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Impious Fidelity

Impious Fidelity: Anna Freud, Psychoanalysis, Politics

Suzanne Stewart-Steinberg
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Impious Fidelity
    Book Description:

    In Impious Fidelity, Suzanne Stewart-Steinberg investigates the legacy of Anna Freud at the intersection between psychoanalysis as a mode of thinking and theorizing and its existence as a political entity. Stewart-Steinberg argues that because Anna Freud inherited and guided her father's psychoanalytic project as an institution, analysis of her thought is critical to our understanding of the relationship between the psychoanalytic and the political. This is particularly the case given that many psychoanalysts and historians of psychiatry charge that Anna Freud's emphasis on defending the supremacy of the ego against unconscious drives betrayed her father's work.

    Are the unconscious and the psychoanalytic project itself at odds with the stable ego deemed necessary to a democratic politics? Hannah Arendt famously (and influentially) argued that they are. But Stewart-Steinberg maintains that Anna Freud's critics (particularly disciples of Melanie Klein) have simplified her thought and misconstrued her legacy. Stewart-Steinberg looks at Anna Freud's work with wartime orphans, seeing that they developed subjectivity not by vertical (through the father) but by lateral, social ties. This led Anna Freud to revise her father's emphasis on Oedipal sexuality and to posit a revision of psychoanalysis that renders it compatible with democratic theory and practice. Stewart-Steinberg gives us an Anna Freud who "betrays" the father even as she protects his legacy and continues his work in a new key.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6333-4
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-13)

    We have become accustomed in our tradition of political thought to regard the authority of parents over children, of teachers over pupils, as the model by which to understand political authority. It is just this model . . . that makes the concept of authority in politics so extraordinarily ambiguous. . . . Following the model of the nursery, it is based on a purely temporary superiority and therefore becomes self-contradictory if it is applied to relations that are not temporary by nature—such as the relations of the rulers and ruled. Thus it lies in the nature of the...

  5. Chapter 1 A Wider Social Stage
    (pp. 14-49)

    When psychoanalysis organizes itself into an institution, such a move immediately puts to work the three impossible professions: that of psychoanalysis itself, that of education, and that of politics. Here I approach the relationship between these three professions on two intersecting fronts: on the one hand, the politics of psychoanalysis, or psychoanalysis as an institution and the politics that inevitably underwrites its institutional existence; on the other hand, that of psychoanalytic politics, which is to say, the impact (or lack thereof) that psychoanalysis has had on how we think the political domain per se. ¹ Both of these aspects entail...

  6. Chapter 2 Girls Will Be Boys: Gender, Envy, and the Freudian Social Contract
    (pp. 50-95)

    In 1918 Anna Freud entered analysis with her father. The ostensible reason for treatment was what Sigmund Freud called an “indecisiveness in life,” and what Anna herself described as her inability to decide whether she wanted to become a teacher or follow in her father’s footsteps and become an analyst. Many years later, in a 1935 letter to the Italian analyst Edoardo Weiss, who was contemplating at the time an analysis of his own son, Sigmund wrote: “Concerning the analysis of your hopeful son, that is certainly a ticklish business. With a younger, promising brother it might be done easily....

  7. Chapter 3 Anna-Antigone: Experiments in Group Upbringing
    (pp. 96-143)

    Two arguments provide the support of this chapter dedicated to Anna Freud’s theory of sociality in the aftermath of World War II. On the one hand, I am concerned with psychoanalytic politics, that is, with a particular line of thought contributed by psychoanalytic theory to a delineation of the democratic political sphere as it took shape after 1945. The kind of psychoanalytic political theory I explore here was articulated in proximity to the institutionalization of psychoanalysis itself in the wake of Freud’s death, that is, when Anna Freud became the official leader of the International Psychoanalytic Association. On the other...

  8. Chapter 4 The Defense of Psychoanalysis/The Anxiety of Politics
    (pp. 144-196)

    The defense of psychoanalysis and of the social justice that it propounds lives in close proximity to attacks upon it. Such attacks are at once theoretical, historical, and political. In this sense, they challenge not only the identity of psychoanalysis but set in motion a reflection from within psychoanalysis itself on the stakes of any identity, whether this identity be personal, social, or disciplinary. I propose that psychoanalysis’s Auseinandersetzung, its simultaneous engagement with and distancing from identity, its own and that of others, is to be understood as one of its greatest defense(s). Already in Freud’s lifetime and in the...

  9. Conclusion: Ego Politics
    (pp. 197-232)

    These concluding reflections address the randomness, indeterminacy, and perhaps even chaos of the political contract in the aftermath of World War II. Borges conceived of these political arrangements in his 1941 short story as a kind of lottery system. So also did John Rawls thirty years later in his monumental A Theory of Justice. ¹ With one and perhaps crucial difference: Borges explicitly placed such randomness and indeterminacy within the realm of fiction and thereby within the work of language. Rawls remained committed—anxiously—to eliminating just this linguistic element from his own lottery system of the political contract, thereby...

  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 233-240)
  11. Index
    (pp. 241-246)