Friday, 7 January 2022

Why Josh Cohen is angry

Josh Cohen is a psychoanalyst in private practice and professor of modern literary theory at Goldsmiths University of London. Sadly, psychoanalysis is a fraud and modern literary theory is nonsense. He has published an essay on 'Anger' in Aeon in which he claims that anger is a state of agitated enervation- i.e. it is a type of excitation which leaves you drained. The problem here is that there are all sorts of emotional states which, for any given individual, may be associated with agitation and subsequent enervation. On the other hand, there is such a thing as cold fury which is methodical and leaves you feeling more 'fully charged' after its objective has been achieved. Thus, when I search for my tv remote I become agitated and find the whole exercise pointless and draining because there's nothing good on the box anyway. By contrast, when I get a call from a debt collector I proceed with calculated malice and only put down the phone after I've reduced the ill-paid cretin on the other end of the line into a quivering pile of jelly. I find this very satisfying because I know these guys prey upon people ignorant enough to acknowledge time barred debt- thus resetting the clock. 

I left a comment on Josh's essay which may well have agitated and enervated him- judging by his response. On the other hand, the tosser may simply be in a permanent state of enervation coz, like Bataille facing his mother's corpse, he has been agitating his little dick too frequently. 


Vivek Iyer
7 January 2022
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Anger is a small pleasure. Retaliation is a social duty though it can be re-routed to those lower in a hierarchy. A state of permanent fury at some possible state of the world is itself constitutive of an identity class. Organizing anger creates an arbitrage or rent seeking opportunity. Thus, the thing we will always have with us. Like Freud, the Buddha had failed in his first foray into the business of minding other people’s business. Cocaine, it turned out wasn’t a panacea- or, at least, a Doctor prescribing it to all and sundry would soon lose his license. Similarly, poncing about the Gangetic plain pretending you had gained supernatural powers involved the danger of having the shit kicked out of you if those supernatural powers proved useless to the local WarlLord. Freud and the Buddha concentrated on healing healthy people because it paid better. Stay away from the genuinely sick- what they have might be contagious and anyway their earning power is limited by their illness and so the market soon evolves to a separating equilibrium between what works and what is mere charlatanry.

What you know may be useless nonsense, but don’t get mad, get even by making even more money by pretending you are above that sort of thing and that your puerile theory of history makes you a Moses of a Promised Land freed of, if not Civilization, then its discontents.

There is a notion that back in the Sixties, various subaltern groupings got mad with ‘the System’ and this led to salutary changes. For this reason, pedants like Nussbaum, Sloterdjik, and now the callow Callard and Srinivasan and so forth are perpetrating a foolish availability cascade which ‘no drama’ Obama could have but did not dispel. The fact is, he knew- being part of the Coase/Posner Law & Econ tradition- that what had actually happened during the Sixties and Seventies was slow, painstaking, ‘mechanism design’. The way forward wasn’t going crazy and taking to the streets to topple statues or storm Capitol Hill. It was statistical analysis and ‘pattern and practice’ investigation and consent decree based reform. Still, if the role of the pedagogue or psychoanalyst is to charge a hefty price for infantilizing the customer, then, by all means, let us talk nonsense so long as it pays our bills

Josh CohenAuthor

7 January 2022

Vivek, I find this fixation on Freud’s fees pretty bewildering. Psychoanalysis didn’t in fact make him wealthy; then as now, he could have made a great deal more as a private psychiatrist. Nor is there much to say to the sloppy and rather boring characterizations of psychoanalysis as ‘puerile’ ‘nonsense’, ‘infantilizing’ etc. I enjoy engaging with robust, serious criticism of psychoanalysis, but I’m not finding anything like that in your comment.

Aeon only allows me one comment per article and thus I give my response here-

Josh, I did not mention Freud's fees. You did. This is your obsession not mine- which is perfectly understandable because you earn money doing what Freud did. As a matter of fact, Psychoanalysts paid a lot of attention to Freud's fee structure, or business model to use contemporary jargon, to make determinations regarding what is financially viable while remaining ethically acceptable. Speaking generally, accepting sex in lieu of payment is frowned upon though, no doubt, there are august precedents. On the other hand, writing bollocks is considered to be praiseworthy. 

