An Essay On The Principle Of Population Criticism Of Freud

To the Editors:

In the New York Review issue of November 18, F. Crews (“The Unknown Freud”) makes a reference (p. 61) to an article of mine. In this article I showed that Freud’s later accounts of his “seduction theory” (“all my female patients told me they had been seduced by their father”) does not fit with the way he presented his theory and data originally in 1896.

An examination of Freud’s texts of 1896 suggests that the early sexual trauma was not based directly on the patients’ recovered memories but was reconstructed by Freud, by interpreting a variety of data in the light of his theoretical assumptions. This is not a startling or damming conclusion, since a few years later Freud readily admitted that many of the crucial experiences of childhood were never directly remembered but only inferred and reconstructed by the analyst, through the interpretation of dreams, fantasies, transference, etc.

I believe my findings have been taken out of context and misused by Crews and Esterson. To conclude from my arguments that Freud made up all the sexual material he got from his patients, and that his theories were dominated by “dishonesty and cowardice,” is arbitrary, farfetched, and remote from my intent. I want hereby to dissociate myself completely from such indiscriminate and ill informed Freud bashing.

J. Schimek

Associate Professor

Department of Psychology

New York University

New York City

To the Editors:

In “The Unknown Freud” Frederick Crews puts forward a new interpretation of Freud’s “seduction theory” of neurosis, and the events surrounding it, based on a number of recent studies by Cioffi, Schimek, Schatzman, Israels, and others (see his footnote 18). Thus Crews writes

even when [Freud] felt secure enough to admit his seduction mistake, he continued to adulterate the facts. In 1896 the alleged seducers of infants were said to have been governesses, teachers, servants, strangers, and siblings, but in later descriptions Freud retroactively changed most of them to fathers so that a properly oedipal spin could be placed on the recycled material. At every stage earlier acts of equivocation and fakery were compounded by fresh ones.

To assess this claim it is necessary to compare it with the historical data, which include both Freud’s published work and his private correspondence from the time with this friend Wilhelm Fliess, to which Crews refers in his footnote 2. As Crews says, in 1896 Freud put forward the view that neurosis was caused by childhood seduction (or abuse), and that the seducers included governesses, teachers, and so forth. Also, as Crews stresses, these papers show Freud employing a technique which might well be supposed to have contaminated his observations by suggestion.

During 1897, however, as his letters to Fliess make clear, Freud framed a different theory, according to which the principal abuser in the case of women was the father; and he also tried to take account of the role of suggestion, in relation to the data upon which this theory was based. Thus on January 3, 1897, Freud exclaims “Habemus papam!” in reference to what he takes to be a clear case of paternal abuse; and on February 11 he records his belief that his own father’s perversion is responsible for hysterical symptoms in his brother and several younger sisters remarking that “the frequency of this circumstance often makes me wonder.” On April 28 he speaks explicitly of “a fresh confirmation of paternal etiology,” describing a dialogue with a young woman whose “supposedly otherwise noble and respectable father regularly took her to bed when she was from eight to twelve years old and misused her without penetrating (‘made her wet,’ nocturnal visits),” to which he appends “QED.”

As this indicates, the data upon Freud’s theories were based included his patients’ recollections of “sexual scenes” or “seduction stories”; and it seems clear that the 1897 paternal seduction theory had the same basis, for Freud wrote on December 17, 1897 that his “confidence in paternal etiology” had risen greatly, because

[Emma] Eckstein deliberately treated her patient in such a way as not to give her the slightest hint of what would emerge from the unconscious and in the process obtained from her, among other things, the identical scenes with the father.

Here Freud was apparently using one of Mill’s methods of causal enquiry, in order to see whether his data—evidently recollected scenes, involving the father—might be due to some influence of his own. Since the same scenes arose also in the case of a different therapist, of a different sex, who gave not “the slightest hint” as to what would be forthcoming, Freud evidently concluded that they were a relatively robust phenomenon, and not to be accounted for by suggestion on his part.

Although Freud clearly held this theory in 1897, he abandoned it without publishing it. He cited some related therapeutic and scientific reasons for this in his letter to Fliess of September 21, 1897. These included

The continual disappointment in my efforts to bring a single analysis to a real conclusion; the running away of people who for a period had been most gripped [by analysis]; the absence of the complete success on which I had counted; the possibility of explaining to myself the partial successes in other ways, in the usual fashion…Then the surprise that in all cases, the father, not excluding my own, had to be accused of being perverse—the realisation of the unexpected frequency of hysteria, with precisely the same conditions prevailing in each, whereas surely such widespread perversions against children are not very probable…Then, third, the certain insight that there are no indications of reality in the unconscious, so that one cannot distinguish between truth and fiction that has been cathected with affect. (Accordingly, there would remain the solution that the sexual phantasy invariably seizes upon the theme of the parents.)

As is well known, Freud was to adopt the alternative hypothesis indicated in the last quoted sentence. The next letters contain the first specific formulations of the theory of the Oedipus Complex, applied in his own case, as well as that of his patients.

This material makes quite clear that Crews’ claim in the paragraph quoted above is false. Freud’s writing in 1897 of “paternal etiology,” “perversion against children,” the fact that “in every case” the father had to be accused, etc., make clear that during 1897 he held a theory of paternal abuse. His continual references to scenes or stories of seduction, and in particular that to Eckstein above, show that the theory was in part based on scenes or stories produced by his patients, which scenes were liable to arise without suggestion. Since Freud’s descriptions in 1897 were written in private correspondence which Freud himself did not see again, there can be no question of their having been “retroactively changed” in any manner for any purpose. In particular there can be no question of retroactive “oedipal spin,” since Freud’s letter formulating some of the main ideas of the Oedipus Complex simply follows that about abandoning the paternal abuse theory quoted above. And since Freud’s later accounts of the seduction episode are in close correspondence with the material in his letters from the time, there is no reason to suppose that they involve fakery, etc. either.

It seems from what he writes that Crews has made two related mistakes (1) he has conflated Freud’s unpublished paternal seduction theory of 1897 with the earlier and less specific theory published in 1896, and (2) he has supposed that Freud’s later accounts of the seduction episode are meant to be accounts of the material in his 1896 publications, rather than accounts of the work which he did in 1897, and did not publish, but wrote about to Fliess. It is easy to see why the two theories might be confused, since the later developed out of the earlier in 1896-1897. Still the differences are fairly clearly indicated, for example in Freud’s remarks about confirmation. Thus in the “Habemus Papam” letter of January 3 Freud also records how a past male patient “travelled to his hometown in order to ascertain the reality of the things he remembered, and that he received full confirmation from his seducer, who is alive (his nurse, now an old woman). He is said to be doing very well.” This is confirmation and follow-up relating to the earlier theory. By contrast, when Freud speaks in April of “a fresh confirmation of paternal “etiology” that is, a further (fresh) confirmation of a theory which he has already previously taken as confirmed—he is concerned with the later theory. Although Freud had been given accounts of paternal seduction from as early as the case of “Catherine” in Studies in Hysteria (1895), he seems to have concentrated on “scenes involving the father,” and to have tried to control for effects of suggestion on these, only in 1897; and these are points relevant to Crews’ charges.

Now of course if you mistake which theory a man is talking about, then even if what he says is true you are liable to think that he is speaking falsely or even incoherently. Since Crews is apparently taking Freud’s later descriptions of his unpublished theory of paternal seduction as descriptions of something quite different, published work containing a distinct theory, he naturally thinks that what Freud says is false or worse. In this Crews is not alone. The same mistake, apparently stemming from the work of Frank Cioffi, is clearly also to be found in the article by Israels and Schatzman which Crews cites (and, if Crews’ account is correct, also in the work of Esterson under review). In each case, it seems, the authors take Freud’s descriptions of his unpublished work and theory of 1897 as intended accounts of the material in his papers of 1896, and so assume that Freud was somehow deeply engaged in the incoherent project of misrepresenting published work about hypothesized seduction by governesses (or nursemaids) and others as a theory about the role of fathers. Hence, of course, they find Freud’s work on this topic highly suspicious, and full of the most astonishing confusions and contradictions. But as Crews’ paragraph illustrates, it remains to be seen how many of these alleged confusions, contradictions, etc., are Freud’s, and how many are due to misinterpretation on the part of these scholars themselves.

In this connection it is worth noting in particular that the letters to Fliess tend to show that, so far from involving fakery, Freud’s practice over this period was in accord with the very methodological canons which Crews cites via the reference to Grünbaum in his first footnote. Thus we saw above that the letters show Freud using Mill’s methods to test the hypothesis of suggestion, they also show Freud finding improvement in his patients with the confirmation of his theories in a way reminiscent of what Grünbaum calls Freud’s “tally argument.”

This can be seen clearly in the case of the patient T, whose symptoms Freud used to illustrate his developing theory on February 19, 1899. On December 21, 1899, Freud reports that this analysis has got to a deep unconscious scene in which “all the puzzles converge” and which is “everything at the same time—sexual, innocent, natural and the rest.” As a result “the fellow is doing outrageously well,” so that Freud can look forward to the conclusion of this analysis as a “happy prospect.” In describing this analysis too Freud apparently speaks of what is unconscious scenes, but by now he is using the term to cover what may be fantasies, as in the paragraph about Eckstein quoted above. Then on April 6, 1900, Freud writes that

I at last concluded his career as a patient by coming to my house to dinner. His riddle is almost completely solved; he is in excellent shape, his personality entirely changed….I shall keep an eye on the man. Since he had to suffer through all my technical and theoretical errors, I actually think that a future case could be solved in half the time. May the Lord now send this next one. L.G. is doing very well. There is no longer any chance of failure.

Plainly this last statement was unduly optimistic, but the sequence of which it is a part provides a clear and detailed illustration of the way in which Freud’s reasoning at this time linked truth with health. When Freud was able to frame a good analytic explanation relating the patient’s symptoms to an unconscious scene recovered in analysis, this was correlated with improvement in the patient’s condition. Since the best explanation of the improvement was that it was due to the recovery and understanding of the scene, the improvement was also a datum which tended to confirm the accuracy of the explanation. This mode of inference also seems to have played a significant role in the transition from the theory of paternal seduction to that of the Oedipus Complex, for Freud evidently began to obtain what he regarded as satisfactory therapeutic results only while working with the latter. (See also the apparent success reported on May 16, 1900.) There are various ways in which this kind of inference might be characterized, but on any account it should be regarded as reasonable.

James Hopkins

Department of Philosophy

King’s College

London, England

To the Editors:

Frederick Crews’ article on “The Unknown Freud” deserves some discussion by a clinician working in the field. In this regard it is particularly fortunate that in addition to being a practicing clinical psychiatrist I am a member of a psychoanalytic study group, the Rapaport-Klein Group, that numbers among its members such people as those referred to and whose criticisms of psychoanalysis and Freud are quoted by Professor Crews: the philosopher Adolf Grünbaum, the historian Frank Sulloway, and the psychoanalyst/psychologist Robert Holt.

Over the years our group, including such critical people as Professor Crews has quoted, has repeatedly discussed these same issues, questioning the matter of proof, the validity and usefulness of Freud’s hypotheses, the question of the scientific nature of the enterprise, and so forth. Indeed, many of us would agree with many of the points made in the article, perhaps most of them, certainly those made early in the article, the first page or so.

But as the article goes on an intemperate note enters into the argument, an angry and ad hominem note. A certain cast to the criticism develops that significantly alters the arguments of others. For example: Adolf Grünbaum, while demonstrating that Freud’s methods of proof are not adequate for a truly scientific discipline, does not give up the idea of such proof being possible. He even points out ways to do it. He believes it can be done and should be done, as he has stated in his books. You would not know that from Professor Crews’ article.

The angry note is interesting and, lacking any further information, I cannot account for it. But I know of a similarly angry not in an analogous situation. In my younger days it was the note found in the bitter criticisms of Marxism by former adherents, once devoted, now disillusioned and feeling betrayed. I cannot say that this is the origin of Professor Crews’ point of view but the situation as it appears in a number of cases is similar. Two brilliant men, Marx and Freud, extremely ambitious, even messianic, are not content with merely valuable first order contributions of great importance but must organize a grand, unified synthesis, a universal, all embracing Weltanschauung, explaining everything. They then wrap it in the mantle of science but without the experimental probative factors and the rigorous self-denying quality that true science requires.

Their syntheses are applied and are found often not useful and at times even harmful. In the case of Marx this is self-evident. In the case of Freud psychoanalysis has not been found to be particularly useful in the treatment of the major disorders such as schizophrenia, major affective disorders, addiction, obsessive-compulsive disorder, etc.; indeed, this was noted by Freud himself as regards the former conditions. Furthermore, there were the tendencies of many psychoanalysts to blame others, usually the parents (as in the case of the erroneous concept of the “schizophrenogenic mother”) and to minimize the factors of child abuse and molestation; all this was unfair and incorrect and led to much improperly imposed suffering, although certainly on a lesser scale than Marx’s.

