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Tuckett, D.A. (1982). Internal World and External Reality: By Otto Kernberg. New York: Jason Aronson, 1980. Pp. 359.. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 9:111-112.

(1982). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 9:111-112

Internal World and External Reality: By Otto Kernberg. New York: Jason Aronson, 1980. Pp. 359.

Review by:
David A. Tuckett

Otto Kernberg's new book represents a further working over of ideas he has been publishing in journal or chapter form for the past eleven years. The book is organized into four parts: the first providing a summary and critique of the theories of Melanie Klein, W. R. D. Fairbairn, Edith Jacobson and Margaret Mahler, and a presentation of Kernberg's own views; the second, an examination of the way theories about early object relationships can be used to gain a more precise understanding of mid-life functioning and psychotherapeutic technique; the third, a discussion of the way group members struggle to resolve problems of object relationships; and the fourth, an application of those theories to love, and specifically the 'loving couple'.

Kernberg's is an ambitious and exciting attempt to develop a systematic theory of early development and to work out its vicissitudes in later life and group functioning. The first part of the book, the historical review, was itself a major undertaking, particularly in a hundred odd pages. There are, no doubt, many points at which some of his readers would diverge from Kernberg's presentation of a particular view. But this perhaps is not important. By trying to create an overall structure for the theories, he is bound to do some violence to some people's understanding of them. Kernberg, however, uses his review to make a number of points: ones which are the cornerstone of his approach for the remainder of the book.

For Kernberg, early ego structure creates itself in the process of two early developmental tasks: the gradual differentiation of self and object, and the gradual integration of what he terms libidinal and aggressive self- and object-representations. Like other authors he believes the Kleinian tradition under-emphasizes the former problem but adds to understanding of the latter, particularly when integrated with the idea he derives from Fairbairn: namely that ego weakness implies not a lack of, but a difference in, ego organization.

Kernberg sees elaboration of mental structure in the oedipal phase as dependent on the form of early ego organization.

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