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Elliott, A. (1996). Adam Phillips, On Flirtation, Faber and Faber, £7.99. Free Associations, 6(2):310-313.

(1996). Free Associations, 6(2):310-313

Adam Phillips, On Flirtation, Faber and Faber, £7.99

Review by:
Anthony Elliott

The edifice of Freudianism, having revolutionised this troubled century's view of the life of the mind, has been subjected to a series of scorching attacks in recent times. According to many, whether academic theorists or newspaper commentators, Freud's concepts, conjectures, and pronouncements are dead at the core. Following fast on the heels of the global crash of Marxism, it seems that the contemporary era may also prove to be a twilight for that thing called the unconscious.

The current assault on Freud has taken two general directions. One is the presumed political irrelevance of psychoanalysis, especially its denial of the actuality of sexual violence and its animosity toward women and children. The other concerns the supposed scientific laxity of psychoanalytic theory and treatment.

The political dead-ends of Freud's legacy have been put most forcefully, and indeed unambiguously, by Jeffrey Masson, who in a series of influential books argues that issues of sexual abuse have been repressed in the Freudian world. So too, psychoanalytic claims to knowledge and understanding have come under fire, with Frederick Crews (a literary critic) and Adolf Grunbaum (a philosopher of science) the most prominent representatives of a cultural scepticism concerning the links between the retrieval of memory and personal well-being.

One of the most noticeable aspects of these debates, to my mind, has been their affected tone of high seriousness. It is as if this season of anti-Freudianism has only been able to proceed by trying to get right everything that Freud and his followers allegedly got wrong.

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