From 1930 to 1938, Freud continued to live and work in Vienna. The international psychoanalytic movement was well-established, Freud himself was famous, and some, though not all, of the turbulence within the movement during the 1920s had calmed down. In any case, Freud was becoming further and further removed from the politics of psychoanalysis. Due to his increasing frailty, he stopped attending meetings of the International Psychoanalytic Association in the mid- 1920s. He continued to have an involvement with the affairs of the Association, recommending, for instance, that Sandor Ferenczi succeed Max Eitington as president in 1932, and then supporting Ernest Jones when Ferenczi refused. Still, his role was much less central than it had been previously.
During the last 15 to 20 years of his life, essentially from the time he was diagnosed with mouth cancer in 1923 onward, Freud's nurse and constant companion was his daughter, Anna. Anna Freud was the only one of Freud's children to follow in her father's footsteps. In 1923, she became a member of the Viennese Psychoanalytic Society. She remained an important figure in psychoanalysis after her father's death, becoming best known for her work on defense mechanisms (repression, projection, and so on) and the analysis of children.
In 1930, Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents, a book in the same spirit as his earlier Totem and Taboo (1913), was published. In it, Freud attempted to use psychoanalysis to explain the origins and consequences of civilization. His major thesis was a pessimistic one. He argued that civilization could never be entirely comfortable for humanity, since civilization's purpose was to control and repress each person's instinctive desires. Civilization, according to Freud, was to the individual much as the superego was to the ego and id: it was a method of controlling and punishing the individual's excesses so that society could prosper. There was a bright side to civilization that Freud did not ignore: civilization fostered art, culture, literature, and an increase in the quality of life of its members. But Freud firmly believed that civilization would always struggle against humanity's selfish instincts, and thus civilized humans would always be somewhat discontent with their lot.
In 1931, Freud's son Martin resigned from his job in banking to take over the financial side of the psychoanalytic publishing house, the Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Verlag, which was in dire financial straits. The worldwide economic depression had resulted in an enormous drop in book sales, which meant that the Verlag's only income was from donations. In 1932, with the Verlag about to go under, Freud sent a request for emergency donations to the members of the International Psychoanalytic Society. The combination of the analysts' generosity, as well as the astute management of Martin Freud, saved the publishing house for the time being. Another bit of help came from Freud himself: he wrote and published the New Lectures on Psychoanalysis, a sort of sequel to the General Introduction written during the war years, mostly in order to raise money for the Verlag.
One of the most heinous side effects of the depression was the rise of the Nazis in Germany and Austria. In 1933, Hitler became chancellor of Germany. Many book- burning sprees took place in Berlin and around the country following Hitler's assumption of power, and Freud's books were particularly popular fuel for the flames. Freud commented astutely in one of his letters at the time that the persecution of the Jews was probably the only one of Hitler's many promises to the German people that could be successfully carried out. Freud did not, however, know how terribly accurate his assessment would be. Throughout the 1930s, Freud refused to believe that he would be forced to leave Vienna because of anti-Semitic persecution.
Despite the rising tension caused by the Nazi takeover of Germany, Freud's 80th birthday, on May 6, 1956, was widely celebrated. Freud's position as an elder statesman in the world of psychology and psychiatry was finally secure. Even those who vehemently disagreed with him were happy to put aside their criticisms and congratulate him on his achievements.
In 1936, Marie Bonaparte, a former analysand of Freud's, bought from a bookseller the letters that Freud had written to Wilhelm Fliess. It turned out that the bookseller had gotten the letters from Fliess' widow, Ida Fliess, on condition that they not be sold to Freud or any member of his family. Ida Fliess was rightly afraid that Freud would destroy them. As soon as Freud found out that Marie Bonaparte had purchased the letters, he offered to pay for half of the cost and encouraged her to destroy them. He had long ago destroyed or lost all of the letters written to him by Fliess, and he seemed extremely eager to obliterate all evidence of their relationship. Marie Bonaparte, however, resisted. She thought, correctly, that the letters contained an enormous amount of valuable material on Freud's earliest ideas about psychoanalysis. The letters have since been published in their entirety, and they offer a fascinating glimpse into Freud's closest relationship during the 1890s as well as into his first, tentative steps towards psychoanalysis.
I wrote an analysis of Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents with page references here:
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I wrote an analysis of Beyond the Pleasure Principle here:
And I wrote an analysis of Future of an Illusion (not mentioned in the summary), a piece about Freud's understanding of God, published in 1927, here: