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Lee, J.S. (1989). Unveiling Sais: Reflections on Federn and Sachs. Am. Imago, 46(2-3):153-159.

(1989). American Imago, 46(2-3):153-159

Unveiling Sais: Reflections on Federn and Sachs

Jonathan Scott Lee, Ph.D.

At first glance the articles repinted here—Paul Federn's “Psychoanalysis as a Therapy of Society” (Federn 1940 and Hanns Sachs's “Psychotherapy and the Pursuit of Happiness(Sachs 1941)—may seem little more than historical curiosities, theoretical artifacts of the émigré community which nurtured psychoanalysis in the United States after the collapse of Europe and the death of Freud. Closer acquaintance reveals, however, that the tacit dialogue engaged here at the birth of American Imago—and re-enacted in the present reprinting— bears upon issues of modernism and its critique which have become our preoccupation in the later 1980s.

Following Jean-François Lyotard, I will take as modern any cultural product—theoretical text, discourse, or work of art—which produces as an integral facet of itself a meta-discourse that serves to legitimate the claims of the work. Typically, such meta-discourses assume the form of “some grand narrative, such as the dialectics of Spirit, the hermeneutics of meaning, the emancipation of the rational or working subject, or the creation of wealth” (Lyotard 1984, xxiii). However, what is crucial to the notion of modernity is the insistence that its cultural products stand in need of legitimation and that this process of legitimation necessarily points to something beyond the work narrowly conceived.

With this understanding of modernism, Paul Federn's encomium of applied psychoanalysis stands as an exemplary instance of the modernist strategy.

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