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Kitto, J. (1996). Science or robbery: the Freud-Klein controversies, 1941-1945. Free Associations, 6(3):445-460.

(1996). Free Associations, 6(3):445-460

Science or robbery: the Freud-Klein controversies, 1941-1945

Jane Kitto

Bion begins his Brazilian Lectures with a fable of the Royal Cemetery at Ur. An excavation called The Death Pit was made and when the King died his entire court processed into the excavation in their finery and jewels, there took poison, and were interred. Five hundred years later robbers entered the pit and stole the precious objects. They were not afraid of the aura of sanctification and royalty that possessed the tomb. Bion calls them ‘patrons of the scientific method: the first who dared to break through the ghostly sentinels of the dead and their priestly attendants’ (Bion, 1990).

I have taken this story as a kind of epigraph because I think that embedded in it are themes which run through the volume I am discussing.

The Freud-Klein Controversies consists of documents relating to events taking place in the British Psycho-analytical Society between 1942 and 1944—the Controversial Discussions, as they came to be called, Whether we like it or not, for those of us in the analytic world, this is our history. The outcomes of these debates have in one way or another shaped the development of the various analytic institutions and many of the problems the members wrestled with are still with us today.


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