FREUDIAN FRAUD by E. Fuller Torrey

FREUDIAN FRAUD

The Malignant Effect of Freud's Theory on American Thought and Culture

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A shrill, lopsided attack on Freud's theories, those who advanced them in America, and the resulting excesses; from Torrey (Nowhere to Go, The Death of Psychiatry, etc.), a firm believer in the genetic/biological approach to personality and mental illness. Torrey devotes relatively little space to Freudian theory itself. He claims that it has no scientific basis: the ``Oedipal theory is on precisely the same scientific plane as the theory regarding the Loch Ness monster.'' But he offers only a few unpersuasive statistics to support genetics-as-psychology, fails to refute any fundamental Freudian concept, and ignores the vast body of case-history material that supports Freud's basic ideas. Most of the book consists of a derisive account of how Freudianism has spread in America--and how, supposedly, it's to blame for America's immorality, narcissism, irresponsibility, and misogyny. Throughout, in guilt-by-association style, Torrey emphasizes that some champions of Freud--Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict, Benjamin Spock, Karl Menninger, et al.--may have had personal reasons (sexual, political, psychological) for favoring Freud; typically, he links Freud with openness to homosexuality (as well as to cocaine, the occult, and Marxism) while failing to note that traditional Freudian views are anathema to gay activists. Similarly, Torrey provides caricature rather than balance in describing the effects of Freud on American child-rearing (parental guilt), criminology (acquittals on grounds of insanity), academia, literature, movies, and psychotherapy. The implication is that everyone who has made use of Freudian ideas is a victim of an insidious conspiracy. (Sometimes echoes of McCarthyism are too loud to ignore: ``Freudian theory is usually presented sympathetically by college professors because many have themselves been in psychotherapy.'') For those who can separate out the fierce bias, there's interesting material here--especially in the history of America's pre-WW II reactions to Freud. But Torrey's extremist tract will not help in the ongoing attempt to find the right balance between biology and Freud, nature and nurture.

Pub Date: June 17th, 1992
ISBN: 0-06-016812-9
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1992




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