Like Subjects, Love Objects

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Essays on Recognition and Sexual Difference

Jessica Benjamin

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In this important book, the author of The Bonds of Love discusses gender issues from the perspective of developmental psychoanalysis. Jessica Benjamin, a well-known psychoanalyst and feminist, makes a case for what she calls "gender heterodoxy"—a highly original view of the similarities and differences between the sexes—and in the process she illuminates aspects of love, sexuality, aggression, and pornography.

Benjamin elaborates and develops the psychoanalytic theory of intersubjectivity, taking up the question: What difference does it make when I consider the Other to be not merely an object of my mind but a subject in his or her own right, with a center of being equivalent to my own? This question of recognition is closely related to how we frame, tolerate, and theorize difference and is therefore tied to the issue of gender. Benjamin argues that intersubjective theory does not replace but rather adds to the existing intrapsychic theory of psychoanalysis, which focuses on the individual. Her both/and (as opposed to either/or) approach is carried throughout the book, for Benjamin brilliantly integrates relational and Freudian positions, feminist and psychoanalytic theory, and clinical and theoretical information.

Jessica Benjamin is associate professor of clinical psychology at the New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis and is on the faculty of the New School for Social Research. A psychoanalyst in private practice, she is also the author of The Bonds of Love: Psychoanalysis, Feminism, and the Problem of Domination.

"This major original work, integrating developmental theory and intersubjective theory, enriches our understanding of gender and sexuality, fantasy and reality, giving the lie to any simplistic notion of 'normative.' Accessible, systematic and pertinent to clinical practice."—Ethel Spector Person, M.D., professor of clinical psychiatry, Columbia University; author of By Force of Fantasy

"With this remarkable book, Jessica Benjamin not only fosters the dialogue between object-relations theory and poststructuralist feminist thought; she provides the conditions for a renewal in the dialogue between psychoanalysis and feminism. She does this with all the lucidity and tremendous insight which we associate with her work."—Teresa Brennan, New School for Social Research

"No one reading Jessica Benjamin can fail to admire her shrewd yet fair-minded assessment of contemporary psychoanalytic thinking. Her encounter with 'others' becomes an internalized dialogue that focuses intelligently on many of the most important issues of our time. These essays are worth reading, above all else because Benjamin is one of the most creative psychoanalytical writers of our time, and her impassioned yet tolerant voice is wonderful."—Christopher Bollas

"In these essays Jessica Benjamin brilliantly examines the nature of gender and intersubjectivity. These are topics of enormous complexity to which Benjamin brings an intelligence that is never reductive or dogmatic. She maintains a subtle, multi-leveled sensibility that is truly outstanding."—Arnold Modell, M.D., Harvard Medical School

"Nobody who takes pleasure in ideas can fail to find the writings of Jessica Benjamin a source of delight, surprise, and reflection. In Like Subjects, Love Objects, she continues her exploration of gender and sexuality, love and aggression, and the complex counterpoint between psychoanalysis and feminism begun in Bonds of Love. She turns concepts upside down and inside out, arranging and rearranging them in relation to each other to expand their possibilities and enrich our experience."—Stephen A. Mitchell, Editor, Psychoanalytic Dialogues

"Benjamin extends the field of feminist psychoanalytic theory and provides elegant discussions of gender, identification, erotic development, and intersubjectivity."—Malkah T. Notman, M.D., Harvard Medical School

"An innovative and invaluable contribution to the psychoanalytic theory of gender and development that achieves a depth of insight and subtle complexity rarely found in psychoanalytic writing. . . . Jessica Benjamin is one of the most creative of contemporary contributors to psychoanalytic theory. No review of this length could possibly do justice to the richness of thought in this stimulating volume. . . . This volume is a seminal contribution to psychoanalytic theory that deserves to be not only read, but pondered by all serious students of psychoanalysis. The subtlety and complexity with which she assesses difficult analytic issues is refreshing and, in my view, unparalleled. . . . All analysts owe it to themselves and their patients to read it."—Frank Summers, Psychoanalytic Books: A Quarterly Journal of Reviews

"Both for its battle maps of current theories and for its diplomacy, this is a very valuable book. For its contributions to the rapidly emerging field of psychoanalytic gender theory, it is a challenging one—perhaps even a prolegomena to the future clinical studies that field so urgently needs."—Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, Journal of American Psychoanalytic Association

ISBN: 9780300074307
Publication Date: February 17, 1998
246 pages, 5 x 8