Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire

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Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire
Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire (first edition).jpg
Cover of the first edition
Author Hans Eysenck
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Subject Sigmund Freud
Published 1985 (Viking)
Media type Print (Hardcover and Paperback)
Pages 224 (1986 Pelican edition)
ISBN 0-14-022562-5 (1986 Pelican edition)

Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire (1985; second edition 2004) is a book by psychologist Hans Eysenck, in which Eysenck criticizes Sigmund Freud and argues that psychoanalysis is unscientific. The revised edition has a preface by the author's widow, Sybil Eysenck.[1] The book received mostly negative reviews.


Eysenck argues that psychoanalysis is unscientific and that its theories are based on no legitimate base of observation or experiment and have the status only of speculation. Eysenck argues that the veracity of psychoanalysis is testable through traditional empirical means, and that in all areas where such tests have been carried out it has failed.[2] Eysenck calls Freud, "a genius, not of science, but of propaganda, not of rigorous proof, but of persuasion, not of the design of experiments, but of literary art."[2] According to Eysenck, Freud set back the study of psychology and psychiatry by around fifty years. Eysenck argues that the dreams Freud cites in The Interpretation of Dreams (1899) do not really support his theories, and that Freud's examples actually disprove his dream theory. Eysenck calls psychoanalyst Ernest Jones' The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud (1953-1957) the "most famous" biography of Freud, but sees it as "more a mythology than a history, leaving out as it does nearly all the warts and making many alterations to the portrait by suppressing data and items which might reflect unfavourably on Freud." Eysenck praises several works critical of psychoanalysis, including psychiatrist Henri Ellenberger's The Discovery of the Unconscious (1970), psychologist Frank Sulloway's Freud, Biologist of the Mind (1979), Jacques Van Rillaer's Les Illusions de la Psychanalyse (1980), and philosopher Adolf Grünbaum's The Foundations of Psychoanalysis (1984). He accepts Elizabeth Thornton's argument, made in Freud and Cocaine (1983), also published as The Freudian Fallacy, that Freud's patient Anna O. suffered from tuberculous meningitis.[3][4]


Mainstream media[edit]

Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire was reviewed by psychologist Stuart Sutherland in the Times Higher Education Supplement,[5] David Berry in New Statesman,[6] and Paul Stuewe in Quill & Quire.[7]

Berry reviewed Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire negatively, calling it an "ill-considered, illogical banality".[6] Stuewe gave the book a positive review, calling Eysenck's approach to testing psychoanalytic theory "rigorously scientific". Stuewe concluded that while Eysenck's book was not likely to change the mind of those who accepted psychoanalysis, it was nevertheless "a controversial and largely convincing challenge to the scientific validity of psychoanalysis and such a forcefully written and lucidly argued one that it will certainly attract a good deal of public attention."[7]

Scientific and academic journals[edit]

Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire was reviewed by psychiatrist Anthony Clare in Nature,[8] Vernon Hamilton in the British Journal of Psychology,[9] Coline Covington in the Journal of Analytical Psychology,[10] Parker E. Lichtenstein in the Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies,[11] Chris Brand in Behaviour Research and Therapy,[12] and Michael H. Stone in the American Journal of Psychiatry.[13] Hamilton's review was negative. He described Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire as a popularization of Eysenck's articles and books criticizing psychoanalysis, and a work that was "not really meant for academic consumption." Hamilton criticized Eysenck's account of psychoanalytic therapy, writing that it bore little resemblance to modern psychoanalytic therapy, and wrote that Eysenck evaluated psychoanalysis using experimental evidence that was not methodologically adequate, or which in some cases actually provided weak support for psychoanalytic concepts such as repression, contrary to what Eysenck implied.[9]

Evaluations in books[edit]

Malcolm Macmillan, writing in Freud Evaluated (1991), described Eysenck as one of several authors to have argued that Anna O. suffered from an organic malady. He observed these authors provide conflicting accounts of what malady Anna O. suffered from, and argued that establishing any retrospective diagnosis with certainty is difficult.[14] Author Richard Webster, writing in Why Freud Was Wrong (1995), suggested that Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire contains many cogent criticisms of Freud. However, he criticized Eysenck for accepting uncritically Thornton's argument that Freud's patient Anna O. suffered from tuberculous meningitis.[3]



  1. ^ Wilcocks.
  2. ^ a b Frosh 1987. pp. 6, 276.
  3. ^ a b Webster 2005. pp. 577-78.
  4. ^ Eysenck 1986. pp. 35, 119, 202, 212-213.
  5. ^ Sutherland 1985. p. 23.
  6. ^ a b Berry 1985. p. 28.
  7. ^ a b Stuewe 1986. p. 30.
  8. ^ Clare 1985. pp. 112-113.
  9. ^ a b Hamilton 1986. pp. 541-542.
  10. ^ Covington 1987. p. 195.
  11. ^ Lichtenstein 1991. pp. 126-128.
  12. ^ Brand 1993. pp. 129-131.
  13. ^ Stone 1994. p. 609.
  14. ^ Macmillan 1997. pp. 10, 684.


  • Eysenck, Hans (1986). Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-022562-5. 
  • Frosh, Stephen (1987). The Politics of Psychoanalysis: An Introduction to Freudian and Post-Freudian Theory. Hong Kong: Macmillan Education. ISBN 0-333-39613-8. 
  • Macmillan, Malcolm (1997). Freud Evaluated: The Completed Arc. Cambridge: The MIT Press. pp. 10, 684. ISBN 0-262-63171-7. 
  • Webster, Richard (2005). Why Freud Was Wrong: Sin, Science and Psychoanalysis. Oxford: The Orwell Press. pp. 577–578. ISBN 0-9515922-5-4. 
  • Berry, David (1985). "Decline and fall of the Freudian empire (Book Review)". New Statesman. 110 (September 6, 1985).   – via EBSCO's Academic Search Complete (subscription required)
  • Brand, Chris (1993). "Decline and fall of the Freudian empire (Book Review)". Behaviour Research & Therapy. 31 (January 1993).   – via EBSCO's Academic Search Complete (subscription required)
  • Clare, Anthony W. (1985). "Decline and fall of the Freudian empire (Book Review)". Nature. 318 (November 14, 1985).   – via EBSCO's Academic Search Complete (subscription required)
  • Covington, Coline (1987). "Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire (Book)". Journal of Analytical Psychology. 32 (2).   – via EBSCO's Academic Search Complete (subscription required)
  • Hamilton, Vernon (1986). "Decline and fall of the Freudian empire (Book Review)". British Journal of Psychology. 77.   – via EBSCO's Academic Search Complete (subscription required)
  • Lichtenstein, Parker E. (1991). "The decline and fall of the Freudian empire (Book Review)". The Journal of Social, Political and Economic Studies. 16 (Spring 1991).   – via EBSCO's Academic Search Complete (subscription required)
  • Stone, Michael H. (1994). "Decline and fall of the Freudian empire (Book Review)". American Journal of Psychiatry. 151 (April 1994).   – via EBSCO's Academic Search Complete (subscription required)
  • Stuewe, Paul (1986). "Decline and fall of the Freudian empire (Book Review)". Quill & Quire. 52 (January 1986).   – via EBSCO's Academic Search Complete (subscription required)
  • Sutherland, Stuart (1985). "The decline and fall of the Freudian empire (Book Review)". Times Higher Education Supplement (678).   – via EBSCO's Academic Search Complete (subscription required)
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