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Rustin, M. (2016). The Petrified Ego: A New Theory of Conscience by Elizabeth Reddish Karnac Books, London, 2013; 110 pp; £14.99. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 97(5):1459-1461.

(2016). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 97(5):1459-1461

The Petrified Ego: A New Theory of Conscience by Elizabeth Reddish Karnac Books, London, 2013; 110 pp; £14.99

Review by:
Michael Rustin

Elizabeth Reddish's book argues for the continuing relevance of the concept of the superego for psychoanalytic theory and practice, against what she believes to be its virtual disappearance within some psychoanalytic schools. But at the same time she argues for its radical theoretical revision. The ‘petrified ego’ of her title is the ego which in some people is unable to develop because of the persisting domination of an archaic, primitive superego whose early function is to defend the self against its early survival anxieties. She believes that there are two kinds of superego, not one - as has become conventionally assumed since Freud, in her view, abandoned his initial insight into the role of the ‘ego ideal’ in his theory of the superego and instead developed his theory of the superego as the agency of repression in the oedipal situation. (Had he retained it, she believes, he might have better understood the primitive function of the superego as a means of integration.) This theory, she holds, became the dominant one in psychoanalysis, but because of its limitations has in her view now been widely abandoned.

One of the sources for Reddish's theory of the archaic superego is Freud's Totem and Taboo (1913), a somewhat unlikely source for a theoretical argument, perhaps, given the doubts that have been raised about

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[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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