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Fischer, N. (1996). Relational Perspectives In Psychoanalysis. Edited by Neil J. Skolnick and Susan C. Warshaw. Hillsdale, NJ/London: The Analytic Press, 1992. 363 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 65:823-826.

(1996). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 65:823-826

Relational Perspectives In Psychoanalysis. Edited by Neil J. Skolnick and Susan C. Warshaw. Hillsdale, NJ/London: The Analytic Press, 1992. 363 pp.

Review by:
Newell Fischer

This book contains a thoughtful and rich collection of papers primarily growing out of the work of the New York Post-Doctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis. As indicated by the book's title, all the papers are linked by their focus on the relational component intrinsic to human development, psychic functioning, psychopathology, and the therapeutic enterprise. The individual contributions are diverse and the selection is broad enough to encompass such topics as linguistics, the Isakower phenomenon, infant research, and the financial arrangements in the treatment situation. In all the papers there is a well-defined, explicit theme about the centrality of the relational component in theoretical and clinical issues. The repetition of this theme is not “overkill” but rather a unifying perspective that is enriched by the diversity of the contributions. In a sense the book is a study that “builds its case” by using the relational perspective to examine multiple aspects of psychic functioning.

As one might expect, wending its way along the route of this study is the query—sometimes explicitly stated, at other times implied—of how this relational perspective pertains to the more biologically based drive/defense/conflict/ego-psychological formulations associated with “classical” Freudian psychoanalytic thinking. Some of the contributors suggest that the relational perspective is a serious challenge to Freud's energic and intrapsychic concepts and is a perspective which has already or will soon supplant many of Freud's basic propositions. For instance, Fosshage in his introduction states, “This shift from an intrapsychic to a field perspective can be likened to the Copernican revolution, in that the individual, like planet earth, does not exist alone but can be understood only in relation to the ‘gravitational forces’ of the universe at large” (p. 21).

More commonly, the contributors see the relational perspective as complementing and enriching classical formulations. The interplay of interactional (relational) motivational factors and endogenously generated forces is emphasized, for example, in Doris Silverman's discussion of attachment research.

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