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Book Forum: Psychotherapy   |    
The Freud Encyclopedia: Theory, Therapy, and Culture
Am J Psychiatry 2004;161:1138-1140. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.161.6.1138
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Evanston, Ill.

Edited by Edward Erwin. New York, Routledge, 2002, 641 pp., $165.00.

This very large, attractive, nicely printed and bound, one-volume encyclopedia contains an odd mélange of essays on a whole variety of issues and people, all of which the editor felt were connected in one way or another with Freud and the history of psychoanalysis. Some of the essays are long and difficult while others are sketchy, but most are written by recognizable authorities in the field. Certainly the editor is to be congratulated on being able to collect such a large number of essays from so many different authors and on so many topics.

The immediate question that arises on looking through the book is about the book’s intended readership. Candidates in psychoanalysis and those psychoanalysts who desire refresher material are probably best advised to look in the standard American Psychoanalytic Association text edited by Moore and Fine (1). Practicing psychiatrists and psychotherapists would probably want to look first at my Dictionary for Psychotherapists (2), which addresses many of the topics covered in this encyclopedia but in a shorter form. On the other hand, there are some aspects of this encyclopedia that will be of great value for both dynamic psychiatrists and psychoanalysts because they are so well collected in this volume and not easily available in one place elsewhere.

Probably most important are a series of excellent biographical sketches of a whole variety of individuals who were important in the origin and development of psychoanalysis from the time of Freud to the present day. It is nice, for example, to find biographies of Baginsky, Brentano, Groddeck, and Herbart along with the usual crowd of pioneers and accepted experts in the field of psychoanalysis all covered in one volume. These biographical entries alone make the encyclopedia a worthwhile addition to one’s library. Curiously, although some relatively minor figures are included, biographies of some of the heavy hitters such as Loewald, Winnicott, Kristeva, and Kohut are not to be found. A related category of useful essays in the encyclopedia covers the views of certain psychoanalytic pioneers, such as the essay on Melanie Klein written by the authority on Kleinian theory, Hannah Segal. There are similar articles on the views of Lacan, Kohut, and others.

The second interesting and unusual aspect of this encyclopedia is represented by a series of articles on psychoanalysis in a variety of countries and places such as Africa, Venezuela, Korea, the Philippines, and many others, with the very curious exception of Israel. Another worthwhile aspect of the encyclopedia is the relatively brief and authoritative articles about each of Freud’s famous case histories; these will be of value to the student and practitioner alike.

There is, however, a lack of conceptual clarity in the encyclopedia as a whole, and this is a little surprising because the editor of the encyclopedia is a professor of philosophy at the University of Miami at Coral Gables. There are several types of articles in the same genre, which indicate that either instructions were not made specific to the 200 contributors or the contributors did not pay attention to the instructions and the editor did not monitor their contributions. For example, some contributions are simply statements of the authors’ points of view. Some contributions cover Freud’s point of view briefly and then go on to state the author’s point of view. Some contributions cover Freud’s views more extensively and then go on to offer information on what has developed in the field on that topic since the time of Freud. Some contributions cover only the views of Freud in a rather scholarly manner, focusing exclusively on what Freud had to say. There is a nice index in the book, and the references to Freud’s writings are mercifully to be found in the Standard Edition.

I read through the entire encyclopedia before attempting to write this book review. The overall impression is that it is not hard to read and contains a lot of little pearls of information, but, perhaps because it is assembled by a philosophy professor, the book does not really have the "feel" of psychoanalysis as a clinical science. The articles are more or less abstract without much in the way of clinical illustrations; so the book comes across like a piano rendition of a Bruckner or Mahler symphony. The editor, who contributed nine entries, has picked topics on which he could express skepticism, to say the least, about psychoanalysis as a whole. He is concerned about the meaning of "truth" and questions of validity that are hopelessly tangled up in today’s philosophical debates but are not of much use to the practitioner. Erwin’s article "Castration Complex" is a good illustration of his skepticism. He worries about the basis for the claims about the castration complex, which leads him to worry about "more general epistemological issues of the justification of psychoanalytic interpretations of clinical phenomena" (p. 67). Comparison of his article with that on the same topic in Moore and Fine (1, pp. 35–36) will give the reader an excellent way to assess this encyclopedia.

