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Sonnenberg, S.M. (2005). On: The relevance Of Psychoanalysis to an understanding of terrorism. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 86(5):1479-1480.

(2005). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 86(5):1479-1480

On: The relevance Of Psychoanalysis to an understanding of terrorism

Stephen M. Sonnenberg

In their ‘controversies’ debate, both Twemlow (2005a, 2005b) and Friedman (2005) claim Freud's legacy. Twemlow asserts his activist ideas are embedded in psychoanalytic scholarship, which Freud saw as desirable (2005a, p. 961), and Friedman states that his advocacy of cold and unsentimental investigation is consistent with Freud's scientific practices (2005, p. 964). In my opinion, these assertions of inheritance both miss the truth; it is Friedman who can justly assert that he is Freud's scion, but not for the reason he gives.

In a well-known correspondence exchange, Freud addressed the menace of war from a psychoanalytic perspective (Einstein and S. Freud, 1933). In the end he believed what he wrote was of little value, according to an editor's note (p. 198) and text in the body of the letter: ‘The result, as you see, is not very fruitful when an unworldly theoretician is called in to advise on an urgent practical problem’ (p. 213).

But even more significant is that in 1921 the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) undertook a study of World War I, with the practical aim of preventing future wars (Josephson, 1975). Freud was asked to write a monograph on ‘The psycho-analytic problem of the war’. What happened was that very quickly, just two months after signing a contract to write the monograph, Freud gave up completely.

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