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Homer, S. (2001). Psychoanalysis at its Limits: Navigating the Postmodern Turn by Anthony Elliott and Charles Spezzano. Free Association Books, London, 2000. £ Pbk. ISBN 1-85343-465-5.. Free Associations, 9(1):168-173.

(2001). Free Associations, 9(1):168-173

Psychoanalysis at its Limits: Navigating the Postmodern Turn by Anthony Elliott and Charles Spezzano. Free Association Books, London, 2000. £ Pbk. ISBN 1-85343-465-5.

Review by:
Sean Homer

In a celebrated formulation of postmodernity Jean-François Lyotard (1984) suggested that the postmodern condition was marked by a certain scepticism towards those old grand legitimating narratives of modernity, that is to say, the Enlightenment narrative of progress and rationalism, the Marxian narrative of human emancipation and the psychoanalytic narrative of Oedipal desire. Two decades later, it would seem that Lyotard's description has, at least in part, been proved correct. Indeed, it can be difficult today to find anyone in the academy who would subscribe to notions of objective truth and rationality, while the Marxist understanding of historical agency has been supplanted by a plethora of discrete subjects of history. And, yet, psychoanalysis persists. Psychoanalysis has had its postmodern critics to be sure; Lyotard himself was amongst the earliest with the Économie Libidinale (1974), and one could add to this Roland Barthes with The Pleasure of the Text or Michel Foucault with The History of Sexuality and Technologies of the Self. But perhaps the most strident postmodern critique of psychoanalysis came with Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari's notorious 1972 text Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia.

For Deleuze and Guattari the radicalism of Freud derives from his discovery of that realm of free synthesis where anything can happen and everything is possible, in short, the unconscious. Freud, however, betrayed his own insight and radicalism by constraining the free flowing transgressive desire of the unconscious in the restrictive structure of the Oedipus complex. He saw in the polymorphous perversity of the pleasure principle a desire that was in need of restraint and repression. Desire in this sense becomes negative and destructive. Deleuze and Guattari, on the other hand, argue that desire is always positive and productive.

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