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The Maternalists

The Maternalists explores how mid-twentieth-century British psychoanalysis created a new mother-centered culture, which after 1945 would shape dramatically both welfare ideology and the British welfare state itself.

The Maternalists
Psychoanalysis, Motherhood, and the British Welfare State

Shaul Bar-Haim

Aug 2021 | 352 pages | Cloth $65.00
History / Public Policy / Sociology
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Table of Contents


Chapter 1. The "Sphincter-Morality" and Beyond: The Concept of Childhood in Interwar Psychoanalysis
Chapter 2. How Children Think: Susan Isaacs on "Primitive" Thinking
Chapter 3. Malinowski, Róheim, and the Maternal Shift in British Psychoanalysis and Anthropology
Chapter 4. Imagining the "Maternal" Past: Ian Suttie's Critique of Oedipal Culture
Chapter 5. What About Father? Civic-Republican Maternalism and the Welfare State
Chapter 6. "The Drug 'Doctor'": The Balint Movement and Psychosocial Medicine in Postwar Britain


Excerpt [uncorrected, not for citation]


Some time ago, I stopped in front of a shelf of beer in a local English supermarket. The shelf was packed with all different types, flavors, and comical brands. While trying to sort out the differences between Dead Pony Club, Elvis Juice, and Disco Forklift Truck Mango Pale Ale, one specific bottle attracted my attention: Nanny State beer. When I picked up the bottle, my suspicions were confirmed: this was a nonalcoholic beer. This idiom—the nanny state—has been used in Britain for many decades, mainly by the political Right, as a synonym for a social-democratic state that treats its citizens as if they are children, caring for all their needs but also forbidding them any pleasure. Ever since 1965, when the conservative politician Iain Norman Macleod used this term in an anonymous column for the Spectator, the nanny state has appeared in the right-wing British imaginary as a parental entity that tyrannically insists that individuals should avoid their authentic desires.

The word nanny has different meanings. In its British context, the term is heavily loaded with class dimensions: for the working class, nanny can be simply another word for a grandmother; at the same time, it also refers to a woman who serves as a surrogate carer for the so-called posh family—what historian Lucy Delap described as an "upper-class institution [that] became more widely employed in twentieth-century middle-class households." Dismissing the idea that the state should have some caring responsibilities, very often similar to the ones that a mother or nanny—a Mary Poppins for the many— has been a major objective of conservative thinkers since the 1960s onward. As Auberon Waugh, a well-known author and conservative public intellectual (as well as a vocal voice against anti-smoking rules) wrote in 1991, "We live in a nanny state where Nanny, far from being the gentle, indulgent, feckless old thing of Labour dreams, is a ferocious virago of Tory nightmares."

Nanny state was, and in some political circles still is, such an effective catchphrase against any form of social, economic, or cultural intervention by the state, precisely because it captures—frequently from a politically conservative perspective—a reluctance to be told what to do, or to be "told off," by parental voices, whether these are our real parents, parent surrogates (like nannies), or indeed politicians, civil servants, and state agents, who think that they know better than us and can determine what is right and what is wrong as if they were our parents. It is almost needless to say that nanny state is a highly gendered term. The "nanny"—in reality as well as in our political imagination—is a female and nonbiological parent figure, namely a surrogate mother rather than a father. But the success of this idiom perhaps lies elsewhere, that is, with the fact that it does capture some kind of historical truth, even if a very distorted one, namely that of the mid-twentieth-century social contract, popular mainly in western Europe, which was based on the idea that in exchange for allowing state intervention in people's private lives, states could and should provide their citizens some parental capacities, especially where these cannot be given by the actual biological parents.

Historian Carolyn Steedman recently described breaking into tears when reading—more than five decades after it was first published—the 1963 Robbins Report, which back then called for a massive expansion of higher education in Britain by demanding that "enough places should be provided to allow the proportion of qualified school leavers entering universities to be increased as soon as practicable." Steedman recognized in this report not only a national turning point but also a personal one. The significant changes in the British academy that followed the Robbins Report gave her, despite her personal and social background, the opportunity to become the leading scholar, author, and intellectual that she now is—something that she could not have achieved otherwise, having grown up in a working-class family with a single mother.
In an article from 2017, Steedman describes the strong affection for the state that she felt back in the 1960s, and again fifty years later, after reading this report that changed her life:

I love the state because it has loved me. My tears were tears of acknowledgment. I think of this paragraph [Steedman refers to a quotation from the Robbins Report where the required reform in higher education is being discussed in terms of a "social justice" that should be made to the World War II generation and their children] as a rather beautiful expression of the social-democratic contract drawn up after 1940. In its emotional and psychological aspects the contract was given clearest expression in John Bowlby's Childcare and the Growth of Love (1953) and his thesis that love grows by caring, by loving. I love the state because it has loved me.

