A pioneering ethnography of psychoanalysis, Illusions of a Future explores the political economy of private therapeutic labor within industrialized medicine. Focusing on psychoanalysis in Chicago, a historically important location in the development and institutionalization of psychoanalysis in the United States, Kate Schechter examines the nexus of theory, practice, and institutional form in the original instituting of psychoanalysis, its normalization, and now its "crisis." She describes how contemporary analysts struggle to maintain conceptions of themselves as capable of deciding what psychoanalysis is and how to regulate it in order to prevail over market demands for the efficiency and standardization of mental health treatments.
In the process, Schechter shows how deeply imbricated the analyst-patient relationship is in this effort. Since the mid-twentieth century, the "real" relationship between analyst and patient is no longer the unremarked background of analysis but its very site. Psychoanalysts seek to validate the centrality of this relationship with theory and, through codified "standards," to claim it as a privileged technique. It has become the means by which psychoanalysts, in seeking to protect their disciplinary autonomy, have unwittingly bound themselves to a neoliberal discourse of regulation.
"One can read Illusions of a Future as a key interlocutor for Foucault and Derrida, and as a counter to readings of Foucault (Rose and Rabinow are named) that do not allow for the internal divisions and messy historical shifts within psychoanalysis. It will appeal to readers in the humanities, to social workers and psychologists who think dynamically, to science studies scholars (collegiums of expertise, boundary work, trading zones, epistemic cultures), to debates about the repetition compulsions within the creation of biopolitical objects, and to psychoanalysts themselves."
Michael M. J. Fischer, author of
"Illusions of a Future is not only a careful, fightingly smart account of what happens to middle-American psychoanalysis and its 'crisis' under neoliberal conditions of risk and accountability. It is an argument for a rethinking of biopolitics. Kate Schechter uses a rigorous historical and ethnographic account of twentieth-century and contemporary psychoanalysis in Chicago to address and extend Foucauldian and Derridean readings of analysis and of Freud at the very point where these readings appear to falter or reverse course. She does so through empirical engagement with 'local catalogs of resistances,' a project that she terms 'rethinking biopolitics with renovated psychoanalytic resources' and one that makes intense and rewarding demands on its reader."
Lawrence Cohen, author of
No Aging in India: Alzheimer's, the Bad Family, and Other Modern Things
“Schechter’s brilliant study combines ethnography and intellectual history to explore how psychoanalysis is practiced today…. Schechter poignantly illustrates arguments about precarity pioneered by scholars such as Judith Butler and Lauren Berlant. This book is required reading for humanists, social scientists, social workers, and therapists…. Summing Up: Highly recommended.”
“Schechter’s text is an interdisciplinary feat that combines ethnography with archival research to chronicle the crisis of American psychoanalysis as it adapts to an industrialized, neoliberal health system, governed by insurability, standardization, ‘flexible specialization,’, and ‘medically necessary’ services. … Illusions of the Future is a remarkable contribution to the history and anthropology of the ‘psy’ sciences, and Schechter opens up a world of possibility for further ethnographically analyzing this discipline.”
Journal of the History of Behavioral Sciences
‘This book is a multifaceted gem. … Schechter helps us to understand traumatically induced change in the theory, organization, and practice of psychoanalysis in the U.S. Her book is implicitly a stinging critique of the harm managed care has done to analysts and patients alike.”
Howard F. Stein
Journal of Anthropological Research
“For anybody interested in psychoanalysis, its institutions, history, theory, practices and personnel, this book makes a significant contribution that should have some (possibly even beneficial!) effects upon, and for, contemporary practitioners themselves. More generally, the book also contains incisive and interesting interpretations that bespeak the ongoing impact of biopolitical domination upon the mental health professions more generally — and should therefore also attract the attention of a wider audience.”
Society & Space
"A keenly observed and elegantly written account . . . A sophisticated and nuanced ethnography."
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute