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Wurmser, L. (2004). Prologue. Psychoanal. Inq., 24(2):141-150.

(2004). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 24(2):141-150


Léon Wurmser, M.D.

When joseph lichtenberg and i were considering that it might be valuable to devote an issue of Psychoanalytic Inquiry to the pointed question “The Superego—A Vital or Supplanted Concept?” we intended it not so much as a historical account of the superego concept but rather as a challenging debate about our current views and as a presentation of ideas as undogmatic and wide-ranging as possible. While we were working on this project, it quickly became evident how intense the interest on this question is, how many more colleagues were drawn to deal with it in contributions than could be accommodated in this limited forum, and how there was also wide divergence in how the issues originally addressed by the superego concept are now being conceptualized.

For a long time, the superego concept was a given—in Freud's view the “cornerstone of psychoanalytic thought,” as quoted by Eickhoff in this issue—and even today it is often referred to in the writings of psychoanalysts who count themselves in the classical tradition. Still, with many others, use of the concept has dwindled or disappeared, and they assume that there are now better ways of dealing conceptually with the phenomena originally covered by the Freudian concept. We did not so much want to reconsider it in terms of Freud's original theory of the superego—though a return to the unsolved questions of his struggling with the entire area, which he later subsumed under this concept, forms an important part of the following debate, especially in Lansky's paper but also to some extent in the papers by Kilborne, Grotstein, and Eickhoff—but rather to examine how contemporary psychoanalysts theoretically and practically deal with the phenomena addressed by the concept.

The papers in this issue can be studied with much gain if looked at dialectically, as I briefly mention in my own paper in this issue.

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