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(1975). Book Notices. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 23:253-266.

(1975). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 23:253-266

Book Notices

SISYPHUS OR THE LIMITS OF EDUCATION. By Siegfried Bernfeld. Translated by Frederic Lilge. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 1973, xxx + 120 pp., $6.75.

Bernfeld's monograph of 1925 has hitherto been unavailable in English; its translation by a Professor of Education bears witness to the impact of psychoanalysis on educational theory. In a brief Foreword, Anna Freud stresses that this analytic contribution to education is potentially much greater today than it was half a century ago. A more extensive Preface by Professor Peter Paret, Bernfeld's stepson, provides biographical information about the author and places the book in its historical context. In order to grasp Bernfeld's intent in this work, the failure of the residential school he had founded in 1919 as well as his passionate commitment to psychoanalysis, Marxism, and Zionism must be understood.

Sisyphus began with the assumption that the educational system was urgently in need of reform, in spite of the lack of adequate theoretical understanding upon which to base this necessary change. Hence, the theoretical limits of the power of education constituted the subject of Bernfeld's inquiry. He was not interested in the empirical technology of instruction, but only in the underlying educational philosophy. This had generally developed without much actual experience in working with children, having been based instead on individual preconceptions about the psychology of childhood and utopian schemes of ethical reform.

Bernfeld defined education broadly as the process whereby children are acculturated. He saw the function of the schools as only one of the means to that end. The modern school system is the product of an eighteenth-century pedagogical revolution initiated by Rousseau and Pestalozzi, that is, it developed in the context of the radical social changes of our era.

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