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Finn, M. (2015). The Interpersonal Tradition: The Origins of Psychoanalytic Subjectivity, by Irwin Hirsch, Routledge, London and New York, 2014, 234pp.. Am. J. Psychoanal., 75(4):454-455.

(2015). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 75(4):454-455

Book Reviews

The Interpersonal Tradition: The Origins of Psychoanalytic Subjectivity, by Irwin Hirsch, Routledge, London and New York, 2014, 234pp.

Review by:
Mark Finn, Ph.D.

Robert Michels commented decades ago that Harry Stack Sullivan was an unacknowledged influence throughout American psychiatry (Havens, 1976). In his superb new book Irwin Hirsch makes the more focused argument that Sullivan both anticipated and made possible much of what is most creative in contemporary psychoanalysis. He did so by emphasizing the inevitable and ongoing mutual influencing of all human beings and analysts and patients in particular. The analyst is always a participant as well as an observer. Hirsch acknowledges that this view originates with Ferenczi and Rank but Sullivan conceptually elaborated it and provided organizational stability. This book is a collection of papers previously published each with a new preface. Unlike some collections, the papers work together as a series of related chapters forming a coherent whole. Hirsch writes with a plain spoken clarity, handling complex clinical and theoretical issues succinctly but never simplistically. His freedom from either obsessive technical jargon or potentially mystifying poetic obscurity is refreshing. The prose reflects a deep commitment to candor and directness that reminds this reader of no one less than George Orwell. Hirsch seems to have read everything with genuine respect and even when he has strong disagreements either with more classical techniques or with theories based on hypothesized developmental deficits he does not need to create devalued straw men. Furthermore he presents the conflicts and contradictions in the Interpersonal tradition itself: Sullivan's obliqueness in contrast to Fromm's directness.

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