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Besdine, M. (1974-75). Basic Concepts of Psychoanalytic Psychiatry. Elizabeth Zetzel and W. W. Meissner. New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1973. 312 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 61(4):647-648.

(1974-75). Psychoanalytic Review, 61(4):647-648

Basic Concepts of Psychoanalytic Psychiatry. Elizabeth Zetzel and W. W. Meissner. New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1973. 312 pp.

Review by:
Matthew Besdine

At present, psychoanalysis is in the uncomfortable position of having no theory that unifies the thinking of Freud, Hartman, and Erikson. A focus on the history of theoretic change and the need for clarifying our constructs is in the psychoanalytic tradition and part of our heritage from Freud. Freud was above all else a scientist seeking by ever-changing concepts to get answers and arrive at a better understanding of the human condition. The authors place themselves at the center of modern controversy when they address themselves to questions such as: What are the developmental aspects and vicissitudes of instinctual drives? What the the forces that culminate in ego structure and superego systems? How are they related? These questions and their complex interactions form the basic structure, the skeleton, of the book.

Although the authors delineate conflicting views (there is an especially lucid presentation of Freud's metapsychology) and advocate some of the newer trends in ego psychology, no basic resolution of the confusion and conflicts in psychoanalytic theory is attempted. The authors do emphasize the paramount importance of the earliest mother-child interactions during the pre-Oedipal period as decisive in the development of ego structure and object relations. They note libidinal development during the pre-Oedipal period as distinct in nature from goal-directed genital sexuality. The weakness of an energy theory anchored in Newtonian physics is indicated.

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