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Related Topics
Freud's WizardReview - Freud's Wizard
Ernest Jones and the Transformation of Psychoanalysis
by Brenda Maddox
Perseus Books, 2007
Review by Petar Jevremovic
Jan 15th 2008 (Volume 12, Issue 3)

The history of psychoanalytic theory and practice is (I believe, today it beyond question) deeply involved in history of psychoanalytic movement.  Or (to put it in other words) long and rather turbulent process of progressive shaping and reshaping basic psychoanalytic concepts and intuitions could not be fully understood without really serious considering history of psychoanalytic movement. As we already know, the psychoanalytic movement has its own genealogical (and historical) roots in Freud's proto-community of his followers. Just to mention some of them: Alfred Adler, Carl Gustav Jung, Otto Rank, Karl Abraham, Sandor Ferenczi, and others.

Of course, Ernest Jones was one of them. He was one of Freud's mostly intimate friends and students.  Also as we know, Jones was prominent figure within the psychoanalytic movement. He was Freud's first official biographer (his hagiographer); he was a devoted promoter of Freud's ideas.  Perhaps sadly, he was no less than Freud's apostle predominantly in the English speaking world. Jones (together with Princess Marie Bonaparte) helped his teacher and friend (Sigmund Freud) to escape the Nazis on the eve of World War II. It would be rather inappropriate to neglect his theoretical contributions to the (classical) psychoanalytic doctrine. Even today, just for example, his works on the symbolism, his ideas about femininity and his classical text on Oedipus and Hamlet, are very often cited. And it is not all.  Jones (being Freud's apostle in English speaking world) brought the international psychoanalytic movement to London and eventually helped its spread to Toronto, New York and Boston. He was the kind of man that could be best named as an empire builder. The post-Freudian psychoanalytic empire (as we know it today), with all of its impasses, shortcomings, and institutional (or even political) accomplishments, bears the traces of Ernest Jones; of his personality and of his  practical (social) intelligence.

In her recent book Brenda Maddox makes a persuasive case for the possibility that Freud's ideas might never have achieved global penetration without Ernest Jones. This is a book about the turbulent, incestuous and ever-intriguing world of early psychoanalysis in its formatting (heroic) period. Maddox skillfully plots the events of Jones's domestic and professional life while outlining the competing theories which came to define different branches of psychoanalysis with clarity and perspective.  As rich as anything in the book is the insight into the (personal) relationships between Freud, Jung, and Jones, Klein ... The books also focuses on their (more or less uncritical) fascination with the psychoanalytic theory.  So there is a great deal about their relentless habit of interpreting each other's professional or private conduct in terms of the new discipline, of psychoanalysis.

Explicitly, this book is about Ernest Jones. Implicitly, it is (also) a book about Freud and Jung.  It could be also said that this book is about the deeply personal (even private) side of psychoanalysis. The personal biography Ernest Jones is simultaneously correlated with the genealogy of the doctrine and with genealogy of institution.  Brenda Maddox writes about Jones and his time without any sentimentalism, idealizations, and glorifications. She shows a lot of respect for Jones within her discourse.  She has lot of respect for his apostolic contributions to the psychoanalytic idea. Of course she can also be critical, but never malicious. She is well aware of his arrogance, autocracy and dishonesty. Her Ernest Jones is (being as controversial as he was) not a saint, but he is also not an absolute sinner. He is just alive (and controversial) personality seen in his wither historical setting. Her (biographical) discourse is well balanced, lively written, well documented, and logically composed. Far from being Ernest Jones's fan, she is also far from being his (biographical) enemy. Her book is a book of deeply human understanding of someone's others (in this case of Ernest Jones's) humanity. Her attempt presents her readers with something like naked Jones. There is a lot of his privacy in this book (privacy of Freud, Jung, of Ernest Jones himself), but that privacy is logically contextualized in a (biographical) discourse that is always sober and responsible, and that is always far from being involved in any kind of vain telling and retelling any gossips.

To illustrate her attitude toward Jones, I will cite her own words: "He was an extraordinary man -- one of the shapers of the twentieth century and a controversial figure who, in his lifetime and after, drew much criticism for his alleged arrogance, autocracy, dishonesty and, not last hagiography. Freud himself commented to his good friend Sandor Ferenczi, Jones makes trouble all the time, but we know worth well enough.

This book could be of great value for all those who are interested in the problems of genealogy of the ideas (psychoanalysis is of course one of them), traditions and institutions that have shaped the world of our modernity. Thinking and rethinking historical (even biographical) background of the psychoanalytic movement is legitimate intellectual topic per se. In her (highly recommended) recent book Brenda Maddox gave us (intellectually challenging) insight in her own perspective of understanding genealogy of the psychoanalytic movement.  Of course, this book could be of great interest for all those who are interested in the life and work of Ernest Jones himself, the British school of psychoanalysis, and with the particular works and lives of Freud, Jung, and Klein.

© 2008 Petar Jevremovic

Petar Jevremovic: Clinical psychologist and practicing psychotherapist, author of two books (Psychoanalysis and Ontology, Lacan and Psychoanalysis), translator of Aristotle and Maximus the Confessor, editor of the Serbian editions of selected works of Heintz Kohut, Jacques Lacan and Melanie Klein, author of various texts that are concerned with psychoanalysis, philosophy, literature and theology. He lives in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.


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