- The Quiet Revolution in American Psychoanalysis: Selected Papers of Arnold M. Cooper
In a witty poem titled "Law Like Love" (1945), W. H. Auden satirizes the ubiquitous human tendency to universalize personal experiences into inflexible dogmas. What, Auden asks, is the law? What is its source? He replies: "Law, say the gardeners, is the sun" (l. 1), while for the priest, "Law is the words in my priestly book" (l. 10), and so forth. Even for the speaker and his lover it is impossible to "slip out of our own position / Into an unconcerned condition" (11. 49–50). Only a few thinkers, the poem implies, arrive at the understanding that "law" is an "as if" recommendation, subject to manifold meanings depending on context and purpose, but necessarily uncertain, pluralistic, and functionally creative.
The earliest phase of psychoanalysis was experimental. As coworkers, Freud, Abraham, Ferenczi, and many others plunged excitedly into the complex uncertainties of the psyche and its treatment, engaging in lively exchanges of ideas and exhibiting changing minds. Freud was a healthy exemplar in this creative enterprise. Having once proposed a model of the mind, or sexuality, or anything else, Freud felt no compulsion to mold these into everlasting doctrines, but was more likely to reflect further and then arrive at new hypotheses. This was equally true of the best of the other earlier analysts. But Freud could also be a source of inhibition, for parallel to his love of inquiry ran a wish to expand the psychoanalytic movement, and this meant that some experimenters—Adler, Jung, Rank, and eventually Horney and Sullivan—were excluded for fear that existing institutions would be fragmented by their speculations. Organizational politics and sometimes personal intransigence led to the departures. Still, overwhelmingly, the earliest analysts continued their experiments even as they held together as a cohesive force all through the 1920s and early 1930s.
Then Freud died. With that, the experimental phase of psychoanalysis came to an end. Freud's ideas and the movement [End Page 123] he founded now seemed to need protection and preservation. "Coworkers" were replaced by "followers." If, in the spirit of his poem, Auden had then asked, "What is psychoanalysis?" the answer would likely have been: "Psychoanalysis is Freud. End of story!" The "classical" period had begun. Perhaps anxiety over the death of the founding father compounded by concern for the future led to the effort to consolidate a unified belief system and diminished the adventurous exploration of new ideas. As Robert Knight said in 1953, "Perhaps we are still standing too much in the shadow of that giant, Sigmund Freud, to permit ourselves to view psychoanalysis as a science of mind, rather than as the doctrine of a founder" (211). In the same year, Kurt Eissler summed up the orthodox psychoanalytic outlook in "The Effect of the Structure of the Ego on Psychoanalytic Technique." For Eissler, psychoanalysis had reached its culmination in ego psychology, and interpretation was the supremely privileged technique. The era of classicism was to last from 1940 to 1970.
In the 1950s, Arnold Cooper began psychoanalytic training. Feeling himself to be something of an outsider and possessing an unusual medical background,1 he began treatment with an analyst associated with the new Columbia Institute, led by Rado, Kardiner, and Ovesey, rather than with the New York Psychoanalytic Institute where orthodoxy reigned and whose members considered the Columbia analysts to be, in Cooper's words, "somewhat renegade, tainted by culturalism, and lacking real analytic vigor" (1998, 15).2 Members of the "upstart" institute were accused of being interested more in present functioning than in reconstructing the infantile past. In turn, Rado and his colleagues were dismissive of the metapsychological edifice cherished by the classicists. Cooper venerated analytic tradition and so was painfully anxious about possible and actual rejection: "I vacillated between feeling that I was not a real analyst because I could not comfortably adapt to mainstream ego psychology, and rather angrily feeling that...