Saturday, November 14, 2009

The History of the Psychoanalytic Movement / Sigmund Freud -- in The Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud, A.A. Brill, ed. -- NY: Random House, 1938

The History of the Psychoanalytic Movement is a short work composed of three chapters. In the first, Freud recounts his early investigation of the psyche in collaboration with Josef Breuer and his ground breaking invention and development of the psychoanalytic method. The chapter is largely biographical, but includes brief explanations of Freud's central ideas, particularly the libido, the unconscious, and repression. Freud describes the scientific establishment's opposition to his emphasis on sexuality, particularly infantile sexuality. Of course, in time he attracted enough adherents to found a movement.

The second chapter is largely an account of the growth of that movement and is perhaps the least interesting of the three chapters. Most of what one learns is the names of the psychoanalyists and the cities in which they worked.

The third chapter recounts the defection of Alfred Adler and Carl Jung from Freudian orthodoxy. Here Freud describes what he takes to be the elements in Adler and Jung which depart from essential psycholanalytic principles. According to Freud, Adler de-emphasizes the unconscious and seeks to explain neurosis and other psychological phenomena by examining primarily the ego, while Jung abandons the sexual impulse and its repression as being the root cause of neurosis, but adapts such complexes as the family and Oedipus complex for "use in abstract streams of though, of ethics, and religious mysticism." Freud finds Adler's views meaningful, but "radically false;" whereas he finds Jung's views "unintelligible, muddled and confused," though he acknowledges that he might simply be misunderstanding the content and object of Jung's psychology.

Overall, Freud's History of the Psychoanalytic Movement seems more concerned with setting the record straight (from his point of view) of the internecine struggles within the movement. Freud often suggests that those who disagreed with him did so out of professional ambition -- to escape from the shadow of the master -- pointing out where they have falsely claimed priority in discovering one or another concept within psychoanalysis. It's ironic that Freud regularly claims these initial discoveries for himself.

History is a quick and easy read, contains a number of valuable nuggets of information, but is by and large a superficial account of the movement.

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