The Reproduction of Evil: A Clinical and Cultural Perspective, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Reproduction of Evil

A Clinical and Cultural Perspective, 1st Edition

By Sue Grand


216 pages

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Why is it that victims of abuse so often become perpetrators, and what can psychoanalysis offer to these survivor-perpetrators, whose criminal conduct seems to transcend the possibilities of empathic psychoanalytic inquiry. In The Reproduction of Evil, Sue Grand engages these deeply troublesome issues in the belief that psychoanalysts can and should reclaim the study of what lies beyond ordinary human empathy. Her goal is to elucidate the link between traumatic memory and the perpetration of evil. To this end, she presents an interdisciplinary analysis, at once scholarly and passionate, of the ways in which families and cultures transform victims of malignant trauma into perpetrators of these very traumas on others. Through intensive case studies, Grand draws the reader into the world of the survivor-perpetrators who commit acts of child abuse, of incest, of racial persecution, even of homicide and genocide. By infusing psychoanalytic inquiry with cultural analysis and by supplementing clinical vignettes with well-chosen literary illustrations, Grand is able to convey the survivor-perpetrator's immediacy of experience in a manner that readers may find unsettling, even uncanny.

By interweaving psychoanalytic, sociohistorical, and literary perspectives, Grand fills a critical lacuna in the literature about trauma and its intergenerational transmission. Her analysis of the psychodynamic processes and cultural tensions that bind perpetrators, victims, and bystanders provides trenchant insights into the violence and fragmentation that beset our society. Essential reading for a wide clinical audience, The Reproduction of Evil will also be powerfully informative for academic and lay readers interested in the intrapsychic, interpersonal, and cultural factors that account for the perpetuation of evil from generation to generation.


"Drawing on her own clinical experiences and the work of others, Sue Grand challenges us to take on the perilous task of identifying individuals dedicated to malice and killing, and to try to work with them on the murderous core of their personality through psychoanalytic psychotherapy. Among the many merits of her book are her rich clinical and historical portraits of those individuals at risk for a life of 'malignant dissociative disorder' and her clarification of the role of confrontation in their treatment. It is essential, Grand holds, for these patients to take responsibility for their hateful forms of destructiveness. It is the therapist's challenge, on the other hand, to bear the pain with the patient, to resist the temptation of revenge, and thereby to provide a therapeutic medium for the process of self-healing. In a century in which the Holocaust was at first glance easier to comprehen because it was preceded by the long-standing Nazi habit of declaring victims to be 'enemy aliens,' it behooves us to study the phenomena of human destructiveness. The Reproduction of Evil is essential to such study."

- Henry Krystal, M.D., Author, Integration and Self Healing (Analytic Press, 1993)

"The Reproduction of Evil is a moving book written by a therapist who is also a philosopher and a poet. When Sue Grand presents her clinical findings, we hear more than cases; we meet people who, in spite of deep disturbances, are uniquely alive. Grand's book is an important addition to the literature on massive social evil, a phenomenon that has been the hallmark of the century behind us."

- Martin S. Bergmann, Ph.D., Clinical Professor of Psychology, NYU

"Sue Grand offers us a fascinating, profound, and wide-ranging reflection on trauma, abuse, and dissociation. As she weaves her remarkable narrative, she is able to unify the concrete reality of pain and violence with the best of what psychoanalytic theory has to offer. Her ethical clarity, her depth of observation, her elegant writing, and the courageousness of her clinical stance place her among the few psychoanalysts who truly inspire us to consider afresh the furthest reaches and darkest edges of our field."

- Jessica Benjamin, Ph.D., Author, Shadow of the Other

Table of Contents

1. An Introduction to Malignant Dissociative Contagion

2. Loneliness and the Allure of Bodily Cruelty

3. Child Abuse and the Problem of Knowing History

4. The Paradox of Innocence: Dissociative States in Perpetrators of Bodily Violation

5. Malignance and the Bestiality of Survival

6. The Depravities of the Nonhuman Self: Greed, Murder, Persecution

7. Frankenstein and His monster: Grief and the Escape from Grief

8. The Problem of Redemption: From Homicide to Psychic Annihilation

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.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Applied Psychology
PSYCHOLOGY / Mental Health
PSYCHOLOGY / Developmental / Lifespan Development