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Williams, P. (1998). ‘The Elusive Concept of “Internal Objects” (1934-1943)’ by R. D. HinshelWood. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 79:421-425.

(1998). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 79:421-425

‘The Elusive Concept of “Internal Objects” (1934-1943)’ by R. D. HinshelWood

Paul Williams

Hinshelwood's paper is an unusual amalgam of theoretical, historical and social-structural enquiry into the intellectual and group life of the British Society between 1934 and 1943, from the perspective of the evolution of the role of the concept of ‘internal objects’. Hinshelwood uses the debate over, and the fate of, this important concept to offer insight into ways in which the dispute between Anna Freud and Melanie Klein and the parallel schism within the Society were conducted, and into the broader condition of psychoanalysis at the time. Hinshelwood's paper was made available on the IJPA Web Site ( and an extensive discussion followed. The key points made in Hinshelwood's paper are given here, along with the main discussion comments.

The emergence of the Klein Group in the British Society, the effect of the war years and the arrival of the Freud family in London is the historical context of Hinshelwood's theme. In the years before the outbreak of the Second World War the main psychoanalytic conflict in London was with the Viennese. By 1944 this conflict had transformed itself into warring camps within the British Society, a complex struggle that culminated in the creation of the British tripartite group system, which pertains to this day. Hinshelwood identifies Klein's 1935 paper ‘A contribution to the psychogenesis of manic-depressive states’ as pivotal to the struggles within the British Society. Klein's emphasis on the concrete, internal status of objects experienced as existing within the body, and their relationship to the depressive position, posed important questions in relation to fantasy and sublimation (amongst other things).

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