Sigmund Freud as a theorist of government secrecy

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3 Scopus citations


This chapter argues that the psychological theories of Sigmund Freud provide a useful methodology for the study of government secrecy. The chapter makes two specific points. First, Freud viewed the human mind as a highly complex censoring device, which systematically censors certain types of information that embarrasses the patient, while it makes available without impediment more innocuous types of information that flatter the patient's image. It is argued that governmental bureaucracies work like this too, as they systematically censor information that is embarrassing to the state and state officials, while they make available information that flatters the state. Secondly, Freud's theories provide insight into how researchers can cut through systematic censorship and gain access to hidden information. Specifically, Freud shows that patients periodically slip and release censored information to the psychoanalyst. Similarly, state officials too will slip and will accidentally release information to historical researchers who study public policies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-22
Number of pages18
JournalResearch in Social Problems and Public Policy
StatePublished - 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Sociology and Political Science


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