Indeed, one manifest objective of the post-1945 British welfare state was to make sure that a child's basic needs would be provided, if not by her own mother, then by society, namely the state in its capacity as a maternal surrogate.

Dismissing the welfare state by portraying it as a "nanny" is a refusal to imagine the state as a maternal entity that has some caring responsibilities toward its own children-citizens. However, the notion that a truly social-democratic government needs to play a maternal role in its citizens' lives was indeed very popular in the mid-twentieth century and has taken different forms in Britain ever since the 1930s. There is no one way to answer what maternal roles are—indeed, historians have shown that they are widely different in different times and places. However, when it comes to mid-twentieth-century Britain, it was psychoanalysis that provided one of the most powerful discourses for imagining what a maternal role could and should be in the private and public spheres. It is this meeting point of the British welfare state, psychoanalysis, and the "maternal" that this book aims to explore.

After the First World War, many British doctors, social thinkers, educationalists, and policy makers showed increasing interest in the new focus that psychoanalysis was giving to the maternal role at the time. This was part of a dramatic shift within psychoanalytic theory and practice toward a study of femininity, women's sexuality, and the role of motherhood in the development of the child. Those influenced by this shift used new notions of the maternal to criticize modern European culture, its patriarchal domestic structure, and its colonial politics. The crisis of modernity was, for some of them, the result of a damaging form of motherhood and a lack of "maternal values" in patriarchal Western society. This strand of thought was taken up, and pioneered, by figures who were well placed to disseminate their ideas far beyond psychoanalytic circles, into the pillars of British culture, education, medical care, and social policy. The first part of this book will focus on four of these figures: the educationalist Susan Isaacs, the anthropologists Bronislaw Malinowski and Geza Róheim, and the Tavistock psychiatrist Ian Suttie. In addition to exploring the political dimensions of their critique, I argue that these thinkers used the newly developed psychoanalytical-maternal vocabulary—drawn mainly but not exclusively from the Hungarian psychoanalyst Sandor Ferenczi—to promote what they imagined to be the "real" essence of the "maternal."

By the 1930s and 1940s, whilst European fascism gained ground, the maternal became a cultural empty signifier onto which public thinkers could project all sorts of social anxieties, as well as many types of radical, and even utopian, political suggestions. Already during World War II, and even more so in the postwar era, figures such as Henry Dicks, John Bowlby, Donald W. Winnicott, and Michael Balint (to mention a few) took measures to "maternalize" the public sphere. The second part of the book will show how these and other figures from the "psy" professions responded to the horrors of the Second World War by drawing on the interwar maternalistic way of thinking, going as far as to demand the "maternalization" of the British public sphere. Winnicott and Balint understood the role of the new welfare state as a supplier of certain maternal capacities, especially where people were deprived of real maternal care. This way of thinking provides us with hitherto unexplored insights into the role of domesticity in portraying major utopian visions of the state as a parental entity, later to be mocked by mainly conservative thinkers as the "nanny state." Thus, in presenting the affinities between welfarism, maternalism, and psychoanalysis, I am also suggesting a new historiographical reading of the British welfare state as a political project. Rather than presenting the welfare state as a "progressive" model of social democracy, or as, on the contrary, a pretext for restoring the traditional position of women in society, this book suggests a turn to the psychosocial dimensions of the welfarist project, in order to reveal the collective imaginaries at the core of the idea that the state should serve as a parental entity for the individual.

The Maternalists, then, is less a history of real mothers and more a history of the public imagination of motherhood. The two are interrelated, but these affinities are not trivial. In some cases, perceptions of motherhood can tell us a great deal about the society in question, but not much about the lives of real mothers; in other cases, the subjective history of real mothers is a complex of what Raymond Williams called a "structure of feeling," consisting of public expectations that mothers were required to meet and their feelings about their actual reality, which was often very different.

