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Wallerstein, R.S. (1995). Psychoanalysis in Transition: A Personal View. By Merton M. Gill. Hillsdale, NJ: Analytic Press, 1994, xvii + 179 pp., $29.95.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 43:595-600.

(1995). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 43:595-600

Psychoanalysis in Transition: A Personal View. By Merton M. Gill. Hillsdale, NJ: Analytic Press, 1994, xvii + 179 pp., $29.95.

Review by:
Robert S. Wallerstein

In 1984 I began a critical appaisal of Merton Gill's just published monograph (Analysis of Transference, Vol. I: Theory and Technique) with an admiring paragraph locating him and his influence in American psychoanalysis as follows:

It has been Merton Gill's fate to be an acknowledged leader in (American) psychoanalysis almost from the beginning of his career. An uncommon percentage of his writings have been almost instantly—and justly—hailed for their critical influence at particular points in the history of analysis in America, in relation both to psychoanalytic clinical practice (and its relation to the derivative dynamic psychotherapies) and to psychoanalytic theory formulation (in the ascendancy and then the decline of ego psychology—the apotheosis of metapsychology). Witness the 1954 paper, “Psychoanalysis and Exploratory Psychotherapy,” which (together with Edward Bibring's essay of the same year) more than any other contributions from the various panels and symposia of 1952-1954 set our understanding of the nature of psychoanalysis as a therapy, in all its similarities to and differences from the congeries of dynamic psychotherapies elaborated within its framework. Or consider the 1959 paper co-authored with David Rapaport, “The Points of View and Assumptions of Metapsychology,” which so concisely defined and capped the full elaboration of the metapsychological points of view including the co-equal placement among them of the adaptive point of view. Consider the 1963 monograph in the Psychological Issues series, Topography and Systems in Psychoanalytic Theory, the ultimate extension of the metapsychological theory-building advanced over lifetimes by Hartmann and by Rapaport. Or, consider finally, the 1976 paper, “Metapsychology is Not Psychology,” In which Gill joined the revisionist retreat seeking to dismantle the metapsychological edifice and return psychoanalytic theorizing to an experience-near focus on just its special or clinical theory—as opposed to the to-be-excised general or metapsychological theory. Curiously, the signal influence of each of these successive landmark contributions has endured despite Gill's own subsequent turning away from and even disavowing positions that he had so persuasively earlier espoused [Wallerstein, 1984, pp. 325-326].

So

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