Monday, April 15th, 2002, 8:00 PM

Is the Movement Destroying the Science?
Lessons from Local History

author: Douglas Kirsner, Ph.D.
discussants: Robert Michels, M.D., and John Munder Ross, Ph.D.
moderator: Craig Tomlinson, M.D.

Freud wanted to 'feel assured that the therapy will not destroy the science' in psychoanalysis. Whatever the problems of the science, the major threat to the development of the science today comes not so much from the therapy as from the 'movement' aspects of psychoanalysis. The problem has historically lain in institutions structuring and perpetuating identification instead of promoting differentiation and critique. The fault lines clearly surround the right to train and training analyst status in particular, whatever the professional, cultural or theoretical orientation of the institute.

The New York Psychoanalytic Institute was for decades the flagship of American psychoanalysis and provides the prototypical study of anointment. The leading New York Institute analysts from the late 1930s who escaped Hitler were part of Freud's inner circle. For the four decades following World War II the institute was controlled by a small inner group of these European analysts and their analytic descendants. This group felt they possessed special knowledge and acted as a self-perpetuating anointed elite. Yet there was another side within the institute. Especially from the 1970s onwards, there was considerable resistance to this form of anointment among the membership, and the fostering of a democratic and open view of psychoanalysis. This paper examines what lessons can be learned from the local history of the New York Psychoanalytic Institute to point toward the optimal future direction of psychoanalytic institutions and inquiry.