A New Language for Psychoanalysis

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Roy Schafer

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In this provocative and brilliant book, Roy Schafer offers a radical reconceptualization of Freudian metapsychology.  When Freud wrote about his discoveries of the unconscious and the nature of psychic processes, he used the language of the prevailing scientific theories of his time—energy, force, and mechanism.  In contrast, Schafer sees psychoanalysis as an interpretive discipline, a human science that requires a language of its own, unencumbered by the old natural science concepts.


Schafer proposes a new language for psychoanalysis, freed from the ambiguities and biases of mechanistic theory.  His formulation is based on the notion of action, were “action” is understood to mean the widest variety of human behavior: perceiving, organizing, fantasying, wishing, and doing—consciously and unconsciously. 


In presenting his action language, Schafer first explains how it relates to metapsychology and the psychoanalytic vision of reality.  He presents a philosophically oriented model of the person as agent, one who does things for reasons and creates his or her own experiences and activities.  These formulations are applied to traditional topics in psychoanalysis: action, internalization, self and identity, motivation and the explanation of behavior, and the idea of resistance in analysis.  In a final section, concerned with emotions, the author furnishes clear and logical ways of understanding speaking about love, hate, fear passivity, and other basic emotional experiences.   

"Should be of considerable interest to a wider public, since it proposes a radical reformulation of psychoanalytical theory which, if accepted, would render outmoded almost all the analytical jargon that has crept into the language of progressive, enlightened post-Freudian people."—Charles Rycroft, New York Review of Books

"Schafer’s arguments have considerable cogency. The tendency to over-theorize so that the translation of abstractions into the language of ordinary discourse between analyst and patient has become increasingly difficult is a fault; Schafer goes a long way towards redressing it, and his efforts to include meaning and the person in the form of his language is an achievement."—Michael Fordham, Times Higher Education Supplement

"The most important theoretical book on psychoanalysis in at least 10 years."— Robert R. Holt, Professor of Psychology, Research Center for Mental Health, New York University

"For anyone who would treat the fundamental concepts of pscyhoanalysis without succumbing to the lures of obscurantism, this book is well night indispensable."—Walter Lowe, Pastoral Psychology

"The breadth of Schafer's thinking, and the meticulousness and scholarliness with which he builds his case are awesome. . . . By himself being so clear, comprehensive, and candid about his own thinking he challenges the rest of us: either meet him on scientific terms, or be forced to acknowledge that we want to use the same old language and ideas out of sheer laziness or inability to think them through systematically."—Stephen A. Appelbaum, Ph.D., Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic

"[One must] read the book carefully and thoughtfully to appreciate the ingenuity, imaginativeness, and thoroughness with which Schafe has applied the action language approach to psychoanalytic concepts."—W.W. Meissner, The Psychoanalytic Quarterly
ISBN: 9780300027617
Publication Date: September 10, 1981
394 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4

Sales Restrictions: All rights reverted