Richard Bates
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Dolto in the twenty-first century
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This concluding chapter tackles the question of Dolto’s twenty-first-century reputation and what France is to do with her legacy.

Considering various references to Dolto in intellectual and popular culture, it shows that after 2000, she was no longer seen as a unifying national expert, but rather as someone linked to a particular ideological outlook, whose ideas were a suitable subject for mockery. Efforts to continue her agenda by her daughter or the politician Edwige Antier, or by opponents of equal marriage legislation, demonstrate that Dolto’s thinking became a polarising rather than a unifying force.

The chapter also shows how, towards the end of her life in the 1980s, Dolto was disconcerted by an increased focus on the psychology of race and empire in France’s former colonies, and unable to adapt her ideas to this development.

As Dolto’s life recedes into history, it becomes easier to see her ideas as products of a particular set of historical circumstances, rather than – as she and her followers believed – timeless truths about the human condition. While there are good reasons for wishing to retain some of Dolto’s contribution, it is doubtful that the ongoing desire to celebrate the positive aspects of her interventions can withstand the increasing criticism of the problematic and outdated aspects of her ideas.

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