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Morlock, F. (2008). Le Dossier Freud. Enquête sur l'histoire de la psychanalyse by Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen and Sonu Shamdasani (Paris: Les Empêcheurs de penser en rond/Seuil, 2006; 507 pp; 20 euros); reviewed by Forbes Morlock. Psychoanal. Hist., 10(2):237-242.
(2008). Psychoanalysis and History, 10(2):237-242
Le Dossier Freud. Enquête sur l'histoire de la psychanalyse by Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen and Sonu Shamdasani (Paris: Les Empêcheurs de penser en rond/Seuil, 2006; 507 pp; 20 euros); reviewed by Forbes Morlock
Review by: Forbes Morlock
Psychoanalysis and history - it is easy to imagine that we know what these are. Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen and Sonu Shamdasani want to bring the identity of at least the former into question. Their recent book ends in the future perfect by asking: what will psychoanalysis have been? Writing as if from a post-psychoanalytic age, they wonder in (premature?) retrospect what could possibly have held the immense variety of talking cures together, and what the theories of ‘Rank, Ferenczi, Reich, Melanie Klein, Karen Horney, Imre Hermann, Winnicott, Bion, Bowlby, Kohut, Lacan, Jean Laplanche, André Green, Slavoj Zizek, Julia Kristeva, Juliet Mitchell’ could have had in common (p. 438)? Their conviction is that psychoanalysis will turn out to have cohered around a legend, the myth that an unprecedented event (something like the ‘discovery’ of psychoanalysis) occurred on the cusp of the twentieth century, and that that event has ever since been confused with the person of Sigmund Freud.
Le Dossier Freud is a book about what the authors, after Ellenberger and Sulloway (though curiously not Samuel Weber), call the legend of Freud, the irrational kernel at the core of the manifold manifestations of psychoanalysis. For them, it would be a history of the legend of Freud. And it would be a history, because it has been the history - rather than, say, the philosophy, epistemology, or politics - of psychoanalysis that has been most contested. ‘Psychoanalysis is strangely allergic to history’ because in truth it is most vulnerable to history (p. 53). Such is Borch-Jacobsen's and Shamdasani's central assertion - and it is an assertion that bears sometimes compelling and occasionally damning results.
If the authors conclude that we will not have known what psychoanalysis is, they are certain we know what constitutes history. ‘By preference and profession, the historian attempts to reconstitute past events as they occurred, not as we see them or want them to be today’ (p. 31).
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