The grand theory in both instances collapsed. One could see multiple competing theories and schools arise in the case of psychoanalysis: classical, ego psychology, object relations, self psychology, Kleinian, systems theory, information theory, etc. These approaches saw things differently; their interventions, in timing and content, were different; and there was no way to prove one and eliminate the others. This has led some toward a radical hermeneutic position that in essence takes all theories as equally true and does not conceive of psychoanalysis as a science with utility and accountability. The picture tends toward, if not chaos, then at least disorder.

Marxism is in no better position, but what must be remembered is that the first order contributions have been taken up, worked over and metabolized into the contiguous major disciplines in both instances: economics, sociology, and history in the case of Marx; psychiatry, psychology, and sociology in the case of Freud. In psychiatry such clinical concepts as unconscious mental activity, the role of early development and the part the past plays in the present, the phenomenon of transference, all are a part of everyday clinical practice even if they are difficult to pin down in a rigorous scientific way; they are nevertheless empirically invaluable to patients and therapists alike.

For example, a young woman who had done well in treatment returns, about to be married. She is very upset because, so she states, her mother does not like her fiancé, and so she is holding off the wedding. I do not understand for I was never aware that her mother’s opinion had such an influence on this somewhat strong willed woman. We go on for a while without any increase in understanding of the matter or change in the situation until she tells me a dream involving her being in a shower, then emerging from the shower, followed by a snake coming through the bathroom wall, and finally her awaking with great anxiety. Based upon my understanding of Freud’s hypotheses I suggest an ambivalence toward the phallus in particular and toward men in general: that aspect/representation of the matter which is clean and good (the shower) is seen positively but is bland, and that aspect/representation which is “wicked,” even “evil” perhaps (the snake), is seen negatively but is highly emotional. I have developed an idea in my mind about this but I do not intrude. I say no more, asking her what she can contribute to our understanding of this.

She says nothing about this subject, speaks about something else, and the session ends. Subsequently she calls to cancel the treatment but returns a month or so later to tell me that there was something she was fully conscious of but guilty about and had not wanted to tell me. In fact she had planned not to until she heard my discussion of the dream and knew that I had guessed her secret. She appreciated my tact and now she had the courage to tell me. The ambivalence that I noted had been carried out in the real world for there was another man, a married man, a secret and “wicked” affair that was most exciting as compared to the bland relationship with the good, clean fiance. Guilty, unable to tell me, she was relieved that I had discovered it in the dream and that it had finally come out in the open. Now we were able to work on it and help resolve it so that she could become “unstuck” and proceed with her life.

In this both my patient and I are indebted to Freud. It is just a small example, an everyday story in practice. It was most useful despite the very serious problem that Freud’s psychoanalysis, now almost a century old, has had in establishing itself as a true science and as an accountable technique in terms of cost and benefit in a sorely pressed health care system. But “grey are all theories and green the golden tree of life,” and we are left, when all is said and done, with the usefulness of such formulations in everyday clinical experience, for which we are grateful to Freud, with all his warts.

Herbert S. Peyser, M.D.

New York City

To the Editors:

The article by Frederick Crews reviewing “revisionist” books about Freud is an interesting one. It seems to have aroused the fear and rage of many psychoanalysts as well as current and former psychoanalytic patients. The review does indeed unleash a broadside against psychoanalysis as the author apparently imagines it is currently practiced. And because it describes some definitely “unscientific” aspects in the history of psychoanalysis, it implies that current practice is still wild, capricious, and self-serving on the part of analysts. It is common for commentators to attack what they think is psychoanalysis, but which is in fact the extremely shaky practices of early pioneers; it is like criticizing modern astrophysics by attacking Newtonian cosmology or by making ad hominem attacks on Isaac Newton.

What is most striking about the article is that it provides all the data for a really interesting conclusion; but, since it is devoted more to polemical detraction, it seems to miss the crucial point entirely.

When reading the article I thought of an acquaintance of mine, a skilled and well-trained surgeon practicing in a medically underserved area in northeastern Canada. At a time when he was the sole physician in a small hospital, he developed appendicitis and, since he was the only surgeon available, did the operation on himself. He had the help of competent nurses; but he injected the local anaesthesia, cut through his layers of skin and fascia, looked around inside with the aid of mirrors, probably nicked a few blood vessels that he shouldn’t have, removed the inflamed appendix, and sutured himself up. The association is of course to Freud’s self-analysis, and his self-supervision in performing the first psychoanalyses ever performed. One can see right away that Freud’s position was much more difficult even than that of the solo surgeon. If the surgeon had not done hundreds of appendectomies (a procedure then perfected over many years), if he was doing the first appendectomy, the first time anyone had ever cut into the abdomen of a live patient, and that patient were himself, then he would be approximating Freud’s position.

Critics of psychoanalysis seldom see that it is a process of dealing with a wildly moving target from a slightly less wildly moving platform. The first person to do it was bound to make mistakes, as was the first person to do an appendectomy. The phenomenon of the erotic transference, in fact of any transference, took the early analysts by surprise. Freud’s early collaborator, Josef Breuer, quit the field in the face of its awesome power. Freud, whose personality did include grandiosity, narcissism, self-delusion, and megalomania, had the imagination, creativity, and recklessness to push on, with no textbooks, maps, or guides. He and his first-generation disciples made some horrendous mistakes. There is no reason to idealize them as anything more than brilliant, dedicated, flawed human doctors. It may well be that Freud was somewhat corrupted by the power that was thrust upon him, and which he no doubt enjoyed. But he did not sleep with his patients, nor found a lucrative ashram. His heart went mostly in a scientific direction, despite the peculiar nature of his instrument.

The nature of that instrument and the nature of psychoanalysis are both missed in the article. Freud had no supervision, no training analysis, other than his “self-analysis”—in his case an oxymoron. One has only to supervise beginning analysts, or in fact to be a beginning analyst oneself, to see the pitfalls beckoning the unwary. One quickly realizes the power of the analytic relationship to evoke the regressed neurotic aspects of both partners. The rigorous training-analysis, and the intensive supervision—in most good institutes lasting five and more years—are for the purpose of organizing and using this power for the good of the patient, preventing it from causing some of the disasters the revisionists are fond of describing.

I do not wish to criticize the valuable work of the more fairminded Freud scholars; in fact they do us a great service. Let’s take a look at the old chestnut, “Is psychoanalysis scientific?” Usually we mean: does it have hypotheses which can be proven or disproven empirically? Also we mean: can we do outcome studies that show the benefit of psychoanalytic techniques? Without belaboring this argument, let us look at the time scale in which there is some empiricism at play. That is the historical timeframe of 100 years in which techniques have been tried and found wanting and improved upon. If such a trial and error method, which is common in the development of surgical techniques, is scientific, then the term applies here also. We have learned that giving financial advice to a patient, or sleeping with a patient, or lying to a patient, are bad techniques which interfere with the analytic process. We have learned, and this only in recent years, that the countertransference-generated urge to commit those errors can be used as valuable information. When used properly, counter-transference has become a valuable lens rather than a destructive nuisance. Another thing we are in the process of learning is the difficulty of evaluating memories; the “false-memory” problem is a serious one. We are at least now sensitive to the danger of suggestibility, and we will have to develop the skills necessary to minimize the potential damage.

The point Professor Crews could have made is that, if we take a historical perspective, we can see that psychoanalysis has moved forward over the graves of bad ideas. In medicine, one remembers radiation therapy for acne, or DES, or Thalidomide. These lessons are not learned by all individuals; there are still unscrupulous and crazy therapists and physicians. But the majority of psychoanalysts attempt to make use of the wisdom learned over the years, and to improve on it. Ironically, we are indebted to Freud, and to the other founders, almost as much for their errors as for their successes. This is an aphorism appropriate in most progressive endeavors.

David D. Olds, M.D.

Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry

Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research

Columbia University

New York City

To the Editors:

Professor Crews’ “The Unknown Freud” misleads readers who are not familiar with critical Freud studies in the psychoanalytic literature. For example, Crews cites Erik Erikson’s 1962 “Reality and Actuality” only to imply that Erikson recommended Freud’s treatment of Dora as a model for the treatment of adolescents and young adults. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, in the paper cited Erikson began one of the most penetrating critiques of Freud and the Dora case yet written; and, making use of the case and Freud’s failure to understand Dora and her needs, he began revolutionary advances that had a salutary effect on psychoanalysis and psychotherapy and paved the way for recent further advances.

Were Crews to divulge the thrust of Erikson’s critique and his substantive clinical contribution he would have undermined his over-riding imperative—to discredit all of Freud’s work and to pronounce all of contemporary psychoanalysis worthless and/or destructive. Therefore, it is worth mentioning some specifics of Erikson’s thinking about Dora and Freud. Erikson protested Freud’s failure to recognize the import of the “traumatic sexual approaches” made to her by a man she expected to be trustworthy (p. 455); and he disputed Freud’s assertions that the past and repressed childhood sexual wishes played a central role in Dora’s disorder. Moreover, Erikson placed the traumatic sexual approaches to her in the wider casual nexus in which they belonged: the “pervading perfidy” with which Dora was treated by her parents and their friends (p. 459); and the family and culture that discouraged an intelligent young woman’s use of her intellect and “did not [give her] a chance” for a future.

Thus Crews fails to even mention that Erikson refuted that Freud and father “know best” about women’s place (Dora, he said, was placed in the “role as an object of erotic barter,” p. 456). In short, in what was to become his encompassing and influential theory of identity, Erikson staked out important “feminist” issues: “A vital identity fragment in [Dora’s] young life…that of the woman intellectual” (p. 459) was nipped in the bud by a convergence of familial and cultural betrayal and lack of encouragement. The deepest significance of Dora’s dream of a house on fire and her hope that her father would save her jewel box was neither sexual nor Oedipal, as Freud insisted. Understood in the light of emerging identity theory, the dream contained the imperative un-conscious need for help from Freud to save herself, her own female self, if you will, and her chances for a future (p. 461).

Crews omits additional insights of Erikson’s that would also undermine his claim that he is revealing the Freud “unknown” to psychoanalysts. Erikson saw clearly that Freud was determined to prove “his kind of truth” (the theory of repressed sexuality); that the need to be right blinded him to Dora’s psychological truth and led to the failure of her treatment; and this repetition of the failure by her adult world had lasting deleterious repercussions. Because of his understanding of transference (one of Freud’s enduring discoveries) Erikson was able to take a step Freud could not take: he realized that Freud’s failure was so important to Dora precisely because she turned to him with her (“transferred”) needs and hopes for fidelity. From Freud, now, she wanted and expected “mutual verification” or her “actuality.” The help she needed was a far cry from making unconscious sexual wishes conscious. Erikson’s Dora needed help to get on with the interrupted tasks of her adolescence and young adulthood: to find value in herself and salvage values to live by when her trust in herself and those most important to her was destroyed.

Intent on “proving his kind of truth” Crews fails to mention that psychoanalysis grows from scholarly Freud studies that do not have an axe to grind. For example, analysts know from Erikson, not from Freud, that many adolescents and young adults of our day are like Dora. They too suffer from what Erikson described as “malignant forms” of frustration of their basic needs for adults’ fidelity; and when they cannot rely on parents, teachers, and others in their wider milieu, they too transfer their needs to therapists and expect understanding and responsiveness from them. Well trained therapists’ understanding of their patients’ quandary is an essential ingredient of their having another chance at a future. (Erikson was neither the first nor the last analyst to dispute Freud’s contentions and to go on ahead of him. Crews fails to acknowledge past and present psychoanalytic work that does not support his thesis.)

In the final analysis, though, Crews is right in at least one respect. Freud’s tendentious arguments to prove his point were extremely harmful to some of his patients and to the field he tried so hard to establish. Nevertheless psychoanalytic scholars continue to study Freud’s theories and case histories as part of the ongoing effort to learn from Freud’s frank histories and his mistakes, to widen knowledge about a still largely “unknown” psychological universe, to further clinical understanding and improve therapeutic efficacy. Perhaps Professor Crews can come to see that his selective omissions of analysts’ critical studies, and what can be learned from them, are in the service of the tendentiousness of his argument, his insistence on his “truth” about psychoanalysis; and that, because these omissions mislead, they actually undermine his argument. If he cannot face this “truth” squarely, his “Unknown Freud” will remain as a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Marian Tolpin, M.D.

Training/Supervising Analyst

Institute for Psychoanalysis

Clinical Professor of Psychiatry

Chicago Medical School

North Chicago, Illinois

To the Editors:

It should not be surprising if psychoanalysts felt impelled to respond to Crews’ missile attack on their profession and its founder.

Perhaps one should start by stating the role of psychoanalysis in the current treatment of mental illness. In their extreme forms, two approaches may be described as follows. The first approach attempts to assess the patient’s illness by an initial interview which is likely to include the use of a questionnaire, a so-called test “instrument,” administered personally or even by computer. The results of this assessment lead the psychiatrist to a code number and diagnosis specified in the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Armed with this information, the psychiatrist then turns to the three volume handbook on Treatments of Psychiatric Disorders. 1 There he will be told how to proceed. Such treatment is usually based primarily upon medication where that is relevant, although other modalities are recommended too. Fortunately this procedure often works out fairly well, especially when the disorder is a circumscribed episode of one of the affective disorders, that is, disorders that lie on the manic depressive spectrum. It is the treatment preferred by third party payers and health maintenance organizations.

