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Rendon, M. (1979). Structuralism in Psychoanalysis. Am. J. Psychoanal., 39(4):343-351.
(1979). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 39(4):343-351
Structuralism in Psychoanalysis
Mario Rendon, M.D.
Some old subjects seem to have recently gained new life. A redefinition of psychoanalysis has been suggested by Jacques Lacan, who claims that ego-psychology, with its stronghold in both Freudian and neo-Freudian thinking, is a misunderstanding of Freud's purpose. At stake in this debate is the issue of psychoanalysis as a scientific enterprise and its place in the context of Western reason. In Althusser's words, if psychoanalysis is to claim the status of a science, it must at least define its object, its theory, and its practice.1 The practice of psychoanalysis is the psychoanalytic cure, but the theory of psychoanalysis still shows serious deficiencies; it does not often go beyond the descriptive or classificatory level. At times, a mere translation of behavior into metapsychological or otherwise “theoretical” terms is offered as an explanation for or, alternatively, as that which will assuage the patient's need for understanding.
Because of the lack of a firm definition of its object and the subsequent obscurity of theoretical formulations, many have—for the sake of recognition—yielded to the scientific claims of other disciplines. It is as though the scientific establishment would refuse to recognize psychoanalysis unless it were under the aegis of another discipline. Anthropology, sociology, philosophy, psychology, neurobiology, and perhaps others have been and will be tried as mentors for admission to the scientific forum. According to Lacan, psychoanalysts have capitulated by abandoning the true object of their discipline, namely the unconscious.
To develop the theory of the unconscious we must return to Freud, particularly to some of the most neglected of his works such as “The Interpretation of Dreams,” “Jokes and their relation to the Unconscious,” and “The Psychopathology of Everyday Life,” to mention only those which Lacan calls “canonical.” A reorientation of the study of the unconscious as initiated by Freud would have to introduce students of psychoanalysis into the methodology of linguists, historians, and mathematicians.2
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