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Rose, L. (2005). Zaretsky, Eli. Secrets of the Soul: A Social and Cultural History of Psychoanalysis. New York: Knopf, 2004. 429 pp. $30.00.. Am. Imago, 62(4):499-505.

(2005). American Imago, 62(4):499-505

Zaretsky, Eli. Secrets of the Soul: A Social and Cultural History of Psychoanalysis. New York: Knopf, 2004. 429 pp. $30.00.

Review by:
Louis Rose

Eli Zaretsky's Secrets of the Soul offers a wide-ranging historical perspective and incisive commentary on psychoanalysis as a school of thought, an international movement, and a phenomenon of modernity. In Zaretsky's account, psychoanalysis as a system of thought has struggled from its birth until the present day through cycles of dynamism and stasis. As a movement, it has fluctuated similarly between charismatic and routinized structures. Finally, as a modern social and cultural phenomenon, its vicissitudes have followed both the expansive and retrograde tendencies that appeared with the second industrial revolution and mass consumer society. In Zaretsky's view, throughout this history of paradoxes and oscillations Sigmund Freud's fundamental discovery of the existence of a “personal unconscious” (5) has remained the source of the movement's continued social and cultural significance and its lasting contribution to modern consciousness.

At the center of Zaretsky's history is the question of how psychoanalysis managed to outlive its nineteenth-century origins to take on new life in the twentieth century. Psychoanalysis spanned the divide between nineteenth-century, universalist theory-building, as inspired by Hegel, Comte, and Marx, and modernist, antitheoretical consciousness. Freud saw the psychology of the unconscious as the key to interpreting not only inward processes and development but also widespread collective phenomena, including the origins of society itself. More thoroughly and extensively than earlier psychologists, Freud brought psychology into social and cultural research and theorizing, areas that until that time had been led in the main by philosophers, sociologists, and historians. This journal—like its forebear, Vienna's Imago—attests to the significance of that vision on the part of Freud and his followers.


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