Freud may have become more wealthy as a pusher for cocaine or other drugs which were legal at that time. Sadly, psychoanalysts in the UK can't prescribe shit. Only a psychiatrist- i.e. a Doctor, not a fucking literary theorist- can get rich in that way. This is why Josh says Freud 'could have made more as a private psychiatrist.' Envy can disguise itself as virtue if the road to Tardean mimesis is blocked by the fact that you were too stupid to get into Medical College and had to settle for 'Literary Theory' or some other such Credentialist Ponzi Scheme or Grievance Studies ghetto. 

Psychoanalysis simply does not work. One may as well practice Voodoo. Still, kids may find Voodoo fascinating because they don't yet have the cognitive capacity for anything more useful. Society may not greatly care if little kiddies stick pins into dolls. After all, a 5 year old Voodoo practitioner can do no more harm than a fifty year old houngan. But we won't let a 5 year old perform a surgical operation.

 Josh, the real reason you highlight the words 'puerile' and 'infantilizing' is because you subconsciously feel that your contemporaries look down on you. They think your 'training analysis' involved your wearing adult diapers and howling for the hairy nipple of some senile fool who can't get private patients any more coz he simply smells too foul. 

On the other hand, it is true I have put things in a rather boring and sloppy manner. No doubt, your own family, Josh bubbeleh, wield a scalpel like wit in this matter. I can't hope to compete with them. 

A robust criticism is one which holds no matter what response is made. Like a 'serious' criticism, a robust criticism is based on statistical evidence. Engaging with such criticism means having a profound understanding of statistical methodology. Josh, bubbeleh, I don't believe you 'enjoy' engaging with such criticism. Nobody does. It is as boring as shit. Anyway, nobody really begrudges the few bucks a loser earns for listening to the sort of people to whom we would give a wide berth even when very drunk. 

Josh Cohen is agitated. He is enervated. Why? It is because deep in his heart he knows most sensible people are like me. We may be charitable towards him personally but equally we might make fun of him amongst ourselves and speculate as to what size in adult diapers he wears and exactly how hairy the nipples of his training analyst were likely to be. We wonder whether, like Masud Khan,  he first got hooked on that poisonous product and then had to turn into a pusher so as to pay for his habit. On the other hand, the poor fellow may simply have been suckered by Continental Literary Theory and, quite hilariously, sees Psychoanalysis as a way to escape that madhouse. The fact that it is an equally puerile type of quackery is what is making Josh mad.

Is his essay is a cri de coeur for an 'intervention'? Perhaps. But Socioproctology merely contents itself with pointing the finger at assholes, not actively interfering with them. This too may make Josh angry. He writes-

A psychoanalytic consulting room is a crucible for a rich array of emotions.

Crucibles add value by creating alloys of noble metals. But is Josh's consulting room making him rich? Not sufficiently so. We understand his ire. 

 But perhaps none appears more insistently as anger, nor in so many guises. 

We may disguise our emotions but other people are subconsciously influenced by them. In particular, damaged or vulnerable people reflect them back to us- if it is safe to do so. Tardean mimetics has survival value. 

For example, a woman finds her apparently inexplicable rage against her partner manifesting in asthmatic attacks so severe she becomes fearful of being in the same room with him.

She may be allergic to his after-shave. The few women I have cohabited with quickly became allergic to mine. The odd thing is I use Old Spice which isn't an after shave but just any old spice mix I have left over after cooking my curry. What can I tell you? Indians of the older generation consider thrift a virtue.  

 In the first weeks of psychotherapy, a man expresses his fury over a professional betrayal by withholding from me almost all relevant information about himself. 

But psychotherapy is equally a professional fraud or confidence game. This guy is angry with himself because he just jumped out of the frying pan into the fire. But Josh too is angry. Can these two losers turn the tables on those who have fucked them over? I like to think so. They team up with Lady Asthma and the incessantly masturbating Boy Wonder to get revenge on a heartless Society which makes fun of peeps wot fuck up so badly they end up seeing an equally fucked up shrink. 

