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Kelly, K.V. (2008). Moral Stealth by Arnold Goldberg University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, 2007; 145 pp; $32. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 89(6):1286-1288.
(2008). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 89(6):1286-1288
Moral Stealth by Arnold Goldberg University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, 2007; 145 pp; $32
Review by: Kevin V. Kelly
In a characteristically pithy formulation, Arnold Goldberg observes that: “To sum up much of today's psychoanalysis, we might describe it … as the variety of ways analysts cope with the problems of their patients” (p. 44). The same phrase could be adapted to describe the subject matter of this book: it concerns the variety of ways analysts cope with the felt expectation of being virtuous. Like the book itself, these phrases pack a great deal of thought and argument into a few words, and require some unpacking.
Goldberg argues that the community of analysts and analytic psychotherapists currently suffers from a form of professional superego pathology; he articulates a set of moral standards that we have set for ourselves unselfconsciously, and decries these as unrealistic and/or unhelpful to our patients. Interwoven with these arguments, he offers a reminder of the ubiquity of value-laden concerns in analysis, a proposal to base a rethinking of these concerns in the philosophical tradition of ‘pragmatism’, several trenchant asides on the evolution of analytic theory and practice, and a presentation of a genuinely neutral stance, illustrating how radical this idea must be.
Goldberg repeatedly makes clear his belief that the entire profession operates under the influence of a “… subterranean world of unexamined but powerful directions for living and behaving properly” (p. viii); he states that: “Somewhere along the way, the good analyst and therapist was seen to carry an aura of saintliness whereby those qualities of curiosity, hope, kindness, courage, honesty, purposeful-ness, integrity, and the like became requirements or principles on a par with the need for surgical scrubbing” (p.
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