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Laing, R.D. (1963). Schizophrenia as a Human Process: By Harry Stack Sullivan. With Introduction and Commentaries by Helen Swick Perry. (New York: Norton, 1962. Pp. 363. $6.50.). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 44:376-378.

(1963). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 44:376-378

Schizophrenia as a Human Process: By Harry Stack Sullivan. With Introduction and Commentaries by Helen Swick Perry. (New York: Norton, 1962. Pp. 363. $6.50.)

Review by:
R. D. Laing

This book presents all the major articles on schizophrenia by H. S. Sullivan from the beginning of his writing career (1924), when he was 32, until 1935. Each article is prefaced by a short commentary by the editor, Helen Swick Perry, who also contributes a valuable introduction. This includes a more detailed description of Sullivan's set-up at the Sheppard-Pratt Hospital than has hitherto been published. A short appreciation of Sullivan 'the man' is included, by Clara Thompson, with whom he had undergone formal analytic training beginning in 1930.

The book is interesting partly for historical reasons, for not all is the definitive Sullivan in his maturity. It reveals very well his struggle to find his own voice. When he does, what a biting, bracing verve he has. When he does not hit it off, the less said the better. Sullivan's style, in any event, never lacks presence.

At the start, he is already beginning to part company with the Kraepelinian-Bleulerian cliniccal-constitutional-genetic axis. While giving Bleuler credit for breaking new ground in psychiatry, he appraised his work on schizophrenia, correctly in my view, as 'unsatisfactory alike in its basis in the old idea-association psychology and in its contradictory, if not actually incoherent, propositions' (p. 13). (How Bleuler's study of schizophrenia, as confused as it is painstaking, has come to be rated so highly by some usually discriminating critics, Zilboorg for example, is a mystery to me.) Almost as quickly he dissociated himself from the Freud-Abraham view that 'dementia praecox' represented an inability to transfer, a withdrawal of interest from the external world, and a concomitant inflation of the ego, and so on.

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