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Hatchet Jobs I Can Use


As a longtime skeptic, this book arguing that Freud was a bad doctor because he was a bad scientist and vice versa looks interesting:

While Freud’s inadequacy in helping the people who paid him to help them frequently gets treated as an unfortunate footnote to an otherwise brilliant career, Crews aims to carry the observation further. Freud was a bad doctor, he argues, because he was a bad scientist and furthermore a weak and unethical man. Crews’ Freud is first and foremost dishonest, misrepresenting his past, his data (when he bothered to collect it), his results, his patient’s life stories, the contributions to his theories by friends and colleagues. Animated by “a temperament and self-conception” that “demanded that he achieve fame at any cost,” Freud concocted theories about the human psyche based on his own idiosyncratic past and personality and attempted to force his patients to corroborate them. He pressed them to confirm the often preposterous suppressed “memories” he claimed to have deduced from their symptoms and, when they stood firm, interpreted their very resistance as confirmation. (Many of his early, and therefore least awestruck, clients laughed outright in his face, or even parodied his more bizarre scenarios.) He hero-worshipped a series of male mentors and collaborators, ignoring their shortcomings to the detriment of their patients (who were sometimes his own), then turned on them later, often viciously. He was an autocrat who bullied his wife, compelling her to choose between him and her family, then cheated on her with her own sister. He set up psychoanalysis as a self-enclosed, self-verifying cult of personality, playing his followers off against each other to safe-guard his own supremacy. All these claims Crews backs up in exhaustive detail: If Freud had so much as stiffed a waiter and left a record of it, you’d find it in Freud.

As a connoisseur of the form I also enjoyed Miller’s thoughts on hatchet jobs in general.

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