I propose now to comment briefly on some of the entries that I found representative as I read along in order to provide some idea of the general scope of this encyclopedia. In his preface, Erwin asks, "Exactly which parts of Freudian theory are at least approximately true and which are not? On this issue, scholars are still deeply divided" (p. xiii). The problem with this opening orientation is that psychoanalysis developed in the clinical consulting room and from the crucible of working with emotionally disturbed individuals; as such it is not really the province of scholars but of those psychiatrists and psychoanalysts who are attempting to struggle with mentally ill patients on a day to day and year to year basis. In this sense, psychoanalysis cannot be approached as one might approach a problem in philosophy—the "theory of knowledge" or the "meaning of Being," for instance. Divorced from the struggle in the clinical consulting room, psychoanalysis cannot be understood.

By far one of the longest and my least favorite article in the encyclopedia is by Grünbaum, who is also one of the members of the advisory board of the encyclopedia. As Grünbaum has indicated many times in many places, he has no use for psychoanalysis at all and thinks it is going to disappear. This is probably the most polemical and unbalanced article in the encyclopedia, and there is nothing in it that is new or different.

The brief biographical article on Adler by Hoffman is unusually informative and nicely balanced, an attempt to give a fair presentation about a very controversial figure. The essay "Africa, and Psychoanalysis" by Peltzer and Reichmayr introduces the interesting concept of "ethnopsychoanalytic observations" and reviews what these observations have revealed in West Africa.

A good way to evaluate the quality of the articles on psychoanalysis in different geographic locations is to compare Cesio’s article "Argentina, and Psychoanalysis," which consists essentially of a listing of dates and people, with the outstanding discussion "France, and Psychoanalysis" by Roudinesco, a well-known authority who generously gives some background as to what the practices and beliefs were and are in the development of psychoanalysis in France.

The essay "Cinema, and Psychoanalysis" by Casebier says very little about Freud and discusses the views of Althusser and Lacan and the use of psychoanalytic theory to explain different aspects of the characters in movies. In my opinion, Althusser, a dedicated Marxist, has been long since discarded, and devoting about half the article to Lacan produces an unbalanced picture. It would have been valuable to have Glen Gabbard as an additional authority on this topic.

Gross and Rubin present a considerably longer essay, "Clinical Theory." Unfortunately, this is still extremely condensed and covers a great many topics and aspects that I fear will leave the reader confused. It does stay mostly with an attempt to investigate the views of Freud, in contrast to "Conflicts, Theory Of" by Cooper, which covers Freud’s views and then goes on to discuss what Cooper calls "post-Freudian conceptualizations of conflict" (p. 104). This, as well as "Post-Freudian Psychoanalytic Views on Crime" by Cordess (p. 115), is again extremely condensed and makes one wonder what were the instructions given to the contributors.

Palombo’s article on dreams first presents Freud’s theory and then tells us how Palombo would modify Freud’s theory of dream construction "to bring it up to date" (p. 158). Palombo’s theory may or may not be correct, but it certainly does not represent a settled issue and contains a number of statements that would be highly controversial. Contrast this, as well as the entry "Envy" by Bänninger-Huber and Widmer, which after a nod to Freud essentially gives their view of envy, with the article on "Drive Theory" by Weinberger and Stein. The latter gives an excellent summary of Freudian drive theory, to say the least a very controversial topic these days, without much discussion of the current controversy or the authors’ point of view. I was surprised that the "Envy" article makes no mention of Melanie Klein, who of course wrote extensively on that topic.

