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Makari, G.J. (2006). Questioning Authority: Essays in Psychoanalysis 1970-1996. Stanley A. Leavy. Victoria, British Columbia: Trafford, 2005. 223 pp. $20.00 (pb).. Am. Imago, 63(1):119-122.

(2006). American Imago, 63(1):119-122

Book Reviews

Questioning Authority: Essays in Psychoanalysis 1970-1996. Stanley A. Leavy. Victoria, British Columbia: Trafford, 2005. 223 pp. $20.00 (pb).

Review by:
George J. Makari

When an author asks us to question authority, we might wonder whether we have been lured into a hall of mirrors. Will he question only the authority of others and ask us to take his own authority for granted? Or will the author disappear into a self-reflexive maze, turning his work, to paraphrase Nietzsche, into a dialogue between a question and a question mark?

Stanley A. Leavy has asked many probing questions over his forty years as a maverick psychoanalyst. He was struck by the phrase “Question Authority” when he saw it on bumper stickers during the 1960s. It seemed to resonate with his own questioning of psychoanalytic assumptions and dictums. And like the bumper stickers on the back of an old V.W. bug, Leavy's compilation of published essays reminds us of a turbulent but not so distant past.

Having been trained in the orthodoxy of American ego psychology, Leavy was a man looking for a way out. In the first essay in this collection, published in 1970, Leavy embraced John Keats's notion of “negative capability” as a justification for a more open engagement with patients and a more ecumenical stance toward other psychoanalytic theories. Rather than analyze by rote Keats's Oedipus complex, Leavy proposed that psychoanalysis learn from the poet. Ultimately, however, this essay is unsatisfying, for Keats has little other guidance to offer psychoanalysts. “Negative capability” was but a place to start for Leavy. It was the opening shot from a rebel who still had no cause.

The next four papers showcase a man who had discovered his cause. During the 1970s, French critical theory landed on a very distant Left Bank: New Haven.

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