In the recent Freud and Man's Soul, Bruno Bettelheim portrayed American psychoanalysis as soul-less, over-professionalized,...


THE REPRESSION OF PSYCHOANALYSIS: Otto Fenichel and the Political Freudians

In the recent Freud and Man's Soul, Bruno Bettelheim portrayed American psychoanalysis as soul-less, over-professionalized, non-humanistic: an overstated but forceful case, distinguished by Bettelheim's examination of distortions in English translations of Freud. Here, far less persuasively, Jacoby argues that American analysis has robbed the Viennese original of its radicalism as well as its soul--in ""a palpable retreat from the cultural and political commitments that animated the early analysts, including Freud."" To begin with, however, Jacoby's attempt to demonstrate ""the close links between socialism and classical psychoanalysis"" is strained, with exaggerated highlighting of Freud's ""reforming and social impulse."" Moreover, the book is largely devoted to an intriguing but limited closeup of a small group of politically oriented analysts--primarily Otto Fenichel, a flexible Marxist who (unlike Wilhelm Reich or the neo-Freudians) remained orthodox in his psychoanalytic beliefs while maintaining a political stance at odds with the increasingly conservative Freudian establishment. Jacoby follows Fenichel and his circle, ""radicals devoted to a social psychoanalysis,"" from Austria into far-flung exile. He emphasizes the forces which made them play down, even keep secret, their politics: their fearful caution, as refugees from Hitler; their wish, above all, to advance psycho-analysis; conforming pressures from the psychoanalytic establishment. Like Bettelheim, Jacoby also focuses intently on the American stand (contrary to Freud) against lay analysts: ""monopolization by medical doctors risked degrading psychoanalysis into a technique with no cultural or political consequences."" And this short essay ends in the 1950s, with Robert Lindner (The Fifty-Minute Hour, Must You Conform?) offering ""a final and eloquent protest against the impoverishment of American psychoanalysis."" Jacoby's argument is repetitious, sometimes shrill--with dubious premises and unexplored areas (e.g., the post-1950s work of Joel Kovel et al.). But Fenichel himself, if unconvincing as a symbol of where-psychoanalysis-would-have-gone in the absence of Hitler, is an often-fascinating figure--in the contrasts with Reich and Fromm, in his quiet but tenacious balancing of dual allegiances.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Basic Books

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1983

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