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Buckley, P. (1995). Fairbairn And The Origins Of Object Relations. Edited by James S. Grotstein and Donald B. Rinsley. New York: Guilford, 1994, 350 pp., $40.00.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 43:241-244.

(1995). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 43:241-244

Fairbairn And The Origins Of Object Relations. Edited by James S. Grotstein and Donald B. Rinsley. New York: Guilford, 1994, 350 pp., $40.00.

Review by:
Peter Buckley, M.D.

W. R. D. Fairbairn (1889-1965) is an arresting figure in the evolution of psychoanalytic thought, one who stands out even in a discipline forged by radical thinkers. Living in Scotland and thus working in relative seclusion from the larger analytic community, he published a series of papers beginning in 1940 which delineated an object relations model of developmental psychology and pathogenesis that provides a stark contrast to classical drive theory, which it repudiates altogether. Fairbairn asserted that “the object and not gratification is the ultimate aim of libidinal striving.” From this crucial starting point he proceeded to construct a theoretical edifice that illuminates our understanding of borderline and narcissistic states, the development of the personality, and the nature of therapeutic action. Traditional psychoanalytic circles paid little attention to this work when it first appeared, but gradually over the years has arisen a growing recognition of the importance of his ideas and of the prophetic manner in which they heralded later psychoanalytic innovations such as self psychology.

Fairbairn's legacy is well served by the editors of the book under review; they have compiled a volume of papers, both previously published and new, that explicate Fairbairn's concepts and apply them to psychoanalytic theory and the clinical setting. One is left with an awareness of how central Fairbairn's concepts are to much of current clinical debate and how extensive his contribution has been to the growth of psychoanalytic thinking.

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