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Erös, F. (2004). The Ferenczi Cult: Its Historical and Political Roots. Int. Forum Psychoanal., 13(1/2):121-128.

(2004). International Forum of Psychoanalysis, 13(1/2):121-128

The Ferenczi Cult: Its Historical and Political Roots

Ferenc Erös

I examine how Sándor Ferenczi has survived in the cultural memory of psychoanalysis, and why myths and legends have been created around his life and work. It seems that he could not escape the fate of the founding fathers of psychoanalysis, most notably, that of Freud and Jung: their life and work have become an object of cultic respect for the followers, diabolic figures for the enemies. Quasi-religious cultivation of the “great man” is an often observable phenomenon in literature, politics, history and in science, and it has several political and ideological functions. These functions may help to increase the inner cohesion and the group identity of the cultic community, to defend the group against external threats. Psychoanalysis has always been vulnerable to myth formation; first, for obvious sociological reasons, and, secondly, for reasons originating in the nature of therapy. The cultic functions can be realized in several ways, such as, for example, the ritualization of the transmission of knowledge, and the “biography as passion” that is, attempts to create a biographical narrative in which all life history moments crystallize around the great man's central theme. Most of the biographies on the life of great psychoanalysts are of this kind - and Ferenczi is no exception. A historiography of psychoanalysis must follow the path of modern historiography in general, which attempts at deconstructing both myths and counter-myths about persons, events and processes, in political, as well as in cultural and intellectual history. By examining the structure of myth formation about psychoanalysts we can learn a lot about how ideas are operating in changing social contexts.

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