Other disorders do not lend themselves to such a mechanical procedure. These include symptom neuroses and personality disorders that impair the individual’s ability to enjoy a loving relation with another person, or to apply himself successfully to any vocation or to escape from a prevailing self-defeating tendency. For these, various psychotherapies are prescribed. Some psychotherapies address themselves to specific symptoms rather than to the patient. They isolate the prominent symptoms of the illness and attempt to suppress them by a kind of conditioning technique. The extraordinary rates of success advertised by the practitioners of such methods, are probably exaggerated, but there is no doubt that the treatment does succeed in many instances.

However for the treatment of other neuroses and the personality disorders, a patient oriented psychotherapy is required. The patient learns about himself, his true desires, and the conflicts that surround them, the salient themes in his life, his major and continuing disabilities. He learns to distinguish between difficulties created by external reality and internal fantasy. For such psychodynamic treatment, an understanding of the basic dynamic mechanisms recognized by Freud are essential; conflict, repression, transference, defense, sublimation, unconscious guilt, Oedipus complex, separation anxiety, the destructive effect of success, to name only a few. In fact, given the current situation in the treatment of mental illness in the United States, the transmission of the understanding of these dynamic mechanisms may be the primary legacy of psychoanalysis to American psychiatry and psychotherapy.

Professor Crews is right. Psychoanalysis has been experiencing a decline in the United States. However one may question his understanding of its cause. As I have watched my practice change over recent years, I see a progressive loss of interest in psychoanalysis for two reasons. First the drug treatments have created a climate of expectation of brief treatment. Second, patients have come to depend more and more on third party—usually insurance company—payments. Insurance companies will not pay for any extended or intensive psychiatric care beyond the bare minimum, except in the case of the most generous policies. Among those segments of the population that can pay for treatment without external supplement, psychoanalysis remains desired. Elsewhere in the world, where economics are different, in Germany for example, and in many countries of South America, for example, psychoanalysis is flourishing.

Having acknowledged in his second sentence that some patients have found psychoanalysis helpful, Crews then feels free to devote the rest of the extended essay to its shortcomings and those of Freud. What are the facts? Establishing the efficacy of any kind of psychotherapy is difficult because personality and individual mental illness, constitutional disposition and temperament, resilience and motivation all differ greatly from one patient to another and it’s difficult to assess these before treatment has started. Moreover it should be obvious that psychoanalysis differ in ability and experience among each other.

In 1979, I reviewed the outcome of 37 former patients, all of my patients who had had at least a minimal amount of psychoanalytic treatment.2 Five of these (14 percent) exhibited dramatic improvement, that is, improvement so striking that friends or relations who hadn’t known that the patients were being treated, commented on the distinct change. Nine others (almost 25 percent) were considered by themselves and their families to have improved impressively as demonstrated by important changes in their ability to function in the several areas of life in which they had previously functioned badly. So these two categories together constituted about 40 percent of the group. Sixteen patients could be said to have achieved limited improvement. They functioned better in one or more areas of life but still far from optimally. In general, these patients and their families were pleased with the outcome but I was less pleased. Seven patients (19 percent) showed no improvement at all. I should add that in almost half of the sample I had used medication along with analysis. However the changes that I looked for in evaluating the treatment, were not the simple changes of mood that drugs produce, but rather alterations in personality function. The distribution of degrees of improvement among patients who had no medication did not differ from those who had medication. Considering the nature of the illness, the duration, and in many cases the constitutional basis, these findings are not at all discouraging. I should imagine that a more recent cohort would do even better.

The reader will note that Crews criticizes only those reports of Freud’s work that were published before 1905, that is, reports of his very earliest psychoanalytic experience, when the discipline was being developed. Crews’ comments did not apply to Freud’s later work nor to psychoanalysis as it is practiced now.

Much has been made in recent years of Freud’s seduction theory versus his subsequent theory that reports of early seduction are fantasy. The perceptive reader who is not looking for polemic, would infer that in some instances actual seduction did take place, while in other instances the seduction took place in fantasy only, and in still others, innocent encounters were interpreted as seduction. In most instances, unless there is outside corroboration, it is difficult or impossible to distinguish among these possibilities. There is no conspiracy here either against children or their parents.

With respect to Freud’s status as a scientist, Crews neglects to inform his readers that before his psychoanalytic work began, Freud had written and published well over 100 papers and monographs on neuroanatomy, neuroembryology, and clinical neurology. At least two of his major monographs, On Aphasia and On Cerebral Palsy, are still considered both authoritative and valid statements.

I shall have nothing to say to Professor Crews’ reports of Freud’s personal behavior. We don’t ordinarily evaluate a discipline by the ethics of its founders but if one thought it necessary to judge Freud’s conduct, it would have been helpful if Professor Crews had made a serious effort to distinguish between established fact on the one hand and gossip, rumor, and speculation on the other. Sigmund Freud never claimed publicly that his personal behavior was exemplary, but those who knew him well, thought that it was.. The Pentateuch demonstrates that the founders of religious monotheism were not above reproach in their personal behavior, but we do not reject monotheistic religion on that account.

Mortimer Ostow, M.D.,P.C.

New York City

To the Editors:

Frederick Crews who wrote the review for you “The Unknown Freud” is clearly a man who reads and writes a lot about psychoanalysis, but there is no evidence that he has knowledge of studies on the comparison of the efficacy of psychoanalysis with other forms of psychotherapy. I have done the studies. I thought the readers would be interested in knowing the facts about the relative efficacy of different forms of psychotherapy including psychoanalysis, because he raised the issue. He says, for example, in his first paragraph in which he reviewed four books about different facts of psychoanalytic history “in the aggregate psychoanalysis has proved to be an indifferently successful and vastly inefficient method of removing neurotic symptoms.”

It is fashionable to make such statements, but in fact Crews should know the facts. His conclusions should have been: (1) there are no adequate studies comparing psychoanalysis with other forms of psychotherapy so there is no proof that it is better or it is worse. (2) It is probably at least as good as other forms of psychotherapy. The evidence for this is that for all treatment comparisons involving different forms of psychotherapy the overwhelming trend is for non-significant differences in benefits received from the different forms of psychotherapy, including psychodynamically oriented psychotherapy (which is a shorter form of psychoanalytic psychotherapy). (3) The evidence is overwhelming, in fact, that these different forms of psychotherapy produce very meaningful benefits for the majority of patients.

For Professor Crews and for the interested audience, which I know is very large, I will cite just a few reviews of comparative psychotherapy studies:

L. Luborsky, L. Diguer, E. Luborsky, B. Singer, D. Dickter (1993). “The efficacy of dynamic psychotherapies. Is it true that everyone has won so all shall have prizes?” In N. Miller et al., Handbook of Dynamic Psychotherapy Research and Practice (New York: Basic Books).

L. Luborsky, N. Miller, J. Barber, J. Docherty (1993). “Where we are and what is next in dynamic therapy research and practice.” In N. Miller et al., Handbook of Dynamic Psychotherapy Research and Practice. (New York: Basic Books, chapter 25).

L. Luborsky, B. Singer, & Lise Luborsky (1975). “Comparative studies of psychotherapies: Is it true that ‘Everyone has won and all must have prizes?”‘ Archives of General Psychiatry, 32, pp. 995–1,008.

M. Smith, G. Glass, and T. Miller (1980). The Benefits of Psychotherapy (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press).

I will be glad to send some of these reprints to Professor Crews or any of the readers who write me for them.

Laster Luborsky, Ph.D.

Center for Psychotherapy Research

University of Pennsylvania

3600 Market Street, Room 703

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

To the Editors:

It was very surprising and disappointing that such a distinguished periodical as The New York Review of Books would publish an article containing gross misunderstandings and scurrilous comments against Freud and psychoanalysis by Professor Frederick Crews. Readers of The Review should expect sober and scholarly appraisal rather than what appears to be a series of emotionally charged statements which deal more with misperceptions and misconceptions than scientific, objective evaluation. It appears that Freud cannot be allowed human frailty, any errors, or lack of present-day knowledge. Even his critics are criticized for not being critical enough. The enduring discoveries of his revolutionary genius are cavalierly dismissed with superficial consideration and supercilious contempt.

At this time, Freud’s initial propositions, first findings, and landmark case reports are no longer vital for the validation of psychoanalytic formulation. Further, as psychoanalysts became popularized, many concepts were distorted and bowdlerized; a tendency which can be discerned in the Crews article.

Freud is part of our culture, our way of comprehending personality development and disorder. All rational psychotherapy is based upon psychoanalytic principles. Psychoanalysis provides a fundamental mode of exploring and understanding art and literature, biography and history, etc. Concepts of repression, regression, denial, projection, and “Freudian slip” have become part of our language. The vulgar idiom “jerk off,” conveys thinly disguised castration anxiety. Lady Macbeth washes her hands because of underlying guilt, not because her hands are literally dirty. Shakespeare intuited ego defenses and can be invoked in “me thinks Dr. Crews doth protest too much.”

Dr. Crews implied that The Sigmund Freud Archives has concealed documents to protect Freud’s reputation. This is contrary to the fact that The Sigmund Freud Archives’ policy has been to derestrict and release Freud correspondence as quickly as legally and ethically possible. Professor Crews cites a document restricted to 2102 when he could have ascertained that this document was already derestricted by The Sigmund Freud Archives. The Archives are now largely derestricted and much of the new Freud documents have become available through The Sigmund Freud Archives.

Finally, the encompassing explanatory reach of psychoanalytic theory and the immense value of psychoanalytic therapy stand on their own merits having endured the test of time and continuing challenge. Psychoanalysis has developed independent of the person, personality, and personal life of its creator. But Freud could have, in the final analysis, ironically observed, “they may attack my theories by day, but they dream of them at night.”

Harold P. Blum, M.D.

Executive Director

The Sigmund Freud Archives, Inc.

Roslyn Estates, New York

Bernard L. Pacella, M.D.


The American Psychoanalytic Association

New York City

Frederick Crews replies:
  1. It does appear that, as the psychoanalyst David Olds reports above, “The Unknown Freud” has caused widespread “fear and rage” within the Freudian community. The result is a deluge of mail such as the New York Review has rarely seen. The letters above constitute only the most civil and temperate of countless protests mailed in by offended Freudians, most of them practicing psychoanalysts.

Those unpublished complaints deserve at least a passing mention here. In the rhetorical tradition perfected by Freud himself, they tend to concentrate not on the substance of my argument but on my allegedly defective personality, the main sign of which is precisely my incapacity to render a “balanced”—i.e., predominantly appreciative—assessment of Freud and his brainchild. The letters thus beg the question of whether, as I argue, Freud’s scientific reputation has been grossly inflated, first through his own promotional efforts and later by self-interested disciples.

The unpublished letters also converge in calling my essay ad hominem, as several of the published letters do as well. I deny the charge. An ad hominem argument is one that ducks substantive issues by vilifying the person or kind of person who takes the position opposite to one’s own. But though the main emphasis of “The Unknown Freud” is biographical, it begins by summarizing the objective grounds for deciding that the “clinical validation” of psychoanalytic ideas is hopelessly circular and that Freud’s theories of personality and neurosis are woolly, strained, and unsupported. And it directs curious readers to sources that establish those judgments in a strictly evidence-based manner3 My essay makes it clear that I object to Freud’s doctrine not because Freud himself displayed certain weaknesses of judgment and character but because his theoretical and therapeutic pretensions have been weighed and found to be hollow.

Although I can hardly expect psychoanalysts to be grateful for my restraint, moreover, I actually steered clear of their founder’s least stable side—his lethal cocaine evangelism, his phobias and psychosomatic fainting spells, his bizarre superstitions, his belief in the magic power of telephone and hotel room numbers, his affinity for ESP, his gnostic ideas about the primal horde and its Lamarckian effect on modern psyches, his paranoid streak, and what even his hagiographer Ernest Jones called his “twilight condition of mind” at the time of his famous self-analysis.4 Both Josef Breuer and Sándor Ferenczi, who knew Freud extremely well, came to regard him as a borderline psychotic, and they were probably right. My essay, however, eschews speculation about the ways in which specific delusions on Freud’s part may have found their way into psychoanalytic theory.

