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Eckardt, M. (2002). Why Psychoanalysis? Elizabeth Roudinesco, Columbia University Press, New York, 2001, 181 pp., $22.50.. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 30(3):509-511.

(2002). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 30(3):509-511

Book Reviews

Why Psychoanalysis? Elizabeth Roudinesco, Columbia University Press, New York, 2001, 181 pp., $22.50.

Review by:
Marianne Eckardt, M.D.

Elizabeth Roudinesco, a historian, psychoanalyst, writer, and author of the biography of Jacque Lacan, engages us in this small volume in a freely ranging discourse about the recent fate of psychoanalysis. Why, after one hundred years of successful existence, is it the target of virulent attacks and threatened to be replaced by those who believe that drugs can cure the tortures of the soul? This question is about more than the status of psychoanalysis. At stake is civilization or barbarism. Psychoanalysis for Roudinesco is the human science that most represents the subjectivity of our nature, our soul, spirit, and passions and our inherent tragic existence. The subjectivity of each person is molded by death, passions, sexuality, madness, the unconscious, and their relation to each other. We are not biological computer-like machines. The decline of psychoanalysis is embedded in what the author experiences as a depressed society, a society without passion, without revolution, without strong feelings about anything.

This book cannot be appreciated without understanding what psychoanalysis stands for in France and definitely for Roudinesco. Psychoanalysis there never lost its strong association with its early flamboyant entry upon the scene as a cultural revolutionary force that galvanized the arts, literature, psychiatry, and all humanistic disciplines, shaping the 21st century. Psychoanalysis is seen as a vitalizing, subversive, and creative force essential to civilization. The threat to its existence is not the proliferation of its theories nor of modes of therapy, but the loss of this critical explorative spirit.

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