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The Freud Files: An Inquiry into the History of Psychoanalysis Paperback – 24 Nov 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 450 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (24 Nov. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521729785
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521729789
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.5 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 806,212 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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'Attempts to debunk the legend in the 1970s and 80s failed. But a current assault, helped by a wealth of 'declassified' material, correspondence and critical studies, looks more likely to dismantle the monomyth … the legend is 'fraying from all sides'.' New Scientist

Book Description

How did psychoanalysis attain its prominent cultural position? This book reconstructs the early controversies surrounding psychoanalysis and shows that rather than demonstrating its superiority, the Freudians rescripted history. This was not incidental, but formed the core of psychoanalytic theory. The Freud Files reveals how psychoanalysis is vulnerable to its past.

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3 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ransen Owen on 13 Jan. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Though the authors don't say Freud was a liar, the only conclusion I can come to after reading this book was that he was a liar or a self-deluded pseudo-scientist. The result is the same.

The evidence in this book is clear, psychoanalysis is based on untrue case histories invented by Freud. Freud created a secret sect and the only person in the sect able to "analyse" himself was the Master himself.

A heavy but amazing book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 6 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Convincingly documented; clear, spirited writing 23 Oct. 2013
By Iambic Reviewer - Published on
Format: Paperback
The basic premise of this very valuable book is that Freud and his followers "...rather than demonstrating [the superiority of psychoanalysis]...rescripted history", resulting in the creation of "indisputable facts" about our innate psychologies when in reality, very scanty proof was made available for any objectively scientific review during the time when psychoanalysis was presenting itself as the cure for mental disturbances.

In addition, rival methods of psychotherapy were actively dismissed with disdain and charges that those involved were possessed of "negative complexes" etc. which were fuelling their petty objections to Freud's theories.

In my view, the amount of research involved in creating this book is truly astounding and the primary material is indeed allowed to speak for itself as the blurb states.

For me, the book wasn't a light read even though the style of the authors is lucid and alive. That's because I made a point of taking my time to reflect on the quotations and any comments made about them by the authors in order to be as objective as possible.

I admit that over the years, I've never really liked most of Freud's approaches, excepting perhaps "The Psychopathology of Everyday Life" which, while useful, isn't of course viewed as a core volume of Freud's work.

My main objection to Freud is perhaps best expressed by a question attributed to his sister-in-law, Minna, when she asked him "How can you be so absurdly dogmatic?"

I also wondered over the years why C.G. Jung and his associates didn't stand up more effectively to the opprobrium heaped on him by the Freudian school. Dr. Jung even offered financial help to assist Freud's escape from the Nazi's which of course was not accepted.

In reading this book, I believe one reason that any criticism of the Freudian school gradually became publicly muted arose from the fact that, in my view, there was no point at the time in trying to counter this well-oiled and powerful machine of disinformation.

Now at long last, here is a spirited, scholarly and scientifically based counter-position regarding the validity of all the psychologies which questioned the Freudian approach and not just the Jungian school.

On a more personal note, I found something very unexpected happening as I read the book, namely, I actually began to feel sorry for Freud.

What psychological demons chased this extremely intelligent man and lured him into pursuing unbelievable heights of self-promotion (and into allowing others to further build the myth that he was an equal to Copernicus and Darwin), all at the cost of being closed to a free and open discussion of his theories?

The main body of the book consists of about 300 pages, followed by over 50 pages of the sources of citations and over 30 pages of bibliography, allowing anyone to verify the quotations cited should they wish to do so.

