1st Edition

The Subversive Edge of Psychoanalysis

By David James Fisher Copyright 2025
    312 Pages
    by Routledge

    312 Pages
    by Routledge

    The Subversive Edge of Psychoanalysis examines the radical and non-conformist perspectives of both classical and contemporary psychoanalysis. 

    The papers included in this book span the course of David James Fisher’s career. They contextualize significant cases from the recent history of psychoanalysis, critically analyse key aspects of psychoanalytic work, consider the role of psychoanalysis in the history of the twentieth century, and provide biographical sketches of major figures in the field. The book concludes with a cogent interview of the author by a distinguished psychohistorian, depicting how subjectivity, family themes, politics, and cultural affinities marked his choice of subject matter and methodology, his identifications, and antipathies.

    The Subversive Edge of Psychoanalysis will appeal to mental health professionals and students with an interest in psychoanalytic practice and theory and academics and researchers who are fascinated by the subversive, non-conforming aspects of both classical and contemporary psychoanalysis.





    PART I          



    Chapter 1

    Stoller, Erotics, Sexual Excitement


    Chapter 2

    Transitional Objects and Generativity: Ekstein’s blending of Erikson and Winnicott


    Chapter 3

    Concerning the Life Cycle of the Transitional Object (by Rudolf Ekstein)


    Chapter 4

    A Conversation with Adam Phillips


    Chapter 5

    Comments on James S. Grotstein’s Dreambook





    Chapter 6

    Sartre’s Freud: Dimensions of Intersubjectivity in The Freud Scenario


    Chapter 7

    Reflections on the Psychoanalytic Free Clinics


    Chapter 8

    A Power Structure Analysis of Psychoanalytic Institutes (followed by an interview with Douglas Kirsner)


    Chapter 9

    On the History of Lacanian Psychoanalysis in France


    Chapter 10

    What was Revolutionary about the Psychoanalytic Revolution in Mind? 


    Chapter 11

    Discovering Wounded Healers in A Dangerous Method 


    Chapter 12

    Peter Loewenberg’s Contributions to Psychohistory and Psychoanalysis




    Chapter 13

    Reflections on the Collaboration and the Jewish Question


    Chapter 14

    To Resist and to Protect: A Critical Analysis of Weapons of the Spirit


    PART IV  



    Chapter 15

    Father’s Day


    Chapter 16

    Remembering Robert Stoller, M.D.  (1924--1991) 


    Chapter 17

    Eulogy for Joseph Natterson, M.D. (1923--2023)   


    PART V



    Chapter 18

    Trump as Symptom 


    Chapter 19

    Against the Separation of Children from Parents at the U.S. Border (with Van DeGolia)


    Chapter 20

    A Manifesto for Psychoanalytic Education with Sixteen Suggestions  


    Chapter 21

    A Psychoanalyst Serves On a Jury 




    Chapter 22  

    The Intellectual Itinerary of a Psychoanalyst:  David James Fisher interviewed by Paul Elovitz 


    David James Fisher is Senior Faculty at the New Center for Psychoanalysis and Training and Supervising Analyst at the Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis. He specializes in the history of psychoanalysis, the convergence of cultural history with psychoanalysis, and psychoanalytic applications to politics, movies, literature, and works of art. His background is in European Cultural and Intellectual history. He has been practicing psychoanalysis and psychotherapy in Los Angeles for forty-five years.

     “This wonderfully rich collection of essays by psychoanalyst and historian David James Fisher provides a beautiful integration of psychoanalytic thinking and thinking about psychoanalysis. As an intellectual immersed in European Cultural History who followed his passion for the self-knowledge that psychoanalysis uniquely affords, Fisher makes short work of orthodoxy and convention, while sifting lovingly through inherited tradition for its remaining jewels.  An act of love and erudition, The Subversive Edge of Psychoanalysis follows the path psychoanalysis has taken over the decades, while inviting outsiders a rare chance to savor and learn from the intimate knowledge and innovations of a vibrant psychoanalytic community.” - Jessica Benjamin, psychoanalyst and social theorist; author, The Bonds of Love and Beyond Doer and Done To: Recognition Theory, Intersubjectivity, and the Third