Before answering the pro-Freudian letters that appear above, let me refresh reader’s memories by recapitulating the claims of my essay:

—that Freud’s uniquely psychoanalytic ideas have received no appreciable corroboration, and much discouragement, from independent sources;

—that his method of reaching causal conclusions, even in the idealized form described in his public writings, could not have reliably yielded those conclusions by any imaginable path of inference;

—that his actual method was far worse, namely, turning hunches, borrowed notions, and corollaries of his other beliefs into certainties and then depicting those “findings” as the inescapable results of clinical experience;

—that his idea of corroboration was the fallacious one of heaping up consilient-looking exercises of his interpretative style, without regard for rival lines of possible explanation;

—that his perceptions and diagnoses invariably served his self-interest, always shifting according to the propagandistic or polemical needs of the moment;

—that his therapeutic successes, supposedly the chief warrant that his psychological theory was correct, appear to have been nonexistent, and that he lied about them brazenly and often;

—that his rules of interpretation were so open-ended as to permit him to twist any presented feature to a predetermined emphasis;

—that he brushed aside as trivial the main threat to the integrity of psychoanalytic knowledge, namely, the contaminating effect of the therapist’s suggestion;

—that, as a result, he failed to maintain even a minimal demarcation between his own obsessions and those of his patients;

—that the “stories” figuring crucially in the official version of his transit from the seduction theory to psychoanalysis proper were his own inventions, misascribed at first to his patients’ early histories and soon after, more extravagantly, to their early fantasies—thus foisting off his “seduction” error on the contents of their minds when they were toddlers;

—that, consequently, there never was a need to import notions such as repression and the infantile-sexual basis of neurosis to account for what Freud “found” in the patients whom he now chose to regard in a psychoanalytic light;

—that the coercive tactics by which he attempted to win his patients’ agreement to his own theory-driven surmises about their infantile histories rendered him the chief begetter of our contemporary “false memory syndrome”;

—that, with his approval, his movement conducted itself less like a scientific-medical enterprise than like a politburo bent upon snuffing out deviationism; and

—that the “science” he invented was, and remains, a pseudoscience, in that it relies massively on unexamined dogma, lacks any safeguards against the drawing of arbitrary inferences, and insulates itself in several ways from the normal give-and-take of scientific debate.

Remarkably few of the letters above, written by eight American psychoanalysts and one British academic of a known Freudian persuasion, address any of these points in specific detail. Indeed, a number of the letters don’t just leave my theses unchallenged but grant that they may be substantially correct. Curiously, however, such concessions leave the writers’ general loyalty to Freudianism undiminished. Whereas the orthodox psychoanalysts in the group appear to be “massively into denial,” the more liberal ones would like to embrace just enough criticism of Freud to distance themselves from his errors—thus skirting the awkward fact that their method of making “advances in insight” remains exactly as subjective as his own.

  1. It is, for the most part, the liberal, modernizing analysts who are represented in the letters above. As a result, one sees there only traces of the misty-eyed Freudolatry that used to characterize psychoanalytic discourse—traces, for example, such as Dr. Olds’s likening of Freud’s muddled self-analysis to a heroic self-appendectomy,5 or Dr. Ostow’s tribute to the humble Freud’s “exemplary” personal behavior.6 Nevertheless, some of these writers do claim that I have misrepresented Freud in important respects. Let us see if their charges hold up.

Dr. Jean Schimek was the first psychoanalyst to have squarely faced Freud’s conflicting accounts of his seduction theory.7 Now, understandably, Schimek prefers to renounce any credit for having inspired “The Unknown Freud.” Since he neglects to show where my “Freud bashing” was factually incorrect, however, his letter serves no purpose other than self-exculpation within the notoriously unforgiving Freudian community.

Nevertheless, I am glad for the opportunity to commend Schimek’s pioneering article and to point out the very modest extent to which my essay went beyond it, Briefly, Schimek establishes the untruthfulness of Freud’s later statements about what his seduction patients “told” him about their molestations in early childhood, and he then asks “why, in 1896, Freud presented his data in an ambiguous and inconsistent fashion, and why he saw them as much clearer and stronger (‘almost all of my women patients told me…’) once they had become evidence for universal oedipal fantasies rather than proof of the past misdeeds of some individual fathers” (Schimek, p. 961). My essay supplies the answer that is already implicit in this delicately posed question: Freud misrepresented what his hysterics had “told” him because it suited his later theoretical interests to do so.

It is too bad that James Hopkins couldn’t have studied Schimek’s article before writing his own letter, which does at least get down to specifics. Those details just don’t lead to the conclusions he thinks they do. It is Schimek, not Hopkins, who clearly recognizes Freud’s contradictions over “seduction” and who understands the nonclinical basis on which “the father” came to dominate the last phase of Freud’s prepsychoanalytic thought. I will draw on Schimek’s findings in the following response to Hopkins.

The core of Hopkins’s letter is his allegation that, by overlooking the evolution of Freud’s seduction theory in the last year of its existence, 1897, I have created a false discrepancy between Freud’s early and late, accounts of that theory, thus unjustly impugning his integrity. Specifically, says Hopkins, Freud did, in his private letters to Fliess, blame fathers for the molestations he believed his hysterical patients to have undergone—and so he was being strictly truthful when he later characterized his abandoned theory in the same terms.

Hopkins’s letter goes awry on several points that will require explanation, but it is also wrong in a global way that can be stated at once. My brief against Freud in the seduction matter was a double one. First, Freud later pretended that nearly all of his female hysterics had directly told him about early childhood molestations which in fact were sheer inventions of his own; and second, he eventually maintained that those patients had named their fathers as the culprits. If, as his three relevant papers of 1896 abundantly show, Freud conjectured the infantile scenes that his patients never did succeed in remembering, then his later versions of the story, including the one that incriminates fathers, are manifestly false. No conclusions drawn from the Freud-Fliess letters could challenge this assertion, which pertains to inconsistencies in Freud’s published writings. Hopkins’s laboriously reasoned indictment is thus much ado about nothing.

Hopkins would have us believe that Freud in all of his later statements was merely recalling the final, never published, phase of his seduction theory, in which “the father” indeed served as the evil protagonist. How odd, then, that fathers aren’t even mentioned in Freud’s first retrospective comments about the theory in 1914, when he began making self-serving misstatements about the authorship of the infantile scenes. Indeed, it took Freud until 1925, in his Autobiographical Study, to assert that most of his women patients in the 1890s had explicitly blamed their fathers. When he repeated that claim more strongly in 1933, in his New Introductory Lectures, his reason for doing so was made transparently clear by a following sentence: “It was only later that I was able to recognize in this phantasy of being seduced by the father the expression of the typical Oedipus complex in women” (Standard Edition, 22:120).8

A further aim on Hopkins’s part is to show, through several examples, that Freud’s hysterics did offer him uncoerced reports of sexual abuse, in direct contradiction of my claim that the scenes were invented. In making this argument, however, Hopkins reveals that he has misunderstood the seduction theory in all of its variations. As Schimek explains, Freud’s theory anticipated the retrieval of sexual material from two stages of a hysteric’s life: a molestation between the ages of two and five and a disturbing incident after the onset of puberty. The latter could be anything from “the stroking of the hand or the hearing of a mildly obscene joke” (Schimek, p. 941) to a fully incestuous relationship. The inevitability that some recollection on a patient’s part would fall into such a vast category rendered this aspect of his interrogations relatively uninteresting to Freud, even when adolescent incest was involved. If the seduction theory was not to topple, he would have to go further and show that the Ur-traumas from ages two to five had actually occurred.9 And those same “scenes” were to become no less indispensable to psychoanalysis itself, which came into being as an attempt to account for them as repressed oedipal fantasy. But since the scenes existed only in Freud’s head, the only thing that required explaining was his own fanaticism.

Hopkins’s error will become clearer if we look at one of the cases he cites, that of a patient who consciously recollected that her father had lasciviously fondled her between the ages of eight and twelve. Hopkins believes that such narratives gave Freud just the key information he was seeking. Freud, however, saw the matter very differently, and his account to Fliess, on April 28, 1897, of his two initial sessions with this patient displays the prodding and coaching that Hopkins is at such pains to deny.

The patient was a young woman who had become insomniac after seeing her brother hauled off to an insane asylum. Characteristically brushing aside that palpable trauma, Freud told her that “[i]n my analyses the guilty people are close relatives, father or brother.” Apparently without coercion, the woman then revealed her molestation by her father in her preadolescent years. Here again lay a likely source of mental disturbance in the present. For Freud’s purposes, however, such direct reporting of actual abuse beyond age five was little more than a challenge to his powers as a psychic detective. “Of course,” he relates to Fliess, “when I told her that similar and worse things must have happened in her earliest childhood, she could not find it incredible.”10

Did Freud in the “seduction” period, as Hopkins proposes, make serious attempts to guard against the effects of his own suggestion? Readers can judge for themselves by studying both the letter just quoted and the “Habemus papam!” letter of January 3, 1897, that Hopkins also attempts to enlist in his behalf. There Freud tells Fliess that he has solved the case of a patient (a cousin of Fliess’s) who must have been molested by her father:

When I thrust the explanation at her, she was at first won over; then she committed the folly of questioning the old man himself, who at the very first intimation exclaimed indignantly, “Are you implying that I was the one?” and swore a holy oath to his innocence.

She is now in the throes of the most vehement resistance, claims to believe him, but attests to her identification with him by having become dishonest and swearing false oaths.11

As I indicated in my essay, Freud believed that even the tortures inflicted by witch interrogators yielded uncontaminated psychic data—a position to which he still adhered after founding psychoanalysis.12 Not surprisingly, then, he expended as much ingenuity on the uncontrolled and egregiously leading pursuit of infantile “primal scencs” and repressed fantasies as he had previously devoted to infantile incest. This is not the Freud described in Hopkin’s letter, but so much the worse for Hopkins’s ability to read the record discerningly.13

  1. The psychoanalysts represented above share a belief, widely held among the uninformed public, that Freud, though fallible, bequeathed us a precious store of permanently valid discoveries and concepts. The inventory above includes the unconscious, infantile sexuality, dream symbolism, repression, regression, projection, sublimation, denial, transference, countertransference, “Freudian slips,” and of course the centerpiece of it all, the universal Oedipus complex. These notions are thrown back at me as if only ingratitude had kept me from paying due obeisance to them. Astonishingly, most of the writers seem unaware that their conceptual stock-in-trade is even controversial, much less that it lacks corroboration that can be taken seriously outside the precincts of the Freudian village.

How can this be? The answer is that these analysts, like their colleagues around the world, fail to grasp what is required of an adequate scientific explanation. With Freud, they believe that the instancing of a causal hypothesis—showing that it “works” in “covering” the phenomenon in question—suffices to prove its worth. The mere fact that generations of Freudians have been able to organize their data according to Freudian categories strikes them as settling the matter.14 They thus inhabit a kind of scientific preschool in which no one divulges the grown-up secret that successful causal explanation must be differential, establishing the superiority of a given hypothesis to all of its extant rivals.

Whenever that standard has been applied, Freudian notions have failed to pass muster. Nor should we be surprised, since the entire psychoanalytic system was assembled deductively as an elaboration of Freud’s infantile-sexual etiology of neurosis, about which even the analysts themselves now feel distinctly queasy. Every Freudian idea, it turns out, suffers from several of the following deadly flaws: vagueness (no determinate consequences can be predicted by its use), excessiveness (the explained phenomena can be accounted for more satisfactorily by more plausible suppositions), logical dependency on other dubious notions, and superfluousness (the explained phenomena are themselves illusory products of the theory).

Take, for example, the concept of transference, regarded by virtually all modern analysts as the most axiomatic of Freudian theoretical entities. Transference as Freud understood it is the patient’s reliving of infantile cravings and disappointments through an unconscious casting of the therapist as a substitute parent. It is thus an artifact of the Oedipus complex, itself a colossal overgeneralization of Freud’s hunches about the origin of his own hysterical tendency.15 And since transference can be either “positive” or “negative,” without our possessing any guidelines for knowing which kind to expect next, no behavioral consequences flow from it, and it is therefore at once irrefutable and operationally devoid of meaning.

The usefulness of transference to Freud, however, was considerable. Like its constituent defense mechanism of “resistance,” transference explained why Freud’s patients failed to recall the “memories” he proffered them and why they acquired “no sense of conviction of the correctness of the construction that [had] been communicated” to them (SE, 18:18). In short, transference could be invoked to spare Freud from recognizing that he might be wrong.

The concept first acquired prominence, in fact, when “Dora” refused to accept Freud’s thesis that she was in love with the adulterous pedophile and chambermaid seducer “Herr K,” whose advances to his friend’s daughter Freud deemed “neither tactless nor offensive” (SE, 7:38n). Instead of asking himself whether Dora might not be a better judge of her own amorous feelings than he was, Freud decided that her love for Herr K—ultimately derived, as he explained to her, from her desire to commit sex acts with her father—had now blossomed into love of Freud himself. Thus when Dora dreamed of smoke, Freud concluded that she was really pining unconsciously for a kiss from his own cigarscented lips (SE, 7:74). And when Dora reasonably decided that nothing could be gained from continuing to consult such a physician, Freud once again laid all the blame on the tumultuous effects of transference (SE, 7:118-19).16

Needless to say, liberal contemporary analysts feel that they have purged transference of its wild-card hermeneutic function and its narrowly oedipal basis. In Dr. Marian Tolpin’s letter above, for example, little remains of the concept but a Cheshire cat smile—a bland hope on the part of patients that their “basic needs for adults’ fidelity” will be better met by therapists than they were by parents. I do not begrudge the liberals this retreat from Freud’s sexual house of horrors into Mr. Rogers’s neighborhood. But I must point out that their revised understanding of transference becomes less objectionable precisely to the degree that it sheds its uniquely psychoanalytic character.

