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Ruti, M. (2013). The Life and Death of Psychoanalysis: On Unconscious Desire and its Sublimation, by Jamieson Webster, London: Karnac Books, 2011, 176 pp., $37.50. ISBN: 1855758997. Psychoanal. Psychol., 30(1):110-115.

(2013). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 30(1):110-115

The Life and Death of Psychoanalysis: On Unconscious Desire and its Sublimation, by Jamieson Webster, London: Karnac Books, 2011, 176 pp., $37.50. ISBN: 1855758997

Review by:
Mari Ruti, Ph.D.

At the heart of Webster's The Life and Death of Psychoanalysis resides a concern about the continued viability of psychoanalysis. The position of psychoanalysis is precarious, Webster notes. This has always been the case, but it is particularly so in our highly utilitarian era, in part because psychoanalysis is very hard to justify in pragmatic terms: It is founded on “nothing” and, ultimately, offers “nothing,” even if somewhere along the line things do happen, things do change, things do get put in motion. Webster argues—correctly, in my view—that if psychoanalysis is to have a fighting chance in the future, it needs to resurrect its Freudian roots as an open-ended process of elaborating the inflections of unconscious desire: its fixations, its perversions, its surprises, and its passions. As Webster explains in the closing pages of her book, “This fidelity to the unconscious seems to me to define what it is to be an analyst” (p. 125). The more psychoanalysis moves away from such fidelity—the more it, say, moves toward efforts to help patients adapt to the demands of daily life—the more impotent it becomes. This is not to say that impotence has no place in analysis. Quite the contrary, Webster maintains that analysis is a precisely where things related to impotence—such as failure, weakness, and castration—find a hospitable dwelling. The problem is that when analysis aims at adaptation rather than the elaboration of desire, it fails to provide such as hospitable dwelling.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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