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Flax, J. (1996). Taking Multiplicity Seriously: Some Implications For Psychoanalytic Theorizing And Practice. Contemp. Psychoanal., 32:577-593.

(1996). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 32:577-593

Taking Multiplicity Seriously: Some Implications For Psychoanalytic Theorizing And Practice

Jane Flax, Ph.D.

One of the most contested topics in contemporary discourse is the constitution of subjectivity. Psychoanalysts, philosophers, sociologists, anthropologists, neurologists, psychiatrists, linguists, computer scientists, and many others are engaged in this discourse. Those influenced by postmodernism posit the need, in theory and practice, of more fluid, multiply constituted, and expressed notions of subjectivity. Such approaches require a rethinking of the meanings of race, gender, and psychological development, and an attention to the historical contingency, radical incompleteness, and intrinsic insufficiency of the narratives through which such notions are constituted (Butler, 1990; Flax, 1993; Foucault, 1980b, 1988a, b, c; Irigarary, 1985; Morrison, 1993).

Contemporary psychoanalysts have much to contribute to this project. Many of them are also reconceptualizing subjectivity and psychoanalytic theorizing and practice (Eagle, 1987; Goldberg, A., 1990; Greenberg & Mitchell, 1983; Wallerstein, 1992). They are generating more complex and process-oriented models of mind and clinical practice, and are developing richer accounts of erotic life and gender (Benjamin, 1988; Bernay & Cantor, 1986; Chodorow, 1989; Fast, 1984). Intensified attention to the importance of language and narrative, and to multiple levels of conscious, unconscious, and intersubjective interaction has been very productive (Schafer, 1983). Contemporary psychoanalysts are recapturing some of the dynamism of Freud's (1923) posttopological writings, without reifying the unconscious or attempting to fit psychoanalytic theorizing into misconstrued and restrictive models of empirical science (Messer, Sass & Woolfolk, 1990).

The increasing diversity of psychoanalytic theories and practices offers avenues to escape some limits of our thinking about gender, sexuality, and subjectivity.

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