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Lear, J. (1996). The Memory Wars: Freud's Legacyin Dispute.: By Frederick Crews. New York: New York Review of Books, 1995, 299 pp., $22.95.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 44:580-587.

(1996). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 44:580-587

The Memory Wars: Freud's Legacyin Dispute.: By Frederick Crews. New York: New York Review of Books, 1995, 299 pp., $22.95.

Review by:
Jonathan Lear

Reviewing The Memory Wars for this journal is like preaching to the converted—but there is sometimes good reason to do just that. It is striking how deferential psychoanalysts have been in the face of a series of blistering attacks over the past decade. On the surface, this book does offer a rhetorically powerful critique of Freud and of analysis generally. But it is a thin veneer. Underneath, there is a shoddy argument that is worth exposing.

The Memory Wars consists of two essays, “The Unknown Freud” and “The Revenge of the Repressed,” which were previously published in The New York Review of Books, along with many of the letters to the editor and Crews's response. It is a reflection of New York Review editorial policy that both in the Review and in this book, Crews always has the last word. In this book, Freud is portrayed as a charlatan who caused serious harm to those he treated. He blatantly suggested his theories to his patients, and virtually anything they said was treated as confirmation. His legacy is baleful. Even the best psychoanalytic work, according to Crews, is tainted by a theory that is “hopelessly circular,” for which there is no empirical confirmation, and in which suggestion is rampant, though unacknowledged. That, for Crews, is the good news. The bad news is that Freud is also responsible for some horrible current abuses in the so-called “recovered memory movement,” a current fashion

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