Review: “Unauthorized Freud” by Frederick C. Crews

On the cover of “Unauthorized Freud,” a blurry image of Sigmund Freud has been obscured by shadows, turning the renowned psychologist into an eerie enigma. There couldn’t be a more fitting cover for this collection of essays, which make up a manifesto that meticulously dissects and disproves much of Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis. “Unauthorized Freud” is compiled and edited by Frederick C. Crews (one of the most prominent writers in the anti-Freud movement) but rather than looking at Freud’s ideas and ethical decisions from Crews’ perspective, twenty psychologists and writers contribute to this book. Through historical facts, scientific evidence, and thoughtful speculation, they build a strong case against Freud and his work.

So how do these writers go about discrediting someone who is often described as one of the greatest modern minds? Most of the contributors to “Unauthorized Freud” choose a specific issue or flaw in Freud’s work that they feel strongly about, making the book something of an index of problems – for example, one chapter explains the scientific impossibility of Freudian slips, while another dissects the misogyny at the root of Freud’s work. Reading one chapter allows a reader to understand the fundamental problems with one part of Freud’s theories; reading the entire book allows a reader to understand why Freud is problematic as a scientist. The chapters are tied together cleanly through their common themes: Freud’s manipulation of data, abuse of patients, and misinterpretation of scientific principles.

Though there is much to be learned from “Unauthorized Freud,” readers might have a hard time working their way through it. Despite its attention-grabbing title and fascinating core subject, the long-winded verbosity of many of the contributors makes this essay-collection feel much longer than its 280 pages. “Unauthorized Freud” straddles the line between being written for mainstream readers and being written for scientists. Because of this, those who are unfamiliar with Freud or with psychology as a whole may find themselves getting lost in the midst of a complicated discussion on the Oedipus Complex or the subconscious mind. However, if you have the patience to look up terminology and plow through tedious passages, you are sure to come out knowing the fascinating truth about the dark side of psychology’s most famous scientist.

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