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Spillius, E.B. (2000). Totem and Taboo and Professional Correctness. Changing Ideas In A Changing World: The Revolution in Psychoanalysis. Essays in Honour of Arnold Cooper, 179-188.
   

Spillius, E.B. (2000). Totem and Taboo and Professional Correctness. Changing Ideas In A Changing World: The Revolution in Psychoanalysis. Essays in Honour of Arnold Cooper, 179-188

Totem and Taboo and Professional Correctness Book Information Previous Up Next

Elizabeth Bott Spillius, Ph.D.

I have long been an admirer of Arnie Cooper's work as a psychoanalyst, as a leading member of the American Psychoanalytic Association at an important and difficult time, and as an editor, and so I was keen to contribute to a Festschrift on applied psychoanalysis in his honour. But how could I do this when, unlike Arnie himself, I have always felt rather uneasy about applying the findings of psychoanalysis to any field other than that of clinical psychoanalysis? Then, however, I thought about Totem and Taboo (1913), one of Freud's favourite books, a major excursion into anthropology. And so a suitable subject presented itself. What has been the fate of this particular and very famous case of applied psychoanalysis?

Freud appears to have attached as much importance to his cultural and literary studies as to clinical and theoretical psychoanalysis, as if he thought of psychoanalysis as all of a piece, not divided into two sorts, psychoanalysis “proper” and psychoanalysis “applied.” Jones (1957) says that the works by which Freud most wished to be remembered were: “(1) The seventh chapter of The Interpretation of Dreams, (2) the last chapter of Totem and Taboo, and (3) the essay on “The Unconscious” in his meta-psychological series” (pp. 40-41). Even if, as seems likely, Freud made this choice from his writings up until the end of the metapsychological papers, I think it is hardly the choice we would make today. What about the rest of The Interpretation of Dreams, “Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality,” “Formulations on the Two Principles of Mental Functioning,” “On Narcissism,” “Mourning and Melancholia,” the papers on technique, and the case histories?

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