Maternalism: Definition(s)

Maternalism is a "slippery" concept, argues historian and sociologist Jane Lewis. Indeed, historians have used this concept to mean so many different things that one may think that it might be better to abandon it altogether. "Maternalism" can sound to our ears today as pro-women and a progressive concept. However, motherhood has always served as a site onto which public anxieties and fantasies could be projected, and these have very often not been "progressive" or "feminist" by any means. Thus, historically, in many cases "maternalist" ideologies have been based on perceptions of motherhood and have not reflected real mothers' lives.

Some historians, for example, use the term maternalism to describe all sorts of interwar nationalistic pronatalist policies and propaganda, in European countries as different as Italy, Russia, Germany, and France. The rise of nationalistic and authoritarian politics in the interwar period was accompanied by a new cult of the family and of motherhood throughout Europe. European interwar politics—on the left and the right—tended to manifest a determination to preserve traditional gender roles, often by promoting motherhood as the major form of patriotism. In this context, maternalism can be regarded as a way of objectifying mothers in the service of the "nation," "the state," or another body politic.

But a more complicated picture than this has been suggested by some historians. The forms of maternalism popular in Mussolini's Italy, for example, might simply appear to be elements of fascist patriarchal propaganda. However, as Elisabetta Vezzosi has shown, Italian women actually used fascist pronatalist policies "to obtain social rights as working and non-working mothers, to develop a new sense of entitlement to assistance and to create new female-dominated professions in the field of social assistance." Similar historiographical debates can be found among historians of the Third Reich about women's agency. Atina Grossmann suggested in her review of feminist historiography of Germany in the 1980s, that "while the (male) historians' debate [Historikerstreit] about the nature and specificity of German National Socialism seems to have calmed down, German women scholars continue to struggle with the still restless issue of how to come to terms with their mothers' and grandmothers' place in the Nazi past."

The meaning of maternalism in British historiography changes according to the period and the historiographical school. Clare Midgley defined the nineteenth-century feminist abolitionist movement in Britain as "anti-slavery maternalism." Those antislavery "maternalists" absorbed the "image of Britain as benevolent mother country to her colonies" and thought of their activism as the "extension of the mother-child relationship to the relation between white 'free' women and black enslaved women." Antislavery maternalists had many links with white and black women across the Atlantic, although the ideal of motherhood among African American women was very different. As Molly Ladd-Taylor notes, "The legacy of slavery and the realities of mothering in a racist society made it impossible for African Americans to idealize motherhood in the same way as the whites." These differences were one of the reasons for African American women to differ in their political goals from white English and American middle-class women: the former were more likely to value women's economic independence, as well as to emphasize policies based on social justice rather than on individual assistance to people in need. Other scholars have focused on studying maternalistic ideals (again, these ideals are never self-explanatory) as the ground for the emergence of modern protest movements. Jill Liddington, for example, suggested that maternalist feminism "was a powerful and emotive language that could be appropriated to underpin less popular anti-war arguments." Even if most women during and after the First World War preferred to perform a "patriotic motherhood" rather than a "progressive" one, maternalism served as an alternative universalistic language for the peace movements during and after the war. Historians have described different forms of intervention by British women in colonial politics and social life (very often in the form of philanthropic projects related to education) as "maternal imperialism." Maternal imperialism was part and parcel of a racial worldview of British colonialism more generally. Many women perceived themselves as "mothers of the race" and "race creators," and therefore had a significant "racial duty." Maternalist ideology also played a central role in the systematic removal of indigenous children from their parents in North America and Australia since the late nineteenth century and throughout large parts of the twentieth century. Not unrelated to colonial and racial worldviews, maternalism was also identified with eugenics—that is, the belief that the mothers were what one contemporary defined as "nature's supreme instrument of the Future," and therefore, from a eugenic point of view, the real site for change.