However, in my opinion, no one who reads this book with an open mind should have any question whatever as to its scholarly integrity and the validity of the conclusions presented.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Immensely Well Researched and Essential Reading 4 Jun. 2013
By Sator - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The writing has been on the wall for Freud for some time now, with psychoanalysis now increasingly only being taken seriously in film theory circles (in its Lacanian guise). The astonishing thing is that people who have gone through film school are more steeped in psychoanalysis than doctors who have done psychiatry training. It is even looking as though the names Eugene Bleuler (who coined the term schizophrenia) and Jean-Martin Charcot (as in Charcot-Marie-Tooth disorder of hereditary sensorimotor neuropathy) will live on in medical circles long after Freud's memory has been buried. Likewise, phenomenological terminology from Karl Jaspers (see General Psychopathology) remains in widespread use in modern psychiatry (even though many psychiatrists are unaware of their origins), whereas Freudian terminology seems to have been systematically deleted from the modern terminological repertoire, or worse still merely banished to the realm of film theory. Likewise, psychology majors get almost no exposure to psychoanalysis, which is regarded as completely dated, especially since the evidence base favours cognitive behavioural therapies. Historians long ago discredited "psychohistory" based on psychoanalysis as being far too ridiculously speculative to the point that they now refuse to have anything to do with psychology. That means that those in film and literary criticism departments who continue to entertain psychoanalysis are increasingly looking like bizarre anachronisms, and the laughing stock of other faculties.

Nonetheless, this book remains absolutely essential reading to anyone with even the slightest of interests in the history and problems of methodology in psychology, psychiatry, and the social sciences in general. It also matters little whether you approach things from an analytical philosophy background (Popper, Cioffi, Wittgenstein), a sociology background (e.g. Foucault), a social anthropology background (e.g. Lévi-Strauss), a Continental philosophy background (phenomenology, existentialism, postmodernism), a feminist theory background, a film/literary criticism background, a medical psychiatry, general psychology background or any other psycho-social-theoretical background. This book is so incredibly well researched, and the spellbinding narrative of events by which Freud brutally conquered the medical and intellectual worlds so utterly gripping, that it cannot possibly be recommended highly enough. Truth is stranger than fiction for this makes for more engrossing reading than a thousand lesser novels. The whole post-mortem analysis of "what went so wrong?" is further examined in ways that cannot remain to be of immense interest to anyone with even a remote interest in the social sciences, whether professional or layperson. Everyone has something important to take away from this book, as Borch-Jacobsen uncovers the breathtaking story of how Freud's cynical methodology became the basis of a once vast intellectual empire that had conquered the world of international mainstream medicine, and made an enormous impact on the social sciences. Since then, there has been an equally spectacular fall from grace (see also psychiatrist Joel Paris' book The Fall of An Icon: Psychoanalysis and Academic Psychiatry), where Freud has been unceremoniously dumped from his self-appointed place alongside Copernicus and Darwin to take up his rightful place alongside Mesmer in the shameful history of failed ideas.

Particularly praiseworthy is the sheer amount of meticulous research that went into this book. Every point is backed up with innumerable lengthy blocks of supportive quotations that represent an extremely wide variety of sources and perspectives. In many case, obscure journal articles have been dug up, and letters traced down. I highly recommend that readers also chase up these citations for themselves, for only then can you tell if they are being used appropriately, and back up the author's claim as stated. From everything that I have seen, the use of citations is absolutely immaculate here, and in many cases, looking up the sources powerfully corroborates the author's claims, which, if anything are understated - always the hallmark of exemplary research. It is clear that the conclusions reached would be unpalatable to many, and in anticipation of this, the author has done a remarkable job of ensuring that a watertight case is presented, backed up with copious amounts of high-quality evidence. Every imaginable criticism (epistemological, ethical, methodological, historical etc) is thoroughly presented without the slightest hint of exaggeration or polemic, all the more to devastating effect. Borch-Jacobsen's clear eyed awareness of the currently fashionable commentary on psychoanalysis left by Derrida and Lacan make the book even more acutely relevant (Borch-Jacobsen is the author of the most revealing analysis of Lacan ever published Lacan: The Absolute Master). Overall, Borch-Jacobsen's approach follows in the footsteps of Michel Foucault (see his History of Sexuality), whose hostility to psychoanalysis was well known. In some ways this is the book that Foucault might have written had he lived longer, only Borch-Jacobsen has a balanced awareness of all the different aspects of criticism directed against psychoanalysis from almost every possible discipline, and he meticulously weaves the disparate perspectives of even usually mutually hostile intellectual traditions into the fabric of his book to form a powerfully coherent multi-pronged assault on the Freudian monolith.

