The Psychoanalytic Movement: The Cunning of Unreason / Edition 3

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How did the language of psychoanalysis become the dominant idiom in which the middle classes of the industrialized West speak about their emotions? Ernest Gellner offers a forceful and complex answer to this intriguing question in The Psychoanalytic Movement. This landmark study argues that although psychoanalysis offers an incisive picture of human nature, it provides untestable operational definitions and makes unsubstantiated claims concerning its therapeutic efficacy. In a new foreword Jose Brunner expands on the central argument of The Psychoanalytic Movement. Placing Gellner's work in the context of contemporary hostile critiques of Freud, Brunner argues that these two blatantly different thinkers might also be seen as kindred spirits.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
The Psychoanalytic Movement was recognized as a classic upon its publication. José Brunner's new introduction places the argument within the context of “the Freud wars”, making it clear that the book was as concerned to explain the fabulous success of psychoanalysis as to debunk its pretensions. This may be Gellner's greatest book, containing as it does a general view of the history of philosophy and the character of modernity.’ John A. Hall, McGill University

Previous praise for The Psychoanalytic Movement:

‘A marvel… This is a brilliantly written book, every page sparkling with intelligence, style and substance. Gellner provides a welcome and literate overview of the latest philosophic controversy about the logical status of psychoanalytic propositions. Its every page instructs and enlivens and represents a tribute to humane intelligence.’ New Statesman

‘In a stylish, witty and deceptively readable book, Gellner exposes the secular religious nature of the psychoanalytic enterprise. He admits that a compelling, charismatic belief must possess more than merely the promise of succour in a plague and links with the background convictions of the age.’ Nature

‘This is the first determined effort to account for a very odd historical and sociological phenomenon in realistic and meaningful terms…and it makes very good sense. Gellner is incisive, agreeable to read and often witty.’ Institute of Psychiatry Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780631234135
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 1/15/2003
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 252
  • Sales rank: 1,519,017
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

His first book, Words and Things (1958) prompted a leader in The Times and a month-long correspondence on its letters page over his attack on linguistic philosophy. As the Professor of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method at the London School of Economics for 22 years, the William Wyse Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge for eight, and finally as head of the new Centre for the Study of Nationalism in Prague, Gellner fought all his life—in his writing, his teaching, and through his political activism—against what he saw as closed systems of thought, particularly communism, psychoanalysis, relativism, and the dictatorship of the free market.
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Table of Contents



Introduction to Second Edition.

1. Back to Nature.

Gibbon's Problem.

Some Basic Facts and Questions.

The Last Angel.

The Harbinger of the Pays Reel.

The Battering-Ram.

2. The Plague.

Give Us This Day.

Original Sin.

Pastoral Care.

The Click.

The Wager.

3. The Pirandello Effect.


Inside and Out.

Transference (Greater Love Has No Man).

Conceptual Deprivation.

The Terminal Valve.

The Implicit Promise.

4. On the Rack.

Licensed to Cure.

A State of Grace.

A Realist Theory of Knowledge.

Hire-Purchase Stoicism.

From Adjustment to Identity.

The Errors of Realism.

5. The Cunning Broker.

The Concept of the Unconscious.


A Cunning Bastard.

Reduction at the Service of Man (or, a Plethora of Omens).

6. Reality Regained.

An Emaciated World.

The Servicing of Reality.

A Habitable World.

The Bourgeois Dionysic.

7. The Embourgoisement of the Psyche.

The New Guardians.

Plato Up-ended.

Transvaluation of Values, to Customer Specification.

Socrates and the Cave.

8. Anatomy of a Faith.

The Erring Husband and the Principle of Recursive Cunning.

Brief Checklist and a Much Worse Murder.

Data and Theory.

Some Outside Comments.

The Trickster.

Freud and the Art of Daemon Maintenance.

Eternal Corrigibility.

9. The Bounds of Science.


Testability Vindicated?.

The Natural Transcendent.


The Three-Horse Race.

Beast, Shaft and Test.

10. La Therapie Imaginaire.

Float and Sail.

Truth and Ideology.

The Well.

The Pineal Gland.

Captain of His Soul.




Select Bibliography.


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