Late nineteenth-century maternalism took a different form. Between 1880 and 1920, maternalism centered for the most part on voluntary associations of women who helped enormously to promote progressive policies for mothers and children of the working classes. In the interwar period, part of the era that this book covers, maternalism in Britain was mainly identified with the failed feminist campaign for motherhood to be viewed as an occupation absolutely equal to the work of the male "breadwinner," and for mothers to be entitled to state allowances ("endowment of motherhood"). We can see, then, even by looking only at the British case, that historians mean very different things when using the word maternalism

Ann Taylor Allen defines maternalism as "a feminism that takes woman's experience as mother and nurturer as the basis for interpretations of women's history, for distinctively female approaches to ethical and social questions." However, even if we consider maternalism as a form of political agency—and this is certainly not the way this concept has been used by all historians—Allen's definition is problematic, because not all "maternalists" have necessarily considered themselves feminists, or even identified with any of its principles. Historians Seth Koven and Sonya Michel define maternalism as the "ideologies and discourses that exalted women's capacities to mother and applied to society as a whole the values they attached to that role: care, nurturance, and morality." But even under this wider definition, it is not easy to differentiate between a simple motivation to improve mothers' and children's lives—what one might call "maternal politics"—and the more general and slippery term, maternalism.

In this book, I follow Rebecca Jo Plant and Marian van der Klein, who have argued recently that the term maternalism is "purely an analytical tool . . . [which] was not employed by historical actors themselves." According to their approach, "the primary standard for assessing its utility must be its success in illuminating certain historical phenomena rather than its accuracy in categorizing individuals who laid claim to the term themselves." Thus, I will examine several case studies of maternalistic thinking from the interwar period, when psychoanalytic notions about motherhood were often used in utopian and dystopian discourses to describe a crisis of modernity as a crisis of motherhood, and from the postwar period, when certain maternalistic tendencies issued in real attempts by psychoanalysts and policy makers to maternalize the public sphere. These meeting points between maternalism, welfarism, and psychoanalysis will enable historians, sociologists, and gender scholars to reassess some of the ideological elements behind perceptions of domesticity in the golden age of twentieth-century welfarism.

I argue that throughout the interwar and postwar years, the "maternal" remains an imaginary and imagined—in some cases, a "fantasized"—set of emotions and qualities, such as love, tenderness, care, and maturity—that people thought of as missing from their private and public lives. The history of emotions has become one of the most celebrated genres of historical scholarship over the last decade. However, the definitions of what emotions are, the "right" method to study them, and the mandate of the historians in this field are unclear. The medievalist Lyndal Roper pointed out a few years ago one major problem: historians too often "tend to treat emotions as phenomena which simply exist, and which don't need explaining or linking back to deeper psychic conflicts and constellations." For the "maternalists" in this book, only limited knowledge was possible of what it might be to experience a set of "maternal" emotions. Many of the figures in this study expressed a longing to experience such maternal emotions, rather than assuming that they had experienced them already, and any assumption that such a set of emotions simply exists should therefore be ruled out from the start. Thus, I argue, the way in which the historical actors in this book thought of the maternal is utopian par excellence, not only in the meaning of the word utopia—"an imagined or hypothetical place, system, or state of existence in which everything is perfect" —but also in its Greek etymology: ?? (no) ???? (place), a place that does not exist. It does not mean, however, that this maternalist set of emotions had no real impact on the world. Maternalists such as Róheim, Suttie, and Winnicott did wish to think of the emotional aspects of the maternal as a force for political change. But rather than assuming that these emotions are transparent, or ever existed, except in the form of people's anxieties and fantasies about them, this book aims to trace the "epistemologies" of such emotions, and thus to explore "the normative valence . . . in their sociopolitical context."

Michael Roper argues that for many reasons—one of them being a reluctance of historians to embrace psychoanalysis—cultural history tends to reconstruct "subjectivity" by investigating more accessible "cultural representations," rather than making a real effort to understand lived experience by acknowledging the existence of people's "inner worlds." Thus, histories of subjectivity too often "endorse a profoundly lifeless notion of human existence, in which we deny to history the rich depth of emotional experience that surely animates us in our own lives." I share Roper's concerns over the tendency of some historians to remain in their comfort zone of "cultural representation" rather than taking the risk of retrieving and presenting people's inner emotions. However, some of the collective emotions presented in The Maternalists are neither a sociopolitical construct (that can be deconstructed by analyzing cultural representations) nor a "lived experience" (that can potentially be understood by applying psychoanalysis as an analytical tool, for example), but a longing for emotions that people believe no longer exist, or have not yet come into existence.

