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Who was Otto Gross?

Some praised Otto Gross (1877-1920) as a highly gifted analyst, a brilliant scholar and philosopher while others had him committed as a dangerous lunatic and had him declared legally incompetent for the rest of his life.

Otto Gross' career – from doctor and psychiatrist to analyst, politician, anarchist and finally communist – shows a development, analogous to his theories of the social relativity of psychoanalysis and the conflict between the own and the strange, that is also in the center of discussion today; questions about the social and political implications of psychiatry and psychotherapy do not concern just a few psychoanalysts. Such problems as anti-authoritarian, repression-free upbringing, the emancipation from patriarchal, hierarchical structures in the context of family, marriage, career, etc., the emancipation of women in particular, the rights of the individual to decide freely about his/her life, especially in reference to drugs and euthanasia, and finally questions about the freedom of the individual in relationship to social norms and traditions were discussed both then and now. Otto Gross' importance for today can already be seen from this list of themes. The Otto Gross phenomenon symbolizes the search for a better society, for the dissolution of repressive relationships between the sexes, for utopias in times that lack strong concepts and meaning. His work is more relevant than ever. His life, which parallels his work, is in many respects exemplary and illustrates much of what Gross found and promoted in his work.

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