Richard Bates
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Humanism, holism and guilt
Dolto, psychoanalysis and Catholicism from Occupation to Liberation
in Psychoanalysis and the family in twentieth-century France
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This chapter explores Dolto’s early career, which began in the context of World War II, and her ideological development in the postwar years up to 1953.

The first section situates Dolto with respect to the tendency towards holistic thinking among influential 1930s intellectuals, technocrats and policy makers. Believing in the potential of holistic medicine and humanist Catholicism to help bring about a national recovery, Dolto initially perceived revitalising possibilities in Pétainism. The chapter describes her work for the Fondation Carrel and her writings for the Vichyite magazine Vrai. However, it also shows that her ideas were not inseparably wedded to right-wing politics, and that in the Liberation period she worked with politicians and publications of the Left.

The chapter further examines Dolto’s Christianity in the context of broader developments in French Catholicism and psychoanalysis after 1945. It analyses her writings for Psyché and Études carmélitaines, journals that explored overlaps and syntheses between Catholicism and psychoanalysis, especially the themes of sexuality and guilt. It shows that these journals were run by people with histories of wartime collaboration, and that the 1953 split in French psychoanalysis had political, religious and racial undertones linked to the war years. Dolto was a central figure in the split, clashing in particular with Sacha Nacht, a Jewish analyst and former resister, revealing antisemitic prejudices in the process. The split resulted in Dolto being excluded from the International Psychoanalytic Association, and becoming closely allied with her fellow international outcast, Jacques Lacan.

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