Unauthorized Freud: Doubters Confront a Legend

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9780140280173: Unauthorized Freud: Doubters Confront a Legend

Over the past thirty years, a revolution has occurred in the study of Sigmund Freud and his brainchild, psychoanalysis. The Freud of legend has been exposed as fiction, a joint concoction of Freud himself and his official biographer, Ernest Jones. The emerging truth is that Freud was a dogmatist who browbeat his patients and consistently failed to mark the crucial difference between their fantasies and his own. Now Frederick Crews, the most authoritative of Freud critics, collects the trenchant writings of eighteen experts who put to rest the myth of Freud's scientific and therapeutic prowess.The scrupulously researched selections included in Unauthorized Freud reveal the fumbles and deceptions that led to the "discovery" of psychoanalysis; the arbitrary interpretations of dreams, symptoms, and slips; the inconsistencies in Freud's case histories and what we now know about his patients; and the terrible personal costs incurred by his disciples. The conclusion is inescapable: the founder of psychoanalysis has been the most dangerously overrated figure in the history of medical science.

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Review:

Frederick Crews became a well-known critic of Freud with his previous book The Memory Wars. It was a brilliant piece of work: Crews not only knows his stuff, he's a very angry man with a mind like a serrated razorblade. No compromise position here: Freud is totally dishonest, according to Crews, and his theories are a worthless sham--but the really bad news (as set forth in Crews's analysis of the "recovered memory movement") is that to this day Freud's legacy continues to inform a "therapeutic" tradition that destroys people's lives.

Crews's own contributions to Unauthorized Freud, a collection of essays and book excerpts, are a comedown: there is something hectoring and almost desperate in his tone this time around. But he has assembled impressive materials by heavyweight contributors such as philosopher of science Adolf Grünbaum and famed MIT psychologist Frank Sulloway. Some relatively new material is exposed here in a suitably unforgiving light, including both Freud's appalling behavior in the "Dora" case and the full implications of the long-suppressed Freud-Fliess correspondence. Not to be missed is Italian philologist Sebastiano Timpanaro's polite slaughtering of the concept of a Freudian slip.

Both Crews' titles are a must-read for anyone who thinks it's obvious that Freud is one of the great men of the 20th century. It would be interesting to see a Freudian offer a full response to this new book, but Crews dispatched his earlier critics with such savagery (see his final essay in The Memory Wars) that it's doubtful anyone will raise their egos above the parapet. --Richard Farr

From Publishers Weekly:

Here are 20 rigorous essays that mount a formidable critique of mainstream Freudian theory and practice, and of Freud's major cases. Whereas Freud fostered the idea of solitary, heroic discovery through his self-analysis, in reality, the authors contend, he taught his followers to replace the empirical attitude with blind loyalty and censorship, instilling in them a negative, quasi-paranoid view of rival theorists and clinicians. The contributors?among them Frank J. Sulloway, Ernest Gellner, Peter J. Swales and other noted American and European scholars in fields ranging from philosophy to neuroscience?present compelling evidence that Freud habitually and greatly exaggerated his therapeutic successes. They also cast serious doubt on new Freudians' confidence in free association as a curative tool to decipher the meaning of dreams or to reconstruct events from a patient's distant past. Freud's attempt to fit women (whom he apparently viewed as second-class humans) into his "castration-based" account of the mind is seen as having disastrous consequences, such as assumptions of "normal" female masochism or women's moral and cultural weakness. Although the book as a whole overstates its case, Crews, eminent literary critic, satirist and professor emeritus at U.C.-Berkeley, has done such an excellent job of choosing and editing the selections?all of which have been previously published, mainly in academic books and periodicals?that they form a cohesive whole, and as such put psychoanalysis squarely on the defensive. Agent, Frederick Crews.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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