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Tip: To review the bibliography…

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It is always useful to review an article’s bibliography and references to get a deeper understanding of the psychoanalytic concepts and theoretical framework in it.

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Tucker, S.S. (1990). The Politics of Psychoanalysis: By Stephen Frosh. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. 1987. Pp. 290.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 71:359-361.

(1990). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 71:359-361

The Politics of Psychoanalysis: By Stephen Frosh. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. 1987. Pp. 290.

Review by:
Sara S. Tucker

In this well-organized, readable book, Stephen Frosh focuses on Freudian and post-Freudian theory as it relates to social thought, particularly the relationship between social structures and individuality. The title does not refer to manoeuvrings for power within the psychoanalytic movement; rather, by 'politics', the author refers to 'the positions taken up with respect to the power relations that exist between people and that are embedded in the major structures of society' (p. 12). He also explores the application of psychoanalysis to wider political questions.

Examining psychoanalytic theory from the viewpoint of power relations makes for controversial and, at times, biased readings, as evidenced by Frosh's dismissive appraisal of Anna Freud's contribution to psychoanalysis and his unsupported criticisms of capitalism. Still, Frosh does bring to bear a thorough mastery of his subject as well as a talent for homing in on the key elements of various theories, then phrasing them so they can be understood by a wide audience. In doing this, however, he sacrifices the essential links to the clinical underpinnings of the formulations, so that the theory may appear arbitrary or fanciful. While this probably would not present a problem for psychoanalysts, it does require a certain suspension of belief on the part of readers from other disciplines.

For those psychoanalysts not familiar with the critiques of thinkers outside the field of psychoanalysis, this book is excellent as an introduction to the political arguments the divergent psychoanalytic theories are used to validate or deny.

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