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James, M. (1982). Plea for a Measure of Abnormality: By Joyce McDougall. New York: International Universities Press. 1980. Pp. 493.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 63:92-95.

(1982). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 63:92-95

Plea for a Measure of Abnormality: By Joyce McDougall. New York: International Universities Press. 1980. Pp. 493.

Review by:
Martin James

The plea in the title is for tolerance not for measurement. But, that said, it is still not clear who has to be tolerant; also, against expectations, only a small section of the book is concerned with this topic. The book is clearly for analysts and they are already tolerant in principle; it is they who will value the admirable clinical descriptions of perversion in both sexes and the developmental and technical issues that perversion arouses.

Since the public are unlikely to see the book the plea for tolerance must be a plea for analysts to influence medicine, education, law, psychiatry and criminology in this direction. But flying in the face of the natural wish of analysts to stick to their job with individuals and to steer clear of contentious applications, it is really a statement that analysts know things which they should pass on to the public at large. Not all analysts will welcome this and it may be that by her title and her presentations of the facts so lucidly, Mrs McDougall, who has great persuasive gifts, may hope her book will reach the wider public.

Abnormality is a word psychoanalysis does without; it is either a popular word or proper to other sciences. As a psychodynamic study psychoanalysis does not make the hard and fast diagnostic categories which speak of normal and abnormal. Both public common sense and the law require such categories and unregenerate psychiatry tries to provide them. Average, normal and abnormal are for sociology or statistics; psychoanalysis wishes to understand development, transference and its own tropics.

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