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Rubenstein, B. Levitt, M. (1974). Therapeutic Systems and Moral Assumptions. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 1:481-488.

(1974). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 1:481-488

Therapeutic Systems and Moral Assumptions

Ben Rubenstein and Morton Levitt

For nearly twenty years, I have been prophesying this development in the world, you can read it both in my writing and in my many letters; and I prophesy today that it is going to get much, much worse, not just because Italy has taken Tunis or Japan Indochina, to say nothing of Gibraltar and Palestine, but rather because we have entered into an epoch of a morality that one can only call the morality of the 'Why not?': 'Why not burn a Jew's eyes out with cigarettes?', 'Why not tell lies at will?', 'Why not break contracts?', 'Why not eat human flesh?'—HERMANN BROCH (1938)


The field of psychoanalysis provides an observation platform from which to view the relationship between changes in ethical standards and human sexuality in the past two decades. This paper offers the following theses: (1) the loss of traditional value systems and the deterioration of family structure—combined with the powerful, seductive impact of the commercial message—produce a societal 'why not' reaction, (2) this movement is supported by therapeutic schools whose stated morality is consonant with the 'why not' theme, and (3) the therapist's (from whatever school) use of the transference process provides significant information about his attitude toward such important treatment issues as patient independence, liberation and reality mastery.

The following statements from classical psychoanalysis reflect a particular moral position in relation to society:

1. The beginnings of religion, morals, society and art converge in the Oedipus complex (Freud, 1913p.

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