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Devereux, G. (1940). Money-Kyrle, R. Superstition and Society. Psycho-Analytical Epitomes No. 3. London: The Hogarth Press & The Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1939. x+163 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 27(2):252-253.

(1940). Psychoanalytic Review, 27(2):252-253

Money-Kyrle, R. Superstition and Society. Psycho-Analytical Epitomes No. 3. London: The Hogarth Press & The Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1939. x+163 pp.

Review by:
George Devereux

Even anthropologists who have been fundamentally in sympathy with the aims and methods of Psychoanalysis have again and again rebelled against certain excesses in the field of psychoanalytic anthropology. This book includes Dr. Money-Kyrle's lectures delivered in the Institute of Psycho-Analysis in the Summer of 1937. One cannot help feeling sorry for those who would attempt to gain insight into the nature of primitive society under Dr. Money-Kyrle's guidance. Sound psychoanalytic theory receives a bad name in anthropological circles because of essays of this type.

The first chapter, dealing mainly with the history of psychoanalytic anthropology is able and sensible. The chapter on Mythology contains an acceptable expose of many current theories. Like the rest of the book it is, however, vitiated by the use of the mag-pie method of comparing bits from here and there, utterly unconscious of the fact that a custom or myth cannot be understood out of context.

The rest of the book—except for the intelligent presentation of psychoanalytic theory—is wholly inacceptable to our minds. It is the anthropologist's nightmare. It is a complete mystery to the reviewer how a scholar, as widely read and as well informed as Dr. Money-Kyrle could convince himself—let alone others—that he has presented even a shadow of proof acceptable to the social scientist in support of his theories.

In view of the fact that anthropology has everything to gain from a psychoanalytic interpretation of its subject-matter, it is to be deplored that many psychoanalytic “anthropologists”—always excepting Dr. Geza Roheim—seem to do their utmost to discourage them. The case against the wishful-thinking type of so-called psychoanalytic anthropology has been presented time and again, by Professor Kroeber, by Dr. Margaret Mead, by Dr. Cora Du Bois, by every single anthropologist who has ever concerned himself with this type of “research.”

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