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McLaughlin, J.T. (1978). Psychoanalysis: Observation, Theory, Application: By Robert Waelder, Ph.D. Edited by Samuel A. Guttman, M.D. New York: International Universities Press, Inc., 1976. 709 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 47:430-436.
(1978). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 47:430-436
Psychoanalysis: Observation, Theory, Application: By Robert Waelder, Ph.D. Edited by Samuel A. Guttman, M.D. New York: International Universities Press, Inc., 1976. 709 pp.
Review by: James T. McLaughlin
This discursive collection of the writings of Robert Waelder stands in useful complementarity to his earlier published and more focused works, Basic Theory of Psychoanalysis and Progress and Revolution. The latter are open to a scholar's delving into the full lode of Waelder's psychoanalytic wisdom. This aggregate provides more a conversation, a discursive ranging over the human condition in company with one of the first-class minds of psychoanalysis. For those who knew Waelder this book offers warm reunion. For those who did not, it proffers rich communion with someone who grew with psychoanalysis, shaping it as much as shaped by it in the formative years.
The conversational mode would seem partly fortuitous: much of the content is made up of Waelder's reviews, commentaries, or introductions to the books, panels, and gatherings of others, spanning some forty years of discourse with psychoanalysts, historians, social workers, jurists, and others. His is the contemplative, respondent voice of the intent listener courting serious dialogue.
But the mode in fact is Waelder. His most innovative ideas he shaped to relate to and emerge from those of others, whether in amplification or dissent, as though these were but logical extensions or pattern-completions of what was already known. Perhaps this reflects personal modesty and a scientist's reserve. More significantly, his style is that of the oral tradition, with its shared knowing and uncertain parentage of creative thought, that he describes as the actual mode of the early psychoanalysis in which he steeped himself. Waelder clearly recognized that analysis still remains in and of this oral tradition, and he notes its inevitable limitations on the evolution and transmission of psychoanalytic thought in "Freud and the History of Science" (1956: Chapter 30, this volume).
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