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Greenberg, D.E. (1990). Instinct and Primary Narcissism in Freud's Later Theory: An Interpretation and Reformulation of 'Beyond the Pleasure Principle'. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 71:271-283.

(1990). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 71:271-283

Instinct and Primary Narcissism in Freud's Later Theory: An Interpretation and Reformulation of 'Beyond the Pleasure Principle'

Daniel E. Greenberg


The significance of 'Beyond the pleasure principle' (BPP) cannot be understood by focusing solely on its manifest content. BPP is the product of theoretical displacements and compromise formations the motivation for which lies in the innovations introduced in 'On narcissism'. These innovations threatened assumptions about conflict and rationality inherent in Freud's libido theory. In BPP Freud attempts to resolve these questions by recasting primary narcissism as an 'inorganic unity'. The coherence of BPP can be restored if we undo these displacements and read its latent content. BPP now appears as a theory of instinctual conflict developing out of primary narcissism. Such development cannot, however, be organized as Freud originally formulated it; we must revise the static assumptions inherent in Freud's developmental view. Further, the question of how anti-developmental regressive forces are kept in check can now be understood by seeing the fear of death as a defensive negation of primary narcissism. This negation mirrors the theoretical repression at work in BPP.

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