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Flax, J. (1996). With No Way Home: Reply to Cushman. Psychoanal. Dial., 6(6):875-881.

(1996). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 6(6):875-881

With No Way Home: Reply to Cushman Related Papers

Review by:
Jane Flax, Ph.D.

Much of Philip Cushman's review is taken up with the question of why I do not share his philosophic framework and the putative consequences of my failure to do so. In Disputed Subjects I discuss my approach to theorizing. It is quite pragmatic. Throughout my intellectual work I have used and discarded pieces of various theories and I expect this pattern to persist. Theories are tools, not moral commitments, organizations of identity, or ways of life. No single theory will work for all my questions, and the ones I employ will not be wholly compatible. Any interesting theory permits multiple interpretations and possible applications of its tenets. Every theory also simultaneously works to enable and disable its users. Even my piecemeal and tentative appropriation of various theories will entail consequences I neither anticipate nor desire. The possible subjective origins or intentions of my intellectual compulsions and the tools I choose do not legitimate, explain or render more plausible my contributions. One of the points of “Minerva's Owl” is to argue that experience is constructed rather than found. A multiplicity of meanings is available within any context and the relationship between context, constructions, and theorizing is highly contingent.

My interest is not selling readers on a particular theory. I explore the contemporary usefulness of theories and seek to generate different ways of theorizing about social problems and thinking. Many readers, like Cushman, evidently cannot believe that I am serious about deploying multiple theories and sustaining an attitude of ruthless appropriation. Instead, they attempt to locate my true loyalty, “central identification”, or love. There is an almost palpable sigh of relief when the reviewer arrives at a construction that allows him or her to say, but really, she has finally located herself in this one place.

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