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From The CriticsReviewer: Gary B Kaniuk, Psy.D. (Cermak Health Services)
Description: This book discusses the relationship between Sigmund Freud and Wilhelm Stekel and how Stekel's work became marginalized after he was dismissed by Freud from the inner circle of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. It also provides interesting information about the history of psychoanalysis as well.
Purpose: According to the authors in the preface, "With our paper on Stekel's formative years published in the summer of 2004 we felt that the idea of reading psychoanalysis dialogically was not yet exhausted, and so it only seemed natural to continue our collaboration. We quickly established that the overarching theme should be the problem of marginalization and self-marginalization, and that one way to understand Stekel's position is to look at it from the perspective of 'constructive' or 'positive marginality.'" They continue: "Thus, while this book discusses in detail the work and influence of Wilhelm Stekel, and his ambiguous relationship to Freud, it is not so much a biography of a 'forgotten psychoanalyst' but rather a study in the dimensions of marginality as displayed in the work of one such 'marginal author.'" They conclude, "The main argument developed in this book is that marginalization had had beneficial aspects to both Stekel and Freud."
Audience: Psychologists, social scientists, and readers interested in the history of science are the intended audience. Graduate students studying psychoanalysis would also benefit greatly from reading this book.
Features: The authors describe marginality "a concept to describe a condition that seems to befall individuals or even groups of people, either by accident or deliberately. As a condition, as a state of being, marginality is understood to be an extremely simple phenomenon: it is a moving away from the center (rich, powerful) to the margins (poor, powerless), assuming that there is a spatial link between the marginal and the central; that the two are physically alienated from each other by time and social forces. Secondly, marginality is understood to be a process. In this definition, the focus is on the traffic between the center and the border — notions of inclusion and exclusion, upward and downward mobility, social integration and segregation are but a few concepts that denote these movements and actions." The authors cover a variety of interesting topics, including the debate between Stekel and Freud on the harmful effects of masturbation and whether it leads to neurasthenia (exhaustion of the nervous system); Stekel's view of the etiology and prevention of obsessive-compulsive disorder; Stekel's understanding of his marginalization in the traditional psychoanalytic field; and notes on correspondence between Stekel and Freud. The book is fascinating and compelling reading for those interested in the history of psychoanalysis, covering topics not often found in other books. It ends with an English translation of the Stekel-Freud correspondence. The book is geared toward the psychoanalytic community, so readers with that background will have an easier time reading it. However, all can learn about the tumultuous relationship between the master (Freud) and his disciple (Stekel).
Assessment: This book would be a wonderful gift for your favorite psychoanalyst. It covers ground that is not well known and provides illumination of the relationship between Freud and Stekel in the early days of psychoanalysis. It shows how Stekel dealt with his dismissal from the inner circle, resulting in marginalization, and how both Freud and Stekel still benefited from this divide. The authors do a terrific job revealing this dynamic. Readers will not be disappointed.