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The Neo-Freudian psychiatrists and psychologists were a group of loosely linked American theorists of the mid-twentieth century, who were all influenced by Sigmund Freud, but who extended his theories, often in social or cultural directions.


Other Dissidents and Post-Freudians

The term Neo-Freudian is sometimes, but incorrectly, used to cover all those who at some time in their career accepted the basic tenets of Freud's theory of psychoanalysis but later dissented from it, such as Alfred Adler or Jung, figures who are perhaps better thought of as dissidents.

The 'Independent Analysts' Group of the British Psycho-Analytical Society, as distinct from the Kleinians and what are now called the Contemporary Freudians', who include figures such as Christopher Bollas, D. W. Winnicott and Adam Phillips, are - like the ego-psychologists such as Heinz Hartmann or the intersubjectivist analysts in the States - perhaps best considered of as 'different schools of psychoanalytic thought'.

It was only in a jocular way that one might have spoken in the Eighties of 'today's nouvelle vague neo-Freudians, Kernberg and Kohut'.

Neo-Freudian Ideas

An interest in the social approach to psychodynamics was the major theme linking the so-called Neo-Freudians. Adler had perhaps been 'the first to explore and develop a comprehensive social theory of the psychodynamic self'; and 'after Adler's death, some of his views...came to exert considerable influence on neo-Freudian theory'.

As early as 1932, however, Fromm had been independently regretting that psychoanalysts 'did not concern themselves with the variety of life experience...and therefore did not try to explain psychic structure as determined by social structure'.

Horney too 'emphasised the role culture exerts in the development of personality and downplayed the classical driven features outlined by Freud'.

Erikson for his part stressed that 'psychoanalysis today is...shifting its the study of the ego's roots in social organisation', and that its method should be 'what H. S. Sullivan called "participant", and systematically so'.

Through informal as well as institutional links, as well as likeness of ideas, the Neo-Freudians made up a cohesively distinctive and influential psychodynamic movement.


'Herbert Marcuse, in his "Critique of Neo-Freudian Revisionism"...icily examines the tone of uplift and the Power of Positive Thinking that pervades the revisionists' writings, and mocks their claims to scientific seriousness'.

Similarly 'an Mr Edward Glover, entitled Freudian or Neo-Freudian, directed entirely against the constructions of Mr Alexander' equally used the term as a form of orthodox reproach.

In the wake of such contemporary criticism, a 'consistent critique levelled at most theorists cited above is that they compromise the intrapersonal interiority of the psyche', but one may accept nonetheless that 'they have contributed an enduring and vital collection of standpoints relating to the human subject'.


Whether by direct or indirect influence, 'consistent with the traditions of these schools, current theorists of the social and psychodynamic self are working in the spaces between social and political theory and psychoanalysis (Wolfenstein 1993; Chodorow 1994; Hinshelwood 1996).

Cultural Offshoots

In his skit on Freud's remark that 'if my name were Oberhuber, my innovations would have found far less resistance', Peter Gay, considering the notional eclipse of "Oberhuber" by his replacement Freud, adjudged that 'the prospect that deviants would have to be called neo-Oberhuberians, or Oberhuberian revisionists, contributed to the master's decline'.

Neo-Freudian Psychologists

Others with Possible Neo-Freudian Links

Related publications

  • Thompson, Clara M. (1950). Psychoanalysis: Evolution and development. New York: Thomas Nelson & Sons.
  • Mitchell, S.A., & Black M.J. (1995). Freud and beyond: a history of modern psychoanalytic thought. USA: Basic Books.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Neo-Freudianism" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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