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Richards, A.D. (1999). A. A. Brill And The Politics Of Exclusion. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 47(1):9-28.

(1999). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 47(1):9-28

A. A. Brill And The Politics Of Exclusion

Arnold D. Richards

Both as a theory and as a therapeutic method, psychoanalysis is an historical discipline. Any attempt to assess the present state of psychoanalysis must therefore involve coming to grips with its history. As Freud originally conceived the mind as comprised of conscious, preconscious, and unconscious systems, each with its own laws yet forming an interdependent whole, so the history of psychoanalysis can be said to unfold on three distinct levels—personal, intellectual, and institutional. Although the first two continue to be sifted by both analysts and scholars, the institutional history of psychoanalysis has perhaps not received the attention it merits from clinical practitioners. Analysts of all persuasions engage in an ongoing process of self-scrutiny to test how the legacies of Freud and other pioneers can be renewed in the contemporary context. If this process inevitably exposes fault lines that cause one to be skeptical of the prospects for a complete integration, it nonetheless fosters a recognition of the diversity and distinctiveness of the views that can justly call themselves psychoanalytic—a recognition that may in turn enable us to transform the debate among partisan advocates into a genuine dialogue.

For American psychoanalysts, Abraham Arden Brill (1874-1948) is one such pioneer, whose example is singularly instructive. As historian Paula Fass (1969) has written, “If any individual helped to determine the shape of the American experience with psychoanalysis, it was Brill. He was the first practicing American psychoanalyst; it was he who established New York City as the psychoanalytic center of the United States, a position which it held for many years. Many of the young physicians who became psychoanalysts during the first decades of the twentieth century were trained and inspired by Brill.

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