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Gedo, J.E. (1977). Psychoanalytic Theory. An Exploration of Essentials. Psychoanal Q., 46:319-325.

(1977). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 46:319-325

Psychoanalytic Theory. An Exploration of Essentials

Review by:
John E. Gedo

By George S. Klein. New York: International Universities Press, Inc., 1976. 330 pp.

PSYCHOLOGY VERSUS METAPSYCHOLOGY. PSYCHOANALYTIC ESSAYS IN MEMORY OF GEORGE S. KLEIN. Edited by Merton M. Gill and Philip S. Holzman. Psychological Issues, Vol. IX, No. 4, Monograph 36. New York: International Universities Press, Inc., 1976. 383 pp.

From his correspondence with Jung, we have learned that Freud regarded the materialist and energeticist assumptions of psychoanalytic metapsychology as essential safeguards against the danger, ever-present for an introspective psychology, of sliding into the irrational philosophical position of vitalism. But the passage of close to a century, marked by a series of conceptual revolutions in Western cosmology, should have relegated to an anachronism Freud's concern that, without the bridging concept of psychic energy—however arbitrary its invention may have been—in studying subjectivity, he would cut himself off from the objective, scientific realm. For the past decade, a swelling chorus of voices has been heard within the psychoanalytic community protesting against the constraints of the theoretical framework that traduces the language of clinical interpretation, one of the intentions and subjective meanings, into a calculus of causes and mechanisms.

The defenders of the metapsychological status quo have usually fallen back on the unassailable, albeit extrascientific, position that the postulated psychic forces and energies fueling an apparatus are to be understood metaphorically. However, it seems to this reviewer that our nineteenth century theoretical baggage would be generally abandoned if not for the enormity of the task of conceptual reconstruction demanded by such a radical revision. For some years, the leading advocate of such a strategy was the late George Klein; his premature death in 1971 interrupted his efforts in that direction. Well into the 1970's, the over-all tenor of theoretical statements in psychoanalysis continued to be generally conservative.

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