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Karen Horney Vs. Freud Essay

3525 words - 15 pages

Sigmund Freud’s influence on modern day thinking permeates into our lives every day whether or not we realize it. Although much of his work has either been refuted or revised, his ideas have influenced an enormous spectrum of psychology and how we view life through our own thoughts. While his influence is irrefutable, the opinions concerning Freud and his writings vary greatly throughout the world. Individuals may distinguish the great genius in his groundbreaking theories of psychoanalysis, or they may reject his writings arguing that he had pushed the envelope too far. Either way, it is safe to say that his theories still evoke a considerable amount of debate to this day. Out of all of ...view middle of the document...

As distinguished by Susan Quinn in A Mind of Her Own: The Legacy of Karen Horney: “Taken together, they constitute an impressively full and persuasive counter to Freud’s theory of female sexual development” (211).
A large part of Freud’s theories on the subject of feminism were based around biological components such as the penis, and Freud based his theory of feminine development around what he coined as “penis envy.” The idea that “penis envy” is what caused females to adopt the feminist role was what Horney found particularly demeaning and inaccurate to women. As a result, Horney countered Freud’s theories with her own concepts such as “womb envy”, and other biological elements in feminine development. Horney eventually examined the effects of culture on women as well, and this would become extremely important as the role of culture was an unexplored area in Freud’s feminist theories. Because Horney failed to deviate from basic biological determinism in her early essays, however, she would not fully demonstrate the outside influences on feminine development which resulted in a dismissal of her theories by the psychoanalytical community. Horney’s argument would become much more significant after she had introduced the effects that culture had on femininity. Her later arguments initiated debate within the psychoanalytical community, and also influenced more individuals to argue against Freud’s theories. By accounting for all of the internal and external factors that influence feminine development, Horney would devalue Freud’s one dimensional theories that resulted as a product of his masculine bias. In the end, Horney would ultimately help change the views on feminine psychology and eventually psychoanalysis as a whole.
One of Horney’s early critiques of Freud’s theories about feminine development lies in the concept of penis envy. A very strong sense of the masculine bias that was present in Freud’s work on women can be recognized in his theory on penis envy. In a brief outline of penis envy as described by Freud, it is the female’s wish to possess a penis after she recognizes the difference of her genitalia as opposed to the male penis. After this recognition of this dissimilarity, the female believes that she is at a great disadvantage and she resultantly wishes to acquire a penis. The theory also explains that small girls feel sensitive over the lack of a sex organ equal to the boy’s, and holds herself to be inferior on that account. Freud’s describes that “three lines of development diverge from penis envy, one leads to sexual inhibition or to neurosis, the second to a modification in the sense of masculinity complex, and the third to normal femininity” (NLA Ch.5). The usage of this explanation as a way to characterize feminine psychology has spurred many negative criticisms of Freud’s work on female psychology, and most people have now realized that this his theories were very inaccurate.
Nonetheless, the idea of penis envy becomes...

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