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Young, R.M. (1984). No Easy Answers. Free Associations, 1A(Pilot):8-15.

(1984). Free Associations, 1A(Pilot):8-15

No Easy Answers

Robert M. Young

Essay Review of The Repression of Psychoanalysis: Otto Fenichel and the Political Freudians by Russel Jacoby, New York, Basic Books; London, Harper & Row, 1983, pp. xvi, 201, £14.50.

What is to be done with the Ark of the Covenant during the Diaspora? Who shall warn us against false gods who will try to lead us in wrong directions on the very long and circuitous trek to the Promised Land? I find myself thinking of Russell Jacoby as a deeply serious student of Marx and Freud whose writings return repeatedly to the left's version of these questions. I think of them in Biblical terms, because there is something very Old Testament and rhetorical about his style (more so in earlier works than in this one). In my experience he asks such questions more constructively and insistently than anyone else. His ability to spot and excoriate rationalisation, false consciousness and sheer sell-out is nonpareil. To say that he is constructive, however, is not to say that he is naively optimistic. His work is a fine example of pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will. He points clearly to all of the barriers in order to indicate just how much stands in the way of a better world.

In his latest book Jacoby offers a social history of the self-censorship and loss of heart of the radical psychoanalysts who immigrated to America, fleeing from Nazi persecution. It is a sad story of compromise born of prudence in an alien environment in which medical hegemony over psychoanalysis eventually extinguished the radical, subversive vision of many of the emigrés.

This is his third volume on a set of closely related issues about how to think about human nature and society. His previous book, Dialectic of Defeat: Contours of Western Marxism (Cambridge, 1981) has the same mixture of indictment and Sisyphean ‘spirit of rescue and retrieval’ (ix). In it he explored the replacement within Marxism of a revolutionary spirit with a scientistic rhetoric. That book examined

a Marxist challenge to the consecration of Marxism by science.

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