Williams's "structure of feeling" can be a useful concept in the attempt to capture this longing for emotions that people do not necessarily know from their own experience. In Marxism and Literature, Williams pointed out that a structure of feeling is not only about the emergence of a new form of psycho-political "living experience" but also about the "pre-emergence, active and pressing but not yet fully articulated" historical moment. It is this transition of maternalist discourse from a-not-yet-fully-articulated structure of feeling into a major element in postwar British culture and welfarist ideology that this book aims to document.

"What My Mother Lacked, I Was Given"

In her autobiographical memoir, Landscape for a Good Woman: A Story of Two Lives, Carolyn Steedman describes how new welfarist measures taken during her childhood in the 1950s led her to believe that the state was taking a parental role in her own life, specifically in domains where these roles were missing. Like real parents, the state became, for her, a site onto which she could project a wide range of feelings, including hate and hostility as well as grace and gratitude. Although she occasionally describes the state's intervention in her life as traumatic, she still reminds herself and the readers that "being a child when the state was practically engaged in making children healthy and literate was a support against my own circumstances."

Steedman's preoccupation with motherhood is typical of the welfare culture prevalent in Britain in the period following the Second World War. As the literary scholar Bruce Robbins points out, "at the contradictory heart of the book, ambivalence about Steedman's mother shades into ambivalence about the state and about the state's actions as, in effect, a parental surrogate." Steedman's parents separated after her sister was born, and in fact, Steedman suggests that the two events were linked: her mother got pregnant in order to persuade her father to stay with them—a plan that failed: "She'd tried with having me, and it hadn't worked. Now, a second and final attempt." But as Robbins notes, Steedman also perceives the separation as a trade in which she lost a father but gained a sister. Thus, "in gaining a sister, she enters however unwillingly into a more democratic condition, a condition in which she can no longer be a unique object of affection but is obliged to share the available resources with someone of equal status." Steedman's personal story, then, is also an allegory for a more general transition from the domestic conditions of working-class patriarchy into a maternalistic social democracy, where maternal care—provided either by real mothers or by the state—is the dominant force in society. Indeed, Steedman, as a child, perceived the state as attending to some of her primal needs. She writes, " What my mother lacked, I was given; and though vast inequalities remained between me and others of my generation, the sense that a benevolent state bestowed on me, that of my own existence and the worth of that existence—attenuated, but still there—demonstrates in some degree what a fully material culture might offer in terms of physical comfort and the structures of care and affection that it symbolizes, to all its children."

This study aims to show that it is no coincidence that Steedman felt that the state gave her what her mother did not. Her remarks not only suggest new forms of provision but assume a maternal discourse, that, I argue, merits closer scrutiny than it has hitherto received. The claim that the welfare state was, in crucial respects, a mother-centered project, is not uncommon among scholars. However, The Maternalists seeks to develop a different argument about this putatively maternal project, namely that welfarist policy became linked to maternalist ideas through the use of psychoanalytic notions. In other words, under the influence of the British psychoanalytical movement, welfarizing the state was perceived by some as maternalizing the state.

After the First World War, British society became particularly preoccupied with mothers' civil rights and obligations, and attempted to define for mothers the boundaries between the public sphere and their domestic one. Nevertheless, "mother-centeredness" was not only an effort to shape perceptions of motherhood according to traditional domestic values. It was also, I maintain, an attempt to maternalize society itself. This vision of a more maternal public sphere was promoted mainly by providers of social welfare, namely, doctors, social scientists, educators, and policy makers, as well as psychiatrists and psychoanalysts. From the late 1920s, more and more women and men perceived the crisis of modernity as a crisis of motherhood. They believed that many of the political, economical, and cultural catastrophes of the first half of the twentieth century were the inevitable tragic results of a lack of maternal values in the public sphere. Maternalizing society, therefore, was perceived as a possible cure for many pathologies of modernity, from drug addiction to totalitarian ideologies. Thus, as this study also demonstrates, a new maternal perspective had far-reaching consequences for both the private and public domains, and proved particularly influential in the borderline between them.

