Impossibility of 'Auto-Critique' (was Re: Irony, or, the Importance of Being Earnest)

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Thu Mar 18 17:11:08 PST 1999

Doug replies to me:
>>Not at all. There is no such thing as 'auto-critique.' The Self cannot
>>critique itself without falling into narcissism. Didn't Marx and Freud tell
>>you that?
>Well not exactly. Freud psychoanalyzed himself, which is a kind of
>critique, no? Not that he succeeded, or that a psychoanalysis ever
>succeeds. But without some allowance for self-critique, we'd all be
>completely, inescapably creatures of our personal histories and social
>positions. Engels would have been a capitalist pig and not Marx's
>collaborator and patron.

I think that 'auto-critique' fundamentally works to preempt (expected and unexpected) critiques by others. One criticizes oneself in the secret hope that one won't be (badly) surprised by becoming an object of others' criticisms. In other words, 'auto-critique' protects our fragile ego from becoming wounded. In this sense, 'auto-critique' is a defense mechanism one develops in order to manage the fear and shame of having one's own (inescapably) partial vision exposed in front of others. It is what we do so as not to get 'caught with our pants down,' so to speak. It is a sign of the lack of solidarity (or of trust in our friendship/comradeship with others). That is why I heavily discount the value of navel-gazing about 'privilege.' It is not just an impossible task; it is also a smarmy gesture.

> Ah, but aren't we all narcissists now in this wonderful new era of
>Barkley Rosser

Perhaps the above is one of those ironic one-liners that do not require any reply, but let me pretend ignorance and answer that 'auto-critique' allows us to feel we are so wonderfully above being defensive of our little ego, thus giving us a pleasant sensation of anti-narcissistic narcissism.


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