Killing Freud

Todd Dufresne

Killing Freud: 20th-century culture and the death of psychoanalysis

Hardcover: 240 pages, Continuum Pub. Group, December 2003, ISBN: 0826468934

Synopsis by Justin Wintle

Taking the reader on a journey through the 20th century, this book traces the
work and influence of one of its greatest icons, Sigmund Freud. The critique ranges across the strange case of Anna O, the hysteria of Josef Breuer, the love of dogs, the Freud industry, the role of gossip and fiction, bad manners, pop psychology and French philosophy, figure skating on thin ice, and contemporary therapy culture. A map to the Freudian minefield and a masterful negotiation of high theory and low culture, „Killing Freud“ is a revaluation of psychoanalysis and its real place in 20th-century history. It should appeal to anyone curious about the life of the mind after the death of Freud.


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.

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