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Modell, A.H. (1975). The Ego and the Id: Fifty Years Later. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 56:57-68.

(1975). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 56:57-68

The Ego and the Id: Fifty Years Later

Arnold H. Modell


In this assessment of The Ego and the Id after the passing of half a century, there is an implicit question that refers to the nature of scientific change itself. The history of science is essentially discontinuous (if we are to follow Kuhn's (1962) description), as the impetus for scientific work may reside in the discrepancy between the facts of a science and its theory. The fit between theory and observation is always imperfect. When there is a tacit agreement among the practitioners of a science that the fit is good enough, the fundamental theory, the central paradigm, remains unquestioned. This corresponds to what Kuhn has described as the phase of 'normal science', a period where there is a sense of well-being concerning the future of the science: it is a period of optimism and confidence. For example, Anna Freud's The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defence(1936) is a direct expansion of The Ego and the Id(Freud, 1923), an elaboration of her father's observation that defensive processes are themselves unconscious. This book, as is well known, led to a deepening of psychoanalytic technique to include careful analysis of the ego defences. This in turn consolidated the phase of psychoanalytic history that is associated with the term 'ego psychology', a time of comparative confidence and optimism in the future of our science.

The second phase of scientific evolution occurs when there is less certainty regarding the ability of the central paradigm to organize the facts of the science.

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