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In Freud's TracksReview - In Freud's Tracks
Conversations from the Journal of European Psychoanalysis
by Sergio Benvenuto and Anthony Molino (Editor)
Jason Aronson, 2008
Review by Rudy Oldeschulte
Jul 21st 2009 (Volume 13, Issue 30)

This collection of interviews, previously published in the Journal of European Psychoanalysis, is both fascinating and unique in its array of contributions from philosophers, psychoanalysts, historians, intellectuals, and literary critics.  Several of the contributors have also practiced as political activists, a 'revolutionary philosopher', and even an economist.  Each is tied in some respect to psychoanalysis -- either clinically or theoretically.  Many of the contributor's works were not available in English prior to their publication in the JEP.  Indeed, many of the individuals interviewed are likely unknown to many, if not most, American readers.  Contributors come from Europe, from South America, and a few from individuals that have since immigrated to the United States -- and the conversations are offered with a view toward that premise of the psychoanalytic enterprise of inquiry and understanding.

This book is divided into three sections, with fifteen individual interviews.  The three sections attempt to divide the interviews into historical perspectives, psychoanalytic views from the philosophical and political arena, and lastly from clinical practice and societal issues.  The goal of the collection is based on the philosophy underlying the Journal itself -- that of bringing together the divergent, even "fractious" views about the theoretical alliances and the clinical practice of psychoanalysis.  The editors hope to "…help propagate multiple forms of thinking into a galaxy ready, and yearning, to be revitalized."

The editors also recognize many of the changes that have occurred with respect to the use of psychoanalysis, again both theoretically and clinically.  These changes are discussed in relation to the clinical practice of psychoanalysis, as well as with the utilization of psychoanalysis in the humanities.  New patients, new psychopathologies, indeed, new frontiers have incorporated psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic ideas into their purview.  

 Parenthetically, a recent higher education publication included an essay on the teaching of psychoanalysis within many university departments other than those of psychology -- namely those of humanities, literature, and philosophy.  This may reflect the shift to that 'revitalization' that the editors of this book had hoped for -- and its aliveness within, at the least, the American and perhaps the British academic milieu. The perspective of the editor is that psychoanalysis may be discounted or diminished by this movement toward the humanities. Rather, one might consider that this movement does not take away from the 'scientific,' but instead that it further expands the breath of psychoanalysis.  That is, it may not be as negative as is suggested, given the dissemination of Freudian thought on a cross- and multi-disciplinary front. As was noted long ago by W.H. Auden, Freud has become "…a whole climate of opinion…under whom we conduct our different lives."  There may be nothing wrong with expanding the range of psychoanalytic theory and understanding.     

The context of psychoanalytic thought is -- in the view of the conversations collected in this volume -- clearly interdisciplinary, taking into account the philosophical, the cultural, the social and political, as well as the scientific.  Freud's thinking, and one's basic or fundamental understanding of what lies at the foundation of psychoanalysis, is presented in an overall positive light, with diversity at the root, regardless of the geographical or theoretical location of the contributor.  Issues of language and thought about that understanding, or the interpretation of Freud's work, are key elements in the disagreements that are inherent in the views expressed in these conversations. 

The content of the interviews vary widely in their range and substance.  One interview outlines the history of psychoanalytic thinking in the United States, detailing the changes that have occurred over the past couple of decades.  The interview details the intellectual links between currents in American psychoanalysis with those of the British and French contributions.  An important issue is addressed in this interview with Otto Kernberg -- that psychoanalysis may help our understanding of the psychology of ethic minorities, but that psychoanalysis is not the tool for solving the problems that result by this aggression and ideology.  In a similar vein, a fascinating account of group psychoanalysis within therapeutic communities, particularly with psychotic individuals, emerges in an interview with an Italian psychoanalyst, Diego Napolitani.  This interview illustrates the historical-relational perspective, and how his work was inspired by the work and the principles put forth by Thomas Main in London and Maxwell Jones in Scotland.     

Psychoanalysis in France cannot be understood outside the context of the philosophical thought that accompanies the people, the theories, and their attempts to bring together the disciplines.  Indeed, the French and the contributions from Italy emphasize the maverick-like quality of psychoanalytic work by many of its practitioners.  The British contributor, Christopher Bollas -- more widely known to American readers -- speaks eloquently of his writing fiction to further develop psychoanalytic ideas.

Autonomy and political thought -- especially how it is applied to ethics -- is highlighted in one interview, and done so within the political philosophy of the psychoanalyst.  Another interview criticizes Freud's theory of masochism. In this conversation, the French psychoanalyst Jean Laplanche presents his perspective on the origins of masochism.

 The conversations collected in this volume are distinctive in their approach and can certainly catch one's attention by their unique quality and the variety of issues covered. The exposure of many of these psychoanalytic thinkers to a wider audience through these interviews may help further the goal presented by the editors -- namely that of 'revitalizing' our psychoanalytic thinking and our diverse views on clinical work. 

 

© 2009 Rudy Oldeschulte

 

Rudy Oldeschulte trained in psychoanalysis with Anna Freud, and now teaches psychology and ethics.  roldeschulte@gmail.com


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