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Eckardt, M.H. (2001). Franz Alexander: A Unique Outstanding Pioneer. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 29(1):105-111.

(2001). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 29(1):105-111

Franz Alexander: A Unique Outstanding Pioneer

Marianne Horney Eckardt, M.D.

Franz Alexander, a remarkable pioneer, foresaw in 1943 the dangers of the present crisis in psychoanalysis. His clearly presented perspective is one at which many are arriving fifty years later. One wishes his voice could have reached more ears. He recognized the dangers of premature self-definition, which strangles growth. Psychoanalysis is now challenged for its rigidities and orthodoxies in theory and practice, challenged for its failure to develop an open-minded scientific perspective that welcomes change. The challenges of today are Franz Alexander's challenges of yesterday. Jonathan Lear, a philosopher and psychoanalyst, in a widely acclaimed book, Open Minded: Working Out the Logic of the Soul (1998), states that there is something dead in the professions of philosophy and psychoanalysis. This something dead is the lack of open-mindedness, created by the process of premature professionalization. The professions tried to safeguard their standards and thus thwarted potential for growth. While this negative effect of standardization is seen in all professions, the disciplines of philosophy and psychoanalysis are particularly vulnerable as their vitality depends on remaining open to questions and reconsiderations.

Franz Alexander, born and raised in Hungary, went to Berlin and became the first candidate in the newly established Psychoanalytic Institute and, subsequently, an important member of its faculty. His early psychoanalytic research studies into the minds of criminals attracted attention, which led to his attendance at a conference in Washington, DC. An invitation to the University of Chicago followed, and in 1932 in Chicago he founded the first U.S. psychoanalytic institute. Under his guidance, it became the prominent midwest training center that graduated a whole generation of outstanding analysts. Los Angeles beckoned him in 1956, and there he expanded his ever-present research activities until his sudden death in 1966.


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