A psychoanalytic consulting room proves an apt place to observe an essential paradox about anger. 

Since Josh has had a very expensive but very shit education, what he thinks is a paradox will turn out to be an obvious tautology.

As almost anyone can confirm, manifest anger is

manifested as something which looks and feels intense. Otherwise it isn't anger. It is annoyance or irritation.

 by its nature

nope, by it appearance

 felt and received with an intense immediacy, bringing to life the bodily and emotional resonances of the word ‘feelings’. 

Not really. We often manifest anger when our feelings aren't engaged at all. This happens a lot around closing time in pubs of a certain sort. If you don't have a black eye or bruised knuckles when you recover consciousness the next day, you feel your pay-packet wasn't well spent. 

And yet it is also peculiarly slippery, liable to hide and dissemble, to disguise itself in myriad other ways – in, nervousness, politeness or over-friendliness.

That may be hostility or resentment or an insecurity complex - it is not necessarily anger. 

 If anger isn’t making itself felt openly and immediately, it is lurking somewhere in the vicinity, hiding itself under cover of some other, less conspicuous emotional state, biding its time and waiting to spring.

Nonsense! One might say the same of a fart- if one is hopelessly flatulent. Other people, however, may feel that farts aren't always lurking in your rectum waiting to spring forth when least welcome. The truth is you need to change your diet. Not me, obviously. I'm talking about some other guy. I can't tell you his name because we were in the SAS together and we have to preserve anonymity. 

In clinical discussions with my colleagues, anger never fails to come up. 

Unless those colleagues are M.Ds and can dish out happy pills in which case the drive Porsches and discussions with them tend to fizzle out under a damp cloud of resentment on the one hand and contempt on the other. 

Often it imposes itself by sheer force; patients complain, criticise and curse their intimates, their colleagues, the guy on the bus, bad pop songs, overpriced grocery shops, sometimes explicitly and almost always implicitly inserting the analyst himself into their row of targets.

Whereas guys who make other people feel and function better tend to be the targets of gratitude.

 At other times, anger insinuates itself more surreptitiously, perhaps without the conscious awareness of the patient, who may protest (angrily) to the suggestion that this is how he’s feeling.

Everybody loves being told what they are feeling. Go up to a big dude with prison tatts and tell him he is sad coz nobody wants him to suck their dick. He won't get angry at all. 

 Anger is everywhere and nowhere in clinical work, overwhelmingly present and ominously absent. 

and overwhelmingly spectral and ominously conjectural and presently overwhelming and ever more ominous of its own radical alterity as the adjoint of absence. One could just go on spinning out phrases like this till the cows come home. 

But its prominence in collegial discussion has never been matched by conceptual interest.

The same thing happens when elderly hookers get together to kvetch about how they can only sell handies which, coz of arthritis, is worse than a pain in the butt. Collegial discussion is seldom matched by conceptual interest when the service you are providing can't compete with fleshlights and internet porn on the one hand, or genuine Medicine on the other. 

 We tend to think of anger as a piece of content, one emotional state among others.

Tending to think isn't thinking. We solve a coordination problem by making linguistic distinctions of various sorts. But that is merely a matter of pragmatics.

So why then, sitting in the consulting room, not to mention reading and watching the news, is it hard to avoid the sense that anger is more than a colour on the emotional spectrum?

Josh, bubbeleh, it's coz you- like me- didn't go in for STEM subjects and are angry you wasted your life. 

 Why does it seem to manifest as a force that moves the world, directing the unpredictable flows of private and public life?

Coz then you get to write crap essays like this for Aeons so as to shill your latest book. Incidentally, there are now 8 volumes of 'Socioproctological Investigations' purchasable from Amazon. Buy one as a present for someone you are really angry with. Your agitation will end and your enervation will dissipate as you fondly imagine your victim trying to make head or tail of my gibberish. 



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