The child thus fits as well as he or she can into the family romance, repressing his desire, ‘forgetting’ his original erotic desires, and becoming a non-threatening, asexual ‘kid’, either male or female. This is a political accommodation in the sense that libido, or the anonymous and endless desire that forms the basis for all human personality, adapts itself to the circumstances and gets what satisfaction it can. It does so primarily, says Freud by hiding in people’s dreams and fantasies, masking its true objects by cleverly substituting other objects and events for those it truly desires. 

Freud believes that all adults live in this way: filled with desires that cannot be directly fulfilled because many of them are incestuous and/or socially unacceptable, human beings create pleasing surface personalities. Behind these personalities, which are essentially bargaining chips manufactured to transact deals between desire and reality, lives desire, which controls dreams and fantasy life and which manifests itself indirectly in personal tics and habits, in the way we hold our pens or our cell phones, in our eating and drinking habits, in our love lives and friendships, none of which is exactly what it seems. Everything we do, says Freud, has a sub-text, a second, third and fourth meaning, none of which is directly available to our conscious minds, which operate at the pleasure of underlying desire. In a literal sense, we do not know what we are doing and cannot know who we really are. 

We are all the product of desire. Human reason is used by desire to obtain its own ends, and every personality is the best accommodation the desire in us can make with the demands of the outside world that we be productive, contributing members of an orderly society. As with Marxism we are formed by forces beyond our knowledge ad control. In Freud’s case, only intensive psychoanalysis reveals the truth about who we are and why we do what we do. Marx offers class membership as the foundation of personality. Freud offers desire. Neither offers freedom for the self, or autonomy, or originality: identity is an effect, never a cause.

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