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Nasser, A.G. (1998). Psychoanalysis, Paradigm Shift, and Theoretical Reflexivity: the Case of the Oedipus Complex. Psychoanal. Rev., 85(2):225-251.

(1998). Psychoanalytic Review, 85(2):225-251

Psychoanalysis, Paradigm Shift, and Theoretical Reflexivity: the Case of the Oedipus Complex

Alan G. Nasser

Although disputes regarding the basic elements of psychoanalytic theory have characterized the discipline since its inception, it is only relatively recently that we have had available historical analysis and conceptual resources adequate to the task of fundamental theoretical revision. I refer to the work of Thomas Kuhn (1957, 1970, 1977), whose distinctive employment of the concepts normal science, revolutionary science, paradigm, paradigm shift, anomaly, crisis, and the scientific community provides a theoretically elegant and historically informed articulation of analytical tools suitable for the comprehension of the dynamics underlying the transition from one paradigm to another in the development of a given scientific discipline. In the wake of Kuhn's work, longstanding disputes about the theoretical foundations of psychoanalysis acquired a focus and analytical precision hitherto missing from these debates (Peterfreund, 1971, 1975; Peterfreund & Franceschini, 1973).

It must be borne in mind from the outset that my claim that Kuhnian concepts can be effective in our understanding of theory change in psychoanalysis does not imply that psychoanalysis is a “hard” science like physics or chemistry. The view—to which I am partial—that psychoanalysis straddles the humanities and social sciences is consistent with the applications of Kuhnian categories. It is widely acknowledged (Barnes, 1982; Blaug, 1980; Gutting, 1980) that disciplines as diverse as physics, biology, sociology, history, and economics are amenable to Kuhnian analysis.

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