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Kobrin, N. (1993). Freud's Concept of Autonomy and Strachey's Translation: A Piece of the Puzzle of the Freudian Self. Ann. Psychoanal., 21:201-223.

(1993). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 21:201-223

III Clinical and Theoretical Studies

Freud's Concept of Autonomy and Strachey's Translation: A Piece of the Puzzle of the Freudian Self

Nancy Kobrin, Ph.D.

Why bother with an essay on Freud's concept of autonomy? The idea of autonomy is an important and timely topic because over the past decade there has been an interest in the closely related topic of subjectivity, especially the self. As Galatzer-Levy and Cohler (1990) have eloquently put it, there has been a “widespread psychoanalytic rediscovery of the concept of the self” (p. 9). Lewis Kirshner (1991) has offered yet another update on the concept of the self in psychoanalytic theory. He elucidates some of the Western philosophical foundations that informed Freud's idea of the self, the Ich, and captures effectively the ambiguity of the Freudian concept of the self:

As is well known, Freud did not spend time speculating or attempting to define the nature of a self, but instead took the liberty of using terms ambiguously to cover the broad usage of this concept in everyday parlance. Thus, the Ich can be “I” as the speaking subject, the ego as a structure, or “I” as a whole person. Strictly on clinical grounds, he noted that there are behavioral manifestations which we can not readily link up with conscious mental life and which lead to the assumption of a second consciousness untied with one's self-a psychical unconscious (Freud, 1915) [p. 166].

The roots of any concept can be forged through such an investigation; my objective is not to construct a point of origin but rather to engage in a comparative study of Freud's ideas and Strachey's translation of them.

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