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Izenberg, G.N. (2005). Secrets of the soul: A social and cultural history of psychoanalysis By Eli Zaretsky New York: Knopf. 2004. 429 + xv pp.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 86(3):926-931.

(2005). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 86(3):926-931

Secrets of the soul: A social and cultural history of psychoanalysis By Eli Zaretsky New York: Knopf. 2004. 429 + xv pp.

Review by:
Gerald N. Izenberg

The ambition of this book is conveyed in the purposeful ambiguity of its subtitle. ‘Psychoanalysis’ can refer to a therapeutic practice, a theory of the psyche, a set of formal institutions and, most broadly, a cultural tendency, ‘Freudianism,’ constructed by the many-layered reception of its ideas. This book wants to take in all four. It synthesizes vast amounts of material from psychoanalytic writing, the organizational history of psychoanalysis and cultural reactions to Freud in both the popular and intellectual spheres to create a narrative that spans the period from Freud's first writings to the recent past. No other existing work presents the panorama of what psychoanalysis has meant in and to Europe and America over the last century as idea, cultural norm and symbol that Zaretsky's book does.

Secrets of the soul, however, means to do more than present a chronological narrative. A cultural and social historian, Zaretsky is concerned with psychoanalysis less as a clinical therapeutic practice than as a conceptual structure shaping, and shaped by, the wider culture. The huge amount of data potentially relevant to his narrative is culled, and his account organized, by a central socio-historical thesis. In explicit analogy with Max Weber's (1965) argument that Calvinist religion supplied the inner motivation for the rise of modern capitalism, Zaretsky claims that psychoanalysis served as the ‘Calvinism’ that made possible the second industrial revolution, the socio-economic transformation of Europe and America that took place between the 1880s and the 1920s with effects reaching to the present (p.

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