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The Memory Wars: Freud's Legacy in Dispute Hardcover – November, 1995

3.9 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This volume collects Frederick Crews's two controversial essays on Freud from the New York Review of Books, "The Unknown Freud" and "The Revenge of the Repressed," as well as some of the critical letters provoked by their original publication in 1993 and 1994. In these essays, Crews elaborates upon his belief that "the relatively patent and vulgar pseudoscience of recovered memory rests in appreciable measure on the respectable and entrenched pseudoscience of psychoanalysis." Recovered memory therapy, according to his thesis, is a grossly negative practice that, in turn, has its origins in Freudian assumptions about psychoanalysis--assumptions that Crews charges were based on fraudulent data and intellectual bullying. As the reader responses indicate, these ideas were like a grenade tossed into the center of psychoanalytic culture, made all the more powerful by Crews's lively prose. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Crews mounts a slashing critique of Sigmund Freud's mistaken diagnoses, sexist hectoring of patients, exaggeration of results, equivocation and attempts to cover up therapeutic disasters. According to this distinguished critic and professor emeritus (UC Berkeley), Freud ascribed to some patients repressed oedipal sexual desires after he had unsuccessfully goaded them to remember childhood incest or molestation. Furthermore, Crews maintains, Freud in 1905 retroactively changed the alleged seducers of infants to fathers, whereas in his reports of the previous decade, they were said to have been siblings, strangers, teachers, governesses. Freud's brainchild, psychoanalysis, was and remains a pseudoscience, in Crews's estimate. Its offspring, he asserts, is today's recovered-memory movement, which he believes is deluding countless patients, mostly women, into leveling false charges of sexual abuse based on supposedly recovered memories that, in Crews's opinion, are often manufactured through overzealous or incompetent therapists' suggestions. This volume contains three articles that Crews published in the New York Review of Books in 1993 and 1994, together with his fiercely contentious exchanges with 19 letter-writers, mostly psychoanalysts, who challenged his views.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 300 pages
  • Publisher: New York Review of Books; First Edition edition (November 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0940322048
  • ISBN-13: 978-0940322042
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 4.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,709,439 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
For those of you who have swallowed the Freud legend hook, line, and sinker, this book may help get you off the hook.
Seriously, though, this book is not one to miss, regardless of your theoretical beliefs.
For you Freudians, it dispuptes the naive hagiographies of Peter Gay and Jones, and prepares you to engage in the current battles that rage about Freud and his ideas. You might not like what it says, but it will challenge you and force you to more critically evaluate your beliefs. Like it or not, many of your colleagues and students are now challenging Freudianism, and the challenge is stiff, indeed. A Freudian needs to be prepared!
For those of you already skeptical of Freud's claims and disconcerted at the negative sequelae of his theories, this provides a wonderfully cogent dissection. It is easier to read than some of the other titles in this area (such as Malcom MacMillon's "Freud Evaluated, the Completed Arc"), yet covers the ground well.
Given the unexamined Freud worship found in most textbooks and class materials, it is a wonderful addition to a class textbook (and I use it as such). I highly recommend this book to all.
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Format: Paperback
Frederick Crews really knows how to tap that deep reservoir of hostility found in modern Freudian psychoanalysts. In 1993 and 1994 FC wrote two essays in the New York Review of Books debunking Freud in the first, and tearing to shreds the recovered memory movement in the second.
These two essays and the letters in response to them have been put into the book The Memory Wars. As someone trained in experimental psychology you can guess my own personal bias in this matter. Crews discusses Freud's botched cases; his frequent vacillation in theory formation; some of his sillier theories; and his serious interjection of personal bias into the formation of his beliefs. The main problem with the whole Freudian system is the total lack of scientific evidence supporting it. Freudian psychoanalysis is founded on anecdote and supported by anecdotes. To be fair, much current non-Freudian therapy is also based on anecdote. Indignant Freud followers write back, and their letters are indeed interesting (and often pompous).
The second half of the book takes on the recovered memory movement. It would be great to poke fun at this movement if it weren't for the fact that it has caused so much damage to all parties involved. Symptoms checklists are published with the statement if you suffer from these symptoms you may be a victim of sexual abuse. Read the list and you will find that the majority of Americans will find that they have been abused. It's all a patient seduction game with the intent to make big money. Hospitals have even set up units to treat such patients (Having worked in the psychiatric hospital industry I am well aware of the "product lines" that such facilities set up in order to fill beds).
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Format: Paperback
This devastating book has two parts: (1) The Unknown Freud, where the reader gets a picture of Freud as a dictator, a megalomaniac and egotripper. A pope who alone knew the truth and who founded a secret commission to protect his 'church' against the heathen. He was a bad psychoanalyst (e.g. the Wolf Man case) and a venal man (e.g. the catastrophic Horace Fink case, where he tried to get his own hands on some money of the heiress).
I agree with the author that psychoanalysis is a pseudoscience - statements cannot be tested and the research results cannot be verified uniformly. Although it is not totally without meaning (Karl Popper), it is not a science.
(2) the revenge of the repressed
A frontal attack on the caste of the psychoanalysts, depicted as 'religious zealots, self-help evangelists, sociopolitical ideologues, and outright charlatans who trade in the ever seductive currency of guilt and blame, while keeping the doctor's fees mounting.'
The author is particularly severe with their latest 'school' : the 'recovered memory movement', based on the rape of children by their parents (really!). This lead to false accusations and condemnations of innocent people. No wonder the author predicts an accelerating collapse of psychoanalysis as a respected institution.
A much needed and courageous book to halt a profession riding at full speed on a misty highway. And a much needed angle on Freud as a person, written in a style to slaughter the not so innocent father of psychoanalysis.
After reading this book, I agree with Peter Medawar, who called doctrinaire psychoanalytic theory "the most stupendous intellectual confidence trick of the twentieth century".
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Format: Paperback
I have always been a fan of the intellectual debates in the New York Review of Books letters to the editor pages. This book consists of two articles by Crews and the subsequent debates surrounding them. I would have liked to see better defenses of Freud, but none of the eminent defenders of psychoanalysis is able to mount a serious challenge to Crews's devastating attacks.
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Format: Hardcover
Frederick Campbell Crews (born 1933) is Professor Emeritus of English at UC Berkeley; he has also written/edited books such as Unauthorized Freud: Doubters Confront a Legend, Follies of the Wise: Dissenting Essays, etc. This book includes Crews' original essays, along with critical replies from 18 others, ane Crews' own responses to the criticisms.

He wrote in the Introduction to this 1995 book, "No book was ever less premeditated than this one. Its germ, back in December of 1992, lay in my proposal to The New York Review of Books... My intention... was simply to convey a sense of how radically our idea of Freud and psychoanalysis has been changing under the pressure exerted by surprising biological revelations on the one hand and rigorous methodological critiques on the other... But only after several heated rounds of published correspondence... did the editors of The New York Review suggest that the whole protracted debate might constitute the makings of a book." (Pg. 3-4)

Crews notes, "It was Freud himself who taught both his followers and his adversaries to take the seduction narratives seriously as productions of his patients' minds. Beginning in 1914, some twenty years after his work on the pivotal cases, he repeatedly asserted that 'almost all my women patients told me that they had been seduced by their father' and that he had innocently believed those narratives until their cumulative unlikelihood became too apparent... But...
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