The Ability to Mourn

Disillusionment and the Social Origins of Psychoanalysis

Peter Homans

The Ability to Mourn
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Peter Homans

418 pages | © 1989
Cloth $70.00 ISBN: 9780226351117 Published July 1989
Peter Homans offers a new understanding of the origins of psychoanalysis and relates the psychoanalytic project as a whole to the sweep of Western culture, past and present. He argues that Freud's fundamental goal was the interpretation of culture and that, therefore, psychoanalysis is fundamentally a humanistic social science. To establish this claim, Homans looks back at Freud's self-analysis in light of the crucial years from 1906 to 1914 when the psychoanalytic movement was formed and shows how these experiences culminated in Freud's cultural texts. By exploring the "culture of psychoanalysis," Homans seeks a better understanding of what a "psychoanalysis of culture" might be.

Psychoanalysis, Homans shows, originated as a creative response to the withering away of traditional communities and their symbols in the aftermath of the industrial revolution. The loss of these attachments played a crucial role in the lives of the founders of psychoanalysis, especially Sigmund Freud but also Karl Abraham, Carl Jung, Otto Rank, and Ernest Jones. The personal, political, and religious losses that these figures experienced, the introspection that followed, and the psychological discovery that resulted are what Homans calls "the ability to mourn."

Homans expands this historical analysis to construct a general model of psychological discovery: the loss of shared ideals and symbols can produce a deeper sense of self (psychological structure-building, or individuation) and can then lead to the creation of new forms of meaning and self-understanding. He shows how Freud, Jung, and other psychoanalysts began to extend their introspection outward, reinterpreting the meanings of Western art, history, and religion. In conclusion, Homans evaluates Freud's theory of culture and discusses the role that psychoanalysis might play in social and cultural criticism.

Throughout the book, Homans makes use of the many histories, biographies, and psychobiographies that have been written about the origins of psychoanalysis, drawing them into a comprehensive sociocultural model. Rich in insights and highly original in approach, this work will interest psychoanalysts and students of Freud, sociologists concerned with modernity and psychoanalysis, and cultural critics in the fields of religion, anthropology, political science, and social history.
Part I - Disillusionment and the Ability to Mourn as a Central Psychological Theme in Freud's Life, Thought, and Social Circumstance, 1906-1914
1. Framing the Argument: Why "Disillusionment" and Why "The Ability to Mourn"?
Literature Review: Freud's Most Creative Phase and Its Relevance for the 1906-1914 Period
Mourning, the De-Idealization Experience, and Their Historical Correlates: Disillusionment and Disenchantment
2. De-Idealization in Freud's Life and Thought
Life: Freud's Struggle with Jung and Abraham's Role in It
Thought: "On Narcissism," "The Moses," and the Significance of Rome
3. De-Idealization and Freud's Social Circumstance: Movement and Culture
Understanding the Psychoanalytic Movement as a Group
Politics and Religion as Cultural Forces
4. Earlier and Later De-Idealizations: Count Thun and Romain Rolland
Count Thun and Freud's Psychology of Politics
Romain Rolland and Freud's Psychology of Religion
5. Freud's Mother, His Death Anxiety, and the Problem of History
Freud's Death Anxiety and the Idea of a Maternal Presence
Psychoanalysis, History, and the Study of Freud's Person
Freud's Death and Jones's Idealization of Freud
Part II - Disillusionment and the Social Origins of Psychoanalysis
6. Framing the Argument: Why Think Sociologically about Psychoanalysis?
How to Think Sociologically about Psychoanalysis
The Essential Tension: Analytic Access and a Common Culture
7. The Sociology of Freud's Self-Analysis and the Psychoanalytic Movement
Sociological Reflections on Freud's Self-Analysis
The Psychoanalytic Movement as a Psychological Culture
8. Tracking the Ideal-Type: Disenchantment and Psychological Discovery in the Lives of Three Followers
Carl G. Jung: Psychoanalysis as Hermeneutics
Otto Rank: Psychoanalysis as Art
Ernest Jones: Psychoanalysis as Science
The Dissipation of the Movement and Freud's Turn to the "Cunning of Culture"
9. Final Sociological Reflections: Psychoanalysis, Science, and Society
Freud's Metapsychology and the Sociology of Physical Science
1920s London, Object Relations, and the Collapse of the Metapsychology
The Struggle to Mourn in the Sociological Tradition: The Case of Max Weber
Conclusion: The Sociological Mechanism Underlying Psychoanalytic Healing, When It Occurs, in the Analytic Situation
Part III - Mourning, Individuation, and the Creation of Meaning In Today's Psychological Society
10. Framing the Argument with Freud's "Little Discourse" on Mourning and Monuments
Three Contradictions in Freud's Theory of Culture
Mourning, Monuments, and Individuation: A First Approximation
11. The Fate of the Ego in "Primitive" and "Civilized" Cultures: First Contradiction
12. The Plight of the Modern Ego Cut Off from Its Christian, Communal Past: Second Contrdiction
13. The Conflict between Religious Absolutism and Curiosity about The Inner World: Third Contradiction
14. Toward a Rapprochement with the Past: Mourning, Individuation, and the Creation of Meaning
Epilogue: When the Mourning Is Over: Prospero's Speech at the End of The Tempest as a Model of Individuation

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