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Dowling, S. (2008). Psychoanalysis or Mind and Meaning by Charles Brenner The Psychoanalytic Quarterly, New York, 2006; 140 pp; $25. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 89(5):1074-1082.

(2008). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 89(5):1074-1082

Psychoanalysis or Mind and Meaning by Charles Brenner The Psychoanalytic Quarterly, New York, 2006; 140 pp; $25

Review by:
Scott Dowling

Charles Brenner's new book, Psychoanalysis or Mind and Meaning (Brenner, 2006), is the fifth in a series that includes An Elementary Textbook of Psychoanalysis (Brenner, 1955), Psychoanalytic Concepts and the Structural Theory (Arlow and Brenner, 1964), written with Jacob Arlow, Psychoanalytic Technique and Psychic Conflict (Brenner, 1976), and The Mind in Conflict (Brenner, 1982). They mark the steady evolution of the thinking of this imaginative and straight-talking clinician and theoretician. The journey began with a forceful defense of ego psychology and structural theory and has now arrived at an unadorned natural science psychology of intrapsychic conflict and meaning.

Psychoanalysis or Mind and Meaning is an intense 138 pages long, with 96 pages of text and 42 pages of appendices. The text is a concise, careful statement of psychoanalytic theory and practice as understood by Brenner after 60 years of practice and academic study. He begins with a powerful defense of psychoanalysis as a natural science and of the supreme importance in psychoanalysis of sustaining a scientific, analytic attitude. He emphasizes the importance of meaning as contrasted with economic or structural factors, a theme which runs through the book like a red thread. He confronts and rejects the primacy of the repetition compulsion and economic aspects of trauma over meaning, making his case for the primacy of meaning while remaining firmly within the boundaries of deterministic science. Meaning derives from the inevitable conflict of the pleasure principle with reality and with the danger situations inherent in the object relations and body experiences of childhood.

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