Meanwhile, the concept inevitably remains entangled in the therapeutically questionable practice of fostering a “transference neurosis,” or childish overinvolvement with the analyst, which will then take years to “work through.” As Dr. Olds frankly points out above, another likely outcome is that “the regressed neurotic aspects of both partners” will bring about “disasters.” By fetishizing emotional distortions on both sides, moreover, the whole transference-countertransference rigmarole deflects attention from the cognitive dubiety of psychoanalytic formulations in general and of the analyst’s surmises in particular. All in all, then, this pivotal notion has proved itself to be not only scientifically vacuous but also considerably worse than useless as a guide to the rational addressing of patients’ initial complaints.

A similar critique could be made of every other Freudian heirloom prized by my correspondents. We have already seen, for instance, that Freud’s own favorite idea, repression, arose to meet a wholly imaginary need. When Freud conceded the absence of the early sexual events posited by his seduction theory, the concept of repression was elevated into an article of sheer faith in undetectable subterranean transactions, without even a hypothetical link to the recoverable misfortunes of children. In full-blown psychoanalytic theory, repression serves as a pseudo-explanation of a pseudo-phenomenon, the personality-forming renunciation by children of their primary desire to do away with one parent and copulate with the other. Well-designed experimental studies have not produced a shred of evidence for the existence of such a mechanism.17

The concept of repression has nonetheless survived and prospered, thanks to a conjunction of several factors: the analytic fraternity’s century-long cover-up of Freud’s bungling in the birth hour of psychoanalysis; Freud’s public relations success in enlisting repression to “explain” dreams, jokes, and errors;18 the enticingness of the concept as a means of facilely negating manifest appearances; and a failure, by both analysts and the lay public, to appreciate the difference between isolated traumatic amnesia (a real but unusual occurrence) and Freudian repression, which entails all the epistemic liabilities of the Oedipus complex, the castration complex, and a demonstrably erroneous idea of the way human memories are typically made unavailable to consciousness.

This last point deserves emphasis because of its bearing on the urgent question of the moment, false memory syndrome. As Richard Ofshe and Ethan Watters have shown, unscrupulous or incompetent therapists who induce patients to “recall” fictitious molestations with hallucinatory vividness are employing a souped-up but still recognizably Freudian idea of repression.19 They share with Freud the discredited belief that all experience, even from earliest infancy, is photographically stored and retained without normal degradation over time. Like Freud, they deem that only repression can account for the inaccessibility of a given memory at a given moment. Again, they subscribe to his groundless tenet that repression can block the memory not just of a sudden shocking assault but also of whole years’ worth of psychically unacceptable events. And most significantly, they also share his conviction that a patient’s disorientation and distress when confronted with alarming suggestions about his childhood must constitute a partial lifting of repression—that is, a delayed activation of the affect that could not be felt at the time.

Similarly, prosecutors who browbeat innocent persons into confessing to satanistic sexual crimes are reaping the legacy of Freud’s utter refusal to make allowance for the contaminating effect of suggestion. In his own words,

We must not be led astray by initial denials. If we keep firmly to what we have inferred, we shall in the end conquer every resistance by emphasizing the unshakeable nature of our convictions…. Moreover, the idea that one might, by one’s insistence, cause a patient who is psychically normal to accuse himself falsely of sexual misdemeanours—such an idea may safely be disregarded as an imaginary danger. (SE, 3:269).20

  1. The psychoanalysts represented above are most exercised of all by my apparent imputation that their guild has made no intellectual or behavioral improvement since Freud’s day. But this is to misconstrue my argument. The outlandishness of Freud’s beliefs and practices virtually guaranteed that any sane, honest, and compassionate successor would make fewer incredible assertions and achieve better clinical results than he and the members of his doctrinaire and unethical circle did. If, as Dr. Olds tells us, analysts have learned through “trial and error” the imprudence of seducing their patients, I will not deny that this is a step in the right direction. And I, too, like Dr. Tolpin, find Erik Erikson’s avuncular wisdom more congenial than Freud’s relentless biologism. That Erikson has proved to be a better therapist and moral counselor than Freud strikes me as the safest bet in the world.21

Still, there is a problem here. Neither Erikson’s postulates nor those of any other neo-Freudian can be regarded as bearing the slightest scientific (as opposed to moralideological) weight. All of the defining traits of pseudoscience that I listed in note 20 of my essay apply equally to Freud’s work and to that of his improvers. For, although each of Freud’s ideas has been challenged from within his own tradition, that tradition itself remains one of deplorable conceptual sloppiness and question begging.

To my knowledge, for example, no modern analyst has renounced the cardinal Freudian investigative tool of “free association,” which is inherently incapable of yielding knowledge about the determinants of dreams and symptoms.22 None has even started to make due allowance for the leading and indoctrinating effects of the therapy itself. None, again, has revised the theory so as to endow it with clear predictive implications—a step whose absence means that any number of schismatic Freudian sects can proliferate without appeal to a factual basis for adjudicating between them. And none has removed the ultimate joker from the Freudian deck—the principle that an analyst is entitled, in Freud’s words, to “handle unconscious ideas, unconscious trains of thought, and unconscious impulses as though they were no less valid and unimpeachable psychological data than conscious ones” (SE, 7:113). As Malcolm Macmillan puts it, “We are never told that the so-called discoveries are dependent upon methods of inquiry and interpretation so defective that even practitioners trained in their use are unable to reach vaguely congruent conclusions about such things as the interpretation of a dream or a symptom[,] let alone the basic clinical characteristics of infantile or perverse sexuality or the reconstruction of the early stages of an individual’s development or…the functions that make up a given structure.”23

On this basis, moreover, I must qualify my praise of modern analysts for doing better than Freud in their therapeutic work. They want us to believe that the improvements they have achieved were made possible in part by a scientific honing of their concepts over time. It is true, certainly, that merely by refraining from reliance on such backward ideas as inevitable female masochism and the fateful consequences of masturbation, any contemporary therapist would have a head start over Freud. But because the liberalized versions of psychoanalysis continue to use amorphous uncharacterized terms and to make untested claims, the relationship between psychoanalytic dogma and therapeutic effects remains as imprecise and prayerful as ever.

In this connection, much can be learned from Dr. Peyser’s story of his female patient who returned to treatment because of anxiety about her impending marriage—an anxiety caused, Peyser later learned, by her involvement with a second and more alluring man. She was of course “fully conscious” of this problem when she consulted Peyser, but because of indirections that are built into psychoanalytic technique, the topic didn’t come up, and the doctor’s fees, we can safely assume, kept mounting. (“We go on for a while without any increase in understanding of the matter or change in the situation….”) After again suspending the treatment for a month, however, the patient returned to announce that an astute prior dream interpretation on Peyser’s part had enabled her to tell him about her dilemma at last. (He had already guessed, but, good Freudian clinician that he is, he hadn’t wanted to intrude.) And then comes the less than cathartic denouement: “Now we were able to work on [her secret] and help resolve it so that she could become ‘unstuck’ and proceed with her life”—but in which direction and with what success we are not told.

This narrative really seems to illustrate the way psychoanalysis itself can become an extra burden for a client. One gets the impression that merely keeping the therapeutic relationship going had become a goal for both parties and that a fear of displeasing her analyst was needlessly costing this woman a good deal of time and money. Would she not have done better to discuss her problem with a few sympathetic friends? And can Peyser be sure that it was really his dream interpretation, and not some other development in the woman’s life, that allowed his sessions with her to resume?

And then there is the question of whether Peyser had “correctly” decoded his patient’s snake-in-the-shower dream. That someone who, at the time, was keeping two lovers busy suffered from “ambivalence towards the phallus” appears far from self-evident. It may be, of course, that Peyser and his patient were using dreams and their glossing as an Aesopian language for the discreet trading of hints; as the psychoanalyst Judd Marmor observed long ago, patients in various styles of psychotherapy learn to edit their dream reports in ways that suit the theoretical expectations of their doctors. What must be firmly rejected, however, is Peyser’s implication that the unique correctness of Freudian ideas allowed him to reach an outcome (whatever it was!) that couldn’t have been attained in any number of less roundabout ways.

For all the advanced company he keeps in “the Rapaport-Klein Group,” Dr. Peyser is still enmired in the primitive post hoc ergo propter hoc style of thought that pervades psychoanalytic discourse. As independent students of therapeutic outcomes understand, it is not enough to observe that, after a lapse of months or years, some favorable change occurred in a patient’s attitude or mood. The question must always be whether factors specific to the therapist’s mode of treatment—and not factors shared by all treatments or factors originating outside the treatment—brought about the good result. The same problem bedevils Dr. Ostow’s letter, which reports on a follow-up of thirty-seven of his former patients. It is sad enough that, even though Ostow had employed “medication along with analysis,” a full 62 percent of those patients had improved very little or not at all. But more pathetic still is Ostow’s total unawareness that, thanks to his failure to control for nonpsychoanalytic effects, his survey lacks any validity.

  1. There is, however, one letter above from a correspondent who has spent a lifetime doing just what I am recommending here, the comparative study of Freudian and non-Freudian therapeutic outcomes. Lester Luborsky believes that I need to undertake a crash course of reading on the topic. But Luborsky goes badly wrong in several assertions, the least important of which is his claim that I am unfamiliar with his writings. As early as 1980, I was not only citing his work but also disputing the unwarranted partisan conclusions that he persists in drawing from it.

In his letter, Luborsky asserts that all psychotherapies (that is, “talking cures”) may be about equally effective and that I am therefore out of line in calling psychoanalysis “indifferently successful” and “vastly inefficient.” This only shows that Luborsky has yet to learn what the words “indifferently” and “inefficient” mean. As I wrote in 1980, “if one therapy worked about as well as another, only people with severely impaired reasoning, or with motives other than a wish to be speedily cured, would choose the one that is most disruptive of their budgets and work schedules.”24

Luborsky is on record as believing that Freudian analysts are in possession, not of a counterintuitive and embattled system of decoding, but of “a unique store of clinical wisdom.”25 He recognizes, however, that psychoanalysis has had to retreat from the claim of superior curative power that Freud cited as the cardinal proof of his theory’s correctness. Long ago, therefore, Luborsky adopted a more furtive strategy, that of making psychoanalysis look as inconspicuous as possible within a modestly cheerful assessment of all psychotherapies. This, once again, is the purpose of his present letter.

But Luborsky has fared poorly even in this low-profile endeavor. Consider, for example, the book by Glass et al. mentioned in the remedial reading list he has prepared for my edification. Glass himself later acknowledged that his 1980 study failed to cover a single “outcome evaluation of orthodox Freudian psychoanalysis.”26 Moreover, the criterion of therapeutic effectiveness employed by both Glass et al. and Luborsky—namely, better results than no treatment at all—has been rejected as too lax by a number of independent researchers, who cogently maintain that placebo treatment, not an absence of treatment, ought to serve as the baseline of comparison. And according to authors who have specifically reanalyzed and disputed the work of Glass et al., “there is no evidence that the benefits of psychotherapy are greater than those of placebo treatment.”27 Thus Luborsky’s attempt, in his letter, to tuck psychoanalytic treatment beneath the skirts of short-term “dynamically oriented [i.e., Freudian] psychotherapy” is as futile as it is shabby, given the failure even of such brief therapy to show significantly better results than hand-holding control treatments.

The real import of Luborsky’s work, as he himself elsewhere admits, is that psychotherapies succeed (when they do) thanks to factors that they all share—that is, placebo factors.28 Thus, contra Freud, occasional happy outcomes of Freudian therapy are incapable of vouching either for the truth of psychoanalytic notions about the mind or for the posited mechanism of psychoanalytic cure. No doubt it is motivationally useful for each of the myriad extant psychotherapies to offer its clients some structure of belief—whether it be about undoing infantile repression, contacting the inner child, surrendering to the collective unconscious, or reliving previous incarnations—but as Luborsky understands, such notions are window dressing for the more mundane and mildly effective process of renting a solicitous helper.

Once this point sinks in, psychoanalytic patients may well question why they should be spending years reconstructing early memories, fantasies, and feelings which, even if they should happen to be genuine, will prove therapeutically inert. And if some patients still won’t care, the devisers of their medical benefits surely will.

  1. I reserve for last the haughty letter composed jointly by Drs. Harold P. Blum and Bernard L. Pacella, the executive director of the Sigmund Freud Archives and president of the American Psychoanalytic Association, respectively. These eminences charge me with many “gross misunderstandings” but are able to name only one, my failure to realize that a certain letter in the Archives originally restricted until the year 2102 is now available for viewing. No such date, however, appears in my essay. I suppose that Blum and Pacella must be referring to an actual letter that they know to have been originally destined for release in 2102. Perhaps they can tell us which letter it is, how recently it was declassified, and how it first came to be salted away for an intended age.

