Archetypes

Jungian archetypes are historical ideas—not bedrock truth. Archetypes are a historical fabrication that arose in the nineteenth century and bloomed in the twentieth. Because of this, they are entwined in socio-cultural prejudices and discriminations. Jungian archetypes are racist and misogynist. They promote adhering to patriarchal constructs of gender as well as racial stereotypes. Archetypes, and especially Jungian archetypes, are not fundamental truths unmoved by time, culture, or the vagaries of psychological fashion. Rather, many of them like the Old Man, the Hero/Warrior, or the Great Mother, are stereotypes: highly generalized and rigid definitions.

Archetypes reinforce gender roles and norms as well as clichéd racial constructs.  For example, the Old Man is wise, wears the mantel of authority, and, racially, is white. The wise Old Man is not depicted as a male of color. The Great Mother is maternal, nurturing, earthy, and passive. Because she is non-threatening and submissive, this archetype is viewed as a female of any race. This archetype like the Old Man perpetuates worn-out socio-cultural ideas. It’s easy to see that archetypes like this do not represent eternal truths about human nature. They are historical constructs and should be treated as such.

I am speaking out against Jungian archetypes because Jung’s theory of archetypes is the one that Jungian psychologists follow and promote vigorously. Often they promote them through mixing primarily ancient Greek myths with Jungian interpretations and applying them to rather wholesale to “us.” Therefore, it is important to remember or acknowledge that when “archetypes” are used in general public discourse, that whichever “archetype” is being called forth, it is based on Jungian theory. There can be a tendency to blithely assign the term “archetype” to any number of stereotypes or simple biased characterizations.

I have no idea if actual archetypes exist. If they do, they are not steeped in historical perspectives, they are not chained to patriarchal gender roles, and they are not racist or misogynistic. To read more about this topic, click here.