Flowing smooth and limpid as a mountain stream, this big readable book quickly overcomes the reader's resistance to still another piece about the origins of Psychoanalysis. Even if one got the book only because its author, Dr. George Makari, has already firmly established the excellence of his writing, one's faith is vindicated right away. It becomes hard to put the book down.
Not only does Makari's book contain more information, a clearer and closer look at the issues and the personalities than any other history of this topic, but also it sheds welcome light on the forces bringing about the various dialectical theses, oppositions and revisions of belief in the field of Psychoanalysis, and neighboring fields. This is done in the context of those diverse forces (including an anti-Semitic Europe weary of its own sexual inhibition and its post-Kantian intellectual exhaustion, yet comfortably cloaked in Hapsburg elegance) which are instances of the forces which inevitably oppose any "Revolution in Mind."
If the worth of a history can be scored not only by the number of facts it describes with illumination, but also by the number of times the reader has to stop and think, arresting any sense that, "I already knew that," this book is tops. It's the best history -- with respect for Ernest Jones, Peter Gay, Frank Sulloway and others -- of the origins of Psychoanalysis, and one of the best histories of any important intellectual or institutional development.
Among its other virtues, Makari's book is an excellent study of the dialectical development of a set of beliefs from an initial thesis (or set of theses) to opposition and differentiation, to reformulation. The story is remarkably similar to the development of Christianity from a revolutionary "gospel" ("good news") to a "creed" which is the product of heated controversy, compromise and hard choices, and thence to a powerful stable institution.
Makari's treatment of "The Question of Lay Analysis," in the context of the Freudian thesis of infantile sexuality, which invited eager quacks and charlatans to celebrate with a party of wild analysis, with the ideal of a staid and virtuously neutral "Science" being invoked in defense of orthodox Psychoanalysis, brings up for study the entire question of orthodoxy and authoritative credentials (like the MD), including public licensing for the protection of those whom P. T. Barnum would identify by saying, "A fool is born every minute." Just a few centuries before Freud, ironically, anyone pleading "Science" in defense of an unorthodox belief might get burnt at the stake. The history told by Makari made the plea of "Science" the only available defense to Freud and Psychoanalysts, as pleading Philosophy or Poetry might get them burnt at the stake not by ecclestical authority but by academic authority, and to plead "Listening with the Third Ear" could get them committted to an insane asylum.
Today in America, the use of the MD as the requisite credential is a thing of the past, but the underlying question of "Why credentials?" remains. One must pause at the question of credentials for a psychoanalyst. Imagine Socrates getting a license to ask, in the Agora, "What is the Good Life?" Imagine Diogenes the Cynica, sleeping naked under the tub, getting a license to go about the world with his lantern, in search of an honest man.
Can "Revolution in Mind" (note that the title has different meanings depending on where one puts the emphasis), which not only is a fait accompli by Freud and others, but also is the subject of their discovery of the ever-flowing river -- Heraclitus said, "You can't step into the same river twice" -- of the psyche, a river partly running underground, be reconciled with orothodoxy? Can revolution (ask a Marxist) be reconciled with the need to comply with norms set forth by the heirarchy of an institution (in one of its protean personifications)? Unless the answer is "Yes," there can be no Psychoanalysis; and unless the answer is "No," there can be no Psychoanalysis. (The same might be said of religion.)
Interspersed among the details and helpful connections made ever so deftly (with hardly ever any sign of judgmental intervention by the historian [who, at best, can only hope to tell a "likely story," according to H. G. Wells] are wonderful photographs and a few gems like this one: --
"Altenberg sought to cast off conventional ethics and return to a natural primitivity; toward this goal he advocated a panoply of health measures aimed at a liberation from clothing, especially women's undergarments. His motto was, 'One cannot wear too little.' One Winter he caught pneumonia and died. p. 141
Makari is respectful of the inexorable forces creating institutional limits, similar to the "character armor" W. Reich explained as the essential psychic skin, but he is not above an occasional tongue-in-cheek observation, as when, in his Epilogue, he describes the travails of the reorganization of the more-or-less organized Psychoanalysis in New York City, in the 1940s, after the city's recept of hordes of distinguished emigre analysts who had fled Nazi Europe: --
"The New York group also tried to pass an amendment that banned any seccessions without prior approval from the association, an amendment that seemed to misunderstand the nature of a secession." p. 482
In his Acknowledgements, Dr. Makari refers to those who "kept my mountain of work [in preparing his materials] from crushing me." Except for that remark, the reader is allowed comfortably to think that the author must have been there, seen and heard all the events he describes, and knew personally all the people whose many zig-zag moves and manners make up the story. He tells his very long and complex story with the disarming ease characteristic of great story-tellers.
Louis H. Hamel, Jr., Esq.