Freud’s Imaginative Work: Moses and Monotheism and the Non-European Other

Jeremy De Chavez

Associate Professor, Vice Chair, Department of Literature, College of Liberal Arts, De La Salle University, Manila, Philippines. ORCID: Email:

 Volume 8, Number 3, 2016 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v8n3.12

Received April 13, 2016; Revised July 01, 2016; Accepted July 07, 2016; Published August 18, 2016


This essay tracks and maps out the ideas that informed the writing of Sigmund Freud’s final opus, the highly speculative and putatively historical text Moses and Monotheism. Contrary to interpretations of Moses and Monotheism as a work that critiques Jewishness as it outlines Freud’s theories on culture and religion, this essay suggests that Freud, in fact, attempts to defend Judaism by isolating what he believes is its quality that attracts hate—its monotheism—and by then ascribing that quality to the non-European other. In Freud’s work the non-European other is an exploitable resource that Freud uses to support and corroborate his theories with little concern at arriving at a genuine understanding of those cultures. Freud’s imaginative reconfiguration of the non-European other for his own purposes, what this essay refers to as his imaginative work, animates much of his writings on culture and as this essay suggests, results from Freud’s uneasy understanding of his own Jewish origins.

Keywords: Freud, Moses and Monotheism, Said, Totem and Taboo

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