I raise these questions because, insofar as the Blum-Pacella letter attempts to deny that “the Sigmund Freud Archives has concealed documents to protect Freud’s reputation,” it whitewashes a sordid history that Blum knows only too intimately. Blum was appointed to replace Kurt Eissler when the latter’s reign of Stalinesque censorship, which began with the founding of the archives in the early 1950s, was exposed to worldwide ridicule by Janet Malcolm in the 1980s. It was that mortifying episode, not any long-standing policy, that eventually induced the Archives’ trustees to begin counteracting Eissler’s mischief by giving Blum a different mandate. And even so, the current “Restricted Section” catalog, as of December 1993, still includes whole sets of documents that are supposed to remain inaccessible until such dates as 2020, 2050, 2053, 2056, 2057, and 2113.

What Blum more particularly fails to disclose is that the Eissler regime has cast a sinister afterglow over his own contrary efforts. Eissler remains the executor of all documents donated by Anna Freud in the wake of the Jeffrey Masson brouhaha that Malcolm so entertainingly related, and he has continued to guard those documents against possible defilers of Freud’s shrine. When Eissler ruled the Archives, moreover, he solicited gifts of documents for the Library of Congress but “redonated” them in the name of the Archives, thus affording himself the right to impose absurdly long periods of sequestration. 29 It is a pity that Blum feels he must put such shameful conduct under the rug in the interest of closing Freudian ranks against the “scurrilous” Crews.

But Blum also has some explaining of his own to do. On October 8, 1989, he told an interviewer:

Title page of the original edition of 1798.

AuthorThomas Robert Malthus
PublisherJ. Johnson, London

Publication date


The book An Essay on the Principle of Population was first published anonymously in 1798,[1] but the author was soon identified as Thomas Robert Malthus. The book predicted a grim future, as population would increase geometrically, doubling every 25 years,[2] but food production would only grow arithmetically, which would result in famine and starvation, unless births were controlled.[2]

While it was not the first book on population, it was revised for over 28 years and has been acknowledged as the most influential work of its era. Malthus's book fuelled debate about the size of the population in the Kingdom of Great Britain and contributed to the passing of the Census Act 1800. This Act enabled the holding of a national census in England, Wales and Scotland, starting in 1801 and continuing every ten years to the present. The book's 6th edition (1826) was independently cited as a key influence by both Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace in developing the theory of natural selection.

A key portion of the book was dedicated to what is now known as Malthus' Iron Law of Population. This name itself is retrospective, based on the iron law of wages, which is the reformulation of Malthus' position by Ferdinand Lassalle, who in turn derived the name from Goethe's "great, eternal iron laws" in Das Göttliche.[3] This theory suggested that growing population rates would contribute to a rising supply of labour that would inevitably lower wages. In essence, Malthus feared that continued population growth would lend itself to poverty and famine.

In 1803, Malthus published, under the same title, a heavily revised second edition of his work.[4] His final version, the 6th edition, was published in 1826. In 1830, 32 years after the first edition, Malthus published a condensed version entitled A Summary View on the Principle of Population, which included responses to criticisms of the larger work.


Between 1798 and 1826 Malthus published six editions of his famous treatise, updating each edition to incorporate new material, to address criticism, and to convey changes in his own perspectives on the subject. He wrote the original text in reaction to the optimism of his father and his father's associates (notably Rousseau) regarding the future improvement of society. Malthus also constructed his case as a specific response to writings of William Godwin (1756–1836) and of the Marquis de Condorcet (1743–1794).

Malthus regarded ideals of future improvement in the lot of humanity with scepticism, considering that throughout history a segment of every human population seemed relegated to poverty. He explained this phenomenon by arguing that population growth generally expanded in times and in regions of plenty until the size of the population relative to the primary resources caused distress:

"Yet in all societies, even those that are most vicious, the tendency to a virtuous attachment is so strong, that there is a constant effort towards an increase of population. This constant effort as constantly tends to subject the lower classes of the society to distress and to prevent any great permanent amelioration of their condition".

— Malthus T.R. 1798. An Essay on the Principle of Population. Chapter II.[5]

The way in which these effects are produced seems to be this. We will suppose the means of subsistence in any country just equal to the easy support of its inhabitants. The constant effort towards population... increases the number of people before the means of subsistence are increased. The food therefore which before supported seven millions must now be divided among seven millions and a half or eight millions. The poor consequently must live much worse, and many of them be reduced to severe distress. The number of labourers also being above the proportion of the work in the market, the price of labour must tend toward a decrease, while the price of provisions would at the same time tend to rise. The labourer therefore must work harder to earn the same as he did before. During this season of distress, the discouragements to marriage, and the difficulty of rearing a family are so great that population is at a stand. In the mean time the cheapness of labour, the plenty of labourers, and the necessity of an increased industry amongst them, encourage cultivators to employ more labour upon their land, to turn up fresh soil, and to manure and improve more completely what is already in tillage, till ultimately the means of subsistence become in the same proportion to the population as at the period from which we set out. The situation of the labourer being then again tolerably comfortable, the restraints to population are in some degree loosened, and the same retrograde and progressive movements with respect to happiness are repeated.

— Malthus T.R. 1798. An Essay on the Principle of Population. Chapter II, p 19 in Oxford World's Classics reprint.

Malthus also saw that societies through history had experienced at one time or another epidemics, famines, or wars: events that masked the fundamental problem of populations overstretching their resource limitations:

The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction, and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and tens of thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow levels the population with the food of the world.

— Malthus T.R. 1798. An Essay on the Principle of Population. Chapter VII, p 44[6]

The rapid increase in the global population of the past century exemplifies Malthus's predicted population patterns; it also appears to describe socio-demographic dynamics of complex pre-industrial societies. These findings are the basis for neo-malthusian modern mathematical models of long-term historical dynamics.[7]

Malthus made the specific prediction that world population would fall below a line going upward from its then current population of one billion, adding one billion every 25 years. He wrote:

If the subsistence for man that the earth affords was to be increased every twenty-five years by a quantity equal to what the whole world at present produces, this would allow the power of production in the earth to be absolutely unlimited, and its ratio of increase much greater than we can conceive that any possible exertions of mankind could make it....yet still the power of population being a power of a superior order, the increase of the human species can only be kept commensurate to the increase of the means of subsistence by the constant operation of the strong law of necessity acting as a check upon the greater power.

— Malthus T.R. 1798. An Essay on the Principle of Population. Chapter 2, p 8[6]

To date, world population has remained below his predicted line. However, the current rate of increase since 1955 is over two billion per 25 years, more than twice the Malthus predicted maximum rate. At the same time, world hunger has been in decline. The highest UN projection has population continuing at this rate and surpassing the Malthus predicted line. This high projection supposes today's growth rate is sustainable to the year 2100 and beyond.[citation needed]

Proposed solutions[edit]

Malthus argued that two types of checks hold population within resource limits: positive checks, which raise the death rate; and preventive ones, which lower the birth rate. The positive checks include hunger, disease and war; the preventive checks, abortion, birth control, prostitution, postponement of marriage, and celibacy.[8] Regarding possibilities for freeing man from these limits, Malthus argued against a variety of imaginable solutions. For example, he satirically criticized the notion that agricultural improvements could expand without limit:

"If the progress were really unlimited it might be increased ad infinitum, but this is so gross an absurdity that we may be quite sure that among plants, as well as among animals, there is a limit to improvement, though we do not exactly know where it is. It is probable that the gardeners who contend for flower prizes have often applied stronger dressing without success. At the same time, it would be highly presumptuous in any man to say, that he had seen the finest carnation or anemone that could ever be made to grow. He might however assert without the smallest chance of being contradicted by a future fact, that no carnation or anemone could ever by cultivation be increased to the size of a large cabbage; and yet there are assignable quantities much greater than a cabbage. No man can say that he has seen the largest ear of wheat, or the largest oak that could ever grow; but he might easily, and with perfect certainty, name a point of magnitude, at which they would not arrive. In all these cases therefore, a careful distinction should be made, between an unlimited progress, and a progress where the limit is merely undefined."

He also commented on the notion that Francis Galton later called eugenics:

"It does not... by any means seem impossible that by an attention to breed, a certain degree of improvement, similar to that among animals, might take place among men. Whether intellect could be communicated may be a matter of doubt; but size, strength, beauty, complexion, and perhaps longevity are in a degree transmissible... As the human race, however, could not be improved in this way without condemning all the bad specimens to celibacy, it is not probable that an attention to breed should ever become general".

— Malthus T.R. 1798. An Essay on the Principle of Population. Chapter IX, p 72[6]

In the second and subsequent editions Malthus put more emphasis on moral restraint. By that he meant the postponement of marriage until people could support a family, coupled with strict celibacy (sexual abstinence) until that time.[citation needed] "He went so far as to claim that moral restraint on a wide scale was the best means—indeed, the only means—of easing the poverty of the lower classes."[9] This plan appeared consistent with virtue, economic gain and social improvement.[citation needed]

Malthus emphasises the difference between government-supported welfare, and public charity. He proposed the gradual abolition of poor laws by gradually reducing the number of persons qualifying for relief. Relief in dire distress would come from private charity.[10] He reasoned that poor relief acted against the longer-term interests of the poor by raising the price of commodities and undermining the independence and resilience of the peasant.[citation needed] In other words, the poor laws tended to "create the poor which they maintain."[11]

It offended Malthus that critics claimed he lacked a caring attitude toward the situation of the poor. In the 1798 edition his concern for the poor shows in passages such as the following:

Nothing is so common as to hear of encouragements that ought to be given to population. If the tendency of mankind to increase be so great as I have represented it to be, it may appear strange that this increase does not come when it is thus repeatedly called for. The true reason is, that the demand for a greater population is made without preparing the funds necessary to support it. Increase the demand for agricultural labour by promoting cultivation, and with it consequently increase the produce of the country, and ameliorate the condition of the labourer, and no apprehensions whatever need be entertained of the proportional increase of population. An attempt to effect this purpose in any other way is vicious, cruel, and tyrannical, and in any state of tolerable freedom cannot therefore succeed.

In an addition to the 1817 edition he wrote:

I have written a chapter expressly on the practical direction of our charity; and in detached passages elsewhere have paid a just tribute to the exalted virtue of benevolence. To those who have read these parts of my work, and have attended to the general tone and spirit of the whole, I willingly appeal, if they are but tolerably candid, against these charges ... which intimate that I would root out the virtues of charity and benevolence without regard to the exaltation which they bestow on the moral dignity of our nature...[12]

Some, such as William Farr[13] and Karl Marx,[14] argued that Malthus did not fully recognize the human capacity to increase food supply. On this subject, however, Malthus had written: "The main peculiarity which distinguishes man from other animals, in the means of his support, is the power which he possesses of very greatly increasing these means."[15]

On religion[edit]

As a Christian and a clergyman, Malthus addressed the question of how an omnipotent and caring God could permit suffering. In the First Edition of his Essay (1798) Malthus reasoned that the constant threat of poverty and starvation served to teach the virtues of hard work and virtuous behaviour.[16] "Had population and food increased in the same ratio, it is probable that man might never have emerged from the savage state,"[17] he wrote, adding further, "Evil exists in the world not to create despair, but activity."[18]

Nevertheless, although the threat of poverty could be understood to be a prod to motivate human industry, it was not God's will that man should suffer. Malthus wrote that mankind itself was solely to blame for human suffering:

"I believe that it is the intention of the Creator that the earth should be replenished; but certainly with a healthy, virtuous and happy population, not an unhealthy, vicious and miserable one. And if, in endeavouring to obey the command to increase and multiply,[19] we people it only with beings of this latter description and suffer accordingly, we have no right to impeach the justice of the command, but our irrational mode of executing it."[20]

Demographics, wages, and inflation[edit]

Malthus wrote of the relationship between population, real wages, and inflation. When the population of laborers grows faster than the production of food, real wages fall because the growing population causes the cost of living (i.e., the cost of food) to go up. Difficulties of raising a family eventually reduce the rate of population growth, until the falling population again leads to higher real wages:

"A circumstance which has, perhaps, more than any other, contributed to conceal this oscillation from common view, is the difference between the nominal and real price of labour. It very rarely happens that the nominal price of labour universally falls; but we well know that it frequently remains the same, while the nominal price of provisions has been gradually rising. This, indeed, will generally be the case, if the increase of manufactures and commerce be sufficient to employ the new labourers that are thrown into the market, and to prevent the increased supply from lowering the money-price. But an increased number of labourers receiving the same money-wages will necessarily, by their competition, increase the money-price of corn. This is, in fact, a real fall in the price of labour; and, during this period, the condition of the lower classes of the community must be gradually growing worse. But the farmers and capitalists are growing rich from the real cheapness of labour. Their increasing capitals enable them to employ a greater number of men; and, as the population had probably suffered some check from the greater difficulty of supporting a family, the demand for labour, after a certain period, would be great in proportion to the supply, and its price would of course rise, if left to find its natural level; and thus the wages of labour, and consequently the condition of the lower classes of society, might have progressive and retrograde movements, though the price of labour might never nominally fall.[21]

In later editions of his essay, Malthus clarified his view that if society relied on human misery to limit population growth, then sources of misery (e.g., hunger, disease, and war, termed by Malthus "positive checks on population") would inevitably afflict society, as would volatile economic cycles. On the other hand, "preventive checks" to population that limited birthrates, such as later marriages, could ensure a higher standard of living for all, while also increasing economic stability.[22]

Editions and versions[edit]

  • 1798: An Essay on the Principle of Population, as it affects the future improvement of society with remarks on the speculations of Mr. Godwin, M. Condorcet, and other writers.. Anonymously published.
  • 1803: Second and much enlarged edition: An Essay on the Principle of Population; or, a view of its past and present effects on human happiness; with an enquiry into our prospects respecting the future removal or mitigation of the evils which it occasions. Authorship acknowledged.
  • 1806, 1807, 1817 and 1826: editions 3–6, with relatively minor changes from the second edition.
  • 1823: Malthus contributed the article on Population to the supplement of the Encyclopædia Britannica.
  • 1830: Malthus had a long extract from the 1823 article reprinted as A summary view of the Principle of Population.[23]

1st edition[edit]

The full title of the first edition of Malthus' essay was "An Essay on the Principle of Population, as it affects the Future Improvement of Society with remarks on the Speculations of Mr. Godwin, M. Condorcet, and Other Writers." The speculations and other writers are explained below.

