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Slap, J.W. (1980). II. Psychoanal. Rev., 67(2):168-172.

(1980). Psychoanalytic Review, 67(2):168-172


Joseph W. Slap, Ph.D.

Today psychoanalytic discourse is fragmented. The towering authority Freud exercised had an organizing effect on the psychoanalytic field. Whether one accepted or rejected the various aspects of his theories and teaching, one was aware of them and felt them to be important. In this sense psychoanalysts formed a group. Ruptures did occur, but the group survived, since men like Adler and Jung broke off with their respective coteries. With Freud's death the mantle passed to Heinz Hartmann along with his close collaborators, Ernst Kris and Rudolph Loewenstein. While these men did not have the authority of Freud, they were clearly the theoretical leaders whose publications demanded attention and study. With time, their authority eroded and since their deaths no successor has appeared, although some have volunteered and others have been nominated by their respective supporters. With the loss of a central organizing focus of theoretical inquiry and debate, the psychoanalytic group has become less well defined and less cohesive. One can no longer speak with confidence of a psychoanalytic mainstream. At the same time, there has been a decline in the reputation of psychoanalysis in public opinion and in academia. Fewer medical students are choosing psychiatry as a specialty, and the analytic institutes are suffering a decline in the number and quality of applicants.

While some look upon this situation with despair, others see it as a time of ferment and excitement. While not conceding despair, I look with suspicion upon the view that ferment and excitement are to be welcomed. It implies that newness and multiplicity of views are inherently desirable, regardless of content and of the extent to which they obscure previously discovered and validated theory and technique.

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