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Book Review

Revolution in Mind: The Creation of Psychoanalysis

Richard Balon, MD

Published: October 15, 2009

Revolution in Mind: The Creation of Psychoanalysis

by George J. Makari, MD. Harper Perennial, New York, NY, 2009, 613 pages, $18.99 (paper).

Psychoanalysis, as a psychotherapeutic approach to patients, a way of thinking, or a "new science of mind," has intrigued many over the last century. Numerous books and articles have been written about Sigmund Freud, the followers and deserters of "his" movement, the contributions of numerous thinkers to psychoanalysis, and the significance of psychoanalysis for numerous fields within and outside of psychiatry. Thus, seeing Makari’s Revolution in Mind, many may think, "Oh, another one for the library shelves" or "Another defense of psychoanalysis." However, Makari’s book is different from many previous books about psychoanalysis. It traces the evolution or "creation" of psychoanalysis as an intellectual movement, a psychological/philosophical approach to mind, a new way of thinking.

The book is divided into 3 parts, aptly called Making Freudian Theory, Making the Freudians, and Making Psychoanalysis. The first part deals with the philosophical and scientific roots of psychoanalysis. As Makari sums up,

Psychoanalysis was born in Europe. It was the child of European cultures, nurtured by Geisteswissenschaft and Naturwissenschaft [human sciences and natural sciences], post-Kantian philosophy, neo-Romanticism, and sexual reform. It found inspiration in the creative tensions between Germany and France, and grew up in Europe’s medical institutions and the liberal urban centers that produced a radical modern aesthetic’ ¦(p 466).

Makari also notes that the world that originally nourished psychoanalysis had disappeared, though psychoanalysis survived, originally in the American exile. Freud, on his way to creating his theory, "took up French psychopathology, German biophysics and psychophysics, and sexology in an attempt to make sense of the bewildering psychic forces that seemed to cause illness" (p 118). In addition, in his emphasis on the unconscious, for Freud, "the mind had become a city of dreams" (p 81).

As Makari writes,

By following any or all of these paths, recruits entered a new Freudian nexus that linked psychopathology, normal psychology, psychotherapy, sexology, evolutionary biology, and the hermeneutic study of memory, symbolism, and dreams. Before long, a small community would consolidate around these ideas and approaches. They would come to be known as the Freudians (p 125).

The making of the Freudians is the focus of the second part of the book. Makari focuses on the original centers of psychoanalysis, Vienna and Zurich, then on "Freudians International," and finally on the integration and disintegration within psychoanalysis (eg, the "defection" or expulsion of Adler and Jung and the numerous tensions and infightings among Freud’s followers). One finds a lot of interesting information about various players and their work (eg, that Bleuler was in long-distance, epistolary analysis with Freud, or that timing was very important in the development of psychoanalysis as it took place during a critical period for scientific psychology). The reader will also realize that, over the years, Freud co-opted the intellectual property of many of his followers without really acknowledging them.

The third part of Revolution in Mind describes the development of psychoanalysis as a movement, from the impact of World War I on psychoanalysis, to the search for new centers such as Berlin, to Karl Abraham’s work to link psychoanalysis to medicine, psychiatry, and science, and to the decision to establish formal education and training in psychoanalysis. "By 1934, psychoanalysis had transformed into an intellectual community organized around a common technique, transmitted through universal methods of training and education" (p 406). The final pages of the book discuss the "psycho-politics of freedom" (eg, the split between Anna Freud and Melanie Klein), the psychoanalysis’ retreat to the United States due to the horrors of World War II, and persecution of the mostly Jewish psychoanalysts.

While not an easy read, this book is a tour de force and a great scholarly achievement on the history of an intellectual movement. It is filled with an incredible amount of interesting and well-documented information. I am sure it is, or will be, highly regarded not only by all those interested in psychoanalysis, but also by anyone interested in the history of science, medicine, and psychiatry, in general, and anyone interested in grasping what psychoanalysis is, how it developed, and how it was created, in particular. As noted, Revolution in Mind: The Creation of Psychoanalysis is not easy but is definitely great reading and an intellectual feast.

Richard Balon, MD

Author affiliation: Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan. Financial disclosure: None reported.


© Copyright 2009 Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc.

Volume: 70

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