William Godwin had published his utopian work Enquiry concerning Political Justice in 1793, with later editions in 1796 and 1798. Also, Of Avarice and Profusion (1797). Malthus' remarks on Godwin's work spans chapters 10 through 15 (inclusive) out of nineteen. Godwin responded with Of Population (1820).

The Marquis de Condorcet had published his utopian vision of social progress and the perfectibility of man Esquisse d'un Tableau Historique des Progres de l'Espirit Humain (The Future Progress of the Human Mind) in 1794. Malthus' remarks on Condorcet's work spans chapters 8 and 9.

Malthus' essay was in response to these utopian visions, as he argued:

This natural inequality of the two powers, of population, and of production of the earth, and that great law of our nature which must constantly keep their effects equal, form the great difficulty that appears to me insurmountable in the way to the perfectibility of society.

The "other writers" included Robert Wallace, Adam Smith, Richard Price, and David Hume.

Malthus himself claimed:

The only authors from whose writings I had deduced the principle, which formed the main argument of the Essay, were Hume, Wallace, Adam Smith, and Dr. Price...

Chapters 1 and 2 outline Malthus' Principle of Population, and the unequal nature of food supply to population growth. The exponential nature of population growth is today known as the Malthusian growth model. This aspect of Malthus' Principle of Population, together with his assertion that food supply was subject to a linear growth model, would remain unchanged in future editions of his essay. Note that Malthus actually used the terms geometric and arithmetic, respectively.

Chapter 3 examines the overrun of the Roman empire by barbarians, due to population pressure. War as a check on population is examined.

Chapter 4 examines the current state of populousness of civilized nations (particularly Europe). Malthus criticises David Hume for a "probable error" in his "criteria that he proposes as assisting in an estimate of population."

Chapter 5 examines The Poor Laws of Pitt the Younger .

Chapter 6 examines the rapid growth of new colonies such as the former Thirteen Colonies of the United States of America.

Chapter 7 examines checks on population such as pestilence and famine.

Chapter 8 also examines a "probable error" by Wallace "that the difficulty arising from population is at a great distance."

Chapters 16 and 17 examine the causes of the wealth of states, including criticisms of Adam Smith and Richard Price. English wealth is compared with Chinese poverty.

Chapters 18 and 19 set out a theodicy to explain the problem of evil in terms of natural theology. This views the world as "a mighty process for awakening matter" in which the Supreme Being acting "according to general laws" created "wants of the body" as "necessary to create exertion" which forms "the reasoning faculty". In this way, the principle of population would "tend rather to promote, than impede the general purpose of Providence."

The 1st edition influenced writers of natural theology such as William Paley and Thomas Chalmers.

2nd to 6th editions[edit]

Following both widespread praise and criticism of his essay, Malthus revised his arguments and recognized other influences:

In the course of this enquiry I found that much more had been done than I had been aware of, when I first published the Essay. The poverty and misery arising from a too rapid increase of population had been distinctly seen, and the most violent remedies proposed, so long ago as the times of Plato and Aristotle. And of late years the subject has been treated in such a manner by some of the French Economists; occasionally by Montesquieu, and, among our own writers, by Dr. Franklin, Sir James Stewart, Mr. Arthur Young, and Mr. Townsend, as to create a natural surprise that it had not excited more of the public attention.

The 2nd edition, published in 1803 (with Malthus now clearly identified as the author), was entitled "An Essay on the Principle of Population; or, a View of its Past and Present Effects on Human Happiness; with an enquiry into our Prospects respecting the Future Removal or Mitigation of the Evils which it occasions."

Malthus advised that the 2nd edition "may be considered as a new work", and essentially the subsequent editions were all minor revisions of the 2nd edition. These were published in 1806, 1807, 1817, and 1826.

By far the biggest change was in how the 2nd to 6th editions of the essay were structured, and the most copious and detailed evidence that Malthus presented, more than any previous such book on population. Essentially, for the first time, Malthus examined his own Principle of Population on a region-by-region basis of world population. The essay was organized in four books:

  • Book I – Of the Checks to Population in the Less Civilized Parts of the World and in Past Times.
  • Book II – Of the Checks To Population in the Different States of Modern Europe.
  • Book III – Of the different Systems or Expedients which have been proposed or have prevailed in Society, as They affect the Evils arising from the Principle of Population.
  • Book IV – Of our future Prospects respecting the Removal or Mitigation of the Evils arising from the Principle of Population.

Due in part to the highly influential nature of Malthus' work (see main article Thomas Malthus), this approach is regarded as pivotal in establishing the field of demography.

The following controversial quote appears in the second edition:

A man who is born into a world already possessed, if he cannot get subsistence from his parents on whom he has a just demand, and if the society do not want his labour, has no claim of right to the smallest portion of food, and, in fact, has no business to be where he is. At nature's mighty feast there is no vacant cover for him. She tells him to be gone, and will quickly execute her own orders, if he does not work upon the compassion of some of her guests. If these guests get up and make room for him, other intruders immediately appear demanding the same favour. The report of a provision for all that come, fills the hall with numerous claimants. The order and harmony of the feast is disturbed, the plenty that before reigned is changed into scarcity; and the happiness of the guests is destroyed by the spectacle of misery and dependence in every part of the hall, and by the clamorous importunity of those, who are justly enraged at not finding the provision which they had been taught to expect. The guests learn too late their error, in counter-acting those strict orders to all intruders, issued by the great mistress of the feast, who, wishing that all guests should have plenty, and knowing she could not provide for unlimited numbers, humanely refused to admit fresh comers when her table was already full.

Ecologist Professor Garrett Hardin claims that the preceding passage inspired hostile reactions from many critics. The offending passage of Malthus' essay appeared in the 2nd edition only, as Malthus felt obliged to remove it.[24]

From the 2nd edition onwards – in Book IV – Malthus advocated moral restraint as an additional, and voluntary, check on population. This included such measures as sexual abstinence and late marriage.

As noted by Professor Robert M. Young, Malthus dropped his chapters on natural theology from the 2nd edition onwards. Also, the essay became less of a personal response to William Godwin and Marquis de Condorcet.

A Summary View[edit]

A Summary View on the Principle of Population was published in 1830. The author was identified as Rev. T.R. Malthus, A.M., F.R.S. Malthus wrote A Summary View for those who did not have the leisure to read the full essay and, as he put it, "to correct some of the misrepresentations which have gone abroad respecting two or three of the most important points of the Essay".[25]

A Summary View ends with a defense of the Principle of Population against the charge that it "mpeaches the goodness of the Deity, and is inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the scriptures".

See main article Thomas Malthus for more.

This was Malthus' final word on his Principle of Population. He died in 1834.

Other works that influenced Malthus[edit]

  • Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind, Peopling of Countries, etc. (1751) by Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790)
  • Of the Populousness of Ancient Nations (1752) – David Hume (1711–76)
  • A Dissertation on the Numbers of Mankind in Ancient and Modern Times (1753), Characteristics of the Present State of Great Britain (1758), and Various Prospects of Mankind, Nature and Providence (1761) – Robert Wallace (1697–1771)
  • An enquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776) – Adam Smith (1723–90)
  • Essay on the Population of England from the Revolution to Present Time (1780), Evidence for a Future Period in the State of Mankind, with the Means and Duty of Promoting it (1787) – Richard Price (1723–1791).

Reception and influence of the Essay[edit]


Malthus became subject to extreme personal criticism. People who knew nothing about his private life criticised him both for having no children and for having too many. In 1819, Shelley, berating Malthus as a priest, called him "a eunuch and a tyrant".[26] Marx repeated the idea, adding that Malthus had taken the vow of celibacy, and called him "superficial", "a professional plagiarist", "the agent of the landed aristocracy", "a paid advocate" and "the principal enemy of the people".[27]

In the 20th century an editor of the Everyman edition of Malthus claimed that Malthus had practised population control by begetting eleven girls.[28] In fact, Malthus fathered two daughters and one son. Garrett Hardin provides an overview of such personal comments.[24]

Early influence[edit]

The position held by Malthus as professor at the Haileybury training college, to his death in 1834, gave his theories some influence over Britain's administration of India.[29] According to Peterson, William Pitt the Younger (in office: 1783–1801 and 1804–1806), on reading the work of Malthus, withdrew a Bill he had introduced that called for the extension of Poor Relief. Concerns about Malthus's theory helped promote the idea of a national population census in the UK. Government official John Rickman became instrumental in the carrying out of the first modern British census in 1801, under Pitt's administration. In the 1830s Malthus's writings strongly influenced Whig reforms which overturned Tory paternalism and brought in the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834.

Malthus convinced most economists that even while high fertility might increase the gross output, it tended to reduce output per capita. David Ricardo and Alfred Marshall admired Malthus, and so came under his influence. Early converts to his population theory included William Paley. Despite Malthus's opposition to contraception, his work exercised a strong influence on Francis Place (1771–1854), whose neo-Malthusian movement became the first to advocate contraception. Place published his Illustrations and Proofs of the Principles of Population in 1822.[30]

Early responses in the Malthusian controversy[edit]

William Godwin criticized Malthus's criticisms of his own arguments in his book On Population (1820).[31] Other theoretical and political critiques of Malthus and Malthusian thinking emerged soon after the publication of the first Essay on Population, most notably in the work of Robert Owen, of the essayist William Hazlitt (1807)[32] and of the economist Nassau William Senior,[33] and moralist William Cobbett. True Law of Population (1845) was by politician Thomas Doubleday, an adherent of Cobbett's views.

John Stuart Mill strongly defended the ideas of Malthus in his 1848 work, Principles of Political Economy (Book II, Chapters 11–13). Mill considered the criticisms of Malthus made thus far to have been superficial.

The American economist Henry Charles Carey rejected Malthus's argument in his magnum opus of 1858–59, The Principles of Social Science. Carey maintained that the only situation in which the means of subsistence will determine population growth is one in which a given society is not introducing new technologies or not adopting forward-thinking governmental policy, and that population regulated itself in every well-governed society, but its pressure on subsistence characterized the lower stages of civilization.

Marxist opposition[edit]

Another strand of opposition to Malthus's ideas started in the middle of the 19th century with the writings of Friedrich Engels (Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy, 1844) and Karl Marx (Capital, 1867). Engels and Marx argued that what Malthus saw as the problem of the pressure of population on the means of production actually represented the pressure of the means of production on population. They thus viewed it in terms of their concept of the reserve army of labour. In other words, the seeming excess of population that Malthus attributed to the seemingly innate disposition of the poor to reproduce beyond their means actually emerged as a product of the very dynamic of capitalist economy.

Engels called Malthus's hypothesis "the crudest, most barbarous theory that ever existed, a system of despair which struck down all those beautiful phrases about love thy neighbour and world citizenship".[34] Engels also predicted[34] that science would solve the problem of an adequate food supply.

In the Marxist tradition, Lenin sharply criticized Malthusian theory and its neo-Malthusian version,[35] calling it a "reactionary doctrine" and "an attempt on the part of bourgeois ideologists to exonerate capitalism and to prove the inevitability of privation and misery for the working class under any social system".

