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January 23, 1987

Freud's Discovery of Psychoanalysis: The Politics of Hysteria

Author Affiliations

The University of Chicago

The University of Chicago

JAMA. 1987;257(4):551-552. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03390040167043

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The merit of William McGrath's book on Sigmund Freud's discovery of psychoanalysis lies in the grounding of the discovery in the real world of political fact. This is not to disclaim McGrath's acute awareness of psychological factors in Freud's early life that were also instrumental. In fact, the book is an excellent integration of the politically real and the psychologically meaningful— both were crucial in molding the direction of Freud's thought.

The political life of fin de siècle Vienna is seen as background and also as representation for the projection of Freud's fantasies. Freud's early identification with the biblical Joseph and Moses was a means for the projection and organization of psychological conflict with his father and brothers. An early disappointment in his father's passivity when confronted by an anti-Semitic attack led to an identification with the Carthaginian Hannibal, who strove against the Romans.

In his adolescence, Freud was a