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Harris, A. (2019). Psychoanalysis, clinic and context: subjectivity, history and autobiography: by Ian Parker, Oxon, Routledge, 2019, 208 pp., £23.99 (paperback), ISBN 978-0-367-14433-3, £84.00 (hardback), ISBN 978-0-367-14432-6, £15.00 (eBook), ISBN 978-0-429-03199-1. Psychoanal. Psychother., 33(3):222-224.

(2019). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 33(3):222-224

Psychoanalysis, clinic and context: subjectivity, history and autobiography: by Ian Parker, Oxon, Routledge, 2019, 208 pp., £23.99 (paperback), ISBN 978-0-367-14433-3, £84.00 (hardback), ISBN 978-0-367-14432-6, £15.00 (eBook), ISBN 978-0-429-03199-1

Alison Harris

Ian Parker’s book will likely be a revelation to the many psychoanalytic psychotherapists who have traditionally adopted a purportedly apolitical or pluralistic stance in both the consulting room and the staff room. Around a central theme of his life-long exploration of the relationship between Marxism and psychoanalysis, Parker pulls off the impressive feat of weaving together the story of his own personal odyssey to becoming a Lacanian psychoanalyst with the history and present-day practice of psychoanalysis internationally (both clinically and as a cultural phenomenon). It reads very much like an auto-ethnography.

Parker’s relationship with the field began with a childhood terror of psychiatrists, after his mother threatened him for telling lies. Then later, as an academic, critical psychologist and political activist, he was against psychoanalysis for a variety of reasons, such as its unscientific nature, the reinforcement of sexist ideas about femininity and the battles between psychoanalytic organisations. There followed extended ambivalence during his teaching and research career and whilst gingerly approaching personal therapy. (His amusing overtures to potential therapists and supervisors hold up a mirror to us, delivering a sharp reminder about how boundaries can slip and eccentricities find a refuge in private practice). Finally, after a near miss with group analytic training, seeing a connection with Marxist political theory and also influenced by Slavoj Žižek (the larger-than-life, Slovenian psychoanalytic philosopher and cultural critic), he decided to immerse himself in Lacanian training and analysis.

The rather dry title of this book belies the phenomenal detail of the rich material within. The reader is treated to fascinating reminiscences and nuggets of insider gossip, alongside more serious historical and theoretical accounts. Perhaps only Ian Parker could give a paper on ‘Queer developments in Psychoanalysis’ to a blank-faced audience, one thousand miles east of Moscow. One wonders what will be the consequences of his bold decision to name the many well-known characters he meets on his real-life journeys, whether in Manchester, London, Latin America or the Far East.

[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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