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Greenberg, J. (2013). Editor's Introduction: Bion across Cultures. Psychoanal Q., 82(2):271-276.

(2013). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 82(2):271-276

Three Papers by Wilfred R. Bion

Editor's Introduction: Bion across Cultures

Jay Greenberg

From the beginning of his career as a psychoanalyst, Freud viewed his investigative project as a search for universals. Beyond even the hope that he could uncover the cause of neurotic symptoms, he aimed to reveal the workings of the mind, assuming that minds no less than bodies function according to fixed laws that apply to all members of the human species, regardless of when or where they live.

But quickly, as psychoanalytic thinking spread beyond Vienna and eventually beyond Central Europe, it became clear that not only clinical work, but interpretations of Freud's writings as well, are decisively influenced by local traditions. Even a brief comparison of Lacan's reading of Freud—and French readings in general—with the understanding of Hartmann and other North American ego psychologists drives the point home forcefully. Today, major “Freudian” theorists continue to cite different texts, to select different passages for exegesis, and to find different meanings in whatever it is that they are reading.

The result is that what Roosevelt M. S. Cassorla says in this issue of The Psychoanalytic Quarterly about his home country can be said—perhaps with some modification—about all psychoanalytic cultures: in the process of digesting ideas (or, in the case of some cultures, refusing to digest), “more local blends of thinking often come up” (2013, p. 325). A discipline born in the quest for universal truths turns out to itself be decisively shaped by forces arising in the cultures in which it is practiced.

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