In reading through the book there is inevitable repetition and redundancy; for example, it is hard to justify the presence of a brief article on "Ego" by Lasky followed by an article on "Ego Psychology" by Meyer and Bauer. These could easily be combined. We are of course given thumbnail sketches of the biography of Freud and the various developments of his theories in several articles, but I do not see how that could have been avoided.

The essay "Fantasy (Phantasy)" by Esterson offers some clinical material but is divided into two parts: Freud’s views and then "critical appraisal" (p. 190). Here again one wonders what the contributors have been told, because many of the essays do not contain critical appraisals, which (unlike that of Grünbaum) are respectful, careful attempts to make clear what is valuable and what is somewhat obsolete in Freudian theory.

"Freud, Sigmund (1856–1939)" by Rudnytsky is an outstanding article offering a summary of Freud’s life and work in a few pages. It is sandwiched in between an all-too-brief essay on Anna Freud by her well-known biographer Young-Bruehl, and what strikes me as a redundant essay on "Freud’s Family" by Roazen. The latter could have been included in the Freud article. What in some ways I consider the model article for such an encyclopedia, a format that I might have insisted on from everybody if I were the editor, is "Homosexuality, Psychoanalytic Theory of" by Socarides. Although his views are not universally accepted, he wrote the article in as balanced a fashion as one could ask and stays completely with the contributions of Freud on this extremely controversial topic, concluding, "It is beyond the scope of this article to describe later psychoanalytic developments in the understanding of the origin of homosexuality" (p. 261). Another of the model articles in the encyclopedia is "Structural Theory" by Compton. It deals quite competently with a very complex topic and focuses on the views of Freud.

The contribution "Interpretation" by the well-known author Donald Spence represents what I would consider the best skeptical article in the book, setting the stage for an understanding of the endless controversy that is going on today about the importance and role of interpretation in the psychoanalytic process.

The format of "Italy, and Psychoanalysis," by Di Chiara, lies between the articles on Argentina and on France. It ends with a very curious lack of information. We are informed that there are now two societies in Italy, but we are not told why there are two societies and what their differences are. After a presentation I gave in Italy last year at the joint meeting of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis and the Organizzazione di Psicoanalisti Italiani Federazione e Registro I was able to verify that the difference is similar to the difference between the American Psychoanalytic Association and the more liberal American Academy of Psychoanalysis. In reply to my e-mail, Dr. Marco Bacciagaluppi wrote,

You are quite right. OPIFER (Organizzazione di Psicoanalisti Italiani Federazione e Registro)—of which I am Founding and Past President—was founded in 1996, as an open-minded and pluralistic psychoanalytic association and as an alternative to the much older and traditional SPI (Societá Psicoanalitica Italiana). Our model was explicitly the American Academy, as an alternative to the American Psychoanalytic Association.

I was disappointed that there was no discussion of this and the controversies involved in the encyclopedia article.

Bergmann’s biography of Kris contains a clinical pearl that is not from Kris but from Bergmann: "In 1993, I pointed out that while neither analyst nor analysand can will the good hour, analysts by pursuing their own interests and not giving their analysands the necessary space for exploration can derail the formation of many good hours" (p. 314). One of the most surprising articles in the encyclopedia is "Metapsychology" by Holt. He states,

Despite its prestige and familiarity, despite its appearance of being a serious intellectual achievement, Freud’s metapsychology is scientifically trivial and useless. It merely supplies a jargon in which observations may be restated in impressive sounding terms that actually add nothing to the original clinical formulations. (p. 341)

This may or may not be true, but it would require a volume in itself to debate it. I found this kind of definitive pronouncement disappointing, especially since other articles by Holt have been extremely insightful about some of the tensions present in Freud’s personality and writings. In contrast to this, a valuable short entry that I wish would be read by everyone in the field of mental health is "Morality, and Psychoanalysis," by Wallwork. In reviewing Freud’s approach to this topic, Wallwork points out, "Psychoanalysis fosters genuine morality insofar as it frees the patient’s autonomy, honesty, and capacities for respect and care for others from debilitating constraints of intrapsychic conflict" (p. 349). Wallwork says that it is because of this Freud can write in one of his letters that psychoanalytic treatment aims to bring about the highest ethical and intellectual development of the individual.

