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Hatcher, R.L. (1990). Relational Concepts in Psychoanalysis An Integration by Stephen A. Mitchell Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988, ix + 326 pp., $25.00. Psa. Books, 1(2):127-142.

(1990). Psychoanalytic Books, 1(2):127-142

Relational Concepts in Psychoanalysis An Integration by Stephen A. Mitchell Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988, ix + 326 pp., $25.00

Review by:
Robert L. Hatcher, Ph.D.

Stephen A. Mitchell's Relational Concepts in Psychoanalysis gives us a particular sense of psychoanalytic theory. It is like an aging caterpillar—its very structure cries out for transformation. Is Mitchell's brilliant volume the chrysalis? Does a butterfly emerge? Or another worm?

However one judges the outcome, the gradual unfolding of Mitchell's new theory is accomplished through a dazzling series of thoughtful and penetrating critiques and integrations of psychoanalytic theorizing past and present. Mitchell is extraordinarily well read in psychoanalytic theory, and he has a wide grasp of philosophy, political theory, and literature as well. He writes with clarity and wit, making a long, largely theoretical book as easy to read as any. His text will be an important source of useful ideas and criticism for the continuing development of psychoanalytic theory. The opportunity to share in his wide and searching understanding should not be missed by anyone interested in the field.

The past 50 or more years have seen continuing efforts to reshape psychoanalytic theory to take better account of the importance of others in the life of the individual. Mitchell's previous book (with Jay Greenberg), Object Relations in Psychoanalytic Theory (1983), describes the various forms these efforts have taken. Roughly speaking, these fall into those which have kept at least the form of drive theory while trying to introduce relational concepts (labeled, tendentiously, “strategies of accommodation”); and relational theories that have abandoned drive theory altogether (strategies of “radical alternative”).

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