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J., E. (1940). Man Against himself: By Karl Menninger. (Harcourt, Brace & Company, New York, 1938. Pp. 485.). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 21:482.

(1940). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 21:482

Man Against himself: By Karl Menninger. (Harcourt, Brace & Company, New York, 1938. Pp. 485.)

Review by:
E. J.

This is a very readable, well-written and interesting book. It ranges through an immense field from the unusual view-point of the subject of suicide, a subject to which the author has already made important contributions. It begins with a discussion of this, and the author rightly comments on the remarkable extent to which such a frequent and important event is tabooed in discussion. He describes the psycho-analytical conclusions that have been reached on the subject. Throughout the book he lays unsparing stress on the significance of the self-injuring and self-thwarting tendencies in man and points out in detail the extraordinarily circuitous ramifications which these tendencies may follow. He seems on the whole to accept the concept of a primary death instinct and he courageously views life as a brave, though losing, fight against it. His final paragraph runs as follows: 'And so our final conclusion must be that a consideration of war and crime, no less than of sickness and suicide, leads us back to a reiteration and re-affirmation of the hypothesis of Freud that man is a creature dominated by an instinct in the direction of death, but blessed with an opposing instinct which battles heroically with varying success against its ultimate conqueror. This magnificent tragedy of life sets our highest ideal—spiritual nobility in the face of certain defeat. But there is a lesser victory in the mere prolonging of the game with a zest not born of illusion, and in this game within a game some win, some lose; the relentlessness of self-destruction never ceases. And it is here that Science has replaced magic as the serpent held high in the wilderness for the saving of what there is of life for us. Toward the temporary staying of the malignancy of the self-destructive impulse, toward the averting of a premature capitulation to Death, we may sometimes, by prodigious labors, lend an effective hand.'

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