email page    print page

All Topic Reviews
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, Psychoanalysis, And The New Biology Of MindPsychoanalysisPsychoanalysisPsychoanalysis and Narrative MedicinePsychoanalysis and NeurosciencePsychoanalysis and the Philosophy of SciencePsychoanalysis as Biological SciencePsychoanalysis at the MarginsPsychoanalysis at the MarginsPsychoanalysis in a New LightPsychoanalysis in FocusPsychology, Psychotherapy, Psychoanalysis, and the Politics of Human RelationshipsPsychotherapy As PraxisPutnam CampQuestions for FreudRe-Inventing the SymptomReading Seminar XXReinventing the SoulRelational Theory and the Practice of PsychotherapyRelationalityRepressed SpacesRevolt, She SaidSecrets of the SoulSerious ShoppingSex on the CouchSexuationSigmund FreudSoul Murder RevisitedSpectral EvidenceSpirit, Mind, and BrainStrangers to OurselvesSubjective Experience and the Logic of the OtherSubjectivity and OthernessSubstance Abuse As SymptomSurrealist Painters and PoetsTaboo SubjectsTalk is Not EnoughThe Arabic FreudThe Art of the SubjectThe Brain and the Inner 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

Related Topics
FreudReview - Freud
An Intellectual Biography
by Joel Whitebook
Cambridge University Press, 2017
Review by Michael Maidan
Apr 18th 2017 (Volume 21, Issue 16)

Joel Whitebook is a practicing psychoanalyst, a teacher and researcher associated with Columbia University where he directs the Psychoanalytic Studies Program.  His Freud: An Intellectual Biography  'is a study of the relation between the unfolding of his thinking and crucial developments in his life history' (16). The book is a readable, enjoyable and well-documented biography of Freud that summarizes current scholarship, and makes good use of recently published archival materials. But, it is also more than that. Whitebook argues that we can identify two aspects in Freud's theory. One is what we can call the 'official doctrine', centered in the notion that the 'Oedipal complex' and its resolution is the major event in the development of the child and also marks the limits of the psychopathological domain assigned to psychoanalysis. The second, or 'unofficial doctrine', pays special attention to the pre-Oedipal stage and to the mother-infant relationship, devaluing to some extent the centrality of the Oedipal stage. This 'unofficial doctrine' is more attuned to contemporary criticism of Freud's misogyny and patriarchal views. Hence, by introducing the distinction between an official and an unofficial doctrine, Whitebook is able to acknowledge the need to correct Freud's theories while being able to claim, at the same time, that such revisions are somewhat present in Freud's work. To accomplish this, Whitebook needs to identify those moments of potential insight, which were either repressed or incorrectly analyzed by Freud, thereby depriving him (and generations of analysts) of our current 'state of the art' psychoanalysis.

According to Whitebook, Freud's 'autoanalysis', the foundational event of psychoanalysis, left unresolved and unanalyzed a number of important issues, such as Freud's difficult relationship with his mother, his ambivalent relationship to his father, and his tendency to develop strong attachments to powerful male figures which, as in the case of his one time associates Fliess and Jung, he ultimately discards.  Freud's personal unresolved issues explain the limitations of the 'official doctrine' (10).

This thesis is further developed in chapter five, which is 'optional reading', targeted to more technical readers. Drawing on the work of Hans Loewald, Cornelius Castoriadis, Adorno and Horkheimer from the Frankfurt school, and other congenial authors, Whitebook elaborates his unorthodox reading of Freud. His exposé is punctuated with instances where Freud himself expressed similar heretical views. The 'official theory', first articulated by Freud in 1895, centers on the idea of the father as the main representative of the principle of reality, and that the psychic apparatus works along the lines of a 'tension-reduction' model, whereas pleasure is foremost a decrease in tension. Finally, the 'official model' subscribes to an understanding of maturity as a disenchanted vision of reality, which is the individual's equivalent to the scientific ethos. This ethos reflects an attitude of mastery and domination of external and internal nature, which the official Freud shares without hesitations.

The 'unofficial theory', while far from romanticizing the unconscious-instinctual life, grants the initial identification with the mother and the prohibition represented by the father a more positive role in the development of the child, and describes the maturation process as one of integration or coming to terms with the unconscious (166-167). The paternal figure is no longer characterized exclusively as the agency that lays down the primordial prohibition, but receives a more positive description as the force that helps the infant in the process of separating himself from his symbiotic relationship with the mother (168).  Regardless of the merits of this interpretation, the determination to assign those views to Freud himself remains the main question marks of this otherwise enthralling biography.

The remaining chapters (one through four and six through twelve) take us from Galicia to Vienna, from Freud's early study in the Gymnasium, through medical school, from his early interest in neurobiology, to his study with Charcot, the first hesitant steps into psychiatric practice, and the invention of psychoanalysis. In this familiar territory, Whitebook pays particular attention to examples of Freud's behavior, including his formulation of specific hypothesis regarding psychological development that reveal biases that can be traced back to his own psychopathology. Finally, the last chapter, 'Late Freud and the Early Mother' examines a few episodes in Freud's late life where he came close to acknowledge the importance of the early maternal relationship but ultimately failed to do so. Whitebook examines Freud's criticism of the idea of an 'oceanic feeling' that according to Romain Rolland is the original source of religion, Freud's attempt to re-visit the problem of female psychological development and sexuality after his mother's death, the complexities of his Moses and Monotheism, and finally the discussion about what can be considered a successful analysis in Analysis Terminable and Interminable (1937). In this text Freud .. taking exception to the work of fellow psychoanalyst Sándor Ferencz i.. expresses the rather pessimistic view that strong impulses prevent the analysand from fully reaching complete success in his analysis. In the case of women, she would not be able to abandon the repudiation of femininity, whereas in the case of man, he will not be able to overcome his fear of passivity and submit to his analyst. In both cases, Freud conceives this last threshold of resistance as biological, and not as a particular cultural formation. Whitebook remarks that both theses pertain to the contemporary struggle against misogyny, and he concludes that for those who still endorse psychoanalysis, the task is 'to use the resources with which the reluctant Patriarch provided us to criticize the patriarchy that he often seemed to embody' (454).     


© 2017 Michael Maidan


Michael Maidan, Bay Harbor Islands, Florida


Welcome to Metapsychology. We feature over 8200 in-depth reviews of a wide range of books and DVDs written by our reviewers from many backgrounds and perspectives. We update our front page weekly and add more than twenty new reviews each month. Our editor is Christian Perring, PhD. To contact him, use one of the forms available here.

Metapsychology Online reviewers normally receive gratis review copies of the items they review.
Metapsychology Online receives a commission from for purchases through this site, which helps us send review copies to reviewers. Please support us by making your purchases through our Amazon links. We thank you for your support!

Join our e-mail list!: Metapsychology New Review Announcements: Sent out monthly, these announcements list our recent reviews. To subscribe, click here.

Interested in becoming a book reviewer for Metapsychology? To apply, write to our editor.

Metapsychology Online Reviews

Promote your Page too

Metapsychology Online Reviews
ISSN 1931-5716