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Spezzano, C. (1996). Toward an Intrapsychic-Intersubjective Dialectic: Reply to Commentary. Psychoanal. Dial., 6(5):675-688.

(1996). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 6(5):675-688

Toward an Intrapsychic-Intersubjective Dialectic: Reply to Commentary Related Papers

Charles Spezzano, Ph.D.

In 1947, the mathematician John von Neumann formulated a zero-sum model of human interaction: the gain of one participant equals the loss of another (if relational is good, classical is bad; if ego analysis has considered relational issues, then the new literature on intersubjectivity is superfluous). I didn't want to fall into a zero-sum attitude in my paper, but I think I sometimes did. I don't think Cooper wanted to fall into the zero-sum attitude either, but he did also. I don't think either of us wrote solely from that zero-sum perspective, but sometimes we did.

The alternative to the zero-sum model has been variously called plus-sum and reciprocal altruism. Robert Trivers introduced the term reciprocal altruism in 1971 and Richard Dawkins (1976) popularized it in his book The Selfish Gene, in which he argued that such reciprocal relationships are common elements of successful adaptation throughout the plant and animal worlds. Unfortunately, they are not common in discussions involving analysts of different persuasions. Complicating such discussions these days is the fact that, often, the debates in this country are between, on one hand, analysts whose major affiliations are with institutes of American and International Psychoanalytic Associations and who argue the merits of contemporary classical or ego analytic theory, and, on the other hand, analysts whose major affiliations are with independent institutes and who argue the merits of that amalgam of British and American theory that has come to be called the relational or relational-conflict perspective. Thus, added to the fire of intellectual passion is a politicized devaluation of difference.

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