[is] based on the drives [french] and the other [relational] on notions of meaning and goal’ (p. 296). In her view, relativizing interpretation and transference, the reduction of unconscious processes to brain states (including attachment theory), the primacy of the here now (as can be practiced in the hermeneutic method), and the deconstruction of analytical authority would transform the edifice of French/ Freudian psychoanalysis into a kind of relativistic psychology based upon an ‘ideology of adaption and motivation that gives precedence to external reality and actual
relationships’ (p. 297).
Ironically, instead of opening up dimensions of otherness, relational psychoanalysis fails to understand that an excess of desire, drive (trieb), intrapsychic conflict, Levinas’s ‘il y a’, and the Lacanian ‘Real” is what lies at the enigmatic core of the human condition. Many relational writers seem to ignore the profound otherness at the core of existence: the tragic, the non-rational, non-linear hallucinatory aspects of experience, fantasy, notions of nachträglichkeit or après-coup, and the death drive (viewed by the French as a corner-stone of human conflict).
In one short but pithy paragraph titled ‘The Liquidation of the Drives and the End of Freudian Sexuality’, Waintrater discusses the concepts of Jean Laplanche who to his death passionately opposed the discarding of metapsychology ‘like an old
shoe’ (Laplanche 2001, Waintrater p. 299)! Laplanche extended Lacan’s position of the traumatic ‘real’ more clearly into the intersubjective realm by emphasizing the enigmatic messages that partly originate beyond language and are passed from mother to infant before he/she has the capacity to comprehend them. One consequence of these unmetabalized messages is an asymmetry in the therapeutic relationship (an echo of Levinas). The enigmatic core that defies final explanation and can only be endlessly translated and retranslated throughout life. Therefore, in the Laplanchian view, the idea of finally resolving conflict and anxiety through a mutually shared elucidation and understanding is untenable. The analyst-patient relationship is fundamentally asymmetrical and analogous to the primary dissymmetry the patient experienced in infancy.
In the final, short section, Waintrater returns to the commemorative function of this essay – that of honoring Jessica Benjamin. Her hope is that ‘unprejudiced’ french analysts can receive the recent translation of Like Subjects, Love Objects with curiosity and interest. Benjamin’s refusal to choose between drive theory and relational theory and her scholarly knowledge of Hegel, Lacan and general french psychoanalytical theory might make her work appealing to a french audience that is not so rigidly attached to maintaining a ‘pure’ Freudian edifice. Benjamin’s criticisms of the binary logic of the domination between of the sexes, the harmonious maternal ideal, and including the father in the pre-oedipal period may have an appeal to those who are attracted to new perspectives. On the other hand, she notes that notions of intersubjectivity, mutual recognition, and negotiation are still generally met with distrust.
One cannot help but note the ambivalence regarding the relational analytic stance in Waintrater’s remarks, reflected in one final comment. ‘Of course, America’s extreme eclecticism has given rise to rather esoteric movements that are psychoanalytic only in name (p. 301)’. The author’s perspectives reflect the richness of her philosophical heritage and the orthodoxies of the culture whose voice she is representing as well as the heterodoxy that attracts her to Benjamin’s corpus. I recommend this paper to the reader, most particularly for Waintrater’s compelling defense (on behalf of french psychoanalysts) of metapsychology.
Benjamin, J. (1988). The bonds of love: Psychoanalysis, feminism, and the problem of domination. New York: Pantheon Books.
_____(1995). Like Subjects, Love Objects: Essays on Recognition and Sexual Difference New Haven, CT, and London, UK: Yale University Press.
Laplanche, L. (1999). Essays on Otherness. London, UK: Routledge.
_____(2001). ‘Countre-courant [Against the current]’. Revue Francaise de Psychanalyse. Paris, France: PUF, pp. 299-311.
Mills, J. (2012). Conundrums A critique of Contemporary Psychoanalysis. New York: NY: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.
Mitchell, S. A. (2000). Relationality: From attachment to intersubjectivity. Hillsdale, NJ: Analytic Press.
Stern, D. (1985). The interpersonal world of the infant. New York: Basic Books. Stolorow, R. D. &Atwood, G., Orange, D. M. (2002). Worlds of experience. New York: Basic Books.
Tessier, H. (2005). La psychanalyse Américaine [American Psychoanalysis]. Paris, France: PUF.
Thompson, G. M. (2005). ‘Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity: A Historical Overview of the Concept and its Clinical Implications’. Intersubjectivity and Relational Theory in Psychoanalysis.
Robin McCoy Brooks