    “WHEN SCHOLARSHIP IS A PAGE-TURNER: This collection of brilliant essays reads like a fascinating novel that addresses a remarkably rich tapestry of ideas and realms of experience in ways that we don’t even notice how much we are learning.  Fisher takes us on an exciting, always questing, and often moving, journey as he variously critiques and admires psychoanalysis, its applications, and the thinking of many of its luminaries and critics in a strikingly balanced way. We read how psychoanalytic ideas and the vicissitudes of its institutions past and present struggle to maintain significance in a world that is changing so rapidly in mass psychological, cultural, judicial, and institutional ways. Fisher’s book left me wishing it would never end and, indeed, it may not insofar as psychoanalysis retains, as Fisher does, an attitude of ‘subversive vitality’.” - Howard A. Bacal, MD, Training and Supervising Analyst, The New Center for Psychoanalysis and the Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis, Los Angeles


    “David James Fisher’s The Subversive Edge of Psychoanalysis: Selected Essays is a wonderful and worthwhile contribution to our psychoanalytic thought collective. Many of the chapters are devoted to distinguished psychoanalysts with whom Fisher has had direct, sometimes extensive, contact. He offers serious and valuable critiques of their work, but the critiques never overshadow his high esteem for their significant contributions. His writing style is clear and illuminating, giving the reader the opportunity of feeling warmly accompanied on an intellectual exploration. We meet Fisher’s mentors, colleagues, and then in subsequent sections, his special areas of interest, including psychoanalytic history, anti-Semitism, French psychoanalysis, US politics, his reflections on his father’s dementia, and even his psychoanalytic reflections of being on a jury. It is like an intellectual memoir. Throughout all of it, one has the feeling that Fisher, in an almost intimate fashion, is explaining all that he saw and was thinking about in relation to the topics he presents. And when he writes about mentors and colleagues, it is almost like sitting at a coffee table listening in on their conversation. We’ve all read collections of essays before, but this one is unique in my mind, as there is a clear unifying thread of a first-rate psychoanalyst and historian serving as guide to each area he addresses. And that unifying thread is made up of cultivated critical thinking and a subversive vision of psychoanalysis. I highly recommend Fisher’s selected essays and can guarantee that you will come away from it having learned something new.” - Daniel S. Benveniste, PhD; clinical psychologist, Sammamish, Washington; author, Libido, Culture, and Consciousness: Revisiting Freud’s Totem and Taboo


    “This book is a psychoanalytic tour de force and a labor of love for the author.  It presents an account of the history of psychoanalytic developments at the cutting edge of recent decades.  It includes in-depth accounts of the important players, many  with whom Dr. Fisher established deep personal relationships.  I ended one of my papers with the comment that psychoanalysis was a subversive discipline.  Dr. Fisher’s book firmly establishes that this is indeed the case.” - Arnold Richards, M.D., former Editor, The Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association (1994-2003); publisher, internationalpsychoanalysis.net; author, Unorthodox: My Life In and Outside of Psychoanalysis


    “This is an elegant work that will withstand time.  Readers will be grateful to Dr. Fisher’s thoughtful and clear ‘subversive’ study of our discipline.  Listen to what a great sweep of psychoanalysis Jimmy Fisher covers here.  First, the idea of subversion and psychoanalysis.  His perspective is provocative and engaging.  We learn in psychoanalysis how we live covert lives, often undermining our own pleasure in life.  What does psychoanalysis subvert: how it is both non-elitist, yet non-conforming.  The subversiveness of psychoanalysis permits us to listen to the covert, then convert it to something useful to lead us to richer lives.  Dr. Fisher understands how the unease of psychoanalysis and the psychoanalyst helps us to come to terms with our own unease.  Read this.  You will get wiser.” - Nathan Szajnberg, M.D.; retired Freud Professor of Psychoanalysis, The Hebrew University


    “David James Fisher’s collection could well have been entitled ‘Illuminations’.  It shines a bright light not only on many aspects of psychoanalysis, but also diverse topics from Vichy France to Donald Trump.  The expertise Dr. Fisher brings to so many diverse topics is extraordinary.  He insightfully employs his knowledge as a practicing psychoanalyst with his doctorate in history.  Crossing boundaries is home territory for him.  On psychoanalysis, he finds the field needs to recover its subversive vitality.  Psychoanalytic goals are not to make the unconscious conscious, or to fortify the go, but to enable the person to resonate with his or her sense of inner authenticity.  The book exemplifies this psychoanalytic exploration of the authentic.  Particularly resonant is Dr. David James Fisher’s poignant encounter with another Dr. Fisher, his own father, not long before his elder’s death.  This book is an enriching experience that will remain after reading the whole volume.” - Ken Fuchsman, emeritus faculty and administrator, University of Connecticut; past President, International Psychohistorical Association; author, Freud, Movies, Rock & Roll and What It is To Be Human