SONU SHAMDASANI & MICHAEL MUNCHOW, EDS.: Speculations after Freud: Psychoanalysis, Philosophy and Culture. Routledge, London and New York, 1994, 227 pp., $16.95.
Speculations after Feud: Psychoanalysis, philosophy and culture is a collection of papers by psychoanalysts, philosophers, and cultural studies scholars who have a common interest in "Freud" as seen through the lenses of what is variously called continental philosophy, postmodernism, poststructuralism, literary theory, critical theory, and sometimes just plain old "theory." This "theory" approach is currently the source of some of the most creative and original thinking throughout academia, particularly in disciplines to which the French refer collectively as the sciences humaines (sociology, anthropology, linguistics, psychology, literary theory, philosophy, history). As a result, "theory" is getting much attention on campus and many American universities are rapidly putting together interdisciplinary programs, often referred to as cultural studies programs, to serve as a home for this kind of scholarship. Unfortunately, "theory" is not readily accessible to first timers, and, as Shamdasani explains in his introduction to Speculations, "A
reader approaching this collection...is likely to experience an alienation effect." (my italics) The result: many clinicians' first response to this volume will be some form of rejection and repudiation.
So why should clinicians bother? Don't we have enough to worry about? What about insurance cutbacks? To answer these questions, I must first deal with two others. What is "theory," and why is it creating such a stir across campuses? "Theory" is a collection of ideas associated with the diverse writings of Saussure, Manr, Freud, Nietzsche, Hegel, Gadamer, Derrida, Foucault, Barthes, Lacan, Habermas, Kuhn, Fish, Rorty, Geertz (just to name a few). They roughly have in common a questioning and rethinking of the western enlightenment tradition, with an increased awareness of the role of language, culture, and power in shaping human knowledge and subjectivity. The stir around "theory" is created by the sense of liberation, rejuvenation, and excitement that is generated by the new ideas. In addition, the stir around "theory" is created by the oppositional reactions from defenders of the tradition. Unfortunately, the rhetoric becomes quite polemic at times, with defenders of the tradition calling the new ideas "relativistic" or, even worse, "nihilistic," and defenders of "theory" calling the tradition nothing more than an ill-disguised "will to power. …