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The Future of PsychoanalysisReview - The Future of Psychoanalysis
by Richard D. Chessick
State University of New York Press, 2007
Review by Daniel Hourigan
Nov 3rd 2009 (Volume 13, Issue 45)

The future of psychoanalysis has been a topic of avid debate since the therapeutic discourse first arose with the metapsychology of Sigmund Freud. From Freud's immediate disciples to the followers of the discipline's fragmentation in recent decades, the future of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy has been a condition of the ebbs and flows of the psyche of psychoanalysis itself. Richard D. Chessick pursues this question of psychoanalysis' future with spirit and vision in his book The Future of Psychoanalysis (2007). Across its twelve chapters, The Future of Psychoanalysis charts the future inherent in the structures and foundations of psychoanalysis, the vestiges of pre-modern psychoanalysis in Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy, and the assiduous speculation of Chessick himself, an extremely well-versed and long-serving practitioner of the psychoanalytic clinic. Chessick's touted foundationalism returns him time and again to the fearless spirit of Freud's work, and this imbues the occasionally disjointed chapters with an overarching raison d'être that furnishes the book with a balanced vision of the fidelity of various forms of psychoanalysis to the Freudian perspective.

The title of The Future of Psychoanalysis infers two meanings that are dealt with at length by Chessick: the future as it is envisaged by psychoanalysis and psychoanalysis' future. The earlier sections of the book attend to the latter with particular critical attention being paid to the hastening success of Ferenczi-inspired intersubjectivist methods in the context of the American medical insurance industry and the fates of the other schools of psychoanalytic thinking such as the Kleinian, Bionian, Lacanian, and so on. This future of psychoanalysis is thoroughly criticized by Chessick for its lack of vision and reductive relativism, and he invokes a speculation towards the end of the volume that begins from the moments of crisis heralded by the questionable dominance of these quantifiable and intersubjective methods. The former sense of 'future', that which is of psychoanalysis itself, is comparatively examined by Chessick throughout the middle reaches of The Future of Psychoanalysis. In these sections much is discussed in comparison to psychoanalysis including Martin Heidegger's phenomenological philosophy, Dante's powerful intrapsychical exploration in The Divine Comedy, and the collapse of civilization. This discussion provides a broad and welcome glimpse into the philosophical mainstays of psychoanalytic therapy including, importantly, transference. The future of psychoanalysis is given a grounded but nonetheless rounded expression in Chessick's The Future of Psychoanalysis that both informs the reader of events and developments in psychoanalysis and duly criticizes what Chessick calls the 'loss of nerve' in the currents of post-structuralist and deconstructive thought and the commitment to civilization more broadly.

The Future of Psychoanalysis is a polemical volume at times; and while this must be praised for igniting discussions of psychoanalysis and its place in the future of society it also limits some points. These limitations become explicitly clear when Chessick discusses his experiences leading groups of readers through the complexities of Heideggerian phenomenology and some of the necessary compromises in his clinical cases. One of the main difficulties with The Future of Psychoanalysis is that, by carrying the discussion so stridently, Chessick's self-criticisms become unusually amplified without necessarily being more vocal. The aforementioned balance of Chessick's The Future of Psychoanalysis spares these criticisms of the processes of psychoanalysis from becoming hyperbolic, and Chessick is clear that he is emphasizing the importance for psychoanalysis to reach outside itself to reveal some of its innermost truths. However, there is an unsteady balance throughout the book, especially in some of the footnotes, which may frustrate readers preferring a textbook analysis. The Future of Psychoanalysis is an imaginative and critically developed volume and should be read with sensitivity to the layering of its points.

On the whole, The Future of Psychoanalysis delivers a much-needed discussion of psychoanalysis and its future by combining many valuable vantage points from literature, philosophy, and psychoanalysis. Chessick shows a deft hand in explaining and metering out criticism to some seemingly intractable problems such as insurance companies' preference for reductive quantitative measures and how psychoanalysis can revivify the wisdom propounded by Freud's great discovery. The Future of Psychoanalysis is to be recommended to anyone looking to the horizon of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy and/with a wish to identify the vestiges of one of the most influential metapsychological systems in recent centuries.


© 2009 Daniel Hourigan



Daniel Hourigan teaches philosophy, psychoanalysis, aesthetics, and film studies at Griffith University, Australia. He writes on philosophy, psychoanalysis, ideology-critique, technology, and culture.


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