The Quiet Revolution in American Psychoanalysis: Selected Papers of Arnold M. Cooper

By Notman, Malkah T. | International Journal of Psychoanalysis, December 2006 | Go to article overview
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The Quiet Revolution in American Psychoanalysis: Selected Papers of Arnold M. Cooper

Notman, Malkah T., International Journal of Psychoanalysis

The quiet revolution in American psychoanalysis: Selected papers of Arnold M. Cooper Edited by Elizabeth L. Auchincloss New York: Routledge (New Library of Psychoanalysis series). 2005. 277 p. Reviewed by Malkah T. Notman, 54 Clark Rd. Brookline, MA 02445, USA -

Arnold Cooper has been a major contributor and supporter of the substantial changes in psychoanalysis by others in the past 25 years. He has also been instrumental in teaching and in encouraging new ideas. He has in some ways identified with the 'outsider', both in his personal history, and with the Columbia Psychoanalytic Institute as a splinter group originally created with an ideal of reforming psychoanalytic ideas. Although hardly an outsider in the current psychoanalytic scene, this perspective potentially offers him a basis for originality. He has advocated maintaining connections to the wider scientific and academic world, as well as the importance of research. He has been infl uential in integrating psychoanalytic concepts with psychiatry, in research, teaching and writing and has been active in international psychoanalysis.

This book brings together a number of papers in which Cooper proposes and develops his ideas. If there is a single thread, it is the author's openness to new ways of understanding psychoanalysis and taking a creative look at different theoretical concepts, terms and categories. Many of the ideas Cooper expressed have been subsequently studied and elaborated by others, so they have had a wide infl uence. He examines established ideas with a respectful but critical approach, assessing their current appropriateness, and puts all the debates he addresses and concepts he discusses into historical and theoretical context. The papers in this book were primarily published in the 1980s and early 1990s. Several notable ideas and formulations stand out. Cooper is among those currently questioning the validity and usefulness of the concept of 'transference neurosis'. He presents the novel idea that castration anxiety is a façade for deeper and earlier confl icts about passivity, and he develops and elaborates the concept of the narcissistic-masochistic character, arguing for the 'power of the weak' as a masochistic seduction of the powerful.

Cooper emphasizes throughout the importance of pre-oedipal issues as compared to the classical idea of the origin of neurosis in the oedipal phase, and he recognizes that one overarching theory may not be possible or necessary for different clinical realities. He advocates considering research and observations from related fields that have relevance for psychoanalysis. At the time most of these papers were written, there was a sense of excitement and expansion in psychoanalysis. One wonders whether they would have been different if they had been written in the current climate in which psychoanalysis is more embattled, even as new ideas and discoveries continue.

After an opening chapter, the book is divided into four sections: 'The quiet revolution;' 'Challenging the boundaries of psychoanalysis;' 'Vicissitudes of narcissism;' and 'The analyst at work.' Throughout, Cooper describes the changes in psychoanalysis in the last 25 years and calls for their recognition, particularly in the ways in which new ideas have changed the ways in which people actually think, while old terms and concepts remain. This is the 'quiet revolution' which goes on in the form of the changes and integration of new information and ideas.

The first section, begins with, 'Psychoanalytic inquiry and new knowledge' (1984b), in which Cooper discusses the effect of Kohut's introduction of self psychology into psychoanalysis and the excitement which this new thinking generated. He saw this interest and excitement as a refl ection of where psychoanalysis stood at that time. He elaborates the ways the concept of the self as a unifying idea can be understood and what it represents.

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