PSYCHOANALYTIC POLITICS: Freud's French Revolution by Sherry Turkle

PSYCHOANALYTIC POLITICS: Freud's French Revolution

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Jacques Lacan, of course. In France today--as for the past quarter of a century--French Freudianism can only mean the ""French Freud"" himself, and his pervasive influence. It is inevitable, then, that sociologist Turkle would center her study on that formidable personage, despite a thorough familiarity with the complete range of literature buttressed by over a hundred interviews with activists and onlookers. Turkle sets out to explain how it happened that an ""antipsychoanalytic culture"" like the French, where psychoanalysis was long associated with surrealism, could suddenly burst forth during the last decade in a psychoanalytic orgy. Her answer--inherently plausible but empirically thin--is that the experience of occupation and resistance during World War II, combined with the postwar social breakdowns (in group identity, in the overburdened family) created the ground for new concepts of the self. This ground yielded the ""take-off"" which followed the ""events"" of May 1968, seen by Turkle as a psychoanalyticallyinspired political revolt, If her political sociology is a bit too neat, however, her sociology of psychoanalysis is thorough and illuminating. By situating Lacan's antipsychiatry within the context of struggles in professional associations and medical institutions she is able to account in part for the political acceptance Lacan and his followers won so easily after May (Lacan had also been a longstanding critic of American society through his attacks on American Freudianism). Turkle's most welcome achievement lies in her relatively lucid exposition of the main lines of Lacan's linguistically-based psychoanalytic theory--Lacan sees the serf as socially constituted through the symbolic structure of language--and its subversive potential. Complementing Mark Poster's 1977 Existential Marxism in Postwar France, this account finally makes Lacan and his world accessible to American readers.

Pub Date: Nov. 30th, 1978
Publisher: Basic Books