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Kovel, J. (1977). The Age of Sensation: By Herbert Hendin. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1975. 354 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 46:695-698.

(1977). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 46:695-698

The Age of Sensation: By Herbert Hendin. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1975. 354 pp.

Review by:
Joel Kovel

Psychoanalysis has long had trouble with Freud's indictment of our society, the firmest statement of which was perhaps conveyed in The Future of an Illusion: "It goes without saying that a civilization which leaves so large a number of its participants unsatisfied and drives them into revolt neither has nor deserves the prospect of a lasting existence." In their implication, remarks such as this call upon the psychoanalyst to engage in culture criticism as well as in psychotherapy (since the analytic method is particularly suited to describe the tension between individual and society)—a task toward which few seem inclined. At another level, the insight that society cripples the individual places a burden upon analytic theory to give social content to ego structure. If the "average expectable environment" produces unhappiness, then this fact should be registered theoretically. Again, analytic thinkers, perhaps out of a need to emulate the so-called value-free models of established science, have shied away from the task. As a result, the prevailing construction of the theory of the ego seems to fit in with pluralist liberal-democratic ideology: a fundamentally harmonious organization, like a well-ordered suburban house, fully equipped with its playroom set aside for a little disorder.

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