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Busch, F.N. (1998). Clinical and Social Realties. By Donald M. Kaplan; edited by Louise J. Kaplan. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1995, 512 pp., $50.00. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 46(2):604-607.

(1998). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 46(2):604-607

Clinical and Social Realties. By Donald M. Kaplan; edited by Louise J. Kaplan. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1995, 512 pp., $50.00

Review by:
Fredric N. Busch

Over thirty years ago, Donald Kaplan grappled presciently with the struggles psychoanalysis would face in the future: “And while it is true that psychoanalysis is only one of numerous possibilities for a human psychology, it is at least one of the better ones, so that only in the event of some kind of Neanderthal future can it find no necessity or purpose. As for the very distant future, psychoanalysis is after all a limited thing. But there, too, though it is bound to perish, it will also survive” (p. 473).

One of the reasons that psychoanalysis will survive is the work of thinkers like Kaplan. His work covers a wide scope, from conceptualizations of the internal workings of the mind, to clarifications of boundary confusions between psychological and social phenomena, to psychoanalytic understandings of social phenomena. In pursuit of these understandings, Kaplan draws upon a variety of theoretical and clinical models. In doing so, he avoids what he describes as the traps of orthodoxy and liberalism: “To the orthodox person, psychoanalysis has always been ruined by newcomers—it will never be again what it once was and ought to be …”; by contrast, the liberal, for whom psychoanalysis “possesses … an unfathomable adaptability,” is “bereft of those criteria for determining when in the course of unraveling a sock he has finally lost the garment and is in possession instead of a tangle of wool” (pp. 472-473).

Clinical and Social Realities, a collection of Kaplan's papers, however, is not without its problems. An introduction, in addition to the tributes to Kaplan's work that appear in the foreword, would have been of value in understanding the book's organization. There are two sections, one on clinical realities and the other on social realities, each of which proceeds sequentially from Kaplan's latest papers to his earliest in these broad categories. It is not always clear why a particular paper was placed in one section rather than the other. Although for the most part the papers are brilliant and insightful, some are rather difficult to follow. The difficulties tend to arise when Kaplan details a series of interesting ideas that are not well integrated.


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