The only possible conclusion is that psychoanalysis today occupies a position more like a cult that is increasingly resembling scientology. As a result, you can expect that critics like Borch-Jacobsen will come under a relentless stream of malicious attacks by cult members, and the fact that he puts up an uncompromisingly detached and staunchly methodical front is in fullest anticipation of the massive storm of outcry he knows he must face. The main counter argument that will be presented is that Borch-Jacobsen is a "Freud hater" who is driven to his malicious conclusions only by his neuroses or psychoses, and that his pathological "resistances" to psychoanalysis have repressed psycho-sexual grounds of which he is in frank denial. In short, anyone who dares to question the cult is dismissed as being a pervert and a madman in desperate need of immediate "treatment": a method of burying critics that originates from Freud himself who stated that such "resistances" constitute "actual evidence in favour of the correctness" of his ideas (Freud 1953-1974, 13:180). The implication is that everyone must give up their "resistances" and submit to brainwashing by the cult until "cured" of the last vestige of pathological "resistance." The end result is that, like scientology, the cult becomes uncriticizable. As to whether Borch-Jacobsen is some crazed "Freud basher" who needs to be cured of his "resistances" by submission to the cult, or whether his is the heartfelt voice of a sincere reason, I utterly implore everyone to read this book and to decide for themselves.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Dissection of Freud 29 Sept. 2013
By Doug Mesner - Published on
Format: Paperback
Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen looks at some of the persistent myths of psychoanalysis, and its founder, debunking a number revisionist claims. Freud maintains a charismatic appeal still -- among the dogmatic psychoanalysis true believers -- despite his countless failures, misrepresentations, and flagrant scientific dishonesty. For anybody interested in an honest appraisal of Freud and psychoanalysis, this book is a thorough, well-constructed and indispensable work.
3 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Great title, disappointing on the "files" 5 Sept. 2012
By Orson Welles - Published on
Format: Paperback
When I read the title, I thought the book was about the Freud archives In the Freud Archives (New York Review Books Classics). I should have known at once from the ad copy that this book is a pointless hatchet job. Why attack Freud now when no one reads his works except in literature departments? Well, there's always lots of Freud to read, and if you are interested in close readings of Freud, who really was a great writer, and in the Freud archive, I recommend Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression (Religion and Postmodernism) and Resistances of Psychoanalysis (Meridian: Crossing Aesthetics). Also to be avoided is Questions for Freud: The Secret History of Psychoanalysis, surely one of the most bizarre anti-Freud books using his letters against him. It is hard to believe the same authors wrote the excellent book The Shell and the Kernel: Renewals of Psychoanalysis, Volume 1 I also recommend Neil Hertz's collection Writings on Art and Literature (Meridian: Crossing Aesthetics) and his book The End of the Line the latter has a brilliant essay on Freud's essay "The Uncanny."
8 of 32 people found the following review helpful
The Freud bashers are at it again! 2 April 2012
By Ernst Schreiber - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I just read the first chapter of this book written by two of the most famous Freud bashers. There is nothing new here. And their arguments are not very convincing. They accuse Freud and his followers of acting as if all of his ideas were original and that Freud engineered his own fame. What was he supposed to say or write, "Hey, I stole all of my ideas from Brentano, Wundt, Janet, Nietzsche & Schopenhauer!"? Furthermore, if one were to imagine that someone else like Janet had won out over Freud, do you suppose he would not have done the same thing and try to downplay where he got all of his brilliant ideas from? And does one imagine that any of these other people like Janet, Forel, Wundt, Krafft-Ebing were the least bit more clever or interesting than Freud?

Furthermore, they quote Alfred Hoch as a refuter of psychoanalysis, but they fail to mention that
psychiatrist Alfred Hoch's book, Permission to Destroy Life Unworthy of Life, demanded euthanasia be conducted on "mental defectives." This, and another psychiatric text, Human Genetics and Racial Hygiene, helped form the "scientific" basis for the Nazi racial purity program.

They might as well have quoted Goebbels and Hitler as a refutation of Freud and his theories.
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