv.
Keynes,A Tracton MonetaryReform,

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818

SOCIAL RESEARCH

mind, the conceptionof good thingsas complex organic


unities,the conceptionof politicsas practicalethics)and in
theirbeliefsabout the specificcomponentsof good statesof
mind(bothcontinuedto place greatstresson "thepleasuresof
humanintercourseand the enjoymentof beautifulobjects").
both made
Consistentwiththeirbeliefin criticalrationalism,
to Moore.Woolfintroducedthenotionof "social
amendments
values,"and Keynes,amongotherchanges,added "spontaneous, irrationaloutburstsof human nature" to the list of
elementsin good statesof mindand "theorderand
important
and the emotionswhich
of
pattern lifeamongstcommunities
and
theycan inspire"to "theobjectsof valuablecontemplation
communion."Much agreementwithMoore remained,however.As Keynesput it in "My EarlyBeliefs,"he continuedto
believe that Moore's "religion"remained"nearer the truth
than any otherthat I knowof." It was, he claimed,stillhis
"religionunderthesurface."102
The beliefin the importanceand danger of irrationality
opened bothWoolfand Keynesto the insightsavailablefrom
Freud. Though they appropriatedthese insightsin very
use of them.Woolf
different
ways,theybothmade important
of the natureof
his understanding
drewfrompsychoanalysis
the "senseof sin"and of the role thisplayedin barbarism.It
of how to eliminatebarbaralso informedhis understanding
of the natureof
ism. Keynesdrewfromit his understanding
the "vulgar passions" and of the threat these posed to
civilization.
Manyof his proposalsfordealingwiththisthreat
also appear to makeuse of psychoanalysis.
of Freud do not appear
These Bloomsburyappropriations
influencedthe developmentof psychoto have significantly
in
Britain.
Contemporaryinterest(in Britainand
analysis
and thecritique
of psychoanalysis
elsewhere)in theintegration
of politicaleconomymay perhaps have somethingto learn
when acfrom these appropriations,however,particularly
102
p. 442.
Keynes,Essaysin Biography,

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BLOOMSBURY AND FREUD

819

countis takenof the factthat,in the writingsof Woolfand


in psychoanalysis
has been
Keynes,theinterestof Bloomsbury
combinedwith the interestin the psychologicalaspects of
politicsand economics.

* The authorwouldliketo thankJames


and
Walkupforhisveryhelpfulcomments
suggestions.

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