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Colin, B. (2017). The Apathetic Psychoanalyst and the Postmodern Patient by Laurence Kahn L'Olivier, Paris, 2014, col. ‘Penser/rêver’, 173 pp. £18. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 98(5):1493-1498.

(2017). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 98(5):1493-1498

Book and Journal Reviews

The Apathetic Psychoanalyst and the Postmodern Patient by Laurence Kahn L'Olivier, Paris, 2014, col. ‘Penser/rêver’, 173 pp. £18 Language Translation

Review by:
Bertrand Colin

The apathetic psychoanalyst and the postmodern patient is a work which is much discussed in France. The reasons for this are the intensity and rigour of its argument, its polemical courage, and the breadth of its erudition. The title of the book is a play on words. What is an apathetic psychoanalyst? He or she is a psychoanalyst who has not yielded to the well-meaning trend for empathy. And what is empathy? The author considers that it is a theoretico-practical misunderstanding associating, ultimately, the most varied psychoanalytical currents admitted to the heart of an IPA that is now open: narrativism, intersubjectivism, constructivism should be mentioned here. Laurence Kahn is not comparing, or is not simply comparing, two definitions of empathy, her own, derived from Freud, and another, which is faulty, but rather two epistemological stances which are at the origin of this theoretico-practical misunderstanding: the first treats empathy as an enigma, an ‘analysable’ object, a stumbling block; the other sees empathy as if it were something obvious and promotes it as something good in itself. We can see Freud's own position in the first stance; and in the second, the modern view, that which Laurence Kahn is denouncing. Because effectively Laurence Kahn is questioning the attacks on a Freudian stance said to be outdated. For moral as much as epistemological reasons, which cannot be separated, the ‘empathetic’ psychoanalyst must clear his/her mind of the ‘positivism’ and the ‘authoritarianism’ of so-called ‘classical’ analyst, when the latter still believes in the reality of the ‘objects’ which it treats (drives, repression, the ego and so on), and when it justifies, through these objects, an attitude of aloofness on the part of the analyst-observer towards his patient.

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