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Eisold, K. (2003). Toward a Psychoanalytic Politics. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 51S(Supplement):301-321.

(2003). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 51S(Supplement):301-321

Toward a Psychoanalytic Politics

Kenneth Eisold

If the clinical problem of psychoanalysis is to find effective ways of talking with patients, the political problem is how to talk with one another and the public. In our clinical work, we take into account such factors as the patient's transferences, defenses against anxiety, and narcissistic vulnerabilities, as well as the analyst's theoretical and personal preconceptions. Politically, however, we seldom seem to take much at all into account. It never ceases to amaze me that analysts who can be so sensitive and nuanced in their appreciation of the communicative difficulties with patients so often fail spectacularly in talking among themselves. This collection of papers, an admirable and important effort to promote dialogue on our political relatedness, provides an exceptional opportunity to think about why that should be so.

Many of these papers are responses to Arnold Richards's “Plea for a Measure of Humility,” at first glance, at least, a positive and modest request. But nothing is simple in psychoanalysis—or for a psychoanalyst accustomed to the hidden and layered motivations of human behavior—as the respondents make clear in their various critiques. Two additional papers, by Frederic Levine and Irwin Hirsch, belong in this group, as they address unconscious aspects of training and theoretical orientation that affect not only our communication with patients but also with one another.

Richards, no doubt, was perfectly aware he was unlikely to be appreciated, or even taken at face value, in making this initiative. He is a capable and experienced man, frequently at the forefront of psychoanalytic controversy. Surely he expected to be dissected, deconstructed, and attacked.

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