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Compton, A. (1986). Neglected Classics: Hanns Sachs's "On the Genesis of Perversions". Psychoanal Q., 55:474-492.

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(1986). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 55:474-492

Neglected Classics: Hanns Sachs's "On the Genesis of Perversions"

Allan Compton, M.D.


Hanns Sachs's "Zur Genese der Perversionen" first appeared in 1923 in the Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse (Volume 19, pp. 172-182). So far as we can determine, it was not translated into English until 1966, and that translation appeared only in 1978, as an appendix to Socarides's book, Homosexuality. Sachs's paper, nevertheless, is one of the most frequently cited references in the psychoanalytic literature on perversion, and especially on the general theory of perversion. Usually, in the English language literature, the reference is to a summary (for example, that of Gillespie, 1956). The influence of this work has been significant enough that a partial theory of perversion formation came to be called "the Sachs mechanism" by Socarides (1978), who especially has been responsible for focusing attention on this paper, and by others.

The paper was written in unusually dense German, which probably accounts for the slow emergence of translations. If one penetrates the difficulties of language, it is evident that Sachs, utilizing Freud's evolving insights on mental functioning, was able to discern one of the central problems of the different outcomes of mental functioning: How is it that there may result in some cases a symptom, in others a character trait, in yet others a sexual perversion? Sachs pursues the issue for perversion formation largely in terms of the pre-ego-id-superego model of


Drs. Alfred Goldberg and Miriam Tasini assisted in the preparation and review of this translation and commentary.

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