The Traumatic Irruption of Totem and Taboo in the Field of The Social and Human Sciences

By Éric Smadja

Freud saw and understood very quickly the relationships of interdependence between the field of the individual and the field of the collective, between psychical space and socio-cultural space. But he could neither formulate them nor conceptualize them in this way due to the radical antagonism between the individual and society that was predominant in the intellectual context of his era. This implies, then, that we should try to understand how Freud organized the sudden transfer of concepts that came from individual psychology into group psychology, and why this socio-anthropology that is psychoanalytical in essence can, in part, fail to recognize the specificities of the functional processes of this other reality, a cultural reality, which is just as complex as psychical reality, and which is of a systemic and symbolic nature. In return, this article invites us to evaluate the traumatic effect of the irruption of Totem and Taboo in the space of the social sciences.


  • psychoanalytical anthropology
  • sociology
  • epistemology
  • culture
  • Oedipus complex
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