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Desteian, J. (1995). Smith, J.C. The Neurotic Foundations of Social Order: Psychoanalytic Roots of Patriarchy. New York: New York University Press, 1990. Pp. xvi + 503. $50.00.. J. Anal. Psychol., 40(2):257-261.
  

(1995). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 40(2):257-261

Smith, J.C. The Neurotic Foundations of Social Order: Psychoanalytic Roots of Patriarchy. New York: New York University Press, 1990. Pp. xvi + 503. $50.00.

Review by:
John Desteian

After reading The Neurotic Foundations of Social Order, it is unlikely that any person with a modicum of openness to the topic will perceive either the political or social structures of our world as they did before encountering this book. The results of general elections will seem of little consequence when viewed from the historical, political, social and psychological perspectives offered by this book. J.C. Smith, a law professor at the University of British Columbia, has written an important book; not only a significant contribution to the understanding of our political and legal structures, but also to psychoanalytic social theory and radical feminism.

While there are criticisms to be levelled at Smith's theories, they pale in comparison with the magnitude of the task he has set out for himself and the success he has achieved in turning under (that is, subverting) the roots of patriarchy, for all of us to see. He says:

The basic thesis of this book is that the most critical determining factor of social order is neurosis. If this thesis is correct, it would follow that political principles do not count in and of themselves for any particular intrinsic truth which they contain. These principles are allowed to function only when they meet psychological needs. If a political principle runs contrary to psychological needs it will be denied and ignored. Rationality, in other words, is not primary … Consider how long the view of women as inferior has lasted in spite of the fact that it is contrary to reality.

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

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