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Grey, A. (1998). Psychoanalysis Goes to Work: A Review of Work and Its Inhibitions: Psychoanalytic Essays, edited by C. W. Socarides and S. Kramer. Madison, CT: International Universities Press, 1997. Contemp. Psychoanal., 34(2):327-330.

(1998). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 34(2):327-330

Psychoanalysis Goes to Work: A Review of Work and Its Inhibitions: Psychoanalytic Essays, edited by C. W. Socarides and S. Kramer. Madison, CT: International Universities Press, 1997

Review by:
Alan Grey, Ph.D.

During world war II, many Europeans sought asylum in Switzerland from the Nazis. The luckier ones were imprisoned there, instead of being returned to their homelands. Years later, one of these former refugees recalled for me how he had been isolated in his cell, his sole weekly contact being with a pious Swiss prison visitor. Embodying the curious affinity between Protestantism and business, this visitor offered the refugee the double consolations of religion and work. The suggested work struck the refugee as particularly offensive. It required folding an endless supply of Nescafé envelopes at a rate of payment that amounted to a few pennies a day.

Each week, when his offers were turned down, the Swiss visitor confidently warned that some day the prisoner would regret his attitude. “You know,” the former refugee admitted to me, “that sanctimonious Swiss was right. Eventually I accepted the paper-folding job and was grateful for it.”

Why anyone would prefer such tedium to the luxury of indolence is a question never satisfactorily answered by early psychoanalysts. They regarded work as driven by necessity, except for the creative few whose work was sublimation. Their explanation is quite in accord with still-prevailing folk beliefs that the Garden of Eden requires no toil, and that people are inherently lazy.

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