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Kris, A.O. (2016). Freud, Psychoanalysis and Death. By Liran Razinsky. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013, xxii + 303 pp., $114.99 hardcover, $41.99 paperback.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 64(2):447-452.
(2016). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 64(2):447-452
Freud, Psychoanalysis and Death. By Liran Razinsky. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013, xxii + 303 pp., $114.99 hardcover, $41.99 paperback.
Review by: Anton O. Kris
This is an ambitious book. “It aims to show how and why death has been marginalized or repressed in psychoanalysis” (p. 1). The author, having worked on his subject for over a decade, is enormously well informed and thoughtful. Although he vigorously challenges Freud's view of death in psychic life, he does so with respect and, especially toward the end of the book, with increasing admiration.
He finds that Freud fails to attend to death:
It all starts from a few statements by Freud about death's inaccessibility to the unconscious (1915, pp. 289, 296-7; 1923, pp. 57-9; 1926, pp. 129-30, 140). Death is negative, abstract, it involves time, and cannot, therefore, be part of unconscious thought. Accordingly, if people are afraid of death, these fears should be understood as secondary, as indications of another “deeper” problem, mostly castration. This is where it all starts but not where it all ends. For this position reverberates throughout the history of psychoanalysis, finding various expressions. It consists in a kind of disbelief in death, an unwillingness to recognize death as a possibly influential psychic factor [pp. 1-2].
Then, again, he writes:
However, as sometimes happens, Freud's position on death is more ambivalent, vacillating, and complex than the positions of many of his followers. Even when reductionistic, it is multifariously so. Freud's work, particularly in its less reductionistic manifestations, contains fruitful intuitions and sharp insights into the nature of our attitude toward death.
[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]