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A Basic Theory of NeuropsychoanalysisA Cursing Brain?A Dream of Undying FameA Map of the MindAfter LacanAgainst AdaptationAgainst FreudAn Anatomy of AddictionAnalytic FreudAndré Green at the Squiggle FoundationAnger, Madness, and the DaimonicAnna FreudAnna Freud: A BiographyApproaching PsychoanalysisAttachment and PsychoanalysisBadiouBecoming a SubjectBefore ForgivingBerlin PsychoanalyticBetween Emotion and CognitionBeyond GenderBeyond SexualityBeyond the Pleasure PrincipleBiology of FreedomBoundaries and Boundary Violations in PsychoanalysisBuilding on BionCare of the PsycheCarl JungCassandra's DaughterCherishmentConfusion of TonguesContemporary Psychoanalysis and the Legacy of the Third ReichCrucial Choices, Crucial ChangesCulture and Conflict in Child and Adolescent Mental HealthDarwin's WormsDesert Islands and Other Texts (1953-1974)Dispatches from the Freud WarsDoes the Woman Exist?Doing Psychoanalysis in TehranDreaming and Other Involuntary MentationDreaming by the BookEnergy Psychology InteractiveEqualsErrant SelvesEthics and the Discovery of the UnconsciousEthics Case Book of the American Psychoanalytic AssociationFairbairn's Object Relations Theory in the Clinical SettingFed with Tears -- Poisoned with MilkFeminism and Its DiscontentsForms of Intersubjectivity in Infant Reasearch and Adult TreatmentFour Lessons of PsychoanalysisFratricide in the Holy LandFreudFreudFreudFreudFreudFreudFreud and the Question of PseudoscienceFreud As PhilosopherFreud at 150Freud's AnswerFreud's WizardFreud, the Reluctant PhilosopherFrom Classical to Contemporary PsychoanalysisFundamentals of Psychoanalytic TechniqueGenes on the CouchGoing SaneHans BellmerHappiness, Death, and the Remainder of LifeHate and Love in Psychoanalytical InstitutionsHatred and ForgivenessHealing the Soul in the Age of the BrainHeinz KohutHeinz KohutHidden MindsHistory of ShitHope and Dread in PsychoanalysisImagination and Its PathologiesImagine There's No WomanIn Freud's TracksIn SessionIn the Floyd ArchivesIntimaciesIntimate RevoltIrrationalityIs Oedipus Online?Jacques LacanJacques Lacan and the Freudian Practice of PsychoanalysisJung and the Making of Modern PsychologyJung Stripped BareKilling FreudLacanLacanLacanLacan and Contemporary FilmLacan at the SceneLacan For BeginnersLacan in AmericaLacan TodayLacan's Seminar on AnxietyLawLearning from Our MistakesLove's ExecutionerMad Men and MedusasMale Female EmailMelanie KleinMemoirs of My Nervous IllnessMental SlaveryMind to MindMixing MindsMoral StealthMourning and ModernityMovies and the MindMurder in ByzantiumNew Studies of Old VillainsNocturnesNoir AnxietyOn Being Normal and Other DisordersOn BeliefOn IncestOn Not Being Able to SleepOn the Freud WatchOn the Way HomeOpen MindedOpera's Second DeathOvercoming Destructive Beliefs, Feelings, and BehaviorsPhenomology & Lacan on Schizophrenia, After the Decade of the BrainPhilosophical Counselling and the UnconsciousPractical Psychoanalysis for Therapists and PatientsPsychiatry, 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WorldThe Brain, the Mind and the SelfThe Cambridge Companion to LacanThe Challenge for Psychoanalysis and PsychotherapyThe Clinical LacanThe Colonization Of Psychic SpaceThe Condition of MadnessThe Couch and the TreeThe Cruelty of DepressionThe Dissociative Mind in PsychoanalysisThe Dreams of InterpretationThe Examined LifeThe Fall Of An IconThe Freud EncyclopediaThe Freud FilesThe Freud WarsThe Fright of Real TearsThe Future of PsychoanalysisThe Gift of TherapyThe Heart & Soul of ChangeThe Knotted SubjectThe Last Good FreudianThe Late Sigmund FreudThe Letters of Sigmund Freud and Otto RankThe Mind According to ShakespeareThe Mystery of PersonalityThe Mythological UnconsciousThe Neuropsychology of the UnconsciousThe New PsychoanalysisThe Power of FeelingsThe Psychoanalytic MovementThe Psychoanalytic MysticThe Psychoanalytic Study of the ChildThe Psychoanalytic Study of the ChildThe Psychodynamics of Gender and Gender RoleThe Puppet and the DwarfThe Real World Guide to Psychotherapy PracticeThe Revolt of the PrimitiveThe Seminar of Moustafa SafouanThe Sense and Non-Sense of RevoltThe Shortest ShadowThe Social History of the UnconsciousThe Surface EffectThe Symmetry of GodThe Tragedy of the SelfThe Trainings of the PsychoanalystThe UnsayableThe World of PerversionTherapeutic ActionTherapy's DelusionsThis Incredible Need to BelieveThoughts Without A ThinkerTo Redeem One Person Is to Redeem the WorldTrauma and Human ExistenceTraumatizing TheoryUmbr(a)Unconscious knowing and other essays in psycho-philosophical analysisUnderstanding Dissidence and Controversy in the History of PsychoanalysisUnderstanding PsychoanalysisUnfree AssociationsWalking HeadsWay Beyond FreudWhat Does a Woman Want?What Freud Really MeantWhen the Body SpeaksWhere Do We Fall When We Fall in Love?Whose Freud?Why Psychoanalysis?Wilhelm ReichWinnicottWinnicott On the ChildWisdom Won from IllnessWittgenstein on Freud and FrazerWittgenstein Reads FreudWorld, Affectivity, TraumaZizek
Every now and then a book is published that is hard to categorize. Here we have a book written by the main publisher of a psychoanalytic press, now out of business, about why psychoanalysis has gone out of business -- and, more importantly -- why psychoanalysts don't realize sufficiently that they are out of business.
