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Mayers, D. (1993). Commentaries on ‘The mirror and the hammer’. Free Associations, 3(4):608-611.

(1993). Free Associations, 3(4):608-611

Commentaries on ‘The mirror and the hammer’

David Mayers

The background from which I approach Samuels' paper is the Kleinian tradition within psychoanalysis; and the Left Opposition to Stalinism within socialism. I say this both to provide a context for my comments; and to lay the ground for a question as to the nature of the debate, which I shall raise later.

Fundamental to psychoanalytic understanding of the individual psyche and the marxist understanding of social process is the distinction between base and superstructure: a distinction which is wholly absent from Samuels' paper. We are the sort of creatures that we are, think as we do, because we have a certain sort of body — Freud stresses that the primitive ego is a bodily ego. We have the society that we do because of the problems of production, exchange, distribution and consumption of material goods; and the struggles between classes to control these processes. Psychoanalysis has given us the concept of rationalization, marxism that of ideology to understand how we try to fool ourselves into believing that things which are given are a matter of choice.

Samuels' wish to deny this distinction, embodied in his use of ‘the Trickster’, leads him, in line with a body of contemporary thought often called post-modernist, to misrepresent psychoanalysis and to lack the tools for understanding social transformations. At the heart of it is his claim that container/contained or baby/mother's breast are only metaphors for describing the genesis of object-relating. Now there are two points here: first, to describe a way of seeing as metaphorical is to suggest that there are other, equally valid, metaphors which give alternative accounts of our experience.

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