Freud – The Making of an Illusion – Book Review

Freud - The Making of an IllusionBy Frederick Crews. Publisher: Macmillan USA. Date: 2017.

Possibly the most devastating critique of Freud ever published.  Frederick Crews analyses Freud, his doctrines, and his working methods.  His conclusion is that Freud was a charlatan.

From the master of Freud debunkers, the book that definitively puts an end to the myth of psychoanalysis and its creator

Since the 1970s, Sigmund Freud’s scientific reputation has been in an accelerating tailspin–but nonetheless the idea persists that some of his contributions were visionary discoveries of lasting value. Now, drawing on rarely consulted archives, Frederick Crews has assembled a great volume of evidence that reveals a surprising new Freud: a man who blundered tragicomically in his dealings with patients, who in fact never cured anyone, who promoted cocaine as a miracle drug capable of curing a wide range of diseases, and who advanced his career through falsifying case histories and betraying the mentors who had helped him to rise. The legend has persisted, Crews shows, thanks to Freud’s fictive self-invention as a master detective of the psyche, and later through a campaign of censorship and falsification conducted by his followers.

A monumental biographical study and a slashing critique, Freud: The Making of an Illusion will stand as the last word on one of the most significant and contested figures of the twentieth century.

Amazon book description.


“Investigating the famed investigator of the human mind, Frederick Crews reveals Freud as a self-aggrandizing charlatan who cured no one and lacked the most elementary insight into human beings. The Freudian myth–one of the thought-deforming tyrannies of the 20th century–is hereby at an end. This book is as exhilarating as the fall of the Berlin wall.”
–Stewart Justman, author of The Psychological Mystique

-In Freud: The Making of an Illusion, Frederick Crews tells the riveting story of how a troubled, insecure, but supremely ambitious doctor stumbled from one therapeutic fantasy to another before hitting on the one that made him famous. Crews is a master narrator, and he has put his finger on the key factor in Freud’s career
–the remarkable series of intense, morally fraught, and truly bizarre relationships (collegial, therapeutic, and sexual) that kept Freud going as his theories proved ever resistant to confirmation.-
–John Farrell, author of Freud’s Paranoid Quest and The Varieties of Authorial Intention: Literary Theory Beyond the Intentional Fallacy

“Frederick Crews has written a riveting, masterful biography of Freud that demolishes forever the myth of the brilliant, heroic conquistador of the human mind. Delving deeply into hitherto suppressed archival material, Crews paints an unforgettable portrait of an utterly incompetent psychotherapist whose ruthless pursuit of wealth and fame led him to disregard the welfare of his patients as well as the scruples of scientific method.”
–Richard J. McNally, author of What Is Mental Illness?

“In this painstaking study of the life and thought of Sigmund Freud, Frederick Crews reveals just what a huge intellectual Ponzi scheme the elaborate Freudian business represented. This tremendously important book should be read now for the moral it teaches: Beware of teachers who would explain all the mysteries of human nature. They’re unlikely to have your interests in mind.”
–Paul McHugh, author of The Mind has Mountains: Reflections on Society and Psychiatry

“Making use of newly available correspondence, and new readings of previously available material, Crews reveals a pattern of misunderstanding, misrepresentation, and mendacity that characterized the Freudian enterprise right from the beginning.”
–John F. Kihlstrom, editor of Functional Disorders of Memory

“This riveting and masterful reassessment puts the final nail in the coffin of Sigmund Freud’s misguided career by meticulously documenting his willful descent into pseudoscience. Altogether a fascinating read!”
–Frank J. Sulloway, author of Freud, Biologist of the Mind: Beyond the Psychoanalytic Legend

“Freud: The Making of an Illusion [is] a . . . stake driven into its subject’s cold, cold heart. . . . Crews is an attractively uncluttered stylist, and he has an amazing story to tell.”
–Louis Menand, The New Yorker

“A powerful and thorough takedown of Sigmund Freud.”

“Crews [is] going in for the kill. A damning portrait.”

One can only hope that this searching, thoroughly documented account demolishes once and for all not only the nonsensical edifice of Freudian psychoanalysis but also any shred 0f a serious scientific reputation that may still attach to someone who was a greedy, cruel and self centred charlatan – one who abused and damaged so many who put their trust in him.
Amazon Reviewer

He puts to rest the idea that psychoanalysis is a science—a point that Freud himself insisted on—and offers a great many reasons to see it as a successful pseudoscience and a cult, built not only on Freud’s personality but on misrepresentation amounting to actual fraud on Freud’s part. Armed now with the first three volumes of the recently published unexpurgated edition of Freud’s many letters to his fiancée during time that he developed what he later called psychoanalysis, Crews can cite chapter and verse demonstrating that what the young Sigmund confessed to Martha privately often—shockingly– contradicted what he claimed to have “found,” “discovered,” or “proved” in his public assertions and writings and to his followers.
Amazon Reviewer


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