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Michels, R. (1996). The Memory Wars: Freud's Legacy in Dispute: By Frederick Crews. New York: New York Review of Books, 1995, 299 pp., $22.95.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 44:573-579.

(1996). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 44:573-579

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

Review by:
Robert Michels

Frederick Crews's new book, The Memory Wars: Freud's Legacy in Dispute, has problems—major problems. It is mean spirited. It is misleading. In places, it is simply wrong. It has failures in logic. Perhaps most of all, it pretends to be about one thing when it is really about something else altogether. It has little to say about Freud's legacy, which is psychoanalysis, but rather provides a history, or, perhaps more accurately, a sleuthing inquiry into Freud's person and his early management of clinical data, as well as a similar inquiry into the personal and professional lives of various figures in the recovered memory movement (those who conduct what Crews refers to as recovered memory therapy, p. 5), an anti-Freudian group that Crews misunderstands, or, to stick to the facts, mislabels as closely tied to psychoanalysis. His detectivelike approach of “getting the goods” is oddly reminiscent of early Freud, although it is far closer to the fascinating studies of Freudiana by his friend, Peter Swales, to whom his book is dedicated. Much of Crews's material on Freud sounds Swalesian, and his general approach to the recovered memory group owes much to Swales's brand of investigative journalism. Crews and Swales are part of a popular contemporary social movement—what I call the “Uncovered Secret Movement”—which delights in tracking down the secret truths about revered figures from the past. They have exposed Einstein's mistreatment of his wife, Mendel's distortion of his data, and Lincoln's bipolar disease. I admit to sharing their fascination with collecting data that undermines our idealization of heroes. They have been effective in pursuing this agenda with Freud, although he left so many clues for them that it was an easy task.

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