REVIEW: Canadian Journal of Psychoanalysis/Revue Canadienne de Psychanalyse 6, 1 (Spring 1998), 176-7.

Schafer, R. (Ed.) (1997).  The Contemporary Kleinians of London.  Madison, CT: International Universities Press.  ISBN 0-8236-1055-1.  441 pages.  Hardcover. No price indicated.

All but two of the papers collected here have been published previously, many in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis, in the two volumes edited by Spillius (1988), and in collections by individuals such as Joseph (1989) and Steiner (1993).  Despite such redundancy, the present volume is justifiable as an attempt on the part of a leading American ego psychologist to break down long- standing prejudices against Kleinian thought on the part of his North American colleagues--prejudices that have until recently prevented their serious engagement with what Schafer believes to be some of the most creative theoretical and technical work in psychoanalysis today.

Aside from the intrinsic value of the papers themselves (by Edna O'Shaugnessy, Ruth Riesenberg-Malcolm, Hanna Segal, Betty Joseph, Michael Feldman, Elizabeth Bott Spillius, Eric Brenman, John Steiner, Robin Anderson, Ronald Britton, Ignes Sodre and Irma Brenman Pick), the Introduction, although also previously published (Schafer, 1994), offers a masterful summary of the essential themes and emphases of the work of the London Kleinians (whom Schafer refers to as the Kleinian Freudians to distinguish them from other, perhaps especially Latin American Kleinian groups), as well as a systematic comparison of their work with that of mainstream American ego psychology.  In addition, Schafer provides a brief Editor's Introduction to each paper outlining its essential significance and relating it thematically to other contributions.

In his Preface, Schafer indicates his wish to counter "a growing tendency, in the United States at least, to include the work of the Kleinian group under the broad rubric 'object relations analysis'"--a label used to subsume various Winnicottian, Sullivanian and even Kohutian contributions.  But against such revisionism, the contemporary Kleinians "emphasize that they are loyal Freudians.  They consistently focus on manifestations of transference and countertransference in conscious and unconscious phantasy.  They rely on interpretation and scrupulously attempt to avoid other types of intervention--perhaps even more so than many more tradition-bound Freudian ego psychologists."  And, Schafer points out, contrary to stereotype, "these analysts remain keenly attentive to 'real' circumstances and events in their patients' past, present, and future lives, including the treatment relationship itself; however, they systematically explore and emphasize the unconscious meanings of these 'real' details" (p. xii).

In his Introduction, under the heading of "Critical Remarks," Schafer points out that "These Kleinians remain objectivist or realist in their phenomenology.  They consistently present their material as though they are in the position of purely independent observers--even of their own countertransferences" (p. 19).  For example, the collection opens with "What Is A Clinical Fact?" by Edna O'Shaughnessy, in which she throws down the philosophical gauntlet quite clearly: "Clinical facts, materially transient, are unexpectedly durable ... yet important current critiques dispute their nature and even their existence....  At the outset allow me to state that there are scientific clinical facts" (p. 30).

Whereas Schafer may complain about the fact that the London Kleinians "maintain a steadily factual or realist tone throughout their writings" and that "they 'discover' rather than 'coauthor'" (p. 19), others (yours truly certainly included) will regard their adherence to such old-fashioned philosophical realism in the face of trendy pressures toward a postmodernist, radical constructivism as one of their greatest strengths.  Perhaps when contemporary epistemological fads and foibles have run their course, the good sense of the realist London Kleinians will have been vindicated.

In a final Epilogue, Schafer gives an account of the evolution of his personal attitude toward Kleinianism, from early prejudices and stereotypes acquired from his teachers, to greater interest at the time of his work on internalization, to recognition, during the time of his development of "action language," that "the Kleinian writing on unconscious phantasy about part and whole object relations was couched in the terms of action: self and others doing things to one another and themselves" (p. 428), to an understanding that unconscious phantasy for Kleinians operates in a way that is rather compatible with his more recent emphasis upon narrational concepts.

Perhaps it was Schafer's direct exposure to this creative group during his tenure as first Freud Memorial Professor at University College, London, that hastened his final conversion--a term he regards as inappropriate.  "'Conversion' is not at all called for," he writes, "because the Kleinians are right when they emphasize that they, too, are Freudian analysts, only that they have also been developing a number of other major potentials of Freud's basic contributions, appreciation of which they trace particularly to Melanie Klein's insights, and that in some respects they give these insights pride of place" (p. 429).


Joseph, B. (1989).  Psychic Equilibrium and Psychic Change.  London:

Spillius, E.B. (Ed.) (1988).  Melanie Klein Today: Developments in Theory and
    Practice, vols. 1 & 2.  London: Routledge.

Schafer, R. (1994).  The contemporary Kleinians of London. Psychoanalytic
    Quarterly 63: 409- 432.

Steiner, J. (1993).  Psychic Retreats.  London: Routledge.

D. Carveth

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