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Fogel, G.I. (1992). New Foundations for Psychoanalysis: By Jean Laplanche. Translated by David Macey. Cambridge, MA/Oxford: Basil Blackwell, Ltd., 1989. 176 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 61:91-98.

(1992). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 61:91-98

New Foundations for Psychoanalysis: By Jean Laplanche. Translated by David Macey. Cambridge, MA/Oxford: Basil Blackwell, Ltd., 1989. 176 pp.

Review by:
Gerald I. Fogel

Those who rely, as I do, on The Language of Psychoanalysis, by Laplanche and Pontalis, for useful information about classical Freudian concepts, will approach New Foundations for Psychoanalysis, by Jean Laplanche, as I did—with high expectations. I was not disappointed. There are differences between Laplanche on his own and the partnership that introduced me to this influential French theorist, but this work has qualities I admired greatly in the other: daring, sometimes dazzling intellect and fresh vision; scholarly rigor; critical re-examination of, but also mastery and deep respect for Freudian theory; fluency in current trends in science and the humanities; passion, precision, and—wonder of wonders—wit and succinctness as well.

The book has three sections. First, Laplanche critically reviews, elegantly and imaginatively, major trends in psychoanalytic theory from both modern and historical perspectives. Second, he presents his own views and attempts, successfully I think, to show how his ideas logically extend and deepen Freudian theory. Finally, he discusses the implications of his ideas for analytic practice. Few will agree with all he suggests, but any who enjoy thinking about psychoanalytic ideas and the relation of theory to practice will find much that is interesting and useful in this relatively short, but densely packed volume.

Laplanche's brilliance and love of the elegant phrase, or the penetrating or deflating metaphor that is just so, can approach arrogance or mere cleverness; his wit sometimes becomes sarcasm verging on contempt. Pontalis may curb these tendencies when they co-author. The tone may put some readers off, especially if a dearly held belief is under scrutiny. Psychoanalysis as a natural science or a general psychology, "adaptation," the reality principle, American ego psychology, and Freud's errors, for example, are prime targets for his witty, sometimes derisive (though often telling and precise) criticism. But I suspect that one should not take his tone too personally.

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