Freud Evaluated

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Freud Evaluated: The Completed Arc
Freud Evaluated (first edition).jpg
Cover of the first edition
AuthorMalcolm Macmillan
SubjectsSigmund Freud
PublisherElsevier Science
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardcover and Paperback)
Pages762 (1997 edition)

Freud Evaluated: The Completed Arc (1991; second edition 1997) is a book by the psychologist Malcolm Macmillan, in which the author criticizes the theories and procedures of Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis. It was first published in 1991 by Elsevier Science. The second edition has a foreword by the critic Frederick Crews.

The book received mixed reviews in academic journals, where critics suggested that it was uneven in quality. The work has also been criticized for its dry style. However, Freud Evaluated was praised in books by many critics of Freud, some of whom welcomed it as an advance over previous critiques of Freud, such as the psychologist Frank Sulloway's Freud, Biologist of the Mind (1979).


Macmillan describes Freud Evaluated as "a critical evaluation of Freud's personality theory". He maintains that "Freud's method is not capable of yielding objective data about mental processes nor of potential value for those seeking to turn psychoanalysis into an acceptable historical or humanistic discipline." He criticizes Freud's theories about neurosis. He also discusses the work of the neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot, the physician Josef Breuer, and the psychologist Pierre Janet. Discussing Breuer's patient Anna O., he evaluates the views of the psychologist Hans Eysenck, who argues in Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire (1985) that she suffered from tuberculous meningitis. He believes that engaging in retrospective diagnosis is extremely difficult, and notes that while Eysenck is one of several authors to have argued that Anna O. suffered from an organic malady, he gives a conflicting account of what the malady was.[1]

Criticizing Freud's theory of infantile sexuality, he notes that the psychoanalyst Irving Bieber arranged a partial translation of into English of a paper by the Hungarian pediatrician S. Lindner, who had reported a systematic study of sucking. Freud had used Lindner's observation that sensual sucking seems to absorb the attention completely and leads to either sleep or an orgasm-like response to develop his theory of infantile sexuality. According to Macmillan, while Bieber pointed out what he saw as "inaccuracies" in Freud's use of the paper, Freud was guilty of grossly misrepresenting Lindner to support his view that sucking had a sexual aim.[2]

Publication history[edit]

Freud Evaluated was first published in 1991 by Elsevier Science. In 1997, a revised second edition with a foreword by Frederick Crews was published by MIT Press.[3]


Mainstream media[edit]

Freud Evaluated received a notice from the science writer Kendrick Frazier in Skeptical Inquirer.[4]

Scientific and academic journals[edit]

Freud Evaluated received a positive review from Frederick Crews in Psychological Science and mixed reviews from the psychologist Robert R. Holt in Isis and Alvin Burstein in Modernism/modernity.[5][6][7]

Crews wrote that the book was, together with the psychiatrist Henri Ellenberger's The Discovery of the Unconscious (1970), the psychologist Frank Sulloway's Freud, Biologist of the Mind (1979), and the philosopher Adolf Grünbaum's The Foundations of Psychoanalysis (1984), one of the most important critiques of Freud. He described it as, "the most comprehensive, coherent, and unimpeachable assessment of Freud's concepts and tenets that has yet been mounted – or is ever likely to be." Writing in 1996, he predicted that the book would become a classic, but commented that it had so far had little influence, something he attributed to the circumstances surrounding the publication of its first edition. He credited Macmillan with showing that each step in the development of Freud's model of the mind was motivated by Freud's wish to conceal his failure to establish a coherent connection between "his prior constructs and the reputed evidence for them", that the assumptions underlying Freud's theories and the practice of free association were faulty, that Freud "neither thought nor acted like a scientist", and that most of the problems with psychoanalytic theory have been pointed out by psychoanalysts themselves.[5]

