Psychoanalysis and Feminism a Radical Reassessment of Freudian Psychoanalysis

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In 1974, at the height of the women's movement, Juliet Mitchell shocked her fellow feminists by challenging the entrenched belief that Freud was the enemy. She argued that a rejection of psychoanalysis as bourgeois and patriarchal was fatal for feminism. However it may have been used, she pointed out, psychoanalysis is not a recommendation for a patriarchal society, but rather an analysis of one. "If we are interested in understanding and challenging the oppression of women," she says, "we cannot afford to neglect psychoanalysis." In an introduction written specially for this reissue, Mitchell reflects on the changing relationship between these two major influences on twentieth-century thought. Original and provocative, Psychoanalysis and Feminism remains an essential component of the feminist canon.
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Editorial Reviews

New York Review of Books
Juliet Mitchell has risked accusations of apostasy from her fellow feminists. Her book not only challenges orthodox feminism, however, it defies the conventions of social thought in the English-speaking countries...Psychoanalysis and Feminism is a brave and important book, and its influence will not be confined to feminists
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465046089
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 9/10/2000
  • Pages: 496
  • Product dimensions: 5.34 (w) x 7.99 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Juliet Mitchell, the author of Psychoanalysis and Feminism, is currently a visiting professor in Comparative Literature at Yale University, where she is also a Fellow of the Whitney Humanities Center. She is a university lecturer in Gender and Society at Cambridge University and a Fellow of Jesus College. She lives in London and Cambridge.
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Table of Contents

Introduction, 1999

Part One
Freud: The Making of a Lady, I
Freud: The Making of a Lady, II
Freud, The Freudians and the Psychology of Women

Part Two, Section I
(William Reich and R.D. Laing)
William Reich: Sexual Politics, I
William Reich: Sexual Politics, II
R.D. Laing: The Family of Man, I
R.D. Laing: The Family of Man, II

Part Two, Section II
Transatlantic Psychoanalysis
The Feminists

The Holy Family and Femininity
I   The Holy Family
II  Femininity

Appendix: Psychoanalysis and Vienna at the Turn of the Century

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2005

    It's paradoxical how one can do so much with what one doesn't have.

    At last a work that objectively examines feminism and the rapprochement it could have with psychoanalysis, when the latter's founder and father, Sigmund Freud, is not unduly assailed. Juliet Mitchell, author, feminist, AND psychoanalyst, takes on feminists who believe patriarchy and its subsequent oppression of women should be relegated to Freudian ideology. She explores psychoanalysis to ascertain how it can, in fact, explain--in lieu of advocate, patriarchy. To begin with, two psychiatrists, utilized for the auspiciousness of feminism, are investigated in Mitchell's thesis: former psychoanalyst and founder of 'orgonomy,' Wilhelm Reich and 'anti-psychiatry' existential psychoanalyst, Ronald David Laing. Reich analyzed theoretically how women were oppressed by society's attitudes towards the expression of their sexuality and how it should be comprehended. Laing presented how the family is the instigator of psychosis and can make femininity 'inferior'--mothers and wives bereft of economic parity with men. Mitchell outlines the politically radical ramifications that ensued from their ideas by exposing their dearth of scientific background. The author then delves into the writings of six celebrated feminists who have, without all the facts, appraised Freud's psychology of women and his psychotherapeutic model. Starting with Simone de Beauvoir, Mitchell shows how her tainting Freud's scientific and investigative approach with metaphysics, to make a palatable comparison with her existentialist philosophy, is untenable in discussing patriarchy. With Betty Friedan, the author illustrates how she neglects to consider how Freud could not be condemned for being a product of his Victorian time, regarding his observations of sexually repressed, and therefore neurotic, hysterical women he treated. Eva Figes, Mitchell explains, confounds adaptation and adjustment--something the patient must master, with the aims of psychoanalytic therapy--unearthing the repressed to understand their motivations (therefore analysis doesn't intend to describe what a woman is or should be). With Germaine Greer, the author elucidates how she misconstrues Freud's theories, confuses psychoanalysis with psychiatry and psychology, misquotes analysts, and drops many of them--who represent disparate approaches, into her one acrimonious dumping ground. Shulamith Firestone endeavours to show how feminism can actually explain psychoanalysis but Mitchell argues that this is erroneous because psychoanalysis doesn't adhere to a sequence of logical events regarding social reality in childhood development, as feminists believe. Lastly, Kate Millett refuses to focus on the unconscious and its affects on childhood experiences and therefore attacks Freud for his attention to the irrational, but, as the author shows, she must mistakenly contend that children are merely born into the reality principle. Juliet Mitchell's 'Psychoanalysis and Feminism' is a must read for those desiring a more objective appreciation of Freud's work. In it she proves how psychoanalysis has scientifically endured the slings and arrows of some psychiatrists and feminists (unlike Ellen Willis of 'Ms. Magazine,' who, regarding the book I'm reviewing, is quoted as saying on its outside back cover [1975]: 'I sympathize with its purpose...'), bent on deciphering it fallaciously and antagonistically, to forward their own tendentiousness devoid of the facts, because it's paradoxical how one can do so much with what one doesn't have.

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