Freud and the American Death Drive

Freud unsparingly diagnosed the shallowness of American pretensions to national exceptionalism, technological progressivism, and social openness. He wrote about both American ‘prosperity’ and ‘broadmindedness’ only ironically, between scare quotes, and saw the opulence of American society and fervor of American patriotism as indexing something else entirely: ‘the psychological poverty of groups.’ ...

Above all else, Freud had a special contempt for the trite pabulum of American nationalism: our self-righteous commingling of religion with politics, our politics-as-religion, our religion-as-politics. ... Freud saw American Manifest Destiny for what it was: just another family romance told by a precocious child to justify its specialness. Except this precocious child could field an army of two million men on Europe’s shores, and, just over five years after Freud’s death, realized one of his most abiding nightmares: ‘gain[ing] control over the forces nature to such an extent that with their help they would have no difficulty in exterminating one another to the last man.’
— Patrick Blanchfield