In addition, many Russian philosophers could not easily apply Malthus’ population theory to Russian society in the 1840s. In England, where Malthus lived, population was rapidly increasing but suitable agricultural land was limited. Russia, on the other hand, had extensive land with agricultural potential yet a relatively sparse population. It is possible that this discrepancy between Russian and English realities contributed to the rejection of Malthus’ Essay on the Principle of Population by key Russian thinkers.[36] Another difference which contributed to the confusion and ultimately the rejection of Malthus's argument in Russia was its cultural basis in English capitalism.[36] This political contrast helps explain why it took Russia twenty years to publish a review of the work and fifty years to translate Malthus's Essay.[36]

Later responses[edit]

Some 19th-century economists[who?] believed that improvements in finance, manufacturing and science rendered some of Malthus's warnings implausible. They had in mind the division and specialization of labour, increased capital investment, and increased productivity of the land due to the introduction of science into agriculture (note the experiments of Justus Liebig and of Sir John Bennet Lawes). Even in the absence of improvement in technology or of increase of capital equipment, an increased supply of labour may have a synergistic effect on productivity that overcomes the law of diminishing returns. As American land-economist Henry George observed with characteristic piquancy in dismissing Malthus: "Both the jayhawk and the man eat chickens; but the more jayhawks, the fewer chickens, while the more men, the more chickens." In the 20th century, those who regarded Malthus as a failed prophet of doom included an editor of Nature, John Maddox.[37]

Economist Julian Lincoln Simon has criticised Malthus's conclusions.[38] He notes that despite the predictions of Malthus and of the Neo-Malthusians, massive geometricpopulation growth in the 20th century did not result in a Malthusian catastrophe. Many factors have been identified as having contributed: general improvements in farming methods (industrial agriculture), mechanization of work (tractors), the introduction of high-yield varieties of wheat and other plants (Green Revolution), the use of pesticides to control crop pests. Each played a role.[39]

The enviro-scepticBjørn Lomborg presented data to argue the case that the environment had actually improved,[40] and that calories produced per day per capita globally went up 23% between 1960 and 2000, despite the doubling of the world population in that period.[41]

From the opposite angle, Romanian American economist Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, a progenitor in economics and a paradigm founder of ecological economics, has argued that Malthus was too optimistic, as he failed to recognize any upper limit to the growth of population — only, the geometric increase in human numbers is occasionally slowed down (checked) by the arithmetic increase in agricultural produce, according to Malthus' simple growth model; but some upper limit to population is bound to exist, as the total amount of agricultural land — actual as well as potential — on Earth is finite, Georgescu-Roegen points out.[42]:366–369 Georgescu-Roegen further argues that the industrialised world's increase in agricultural productivity since Malthus' day has been brought about by a mechanisation that has substituted a scarcer source of input for the more abundant input of solar radiation: Machinery, chemical fertilisers and pesticides all rely on mineral resources for their operation, rendering modern agriculture — and the industrialised food processing and distribution systems associated with it — almost as dependent on Earth's mineral stock as the industrial sector has always been. Georgescu-Roegen cautions that this situation is a major reason why the carrying capacity of Earth — that is, Earth's capacity to sustain human populations and consumption levels — is bound to decrease sometime in the future as Earth's finite stock of mineral resources is presently being extracted and put to use.[43]:303 Political advisor Jeremy Rifkin and ecological economist Herman Daly, two students of Georgescu-Roegen, have raised similar neo-Malthusian concerns about the long run drawbacks of modern mechanised agriculture.[44]:136–140[45]:10f

Anthropologist Eric Ross depicts Malthus's work as a rationalization of the social inequities produced by the Industrial Revolution, anti-immigration movements, the eugenics movement[clarification needed] and the various international development movements.[46]

Social theory[edit]

Despite use of the term "Malthusian catastrophe" by detractors such as economist Julian Simon (1932–1998), Malthus himself did not write that mankind faced an inevitable future catastrophe. Rather, he offered an evolutionary social theory of population dynamics as it had acted steadily throughout all previous history.[47] Eight major points regarding population dynamics appear in the 1798 Essay:[citation needed]

  1. subsistence severely limits population-level
  2. when the means of subsistence increases, population increases
  3. population-pressures stimulate increases in productivity
  4. increases in productivity stimulate further population-growth
  5. because productivity increases cannot maintain the potential rate of population growth, population requires strong checks to keep parity with the carrying-capacity
  6. individual cost/benefit decisions regarding sex, work, and children determine the expansion or contraction of population and production
  7. checks will come into operation as population exceeds subsistence-level
  8. the nature of these checks will have significant effect on the larger sociocultural system—Malthus points specifically to misery, vice, and poverty

Malthusian social theory influenced Herbert Spencer's idea of the survival of the fittest,[48] and the modern ecological-evolutionary social theory of Gerhard Lenski and Marvin Harris.[49] Malthusian ideas have thus contributed to the canon of socioeconomic theory.

The first Director-General of UNESCO, Julian Huxley, wrote of The crowded world in his Evolutionary Humanism (1964), calling for a world population policy. Huxley openly criticised communist and Roman Catholic attitudes to birth control, population control and overpopulation.


Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace each read and acknowledged the role played by Malthus in the development of their own ideas. Darwin referred to Malthus as "that great philosopher",[50] and said: "This is the doctrine of Malthus, applied with manifold force to the animal and vegetable kingdoms, for in this case there can be no artificial increase of food, and no prudential restraint from marriage".[51] Darwin also wrote:

"In October 1838 ... I happened to read for amusement Malthus on Population ... it at once struck me that under these circumstances favourable variations would tend to be preserved, and unfavourable ones to be destroyed. The result of this would be the formation of new species."

— Barlow, Nora 1958. The autobiography of Charles Darwin. p128

Wallace stated:

"But perhaps the most important book I read was Malthus's Principles of Population ... It was the first great work I had yet read treating of any of the problems of philosophical biology, and its main principles remained with me as a permanent possession, and twenty years later gave me the long-sought clue to the effective agent in the evolution of organic species.

— Wallace, Alfred Russel 1908. My life: a record of events and opinions.[52]

Ronald Fisher commented sceptically on Malthusianism as a basis for a theory of natural selection.[53] Fisher did not deny[citation needed] Malthus's basic premises, but emphasised the role of fecundity (reproductive rate), rather than assume actual conditions would not reduce future births.[54]John Maynard Smith doubted that famine functioned as the great leveller, as portrayed by Malthus, but he also accepted the basic premises:

Populations cannot increase geometrically forever. Sooner or later, a shortage of resources must bring the increase to a halt.

It was this insight, that led Darwin to the idea of natural selection and is a major underpinning of the Origin of Species.

Later influence[edit]

Malthusian ideas continue to have considerable influence. Paul R. Ehrlich has written several books predicting famine as a result of population increase: The Population Bomb (1968); Population, resources, environment: issues in human ecology (1970, with Anne Ehrlich); The end of affluence (1974, with Anne Ehrlich); The population explosion (1990, with Anne Ehrlich). In the late 1960s Ehrlich predicted that hundreds of millions would die from a coming overpopulation-crisis in the 1970s. Other examples of work that has been accused of "Malthusianism" include the 1972 book The Limits to Growth (published by the Club of Rome) and the Global 2000 report to the then President of the United StatesJimmy Carter. Science-fiction author Isaac Asimov issued many appeals for population-control reflecting the perspective articulated by people from Robert Malthus through Paul R. Ehrlich.

Ecological economistHerman Daly has recognized the influence of Malthus on his own work on steady-state economics.[45]:xvi

More recently[update], a school of "neo-Malthusian" scholars has begun to link population and economics to a third variable, political change and political violence, and to show how the variables interact. In the early 1980s, Jack Goldstone linked population variables to the English Revolution of 1640–1660[citation needed] and David Lempert devised a model of demographics, economics, and political change in the multi-ethnic country of Mauritius. Goldstone has since modeled other revolutions by looking at demographics and economics[citation needed] and Lempert has explained Stalin's purges and the Russian Revolution of 1917 in terms of demographic factors that drive political economy. Ted Robert Gurr has also modeled political violence, such as in the Palestinian territories and in Rwanda/Congo (two of the world's regions of most rapidly growing population) using similar variables in several comparative cases. These approaches suggest that political ideology follows demographic forces.

Malthus, sometimes regarded as the founding father of modern demography,[55] continues to inspire and influence futuristic visions, such as those of K. Eric Drexler relating to space advocacy and molecular nanotechnology. As Drexler put it in Engines of Creation (1986): "In a sense, opening space will burst our limits to growth, since we know of no end to the universe. Nevertheless, Malthus was essentially right."

The Malthusian growth model now bears Malthus's name. The logistic function of Pierre François Verhulst (1804–1849) results in the S-curve. Verhulst developed the logistic growth model favored by so many critics of the Malthusian growth model in 1838 only after reading Malthus's essay. Malthus has also inspired retired physics professor, Albert Allen Bartlett, to lecture over 1,500 times on "Arithmetic, Population, and Energy", promoting sustainable living and explaining the mathematics of overpopulation.

  • [Malthus] became the best-abused man of the age[56]
  • There is hardly a cherished ideology, left or right, that is not brought into question by the principle of population.

See also[edit]


  1. ^An Essay on the Principle of Population As It Affects the Future Improvement of Society, with Remarks on the Speculations of Mr. Goodwin, M. Condorcet and Other Writers (1 ed.). London: J. Johnson in St Paul's Church-yard. 1798. Retrieved 20 June 2015.  via Internet Archive
  2. ^ ab"Malthus' Principle of Population". BRIA 26 2 The Debate Over World Population: Was Malthus Right?. 26. Constitutional Rights Foundation (CRF). Winter 2010. Retrieved 2016-04-07. 
  3. ^Critique of the Gotha Programme,Karl Marx, Chapter 2, footnote 1, (1875)
  4. ^The fourth edition appeared in 1807 in two volumes. See Malthus, Thomas Robert (1807), An Essay on the Principle of Population, or a View of Its Past and Present Effects on Human Happiness, with An Enquiry into Our Prospects Respecting the Future Removal or Mitigation of the Evils Which It Occasions, I (Fourth ed.), London: J. Johnson , volume II via Google Books
  5. ^p. 18 in Oxford World's Classics reprint; p. 29 in the original text in Wikisource
  6. ^ abcOxford World's Classics reprint
  7. ^See, e.g., Peter Turchin 2003; Turchin and Korotayev 2006Archived February 29, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.; Peter Turchin et al. 2007; Korotayev et al. 2006.
  8. ^Geoffrey Gilbert, introduction to Malthus T.R. 1798. An Essay on the Principle of Population. Oxford World's Classics reprint. viii
  9. ^Geoffrey Gilbert, introduction to Malthus T.R. 1798. An Essay on the Principle of Population. Oxford World's Classics reprint. xviii
  10. ^Malthus T.R. 1798. An Essay on the Principle of Population. Chapter V, pp 39–45, in Oxford World's Classics reprint.
  11. ^By doing what appears good, we may do harm. Unintended consequences play a major role in economic thought; see the invisible hand and the tragedy of the commons.
  12. ^p607, cited in
  13. ^Eyler, John M (1979). Victorian Social Medicine: the ideas and methods of William Farr. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-2246-9. 
  14. ^R. L. Meek, ed. (1953). Marx and Engels on Malthus. London: Lawrence & Wishart. 
  15. ^Quoted in Tellegen, Egbert; Wolsink, Maarten (1998). Society and Its Environment: An Introduction. Routledge. p. 16. ISBN 978-90-5699-125-8. Retrieved 2010-02-12.  
  16. ^Bowler, Peter J. (2003). Evolution: the history of an idea. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 104–105. ISBN 0-520-23693-9. 
  17. ^Malthus, Thomas (1959). Population: The First Essay. University of Michigan Press. p. 127. ISBN 978-0-472-06031-3. 
  18. ^Malthus T.R. 1798. An Essay on the Principle of Population. Oxford World's Classics reprint. p 158 Similarly, Malthus believed that "the infinite variety of admirably adapted to further the high purpose of the creation and to produce the greatest possible quantity of good." Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population, 1st ed., published anonymously, (St. Paul's Churchyard, London: J. Johnson, 1798), p. 73.
  19. ^Genesis I:28
  20. ^Malthus T.R. 1826. An Essay on the Principle of Population, Sixth Edition, App.I.6.
  21. ^Essay (1798), Chap. IV. Accessed from on 2010-02-13
  22. ^Essay (1826), I:2. See also A:1:17
  23. ^dates from Malthus T.R. 1798. An Essay on the Principle of Population. Oxford World's Classics reprint: xxix Chronology.
  24. ^ abHardin, Garrett (Spring 1998). "The Feast of Malthus". The Social Contract. The Social Contract Press. Retrieved 2015-01-10. 
  25. ^Thomas Robert Malthus, George Thomas Bettany, "A Summary View on the Principle of Population, p 36"
  26. ^Percy B. Shelley: "A philosophical view of reform." In The Complete Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley. London: Gordian, 1829. (vol. 7, p. 32)
  27. ^Dupaquier J. (ed). 1983. Malthus past and present. New York: Academic Press. p. 258
  28. ^Fogarty, Michael P. 1958. Introduction to Malthus, Essay on the Principle of Population. Dent, London. vi
  29. ^Petersen, William. 1979. Malthus. Heinemann, London. 2nd ed 1999. p 32
  30. ^Petersen, William. 1979. Malthus. Heinemann, London. 2nd ed 1999. Chapter 9: Fertility
  31. ^Godwin, William (1820). Of Population: An Enquiry Concerning the Power of Increase in the Numbers of Mankind, Being an Answer to Mr. Malthus's Essay on That Subject. Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown. p. 648. Retrieved 2010-03-29. 
  32. ^A Reply to the Essay on Population, by the Rev. T. R. Malthus. For an annotated extract, see: Malthus And The Liberties Of The Poor, 1807
  33. ^Two Lectures on Population, 1829

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