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Subject and Agency in Psychoanalysis: Which Is to Be Master?

Frances M. Moran
Copyright Date: 1993
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Subject and Agency in Psychoanalysis
    Book Description:

    Psychoanalysis works with words, words spoken by a subject who asks that the analyst listen. This is the belief that underlies Francis Moran's rewarding exploration of a central problem in psychoanalytic theory - namely, the separation of the concepts of subject and agency. Subject and Agency in Psychoanalysis contends that Freud simultaneously employs two frameworks for explaining agency-- one clinical and one theoretical. As a result, Freud's exploration of agency proceeds from two logically incompatible assumptions. The division between these assumptions is a part of Freud's psychoanalytic legacy. Moran reads the Freudian inheritance in light of this division, showing how Klein and Hartmann's theoretical concepts of subject are adrift from the subject who speaks in analysis. Moran also shows that while Lacan's subject provides more focus on this issue, Lacan reverts to the Freudian division in his use of logically contradictory assumptions concerning the location of agency. Drawing on contemporary theory development, from Lacanian innovations to the social theories of Anthony Giddens, Moran proposes a new and fertile approach to a fundamental problem, significantly narrowing the gap between psychoanalytic theory and practice.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6326-1
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Diagrams
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
    Leo Goldberger

    ThePsychoanalytic Crosscurrentsseries presents selected books and monographs that reveal the growing intellectual ferment within and across the boundaries of psychoanalysis.

    Freud’s theories and grand-scale speculative leaps have been found wanting, if not disturbing, from the very beginning and have led to a succession of derisive attacks, shifts in emphasis, revisions, modifications, and extensions. Despite the chronic and, at times, fierce debate that has characterized psychoanalysis, not only as a movement but also as a science, Freud’s genius and transformational impact on the twentieth century have never been seriously questioned. Recent psychoanalytic thought has been subjected to dramatic reassessments...

  5. Introduction: The Question Asked
    (pp. 1-10)

    Truly fruitful research requires a twofold ability in its initial stage: first, the ability to ask the right question and, second, the ability to ask this question within the right framework. Failure to formulate the question correctly or failure to pose it within the most appropriate framework leads to problems at both a theoretical and a practical level. Perhaps this point can best be illustrated by my recounting my own search for an answer to a question concerning the notion of “self.”

    As I remember it now, my search began, at least at some level, when I was an adolescent....

  6. The Presenting Problem

    • 1 Subject and Agent: The Case of the Hystérique d’Occasion
      (pp. 13-24)

      It is a commonly held view that Freud’s interest in hysteria and hypnosis gave birth to his psychoanalytic quest. This might be accounted for owing to the importance that Freud himself gave to hysteria and the cathartic method in both “On the History of the Psycho-Analytic Movement”¹ andAn Autobiographical Study.² It is interesting to note that in both these texts he omitted any consideration of the crucial element in the early stages of his theorization: namely, the problem of a subject troubled with a failure in human agency. In my own reading of theStandard Edition,I found that...

  7. Freud’s Schemas of the Mind

    • 2 The Freud-Fliess Correspondence: The First and Second Schemas
      (pp. 27-41)

      Wilhelm Fliess (1858–1928), a Berlin nose-and-throat specialist, was advised by Josef Breuer to attend some of the lectures on the anatomy and mode of functioning of the nervous system that Freud was then giving at the University of Vienna. A mutual attraction arose between the two men in the scientific discussions that followed, and so began a correspondence that lasted from 1887 to 1904.

      When the friendship ended, Freud either lost or destroyed the letters that Fliess had written to him. The Freud-Fliess correspondence, however, was preserved; and following Fliess’s death in 1928, his widow sold the packet of...

    • 3 The First Topography: The Third Schema
      (pp. 42-54)

      When Freud’s major work,Die Traumdeutung,was published, it was clear that his conceptualization of the human psyche was in the process of undergoing a radical change. Whereas the first two attempts were built upon a neurological basis, the schema found inThe Interpretation of Dreamswas built on a developing psychological basis. It is important to note, too, that whereas the first two schemas were produced with one reader immediately in mind—namely, Fliess—The Interpretation of Dreamswas read by Fliess before it went to press but was written with a general readership in mind.

      Freud mentions his...

    • 4 The Metapsychology: A Crisis Point
      (pp. 55-70)

      It was not until 1915 that Freud turned once more to the difficult task of grounding his growing clinical experience in soundly expounded psychological theory. In the interim he had published a great deal, including his renowned work theThree Essays on the Theory of Sexuality;¹ his well-documented clinical case histories “Dora,”² “Little Hans,”³ and “The Rat Man”;⁴ a refutation of dissensions,Totem and Taboo;⁵ and the “Papers on Technique.”⁶

      One important paper contributing to Freud’s theoretical stance was his 1911 “Two Principles of Mental Functioning” in which he elaborates upon the notion of the pleasure principle and the reality...

    • 5 The Second Topography: A Compromise Solution
      (pp. 71-86)

      In 1923 Freud addressed the problem that involved an attempt to reconcile a clinically derived model, with one type of assumption about the agency of the subject, with a theoretically formulated schema based on a logically incompatible assumption about the agency of the subject. This problem as presented in the previous chapter was explicitly mentioned in Freud’s 1920 workBeyond the Pleasure Principle.¹ When discussing the clinical observation of the analysand’s resistances, Freud points out that these resistances are unconscious and that this raises a problem as far as terminology is concerned:

      We shall avoid a lack of clarity if...

  8. The Freudian Legacy

    • 6 A Problem Concerning the Subject in Psychoanalysis
      (pp. 89-119)

      A number of psychoanalytic theorists have taken Freud’s second topography unreservedly into their own theoretical considerations. Consequently, they have failed to interrogate the nature of their stance toward the notion of the subject and have, instead, worked toward the development of aspects of the topography, economics, and dynamics of the mind as postulated by Freud. Although these theorists may not have focused directly on the concept of the subject as an area for theoretical exploration, their work is underpinned by particular assumptions made concerning the subject in their psychoanalytic theory. What is important here is to bring into relief the...

    • 7 A Problem Concerning Agency in Psychoanalysis
      (pp. 120-148)

      Although both the figure and teaching of Jacques Lacan are controversial, there is no doubt that his contribution to the theory and practice of psychoanalysis is of paramount importance. Within the present context his work holds particular interest because of the direct attention that he pays to the problem of the subject in psychoanalysis and because of his approach to the issue of agency. Lacan places his subject within the symbolic world, the world of language. This means that his theory deals with the subject understood in terms of the subject who speaks to the analyst. However, although he emphasizes...

  9. A Proposed Solution

    • 8 A Conceptual Tool of Structuration
      (pp. 151-178)

      This book argues that underlying Freud’s theory of the psychic apparatus is an implicit division between the concept of agency and the concept of the subject. As a consequence of this division, we have seen that although both Hartmann and Klein adopt the Freudian topography—and make structural changes to it—each makes radically different assumptions as to how the subject in psychoanalysis is to be conceptualized. In the case of Lacan’s theory, the notion of the subject and the notion of agency are likewise dealt with as separate concepts. In the last chapter we explored the way in which...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 179-194)
  11. Index
    (pp. 195-198)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 199-199)