Conservative and Radical Perspectives on Psychoanalytic Knowledge: The Fascinated and the Disenchanted, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Conservative and Radical Perspectives on Psychoanalytic Knowledge

The Fascinated and the Disenchanted, 1st Edition

By Aner Govrin


256 pages

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Psychoanalysis really should not exist today. Until a few years ago, most of the evidence suggested that its time was drawing to a close, and yet psychoanalysis demonstrated remarkable resilience in the face of criticism, alongside significant resurgence over the course of the last years. In "Conservative and Radical Perspectives on Psychoanalytic Knowledge: The Fascinated and the Disenchanted" psychoanalyst and philosopher Aner Govrin describes the mechanisms of sociology within the psychoanalytic community which have enabled it to withstand the hostility levelled at it and to flourish as an intellectual and pragmatic endeavour. He defends the most criticized aspect of psychoanalysis: the fascination of analysts with their theories. Govrin demonstrates that fascination is a common phenomenon in science and shows its role in the evolution of psychoanalysis.

Govrin argues that throughout its history, psychoanalysis has successfully embraced an amalgam of what he has defined and termed "fascinated" and "troubled communities." A "fascinated community" is a group that embraces a psychoanalytic theory (such as Bion's, Klein's, Winnicott s) as one embraces truth. A "troubled community" is one that is not satisfied with the state of psychoanalytic knowledge and seeks to generate a fundamental change that does not square with existing traditions (such as new psychoanalytic schools, scientifically troubled communities and the relational approach).

It is this amalgam and the continuous tension between these two groups that are responsible for psychoanalysis' rich and varied development and for its ability to adapt to a changing world. Clinical vignettes from the work of Robert Stolorow, Betty Joseph, Antonino Ferro and Michael Eigen illustrate the dynamic by which psychoanalytic knowledge is formed. "Conservative and Radical Perspectives on Psychoanalytic Knowledge" will be of interest to psychoanalysts, psychotherapists and philosophers alike.


"This book is an innovative study of the mechanisms that explain the vitality and robustness of Psychoanalysis as an intellectual enterprise. Using a unique methodology of critical analysis and the philosophy of science, Govrin illuminates the dynamics of psychoanalytic communities, transforming schisms and latent struggles over images of knowledge, into essential dialectics of fascination and loyalty on the one hand, and troubled criticism and doubt on the other. Arguing that both are necessary, Govrin does not only describe the major ideational currents in contemporary psychoanalysis but charts a possible future which he calls a post-postmodernist phase, in which dedication to psychoanalytic dogma and pluralism can co-exist. This lucid comprehensive and ambitious book will be of great interest to scholars of psychoanalysis and the history of ideas, as well as to practitioners and members of psychoanalytic communities." — Chana Ullman, Ph.D.,President of The International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy (IARPP), Training Analyst, Tel Aviv Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis

"In Conservative and Radical Perspectives on Psychoanalytic Knowledge: The Fascinated and the Disenchanted, Aner Govrin treats the communities of psychoanalysis the way an anthropologist treats culture. We have never imagined Govrin’s perspective, but instantly we grasp its immense potential. This book is nothing less than a new way of thinking about the field of psychoanalysis in general, and the pluralism of psychoanalytic theories in particular. Govrin is confident that psychoanalysis is not only enduring but growing, and he makes an excellent case for why that is, and how it all works. This book is so significant that anyone interested in psychoanalysis will want—and need—to read it" —Donnel B. Stern, Ph.D., William Alanson White Institute, New York City

"This is an important contribution to the intellectual history of psychoanalysis. Integrating philosophical, sociological and historical sensibilities with a remarkable breadth, Govrin delineates how the interplay of two types of analytic communities—'fascinated' and 'troubled'—has sustained the continued vitality of the discipline. He gets underneath the usual shibboleths to describe the structures through which analysts think their theories—'images of knowledge,' 'inventors, tinkerers and implementers,' and more. This book deepens our perspective on our own professional identities. It will change the way that you look at psychoanalysis."— Stephen Seligman, DMH, Psychoanalytic Dialogues: International Journal of Relational Perspectives, Joint Editor-in-Chief, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco; Perspectives & Training and Supervising Analyst, San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis, Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California

Table of Contents

Table of Contents



1. Characteristics of Fascinated and Troubled Communities

2: Images of Knowledge of Fascinated and Troubled Communities

3. Troubled Communities and Psychoanalytic Controversies

4. The Relational Approach

5. The Dialectics of the Fascinated and the Troubled within Psychoanalytic Schools

6. Utilitarian Influences in Freud’s Early Writings

7. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit of Change: How the Psychoanalytic Community Incorporates the Ideas of Non-Analytic Methods

8. The Dilemma of Contemporary Psychoanalysis: Toward a "Knowing" Post-Postmodernism

9. The Vices and Virtues of Monolithic Thought in the Development of Psychotherapy



About the Author

Aner Govrin, PhD., is a clinical psychologist and the Director of the doctoral program Psychoanalysis and Hermeneutics, The Program For Hermeneutics and Cultural Studies, Bar Ilan University, Israel. He is in private practice as a psychotherapist and psychoanalyst in Tel Aviv. He is the author of two books and various papers on psychoanalysis.

About the Series

Relational Perspectives Book Series

The Relational Perspectives Book Series (RPBS) publishes books that grow out of or contribute to the relational tradition in contemporary psychoanalysis. The term relational psychoanalysis was first used by Greenberg and Mitchell (1983) to bridge the traditions of interpersonal relations, as developed within interpersonal psychoanalysis and object relations, as developed within contemporary British theory. But, under the seminal work of the late Stephen Mitchell, the term relational psychoanalysis grew and began to accrue to itself many other influences and developments. Various tributaries—interpersonal psychoanalysis, object relations theory, self psychology, empirical infancy research, and elements of contemporary Freudian and Kleinian thought—flow into this tradition, which understands relational configurations between self and others, both real and fantasied, as the primary subject of psychoanalytic investigation.  

We refer to the relational tradition, rather than to a relational school, to highlight that we are identifying a trend, a tendency within contemporary psychoanalysis, not a more formally organized or coherent school or system of beliefs. Our use of the term relational signifies a dimension of theory and practice that has become salient across the wide spectrum of contemporary psychoanalysis. Now under the editorial supervision of Lewis Aron and Adrienne Harris with the assistance of Associate Editors Steven Kuchuck and Eyal Rozmarin, the Relational Perspectives Book Series originated in 1990 under the editorial eye of the late Stephen A. Mitchell. Mitchell was the most prolific and influential of the originators of the relational tradition. He was committed to dialogue among psychoanalysts and he abhorred the authoritarianism that dictated adherence to a rigid set of beliefs or technical restrictions. He championed open discussion, comparative and integrative approaches, and he promoted new voices across the generations.  

Included in the Relational Perspectives Book Series are authors and works that come from within the relational tradition, extend and develop the tradition, as well as works that critique relational approaches or compare and contrast it with alternative points of view. The series includes our most distinguished senior psychoanalysts along with younger contributors who bring fresh vision.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
PHILOSOPHY / History & Surveys / Modern
PSYCHOLOGY / Movements / Psychoanalysis
PSYCHOLOGY / Psychotherapy / General
PSYCHOLOGY / Mental Health