Review: Our Boys Go In
Now: Let’s look at the old fashioned argument on the same page. Kirsty is trying to argue here that differentiation starts in the womb. How does she support her argument? She cites a parent (a father!) who simply says that he is convinced but cannot prove his belief that the twins ‘know’ (my emphasis) they are separate. On closing the quote Kirsty pipes up with a ‘Thus’ to try and support her view. Is this meant to be Logic a la Lacan? It does not follw, you see. Is it Rhetoric? OK, but then how can you claim that this anecdote presents an evidence. Yes the word ‘evidence’ is used by Kirsty as if she were an NHS bureaucrat. Disappointing.
In general, the book appears to value clarity (the absence of footnotes comes with a high price) but delivers chaos. As Derrida once noted about deconstruction, ‘Chaos is at once a risk and a chance’; so there could be potential in this approach. But the risk outweighs the potential in my view. On the same page (p.41) Kirsty cites no less than six sources to support her view about the aforementioned differentiation in the womb. You may think that I have a thing about this but similar fallacious reasoning applies to the book’s arguments about other hobbyhorses of contemporary psychoanalysis such as whether psychosis is a fixed structure or a point on a continuum, the definition of hysteria, the deliverance of perversion into the analytic chair, Melanie Klein’s binarism and Lacan’s triumph over her and so on. There is everybody in this motley stew: Lacan, Winnicott, Freud and the less famous commentators such as Benton and Craib. And then there is Piontelli’s research on pre-natal twin behaviour in 1992. The state of the art view of child development on this topic is inconclusive (it took me a year of doing a psychology degree long after 1992 to get this and present it in my essays well enough to get a high mark for my scientifically-minded tutors). In other words, the book’s flirtation with science or scientificity, to be precise, is both incorrect and unseductive. Its use of diverse psychoanalytic sources is undisciplined.
Having said all of this, I think we should engage with this work and read the book. For one, I have added it to my reading list for a course I am teaching for the third time at WPF on ‘Schools of Thought in Psychoanalysis’. And I look forward to some informed debate with my students about its content, its style and its many failings that like good interpretations are quite provocative; their value may lie in that alone.