Nietzsche and the Clinic
Psychoanalysis, Philosophy, Metaphysics
While I was in college, undergrads reeking of stale coffee and cigarettes paraded on gothic quads with flannel armor, black-rimmed glasses, messenger bags, and paperback copies of Ayn Rand and Friedrich Nietzsche. Mired in misinterpretation, budding philosophers of various political stripes dreamed of amoral Ubermenschian architects expressing “will to power” through design of phallic buildings and superior socialities. This memory haunted me years later while teaching On the Genealogy of Morals to first-year college students but was finally vanquished by Jared Russell’s excellent Nietzsche and the Clinic: Psychoanalysis, Philosophy, Metaphysics (Karnac, 2017).
Clinicians familiar with stereotypical and distorted readings of Nietzsche (almost as common as those of Freud) will be surprised and invigorated by Russell’s book, which not only synthesizes philosophy and psychoanalytic theory, but also stages a highly productive encounter between academic work and the practice of psychoanalysis. Each chapter focuses on a distinct psychoanalytic orientation and contains a clinical vignette illustrating the relevance of Nietzsche’s ideas. With rigor and openness, each chapter asks: what does Nietzsche offer the clinic?
Russell discusses Nietzschean notions like perspectivism, will to power, and ressentiment, as well as the philosopher’s critiques of metaphysics, commercial culture, authoritarianism, and morality. He then demonstrates the ways Nietzsche’s thought augments and refines psychoanalytic concepts: the Freudian drive, Helene Deutsch’s “as-if personality,” Alan Bass’s “concreteness,” Melanie Klein’s envy and projective identification, Winnicottian play, and Lacan’s late teachings on jouissance and the real unconscious. But perhaps the most original aspect of the book resides in Russell’s ability to put Nietzsche into dialogue with specific elements of analytic clinical practice: interpretation, free association and evenly suspended attention, and knowledge and truth as they emerge for each analysand.
Anna Fishzon, PhD is Senior Research Associate at the University of Bristol, UK. She is a candidate at the Institute for Psychoanalytic Training and Research (IPTAR) and author of Fandom, Authenticity, and Opera: Mad Acts and Letter Scenes in Fin de Siecle Russia (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). She can be reached at [email protected].