Review: The Temptations of Narcissism
In the second half of the paper, Gaitanidis criticises such varied writers as Jung and Adler (for prioritising the ego at the expense of libido and the id), Hartmann (for detaching the part of the ego from its narcissistic libidinal origins, dubbing it the ‘conflict-free ego sphere’) and Jacques Lacan (for forging a rigid connection between narcissism and the ego, thus reducing any claims to autonomous agency on the part of the ego). Freud alone, claims Gaitanidis, continues the balancing act of allowing the ego some agency in the face of the incessant demands of the id and the superego thereby providing a dialectical space for the psychoanalytic enterprise, a space for negotiating the multiple ambivalences of subject and object.
The remainder of the book contains many papers that are of a similarly high quality. Of particular interest are Julia Borossa’s paper, ‘Narcissistic wounds, race and racism’ where she discusses Fanon’s insistent opening up ‘the universals of psychoanalysis to the demands of the particular’ in the context of race. In other words, the narcissistic wound always remains but is constitutive of subjectivity. Larry O’ Carroll’s use of the work of Laplanche, a much underrated analyst in the UK, is also worthy of mention.
There are many books where a reviewer struggles to find something to praise amongst the dross of poorly presented and ill-thought through ideas. In the case of Narcissism – A Critical Reader, the opposite is true. Buy a copy and, like me, enjoy a wide and intriguing collection of ideas.