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Klein, G.S. (1973). Is Psychoanalysis Relevant?. Psychoanal. Contemp. Sci., 2(1):3-21.

(1973). Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Science, 2(1):3-21

1 New Perspectives on Psychoanalysis

Is Psychoanalysis Relevant?

George S. Klein, Ph.D.

Some psychologists, especially critics of psychoanalysis, will regard a concern with the continuing identity of the psychoanalytic body of thought as a reversion to schoolism. Aren't schools of psychology an anachronism in our maturing science of psychology? Aren't ambitious images of the “whole man” out of date? Besides, haven't the major principles of psychoanalysis been absorbed into the mainstream of American psychology? And aren't psychology and psychoanalysis both better off for the fact that psychoanalysis has gone the way of all schools?

Granted the many signs of absorption. Even in behavioristic psychology, defense, displacement, conflict, and drive are common coin. Within psychoanalysis itself as a profession the eclectic spirit has been so insistent that it is hard to trace the common thread among the diverse groups who pre-empt the label “psychoanalyst.” And perhaps the most dramatic evidence of absorption is the change in commonsense psychology. Consider how much of yesterday's psychoanalytic jargon is today's lingo of everyday life. Even the young, among whom formal psychoanalytic theory finds little favor, would be tongue-tied without it.

But is there cause for satisfaction with this state of “absorbed psychoanalysis”? Does it speak for a maturing science of psychology which has separated wheat from chaff and arrived at a superior integration?

There are plenty of indications that the absorption has not actually been integrative, but rather a process that subtly obscures the stronger features of psychoanalysis; in effect it denies them by deflecting attention from their investigative possibilities, giving a net result, as Lindzey (1967) put it, that is perhaps “a more palatable but less powerful set of ideas.”

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