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Dewald, P.A. (1995). The Common Ground of Psychoanalysis. Edited by Robert S. Wallerstein. Northvale, NJ: Aronson, 1992, ix + 320 pp.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 43:591-594.

(1995). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 43:591-594

The Common Ground of Psychoanalysis. Edited by Robert S. Wallerstein. Northvale, NJ: Aronson, 1992, ix + 320 pp.

Review by:
Paul A. Dewald

In his two terms as president of the International Psychoanalytical Association, Robert S. Wallerstein sought to clarify whether psychoanalysis throughout the world, given the various theoretical and technical differences, has commonalities and common ground, so that the concept of a unified scientific endeavor could be supported. This interest was reflected in his presidential addresses in Montreal in 1987 and in Rome in 1989. The current volume is a reflection and continuation of that interest.

It consists of eleven chapters, by various authors, previously published in the International Journal of Psycho-Analysis as individual papers. The first and last chapters, written by Wallerstein, are new. The first, “The Context of the Issue,” is an historical survey of the variations among psychoanalytic theorists and practitioners that have evolved since Freud's attempts to maintain a single understanding of psychoanalysis. The development of different psychoanalytic schools, particularly in the United States, has in recent decades involved ego psychology, self psychology, object relations theory, Kleinian theory, interpersonal approaches, action language, hermeneutics, cybernetics, and information theory, each of which receives attention, as do Lacanian theory and practice. This survey sets the stage for the next chapter, Wallerstein's Montreal address, “One Psychoanalysis or Many?”

In this chapter, after describing various divergent theories of mental functioning and development, Wallerstein emphasizes some of the issues that hold us together as psychoanalysts. He remarks that “the clinical context, by itself, will never determine which interpretation within which theoretical framework is closest to the mark that, in fact, put in those terms, the issue is totally miscast” (p. 48). In an attempt to resolve this dilemma, he makes use of the concept, elaborated by Joseph and Anne-Marie Sandler, of the past unconscious as contrasted with the present unconscious.

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