From International Socialism, No.19, Winter 1964/5, p.32.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
Freud: A Critical Re-evaluation of his Theories
Allen & Unwin, 35s.
Among the comprehensive theories of man there are those of economic man, civic man, transcendental man and man-the-machine. Psychoanalysis is the comprehensive portrayal of neurotic man, at least, according to those parts of this book which deal with Freud’s philosophical excursions and the actual extension of psychoanalytic ideas outside clinical practice. Of other world views, only man-the-machine in the form of behaviouristic learning theory is referred to in a brief chapter on psychoanalysis and psychology, in which it is said that the views are complementary. The chapter hardly provides an exhaustive account of psychology’s ability to provide contenders. Notably missing are Gestalt, phenomenonological and existential psychology. None of these has been developed into a world view or had its terminology spread and popularised. They all of them try to describe private mental phenomena and come closer to a social psychology of change than to the one of conservation which is characteristic of psychoanalysis. The relationship – complementary or competing – between idealistic psychoanalysis and materialistic behaviourism would be interesting to analyse from the point of view of political ideology, but this is not the book to take it up. It is mainly an historical-biographical account of the way psychoanalytic concepts and practice developed. The history is interpenetrated with personal and professional commentary about Freud himself. Recent changes and emendations by others are readably fitted in.
Although it is a good way to show how Freud, the man, worked, it is not a very satisfactory way to expose the material sources of his insights and abstract systematic creations.
However, it is a readable book, an advantage over many like it. There is not much new in it, it is not systematic or theoretically schematised, but it is not bowdlerised Freud. The book should be enjoyed by Freudian buffs or anyone wanting a skilled, inoffensively hagiographed introduction to psychoanalytic ideas.
Last updated on 4.9.2007