The Immoral Superego: Conscience as the Fourth Element in the Structural Theory of the Mind


Coinciding with the rise of neo-liberalism and the culture of narcissism, psychoanalytic concern with problems of guilt and the superego was displaced in favour of a range of other preoccupations. Today issues of conscience appear to be returning from repression both in society at large and in psychoanalysis, but our theory in this area is deficient in many respects. We have largely identified the superego with the moral and the id with the immoral, thus downplaying the frequent immorality of the superego and the morality of the id. We have implicitly succumbed to a moral relativism oblivious to the existence of a conscience capable of judging both society and the superego it shapes. If we are to live up to our claim to be “the psychology of the innermost mental processes of man in conflict” (Kris, 1938, p. 140), we need to recognize conflict between superego and conscience—and conscience itself as the fourth element of the structural theory of the mind.

Key Words

Superego, Conscience, Moral, Structural Theories, Freud


Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin


Donald L. Carveth, PhD



9th December, 2022