In Psychoanalysis and the family, Richard Bates reveals the striking range and extent of the influence of Françoise Dolto (1908–88) – child psychoanalyst and France’s leading authority on parenting and family dynamics from the 1970s onwards. Against the backdrop of rapid economic, social and cultural change, Dolto emerged as a new, reassuring, national presence. Seen as a national treasure, her views proved influential on a wide range of issues linked to psychology, parenting, education, gender, sexuality, bioethics and children’s culture and rights. Dolto claimed the mantle of a progressive, innovative expert who swept away outdated concepts – but Bates demonstrates that her ideas in fact had deep roots in right-wing, anti-feminist currents. Dolto used her media platforms and the cultural authority of psychoanalysis to ensure that her psychoanalytic vision affected the whole French nation and was implanted in a variety of institutional settings. Bates shows how her vision had lasting repercussions, in areas ranging from the treatment of autism to the organisation of children’s centres. In demonstrating Dolto’s importance, this highly original, thoroughly researched book makes an essential contribution to historical understanding of twentieth-century French society. It forces a reassessment of the place of psychoanalysis in French social history, showing that its true significance lay well beyond the academic seminar or the consulting room.
‘PsychoanalysisinFrance: Preliminary Note on the Historical Survey of the French
Psychoanalytic Movement’, Psychoanalytic Review , 17 (1930),
See Annick Ohayon, ‘Édouard Pichon, psychanalyste
français’, in Michel Arrivé, Valelia Muni Toke and Claudine Normand
(eds), De la grammaire à l’inconscient: Dans les traces de Damourette et
Pichon : actes du colloque de Cerisy-la-Salle du 1er au 11 août 2009
(Limoges: Lambert-Lucas, 2009), pp. 141–8.
through family life, among the social
upheavals of the second half of the twentieth century, have had lasting ramifications.
The first half of the book examines the origins of
Dolto’s ideas and her early articulations of them. Chapter 1
explores the history of psychoanalysisinFrance before 1939, situating it with respect to
the politics of science and medicine in the later Third Republic, and the politics of the
family in relation to interwar natalism. It shows that while the early French
published the first of two sharply critical
books, castigating Dolto’s theories as ‘outdated and very often inappropriate,
even toxic’. 9 Pleux’s
attacks formed part of a broader cultural battle in the 2000s over the scientific validity,
and political implications, of psychoanalysisinFrance. This anti-Freudian wave notably
produced the 2005 Livre noir de la psychanalyse ( Black Book of Psychoanalysis ),
a collection of texts mainly by cognitive-behavioural therapists, taking aim at the
epistemological foundations of
Subjective realism, social disintegration and bodily affection in Lucrecia Martel’s La ciénaga (2001)
Julián Daniel Gutiérrez- Albilla
inFrance, 1925– 1985 , trans. J. Mehlman ( London : Free Association , 1990 ).
J. ‘Irony, nihilism, and the new American “smart”
film’ , Screen , 43 ( 4 ) ( 2002 ), 349–69 .
P. J. ‘La ciénaga’ , Sight
& Sound , 11 ( 2001 ), 45 .
D. Disappearing Acts: Spectacles of Gender and Nationalism in
records that the seminar in which Lacan spoke about the jouissance of the Other,
‘the jouissance of the (under erasure) woman’ as an experience of unknowing,
was turned into ‘an act of homage to the Bataille of Madame Edward, to the
absolute figure of the hatred and love of God’ (Roudinesco, 1990: 524). Madame
Edwarda is a short story of the narrator’s visit to a Parisian brothel and his
revelatory encounter with a prostitute:
She was seated, she held one long leg stuck up in the air, to open her crack yet
wider she used her
psychoanalysts on hand to ‘drink in the anxiety of mothers’. This aspect is
unique to France, and Dolto and her ideas are at its heart.
Dolto as ‘star’
With the twenty-first century waning of the cultural
influence of psychoanalysisinFrance, the ‘structures Dolto’ may stand as the
apogee of its transformation into a form of common sense, and its implantation into the
everyday lives of many thousands of families. Dolto was able to achieve such large-scale
social impacts by aligning psychoanalytic objectives with broader