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Moss, D. (1997). The Anatomy of Prejudices. : By Elisabeth Young-Bruehl. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 1996. Pp. 632.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 78:839-842.

(1997). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 78:839-842

The Anatomy of Prejudices. : By Elisabeth Young-Bruehl. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 1996. Pp. 632.

Review by:
Donald Moss

For a psychoanalyst, one of the many felicitous consequences of reading Elisabeth Young-Bruehl's impressively panoramic study, The Anatomy of Prejudices, is being drawn into a reconsideration of the relationship between the terms ‘clinical’ and ‘prejudicial’. This relationship is often thought tangential. But for Young-Bruehl, it is an intimate relationship. She thinks of individual psychopathologies and socially mediated hatreds as conceptually bound. After all, both categories are grounded in efforts to externalise, flee from, and, if necessary, destroy an ‘other’ known only as the source of pain.

Young-Bruehl brings together the two categories and positions them as interestingly complementary. But for Young-Bruehl, perhaps best known to a psychoanalytic readership by way of her acclaimed and controversial Anna Freud: A Biography (1988), this complementarity can be overstated, and often has been. When it is, important differences between what she calls ‘ethnocentricisms’ (antagonisms grounded in history and for which psychic determinants are secondary) and ‘ideologies of desire’ (antagonisms grounded in myth and fantasy, and whose primary determinants are psychic—racisms, sexisms, homophobias, anti-Semitism) are obscured.

The difference between these two forms of hatred is central to Young-Bruehl's argument. She grants that the two forms can overlap. Ethnocentricisms can take on a patina of, for instance, psychically determined racism; homophobias can be expressed with the use of, for example, supplementary ethnocentric images. But such overlap, she argues, should not be allowed to obscure the radical differences between the two categories.

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