GREATNESS AND LIMITATIONS OF FREUD'S THOUGHT by Erich Fromm

GREATNESS AND LIMITATIONS OF FREUD'S THOUGHT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Fromm sounds themes familiar from earlier books in this appreciation/ critique of Freud's contribution, giving us a work as accessible as The Art of Loving, somewhat more appealing than To Have or To Be (1976). Fromm is one of the few critics to acknowledge Freud's genius even when he disagrees with particular interpretations or inclinations. Here he admiringly examines Freud's greatest discoveries--the importance of the unconscious, the concept of transference, the significance of childhood--and discusses how personal factors and historical conditioning shadowed Freud's special vision: e.g., by concentrating on the impact of childhood experiences, he underrated constitutional factors in character formation. Or, in generalizing from a population of middle-class Viennese patients, he overlooked the norms of other classes and cultures. Fromm brings to this assessment his own strengths and past achievements, valuing, for example, the theory of dream interpretation while showing how Freud could get snarled in too many layers of association or lack the richness of symbolic insight of a Bachofen (a Fromm favorite from The Forgotten Language). And he deplores, categorically, Freud's bourgeois perception of women (""without the slightest redeeming feature"") and narrow view of love. Overall he challenges Freud's pessimism (Fromm sees the death instinct as a failure of normal development) and regrets the continuing psychoanalytic neglect of socioeconomic factors. But he firmly defends Freud from contemporary critics who call him ""unscientific""; yes, Fromm says, Freud did build theories from ""scraps of evidence,"" but even when his conclusions were ""absurd,"" his technique was ""admirable."" A well-modulated appraisal and another resonant contribution from the long-popular humanist.

Pub Date: June 25th, 1980
Publisher: Harper & Row