In Impious Fidelity, Suzanne Stewart-Steinberg investigates the legacy of Anna Freud at the intersection between psychoanalysis as a mode of thinking and theorizing and its existence as a political entity. Stewart-Steinberg argues that because Anna Freud inherited and guided her father's psychoanalytic project as an institution, analysis of her thought is critical to our understanding of the relationship between the psychoanalytic and the political. This is particularly the case given that many psychoanalysts and historians of psychiatry charge that Anna Freud's emphasis on defending the supremacy of the ego against unconscious drives betrayed her father's work. Are the unconscious and the psychoanalytic project itself at odds with the stable ego deemed necessary to a democratic politics? Hannah Arendt famously (and influentially) argued that they are. But Stewart-Steinberg maintains that Anna Freud's critics (particularly disciples of Melanie Klein) have simplified her thought and misconstrued her legacy. Stewart-Steinberg looks at Anna Freud's work with wartime orphans, seeing that they developed subjectivity not by vertical (through the father) but by lateral, social ties.
This led Anna Freud to revise her father's emphasis on Oedipal sexuality and to posit a revision of psychoanalysis that renders it compatible with democratic theory and practice. Stewart-Steinberg gives us an Anna Freud who "betrays" the father even as she protects his legacy and continues his work in a new key.
"Anna Freud-criticized by Lacanians and Kleinians for mitigating the importance of the unconscious in human life-gets her due in this brilliant work... For Stewart-Steinberg, her central insight is 'altruistic surrender,' in which ambition is experienced magnanimously rather than aggressively, displaced onto an other who stands as a proxy for the self. By making the other a representative of the self, psychoanalysis informs a democratic politics. A significant work of scholarship, this book is required reading for anyone interested in the history of psychoanalysis and its relationship to theories of gender and politics. Summing Up: Essential."-Choice (October 2012) "I love the idea that impious fidelity, a kind of loyalty by betrayal, or critical intimacy, is the condition to make headway in thinking politically through psychoanalysis. It makes total sense, and yet, there is no other book out there that so closely espouses the two theoretical itineraries involved. The defense of the ego for a viable democratic existence: the paradox sustains this rigorous, exciting work of deep thought that demonstrates feminism is alive and well. This is not a biography of Anna Freud. In this brilliant, much-needed, and witty book, Suzanne Stewart-Steinberg commits herself that impious fidelity, demonstrating the need for it."-Mieke Bal, Academy Professor, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences "How can the unconscious find political representation? This urgent question rests at the heart of this intense and provocative study of the legacy of Freud's daughter, Anna Freud. Suzanne Stewart-Steinberg's original answer to this question not only makes a significant contribution to the debate about what psychoanalysis contributes to politics but also changes the terms of that debate. With extraordinary attention to both textual and historical detail, Stewart-Steinberg argues that Anna Freud provides a conduit for thinking through the passage from the psychic to the political. This is a bold act of political and historical recovery, rendered compelling and convincing by the quality of the scholarship. Impious Fidelity is a significant addition to the history of psychoanalysis."-Lyndsey Stonebridge, University of East Anglia, author of The Judicial Imagination: Writing after Nuremberg