THE TUESDAY BOOK: Disastrous Victory of a 20th-Century Shaman ; Killing Freud: 20th-Century Culture and the Death of Psychoanalysis Todd Dufresne Continuum, Pounds 16.99

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HAD FREUD and his celebrated "talking cure" never happened, would BT still have come up with "It's Good to Talk"? Would the slogan have such ambiguous ring-tones? Post-Freud, the proposition is scarcely one that entices all subscribers. Good to chat, maybe; good to discuss and debate. But by its one-sided definition of "talk", psychoanalysis unsettles.

Encouraging the patient to let it all hang out should be empowering for the "analysand". In fact, the reverse is true. Nobody except a megalomaniac can "talk" (in a monologue) indefinitely without rendering themselves vulnerable to the suggestive interventions of that dictatorial wizard: the analyst. What may begin as a minor character trait is inflated into an obsession, then a phobic neurosis. There is little chance that an analysis will last less than several months, years or, in the most lucrative cases, decades.

As Todd Dufresne reminds us, Karl Kraus famously quipped that "psychoanalysis is the disease of which it purports to be the cure". For its practitioners, the embarrassing truth is that its therapeutic record is at best unproven, at worst contra-indicative. The scam scarcely ends there. Freud's untestable "discoveries" were not just a means of persuading unfortunates to part with their money, but a grand theory capable of uncovering the tap-roots of experience. And, in the wake of his admittedly enthralling Interpretation of Dreams, one discipline after another fell under his shamanist sway.

Dufresne suggests that the upshot of Freud's moribund triumph has been, intellectually, little short of catastrophic. Psychoanalysis subverts the essence of western rationality, substituting a bastard discourse for the fact-honouring conventions of dialogue that, intermittently, have served civilisation well since Socrates. …