Scientific Fraud or Cultural Icon?
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The twentieth century had a split personality. On the good side were unprecedented explosions in scientific discovery, technical know-how, and medical care that doubled human life expectancy. On the bad side were destructive ideologies such as fascism and communism that claimed a hundred million lives, with vastly more irreparably damaged. Sigmund Freud occupies a strangely ambiguous middle ground in all this—worshipped by some as godlike for lifting psychology out of darkness to new insights; but demonized by others as a self-serving cult figure who undermined science, mental health, and the very foundations of civilization.
In Freud: The Making of an Illusion, Frederick Crews opts for the negative, offering a demolition of Freud’s character, output, and cultural legacy. He feels compelled to do this while still able, as an octogenarian English professor at the University of California Berkeley and established literary critic, one of Freudian orientation earlier in his career. As an...