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Phillips, A. (2004). Psychoanalysis as Education. Psychoanal. Rev., 91(6):779-799.

(2004). Psychoanalytic Review, 91(6):779-799

Psychoanalysis as Education

Adam Phillips

“The only point of writing a note on this simple and not very good poem is that some reviewer expressed bafflement, and I want to be consistent in trying to remove all trivial grounds for bafflement.”

—William Empson, undated letter to Ian Parsons

“By educating the worker's party,” Lenin wrote in The State and Revolution in 1918, “Marxism educates the vanguard of the proletariat which is capable of assuming power and of leading the whole people to socialism, of directing and organizing the new order, of being the teacher, the guide, the leader of all the laboring and exploited people in the task of constructing their social life without the bourgeoisie and against the bourgeoisie” (p. 25). This, one could say, is education with a purpose; Marxism, as an education has, in Lenin's view a known, an inevitable outcome. It teaches all the laboring and exploited people how to “construct their social life without the bourgeoisie and against the bourgeoisie.” Lenin's father was a teacher; and “like his father,” Beryl Williams (2000) writes, “he had infinite faith in education. If the working class could not build socialism, then they had to be taught to do so” (p. 143). “The only socialism we can imagine,” she quotes Lenin as saying, “is one based on all the lessons learned through large scale capitalist culture.” For Lenin there are lessons to be learned at each stage of education. Education is the necessary prelude, the precondition for revolution.

Lenin, that is to say, as a man born, like Freud in the nineteenth century, had an overriding belief in the power of education. Teaching and learning were primary metaphors for progress. When the nineteenth century word for change was not evolution or revolution or commerce, it was education.

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