Paul Stepansky edited The Analytic Press from 1984 to 2006 and was the editor for famous analysts like Heinz Kohut. He describes here the inside works of the publishing world in psychoanalysis.
A key theme is that psychoanalysis has been pushed to the cultural margins, as reflected in the decline of interest in books on the topic. This is both a good and bad thing. It is bad, obviously, for those psychoanalysts who enjoyed the power of being at the professional and cultural center, as was the case from about 1940 to about 1990. It is good, Stepanksy tries to remind us, because psychoanalysis was originally a marginal idea, from a marginal group, led by a marginal leader. It's okay to be marginal; there are many good things about being marginal, including the freedom to think radically. To the extent that Freud has insights to give us, it is because of his radical marginality. Psychoanalysis betrayed Freud when it became the mainstream Establishment, with no new ideas, and with a reification of the old ideas. Much like the Soviet Union was a parody of Marx's ideas, so too with psychoanalysis and Freud.
But now that psychoanalysis has been forced to the margins, it may yet gain new cultural life by thinking freely and no longer needing to defend its power base.
Stepansky makes these points with an interesting publishing-based analysis of the cultural influence of psychoanalysis. For instance, at the cultural peak of psychoanalysis, almost any analyst could write a second-rate academic tome and get first-rate publication results that modern writers would love to achieve -- automatic bestseller status (usually defined as about 50,000 copies or more). Examples are as follows:
- Otto Fenichel's dry and academic Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis, published in the 1940s, sold 80,000 copies in its original cloth edition. Even 50 years later, in 1995, a Norton reissue sold 1500 copies, more than an average new book published by an academic presss.
- Harry Stack Sullivan's Interpersonal Theory of Psychiatry -- stuffy and complex to read -- sold over 95,000 copies in 1953.
- Erik Erikson's Childhood and Society only sold 1500 copies in 1950, but by 1963 a revised edition sold 85,000 copies. Norton reports that cumulative sales since 1963 approximate 750,000 copies.
- Erikson's follow-up books, which in retrospect objectively seem mediocre and speculative -- like Young Man Luther and Insight and Responsibility -- sold over 250,000 copies.
- Erich Fromm's popularizations - like Escape from Freedom (1941), The Sane Society (1955) and the Art of Loving (1956) -- sold over a million copies each. The Art of Loving had exceeded 5 million copies by 1970.
- Charles Brenner's simple Elementary Textbook of Psychoanalysis sold over one million copies in the 1960s for Doubleday's Anchor press.
These are unheard of numbers -- rivaling the best of Stephen King novels. By the 1980s, Stepansky reports, he knew of no single psychoanalytic book that ever approached anything like these sales.
In other words, a few decades ago, a book along these lines was a guaranteed bestseller, sometimes a megaseller. Today, they are hardly read. The same kinds of writers write the same kinds of things; what has changed is the culture. The buyers aren't there anymore.
This is the dilemma of psychoanalysis today. Are the ideas still right, and the readers wrong? Or are the ideas finished now, having had their heyday, with the sales numbers being the statistics that prove it?
Paul Stepansky is the best person to think about these questions, and what he has to say about it all is well worth reading.
© 2011 Nassir Ghaemi
Nassir Ghaemi, MD MPH, Professor of Psychiatry and Pharmacology; Director, Mood Disorders Program, Tufts Medical Center