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Libido & Power

International Hans und Otto Gross Congress, Graz, Austria 2011

For three days, scientists and researchers from several European countries and the U.S. will meet to engage with the scientific work and its impact of Prof. Dr. Hans Gross (1847-1915) and his son, Dr. Otto Gross (1877-1920). The criminal lawyer and founder of criminology in Graz, Hans Gross, and his son, the psychoanalyst and anarchist Otto Gross, have become well-known not only for their scientific achievements but also for their life-long conflict – a symptomatic one in the era of Expressionism – that has found its echo in the biographies of C.G. Jung, Sigmund Freud, Ernest Jones, and Sabina Spielrein, as well as in those of Max Weber, Frieda Weekley and D.H. Lawrence. It has also influenced modern literature from Kafka to Werfel, as well as Erich Mühsam, Franz Jung and Franziska zu Reventlow, Max Brod and Johannes R. Becher.

Today, Otto Gross is seen as the initiator of what today we call intersubjectivity, and he was the first to link analysis with radical politics. The Handbook for Criminal Judges by Hans Gross became world-famous, was translated into many languages and continued to be re-printed into the 1970s. We can also find the “Father of Criminology” mentioned in many modern detective stories. During recent decades, Hans and Otto Gross and their work have repeatedly been the subject of as wide a variety of scientific disciplines as criminology and criminalistics, psychoanalysis and psychiatry, ethics, literature, the arts, law, and sociology, as well as their respective histories.* The Grossian father/son conflict has also been portrayed on stage and screen.

Since 1999, these varied and conflictual subject areas have been engaged with at ten international congresses and symposia (Berlin, Dresden, and Munich, at the Burghölzli in Zurich, Vienna, Graz, et al.), always in connection with publications of the proceedings (www.literaturwissenschaft.de). This series is now being continued with this upcoming Congress in Graz titled “Psychoanalysis and Criminology – Libido and Power”, from October 14–16 at the University of Graz.

* cf. Heuer, ed. Sexual Revolutions: Psychoanalysis, History and the Father, Hove, New York: Routledge 2011.

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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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