Conservative and Radical Perspectives on Psychoanalytic Knowledge
The Fascinated and the Disenchanted
This is an interview for the pessimists among us: Worried that your career as an analyst is over? That CBT is about to enact world domination over all things psychological? Plagued by ideas that your institute training was all for naught?
Aner Govrin is Director of the doctoral program in Psychoanalysis and Hermeneutics at Bar Ilan University in Israel, a psychoanalyst, and memberof the Tel Aviv Institue for Contemporary Psychoanalysis (TAICP). His keen intelligence and big picture perspective will assuage at least a modicum of your despair.
Employing ideas from the sociology of knowledge, Govrin’s Conservative and Radical Perspectives on Psychoanalytic Knowledge: The Fascinated and the Disenchanted (Routledge, 2016) both expands and contracts our point of view on psychoanalysis, organizing the profession into communities of the “fascinated” and the “troubled.” The tension between these two groups promises, if we can avoid collapsing into hostile splitting, to create a state of almost perpetual renewal within the field.
According to Govrin, we need the fascinated–those from schools of thought that tend to have charismatic leaders and theoretical ideas that are a kind of “set piece” such as Klein, Lacan, Bion, Kohut or Spotnitz–to dive deeply into their theories, creatively expanding upon them. At the same time, we also need the thinking of the scientifically and philosophically troubled–those who seek to move the field towards interacting with other disciplines, who pursue notions of truth and efficacy, who queried bedrock notions of the analyst’s authority, dismantling the idea that there is only one person’s psyche in the room–to keep things moving.
Offering a warning about the ways in which the post-modern turn in the profession might lead to creative torpor, Govrin suggests we embrace the fascinated among us, applauding their diving deeply and fully into their demi-monde. He reminds us as well that behind every troubled community lies a fascinated community about to come into its own.
Govrin believes that psychoanalysis displays a marvelous porosity, and so has the ability to make use of myriad cultural shifts. If institutes can encourage creativity amongst candidates and faculty, he argues, rather than demand strict adherence to a “party line,” the field promises to proliferate and thrive.