From the psychoanalyst’s essay, “On What Is Fundamental” from his book On Balance:
And yet, of course–and this is the kind of move that psychoanalysis has made all too available to us–we are all fundamentalists about something. There must be, psychoanalysis might tell us, to put it in as silly a way as possible, a fundamentalist in all of us; we may think of ourselves consciously so to speak as liberals and modernists, but what these relatively new forms of self-description are up against is a more old-fashioned, even archaic inner fundamentalist.
…We are free to speak (as the democrat defends) so long as what we say serves, rather than sabotages, our core values. Whatever is said, someone is always being reassured about something. For the fundamentalist, as for the democrat, people can say what they like; but when they start saying things that aim to destroy the foundational preconditions of their given political culture, there have to be penalties. After all, what would it mean to value something, and not want to protect it? If democrats really value dissent, competing claims, rival views, what would it say about the nature of their commitment, the nature of their belief, if they allowed these things to be violated?
…One thing that the modern liberal and the fundamentalist may be said to share is what psychoanalysts after Freud call a resistance: each believes that there is something the other refuses to see what is considered to be true, or at least better. Were the other side capable of the requisite acknowledgment, both of them believe, the world would be as it should be. We would be living the lives we are required to live–required, that is, by God, or the relevant set of secular beliefs and authorities… here we come up against the real difficulty of changing people. It is, of course, a version of the feeling that most couples have at one time or another, that there is, as we say, no point in talking… The talking cure turned up to show us what talking cannot cure.
…There are now a lot of upbeat democratic and rather more low-key psychoanalytic accounts of why conflict is to be valued–as stimulating, as generative, as productive, as truthful, as inclusive, and so on. And fundamentalisms of whatever persuasion at best pay lip-service to value of conflict and at worst want to abolish it. The fundamentalist of Western capitalism, just like the more ostensibly religious fundamentalists that we hear more about, really believe that the only good life is one in which the enemy, the dissenters, the unpersuaded, are no longer part of the conversation; a world without communists, a world without Jews, a world without unbelievers, is the world as it should be. Those of us who are not drawn to what is loosely, and not so loosely, called fundamentalism; those of us who don’t want to be fundamentalist in a war against the fundamentalisms, have a very serious problem. What is the point, after all, of having respect for people who do not respect our respect for them? I don’t know what an answer to that question would be; but we are endangered by our optimism.