Psychology and Psychoanalysis in Argentina: Politics, French Thought, and the University Connection, 1955–1976

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Abstract

The hegemonic place acquired by psychoanalysis in the Argentinean psychotherapeutic field is recognized by friend and foe alike. Nevertheless, the historical process leading to this situation is less well known. In this article, I focus on 2 periods crucial to understanding the unusual scope of Freudian ideas and practices in that country. The first one (1955–1966) corresponds to the professionalization of psychology and was marked by projects such as those of Bleger and Pichon-Rivière. Their ideas involved an alliance between psychology and psychoanalysis within a larger synthesis whose philosophical framework was French existential phenomenology. This eclectic “psychoanalytic psychology” found an amazing sounding board in the newly created university psychology programs, in which it was adopted by future psychologists who took psychoanalysis as their primary theoretical and practical reference. The second period (1966 –1976), however, after the reception of French structuralism (mainly via Jacques Lacan and his local interpreters, such as Oscar Masotta), implied an exclusive disjunction: either psychoanalysis or psychology. Psychoanalysis was presented as a return to the Freudian sources. Therefore, it was supposed to replace a psychology that “ignored” unconscious determinism. Thus, paradoxically, Lacanianism, which found its main audience in psychology programs, invited psychologists to relinquish their own professional identity to become psychoanalysts. My hypothesis is that the prominent position that psychoanalysis still holds in Argentina can be best understood by considering the history of its relationship with academic psychology and situating that connection in an intellectual and political context in which French thought has always been crucial.

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