The brief articles "Reaction Formation" by MacGregor and Davidson, "Reception of Freud’s Ideas" by Kurzweil, and "Religion, and Psychoanalysis" by Meissner are typical of some of the little gems scattered throughout this encyclopedia that probably can be discovered only if one reads through the whole book (who would think of looking up the topic "Reception of Freud’s Ideas"?). On the other hand, I found "Schizophrenia" by Karon and Teixeira to be all too brief. It would probably be misleading to students who are not aware of all the genetic, biological, and neuropathological discoveries that would have to affect the thinking of any psychoanalyst working with schizophrenic patients. Remarkably, it says very little about Freud’s technical views on the topic. This should have been a major essay in the encyclopedia.

The essay "Scientific Tests of Freud’s Theories and Therapy" by the well-known Fisher and Greenberg covers the field and makes many statements about evidence reinforcing what they are presenting without detailed references to the pertinent studies. It would have been much more scholarly and appropriate to give us specific references to the "scientific literature" the authors claim provides justification. I assume they hope the reader will turn for details to their volumes, references to which are given.

An encyclopedia edited by a philosopher would not be complete without the brief article titled "Symbiosis" by Horner. It begins with a review of the concept throughout psychoanalytic theoretical writings without reference to Freud except to say that the antecedents to the concept can be found in Freud (without references given). It then goes on to explain that they can even be found "before Freud, in German romanticist literature and philosophy, specifically the Idealist philosophical writings of Fichte, von Schelling, and Hegel" (p. 558) and that "the writings of Fichte and Hegel in particular are preoccupied with the ontology of the self both in individual and generalized terms" (p. 558). Although I enjoyed their remarks because philosophy is one of my disciplines, I think the ordinary reader is entitled to a few more pages expanding on these statements rather than just giving references to classic philosophical works that are really very difficult reading for the nonprofessional, such as Hegel’s Phenomenology of Mind or Fichte’s Foundations of the Entire Science of Knowledge.

One of the most interesting articles in the encyclopedia, "Transference," by Meyer and Bauer, gives a reasonable overview of Freud’s concept of transference followed by a very nice discussion of the relationship between transference and resistance in the somewhat muddled terminology of psychoanalysis. However, it does not deal with the controversial issue (2, pp. 376–384) of whether there is or is not such a thing as transference neurosis. This is a modern issue rather than a matter that was a question to Freud, who invented the term, but I fear that students may be misled.

The encyclopedia closes with a very competent article, "Working Through," by Levey, which again strikes me as something that should be required reading for any dynamic psychotherapist. In conclusion, although this book is a curious mixture of all sorts of essays, it is worth dipping into when one has a question about this or that issue or this or that pioneer in psychoanalysis. Sometimes readers will be disappointed, but at other times they will be richly rewarded depending on the article chosen. I hope the encyclopedia will be given a second edition with much tighter editing, but even as it stands now it represents a worthwhile contribution to those interested in learning about the history of psychoanalysis and the vicissitudes of its founders and progenitors.

Moore B, Fine B (eds): Psychoanalytic Terms and Concepts. New Haven, Conn, Yale University Press and American Psychoanalytic Association, 1990
Chessick RD: Dictionary for Psychotherapists. Northvale, NJ, Jason Aronson, 1993


Moore B, Fine B (eds): Psychoanalytic Terms and Concepts. New Haven, Conn, Yale University Press and American Psychoanalytic Association, 1990
Chessick RD: Dictionary for Psychotherapists. Northvale, NJ, Jason Aronson, 1993

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