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Mcdonald, A. (1995). The Freud-Klein Controversies 1941-45. Edited by P King R Steiner No.11 in the New Library of Psychoanalysis ed. Spillius. Tavistock/Routledge. Pp. xxv + 966. £35.00 (paper).. Psychoanal. Psychother., 9(2):213-213.

(1995). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 9(2):213-213

The Freud-Klein Controversies 1941-45. Edited by P King R Steiner No.11 in the New Library of Psychoanalysis ed. Spillius. Tavistock/Routledge. Pp. xxv + 966. £35.00 (paper).

Review by:
Anne Mcdonald

This is a unique record of a coming-of-age of an organisation, a task which has been approached with maturity and insight. The reader has a feeling of being a ‘fly on the wall’, with enough background of a factual nature, but also interpersonal and dynamic information in abundance, which does credit to psychoanalysis. Thus therapists’ motivations and problems have been put under the spotlight bravely, as honestly as one could hope for, and without rancour. It is not a gossipy read.

This is a credible insight into an organisational dilemma that we might all recognise as an occurrence of monotonous regularity in different guises. How often, however, are we in a position to view the whole in such a way, either at the time, or after it has all blown over? How often is a verbatim account of exchanges taken?

Part of the uniqueness of this history is as a result of the participants’ concern about the dynamic; the entitling of the discussions as scientific; the degree to which the debate was creative; and the interaction between the participants’ personal experiences and their subject. The book also stands on its own as a text for the understanding of concepts such as phantasy, enriched by the detailed argument.

So to whom would I recommend this tome? Well, even in the paperback form, it is quite a size, but it would be my advice not to be daunted. It is an easy book to dip into and has been sufficiently divided into sections to make possible circumscribed reading as desired.

I found it of interest in three particular areas. I would recommend it to anyone with a passing interest in the history of the important figures of psychoanalysis; also, but quite separately, to those engaged in, or interested in, the dynamics of institutions or organisations; quite specifically, again, to anyone wishing a greater understanding of some key concepts formulated at that time. Of course, these interests often overlap, and for the intrepid, the book, in its entirety, makes a good read. There is plenty to think about and plenty to debate.

Does it have a happy ending? Well, that's a matter for interpretation!

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