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Bottici, C. (2019). Feminine Law: Freud, Free Speech, and the Voice of Desire, by Jill Gentile and Michael Macrone, London, England: Karnac Books, 2016, 330 pp., $44.06. Psychoanal. Psychol., 36(2):198-199.

(2019). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 36(2):198-199

Feminine Law: Freud, Free Speech, and the Voice of Desire, by Jill Gentile and Michael Macrone, London, England: Karnac Books, 2016, 330 pp., $44.06

Review by:
Chiara Bottici, Ph.D.

This is a very timely and very untimely book at the same time. I am using “untimely” here in the Nietzschean sense of the term, meaning that it is a book that addresses topical issues but does so by going against the grain, that is, against the spirit of our own predicament. It is this creative tension between the topicality of the issues tackled and the original character of the solutions proposed that most commends its reading.

The main thesis of Jill Gentile's Feminine Law is that both psychoanalysis and democracy evolved as rebukes to repression, and thus that they both are intimately linked to the pursuit of freedom and its paradoxes. Whereas different authors have already explored the emancipatory potential of psychoanalysis from a political point of view, nobody, at least to my knowledge, has yet endeavored to systematically explore the connection between the “fundamental rule” of psychoanalysis (Chapter 2), that of free association, and the fundamental condition of democracy, that of “free speech” (Chapter 3). This is by itself a very timely and insightful enterprise, but most of all, it is an enterprise that leads to a very untimely and, perhaps, even uncanny, conclusion.

To begin with, the first part of the journey (Chapters 1-9), which explores the parallel history of free association and free speech in the psychoanalytic movement and the “framing” of American democracy, respectively, comes to the puzzling conclusion that pursuing freedom implies pursuing its limits.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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