Introduction
Doltomania
in Psychoanalysis and the family in twentieth-century France
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This introductory chapter establishes the extent of Dolto’s fame and status in France, and the ‘mania’ of parents to apply her ideas in the last decades of the twentieth century. It describes Dolto’s core ideas and the historical backdrop, especially in the mid-1970s, that contributed to her phenomenal cultural success.

The chapter also gives some background to the French psychoanalytic movement and its place in French society by the 1970s. It sets out the contrast between Jacques Lacan, widely seen as the towering figure of that movement, and Dolto – a child analyst who is less well known outside France, but arguably more popular within it. Dolto and Lacan were friends and allies, but they spoke to very different audiences in different ways. Where Lacan’s was elite and intellectual, Dolto spoke to a mainly female audience of parents/grandparents and people who worked with children.

Dolto is presented as a thoroughly political figure, especially in the area of family and gender politics. Her advice to patients is shown to have been based on a nostalgic, conservative social vision. Her understanding of childhood determinism, one of her central ideas, led logically to blaming mothers for their children’s psychological problems and encouraging them not to work outside of the home.

The chapter also situates the book with respect to the relevant historiography, especially key works by Dagmar Herzog, Michal Shapira and Camille Robcis. The final part gives a brief description of the book’s structure and outlines the contents of the remaining chapters.

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