Holt wrote that the book was "impressive and valuable", but nevertheless uneven in quality. He considered Macmillan's most original contribution to be establishing "how ineffectively Freud attributed cause in explaining the genesis and cure of neuroses." He credited Macmillan with carefully examining the theories Freud propounded up to 1910, showing which parts of those theories were derived from sources with which Freud was familiar and which were original contributions, and with revealing "logical deficiencies in the psychopathologies" of Charcot, Breuer, and Janet, as well as that of Freud. Holt considered the second half of Freud Evaluated, in which Macmillan discusses "the complications of Freud's last two major versions of his theories, plus the contributions of his followers", to be less successful, writing that Macmillan focused on less important problems with the theories, and that some of his arguments were faulty. He granted that Macmillan made some correct criticisms of Freud's method of free association, but criticized him for treating it as though it were a psychological test rather than an innovation in interviewing. He concluded that Macmillan made little attempt at offering a balanced appraisal of Freud's work. He also wrote that Freud Evaluated suffered because of its "dry, dense style" and "bad editing and proofreading".[6]

Burstein wrote that Macmillan, "combines meticulous scholarship with episodic carelessness; he presents a naive view of science, of history, and of what we would have to call celebrities; and, like many writings in this genre, seems unable to decide whether he is evaluating Freud or the intellectual movement that Freud fostered."[7]

Evaluations in books[edit]

Freud Evaluated received a favorable reception from critics of Freud.[8][9][10][11][12] Allen Esterson called the book "a painstaking scholarly and remarkably wide-ranging historically-based critique of Freud's theoretical framework which will remain an invaluable sourcebook for many years to come" in Seductive Mirage: An Exploration of the Work of Sigmund Freud (1993).[10] John Kerr commended Macmillan for his "exhaustive" bibliography of the psychoanalytic literature in A Most Dangerous Method (1993).[13] Richard Webster described Freud Evaluated as a "valuable resource, full of meticulous readings and close study of the development of Freud's ideas" in Why Freud Was Wrong (1995). He also wrote that the book improved upon earlier works such as the psychologist Sulloway's Freud, Biologist of the Mind (1979). However, he criticized Macmillan's view of the French neurologist Charcot and medical issues related to hysteria and suggested that Macmillan too readily accepts psychogenic theories of illness.[11] Crews, in The Memory Wars (1995), credited Macmillan with convincingly criticizing Freud's theories of personality and neurosis.[8] Crews suggested in the foreword to the 1997 edition of Freud Evaluated that the work's republication advanced debate over psychoanalysis to its "decisive moment." He described the work as an improvement over previous critical discussions of Freud, such as Sulloway's Freud, Biologist of the Mind (1979) and Grünbaum's The Foundations of Psychoanalysis (1984).[14] Crews included an extract from Freud Evaluated in his anthology Unauthorized Freud (1998), where he described it as an "exhaustive study" and endorsed Macmillan's criticisms of Freud's views about female psychology.[15] Crews described Freud Evaluated as the most important book about Freud's ideas in Follies of the Wise: Dissenting Essays (2006).[9] The philosopher Todd Dufresne called Freud Evaluated, "a strong, comprehensive, although fairly dry, examination of the early history and theory of psychoanalysis" in his anthology Against Freud (2007).[12]

The psychologist Michael Billig noted in Freudian Repression (1999) that while Macmillan believes that Freud's theories have been almost entirely discredited, that verdict is not universally shared, since psychologists such as Seymour Fisher, Roger P. Greenberg, and Paul Kline "argue that the main elements of Freudian theory have been confirmed."[16]


  1. ^ Macmillan 1997, pp. xvii, xxiii, 10, 17, 20–22, 43–45, 285–289, 684.
  2. ^ Macmillan 1997, pp. 259, 311–312.
  3. ^ Macmillan 1997, pp. iv–v.
  4. ^ Frazier 1997, p. 52.
  5. ^ a b Crews 1996, pp. 63–68.
  6. ^ a b Holt 1992, p. 698.
  7. ^ a b Burstein 1998, pp. 194–196.
  8. ^ a b Crews 1995, p. 34.
  9. ^ a b Crews 2006, p. 352.
  10. ^ a b Esterson 1993, p. ix.
  11. ^ a b Webster 2005, pp. 560–561.
  12. ^ a b Dufresne 2007, p. 162.
  13. ^ Kerr 2012, p. 592.
  14. ^ Crews 1997, p. vii.
  15. ^ Crews 1999, pp. 129–130.
  16. ^ Billig 1999, pp. 5, 269.