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Dunn, J. (1999). Controversies in Contemporary Psychoanalysis: Lectures From The Faculty of The New York Psychoanalytic Institute: Manuel Furer, Edward Nersessian, and Carmela Perri. Madison, CT: International Universities Press, 1998, 197 pp., $32.50.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 47(1):299-300.

(1999). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 47(1):299-300

Controversies in Contemporary Psychoanalysis: Lectures From The Faculty of The New York Psychoanalytic Institute: Manuel Furer, Edward Nersessian, and Carmela Perri. Madison, CT: International Universities Press, 1998, 197 pp., $32.50.

Review by:
Jonathan Dunn

This book is a record of presentations and dialogue among the faculty of the New York Psychoanalytic Institute between 1989 and 1991. The following topics, as they relate to each participant' view of psychoanalytic education and practice, are discussed: the future of psychoanalysis; theoretical pluralism and Robert Wallerstein' notion of a “common ground” within this pluralism; psychoanalysis of psychotic and borderline conditions; and supervision. Although the debates are lively and relevant, this volume is not designed for an elaborated consideration of contrasting psychoanalytic orientations. Rather, it illustrates primarily how a group of analysts committed to the classical American Freudian paradigm contend with their own disagreements, as they configure against the larger challenge of our current pluralistic psychoanalytic culture.

Regarding the future of psychoanalysis, the distinction between the speakers' hopes and predictions often blurs. For Robert Michels, psychoanalysis will prosper by its opening up to extraclinical research, which he believes will attract more talented candidates and other intellectual disciplines. By contrast, Charles Brenner advocates greater standardization and refinement of the analytic situation. The ensuing dialogue among the faculty includes the future of free-standing psychoanalytic institutes, the importance of medical identity, and the role of Freud' writing and authority in psychoanalytic education.

Attempts to preserve the Freudian core are evident in the following two chapters. Arnold Richards, Edward Nersessian, and Jerome Ennis challenge Wallerstein' “common ground.” They argue that all psychoanalytic concepts, including those cited by Wallerstein as common ground among different psychoanalytic models, are inevitably shaped by the analyst' specific theory, so that no concept can exist in common across different theories. Richards' sophisticated discussion of psychoanalytic epistemology elaborates this point.

The question of including alternative theories in the institute' curriculum is introduced by Leon Hoffman and Aaron Esman. Inclusion is seen by some as fostering a creative scientific attitude.

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