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(2000). ‘The grand leading the bland’ a response. Free Associations, 8(1):188-193.

(2000). Free Associations, 8(1):188-193

‘The grand leading the bland’ a response

Dear Robert Young,

I have just read with great interest your article on psycho-analytic politics ‘The Grand Leading the Bland’ in Free Associations no. 43.

Much as I enjoyed it, and at a descriptive level agree with and applaud it, I think that it also managed, despite its quite proper anger, to be itself rather bland, and symptomatic rather than critical of the difficulties it described.

To take the second point first: by staying mainly at the ad hominem level, it repeats what has been the commonest psycho-analytic retaliation against criticism, dissension (or even, often, creativity) from either inside or outside the profession. This is described in great detail in Marina Leitner's article “Pathologising as a way of dealing with conflict and dissent in the psychoanalytic movement” in the same issue of F.A. Actually, to be fair to you, you don't exactly pathologise the psychoanalysts: more bluntly and refreshingly you call them arseholes!

Obviously, this isn't the whole of what you say. As a (?)former marxist historian of science and ideas, you are very concerned with the relationship of power to economics—who gets the goods and the lengths to which they will go to hold onto them.

I agree that both open descriptions of bad behaviour, and critique along the lines of power and control are necessary correctives to a psychoanalytic self-belief in its own rightness, probity and purity. The trouble, I find, is that both these approaches also manage to leave something untouched. And that is, the ideas, the theory itself from which I, as an (?)ex-Weberian, would surmise that so much of the trouble spring.

This is the second point, then. Surely a properly radical critique must take account of what is perhaps at the heart of the enterprise—psychoanalytic thinking itself.

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