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Sandler, A. (1981). Conversations with Jean Piaget: By Jean-Claude Bringuier. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. 1980. Pp. 143.. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 8:238.

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(1981). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 8:238

Conversations with Jean Piaget: By Jean-Claude Bringuier. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. 1980. Pp. 143.

Anne-Marie Sandler

The death of Jean Piaget will certainly be followed by a long period of critical evaluation of his work. Bringuier's book, excellently translated from the French, consists of fourteen transcribed conversations with Piaget, and will certainly shed new light on Piaget and his theoretical contributions. Indeed, the book is a most useful companion (and even introduction) to Piaget's comparatively indigestible writings. The interviewer and subject manage to bring out, between them, some of the clearest statements ever made about Piaget's basic assumptions and concepts.

It is perhaps this latter aspect (rather than Piaget's experience of and attitudes towards psychoanalysis) that makes the book of special interest to psychoanalysts. No theory of psychoanalysis can dispense with a concern for epistemology, with (albeit in a very different way from traditional cognitive psychology) the individual's acquisition and organization of knowledge. Special areas of overlapping interest are the notions of development and of developmental stages, and the concept of psychological structure. In this regard, although most psychoanalysts would not quarrel with the link between development and structure formation, and with an emphasis on epigenesis in development, they might well find Piaget unduly and surprisingly biased against innate as opposed to environmental factors.

Piaget is at his weakest, from the point of view of the psychoanalyst, in his discussion of affectivity, where he seems to be unable to get a meaningful grip on the topic. In his discussion of consciousness, although he expresses agreement with Freud 'on the main lines of repression and on the basic mechanism of the unconscious', his preoccupation with cognitive factors is quite explicit. Nevertheless, psychoanalysts will certainly be able to get a clearer view, from this little book, of the relevance to psychoanalysis of what Piaget calls his 'constructivism', his view that knowledge 'is neither a copy of the object nor taking consciousness of a priori forms predetermined in the subject; it's a perpetual construction made by exchanges between the organism and environment …'

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