Over the past fifteen years, George Makari has published a series of articles examining the historical foundations underlying contemporary clinical theory. Although he has chosen to publish primarily in psychoanalytic journals, some of his work has also appeared in History of Psychiatry and the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences. Most recently, he published a book—Revolution in Mind: The Creation of Psychoanalysis. It was reviewed this weekend in the New York Times.
Makari argues that we’ve been blinded to the cultural reach of psychoanalysis by the magnitude of Freud’s stature and the magnetic pull or repulsion of his personality and theories. In Makari’s view, much contemporary discussion about the relevance of psychoanalysis is based on a false choice: “Freud as everlasting genius, or Freud as relic and fraud.” To Makari, the director of Cornell University’s Institute for the History of Psychiatry, this dichotomy is artificial. Instead, he argues, we should look to the rich, polyphonous context that gave birth to and was influenced by the analytic enterprise: “the culture of Kant; the assumptions of Geisteswissenschaft and a European classical education,” along with “evolutionary biology, positivism and Newtonian physics.”
On this basis, although the reviewer notes a handful of omissions (e.g., “He [Freud] wrote to Stefan Zweig that he had read more archaeology than psychology”), it sounds like Makari’s book would be a welcome catalyst in provoking deeper discussions about the present and future shape of psychoanalytic practice.