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Wright, K. (1997). Michael Balint. Object Relations Pure and Applied. : By Harold Stewart. With chapters by Andrew Elder and Robert Gosling. London and New York: Routledge. 1996. Pp. 146.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 78:412-414.

(1997). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 78:412-414

Michael Balint. Object Relations Pure and Applied. : By Harold Stewart. With chapters by Andrew Elder and Robert Gosling. London and New York: Routledge. 1996. Pp. 146.

Review by:
Ken Wright

This book is about Michael Balint, the man and his work. He was born in 1896, the same year as Donald Winnicott, his contemporary and colleague in the Independent Group of the British Psycho-Analytical Society. 1996 was a centenary year for each of them and, potentially, a time of evaluation.

Both men made important contributions to theory and practice and both were psychoanalysts with professional interests reaching beyond the couch. Winnicott always kept one foot in the world of paediatrics; Balint straddled general medicine, in particular, general practice, but his interest extended beyond this to the applied fields of focal psychotherapy, marital work and psychosexual medicine.

Both men had original and creative minds and succeeded in extending the range of psychoanalysis: outwards, beyond its ivory tower; and inwards, beyond the treatment of classical oedipal disorders. Both were interested in patients with early ego disturbances and both were deeply interested in the problems and potentials of regression that such patients forced upon the analyst's awareness. Both made technical innovations in this area. Both also made important theoretical statements about early development and the mother-in-fant relationship.

Yet in the centenary year that has just passed, Winnicott was celebrated, at least in England, with numerous events, while Balint made little impact on the analytic consciousness. Stewart's book, in this sense, goes counter to the current. Not least because of this, it is a welcome and timely reminder of a creative psychoanalyst, who at the present moment is in danger of being marginalised.

Stewart believes that this should not happen. In this book he sets out the major outlines of Balint's work in a clear, unbiased and eminently accessible way. He tackles this in a historical perspective, dealing with each of his major publications in order.

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