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Gehrie, M.J. (1994). Discussion of “Final Analysis?: Psychoanalysis in the Postmodern West” by Jane Flax. Ann. Psychoanal., 22:21-27.

(1994). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 22:21-27

Discussion of “Final Analysis?: Psychoanalysis in the Postmodern West” by Jane Flax

Mark J. Gehrie

Professor Flax has presented us with what seems to be a worried picture of contemporary disciplinary politics. She begins by asking, “Can psycho-analysis survive?” and offers an examination of the problems of its internal organization and its relations to the sociopolitical context. In the end, she offers us some hope for recovery. But Flax seems particularly concerned about the effect of power on “disciplinary enterprises” like psychoanalysis, and especially about its ability to “produce the appearance of an objective or neutral resolution of competing truth claims.” She sees the “discursive formation” of psychoanalysis in terms of three “projects:” theory, clinical treatment, and preservation of the profession, and in each of these realms describes dynamics which suggest that the true interests of psychoanalysis are in the preservation of repressive theory, normalizing treatment, and professional self-interest. She worries, in other words, that we are missing things about ourselves, our discipline, and our patients because we are too centered on our own needs without realizing it, or worse, because we must covertly service ourselves in preference to our broader responsibilities as explorers (and healers) of the human mind. Not a pretty picture! In many respects she may be right, and certainly she is right that the history of psychoanalysis is replete with examples of the influence of other, sub rosa agendas. But I think that Flax may also be seeing this field more in terms of this history than in terms of the realities of its present, or at least may not be taking into account many of the changes that have occurred in the discipline over the last 20 years.

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