At the same time, however, the meaning of the "maternal" remained elusive—a personal and collective imaginary site onto which commentators could project the most diverse political fantasies, beliefs, or anxieties. Given the many competing possibilities for the maternal, advocates of mother-centered policies sought to argue their particular cases. Many chose to adopt a new language that would enable them to translate their own understanding of motherhood into a significant political discourse. This new language of maternalism was psychoanalysis, and it was adopted in the interwar period and after the Second World War, precisely at the meeting point between maternalism and the building of the welfare state.

Rodney Lowe suggested defining "the welfare state as it existed in the 1940s . . . as a range of social and economic services through which the government became positively committed to the provision of welfare to all its citizens." We should, however, differentiate between Lowe's minimalistic definition of the "welfare state" and "welfarism." By welfarism I mean what sociologists Nikolas Rose and Peter Miller call "a 'responsibilizing' mode of government" —that is, a social contract that aims "to encourage national growth and wellbeing through the promotion of social responsibility and the mutuality of social risk." Since the end of the nineteenth century, the notion of "state insurance" (health insurance, pensions, and the like) embodied the principles of the new welfarist social contract: "Within the political rationality of welfarism, insurance constituted individuals as citizens bound into a system of solidarity and mutual inter-dependency."

Welfarism evolved in the late nineteenth century in part as a political response driven by the middle and upper classes' anxieties about what they perceived as the threatening scale of urban poverty. This problem was not necessarily articulated in social and economic terms, but rather as the process of "demoralization" among the casual poor. Welfarist policy—that is, "proposals for old-age pensions, free education, free school meals, subsidized housing, and national insurance" —became a dominant force in debates on social policies in Britain for many decades before the establishing of the post-Second World War welfare state. This was also when what some people called "maternal politics" (which is not necessarily "maternalism") gained prominence among activists, politicians, and policy makers.

The Politics of Motherhood, 1880-1939

Comparing the history of the welfare state in France, Germany, Britain, and the United States, Koven and Michel conclude that although there were significant differences between the four countries, it can be said that in all of them, voluntary maternal associations were responsible for some of the main progressive policies for working and nonworking mothers, such as maternity leave, subsidized nurseries, and new work opportunities for mothers. Maternalistic politics are also partially responsible for improving other social services, such as health care for children, and for creating new schemes to reduce infant mortality rates and consulting services for mothers, advising them on breastfeeding, hygiene, and other relevant topics. Programs of maternal childcare, which were first initiated and operated by voluntary associations of women, became models for state programs and official public policy. What started as private initiatives helping women in local communities were subsequently taken over by the state, leading to tremendous changes in the civil status of mothers. Many of these activists perceived motherhood as "empowering, not as a condition of dependence and weakness. They saw the home—domestic and maternal duties—as the locus of their power within the community."

A main tendency in feminist historiography is to explore the ways in which feminist groups promoted the civil status of women and mothers by confronting the state and its regulations and institutions. But Koven and Michel have shown the important achievements which were gained not through confrontation, but through collaboration. Maternalism always "extolled the private virtues of domesticity while simultaneously legitimating women's public relationships to politics and the state, to community, workplace, and marketplace." The extent, however, to which "voluntarism" was influential, particularly in Britain, is still under debate. Jane Lewis, for example, argues that the British state circa 1880-1920 was more centralistic than assumed by Koven and Michel, and therefore voluntarism had no major effect on the building of the welfare state. Indeed, what was seen by some as "maternalist politics" was considered by others as "state intervention."

What social historians of Britain describe as "state intervention" in family life, especially among the working classes, can be traced back to the 1870 Elementary Education Act and the first Married Women's Property Act. The latter act allowed women to own their earnings, but ideally only in cases where there was no male breadwinner around. Otherwise, working-class women were expected to stay at home, and even when they had to work to support their families, it had to be only a secondary priority. Allowing the exception (i.e., the mother being the family breadwinner in cases when there are no better options) only helped to designate the then-new domestic normative demand of adopting a middle-class model of domesticity, in which the father is the breadwinner, children are at school, and the mother at home. State intervention was indeed about disseminating a very specific model of gender roles in an "ideal" family, but it was also about regulating many other aspects of everyday lives among the working classes: making sure that working-class children were sent to school (even when that meant an increase in poverty for the family, due to a real damage to family earnings); sending health visitors to inspect family and mainly children's hygiene and physical conditions (even when these visits were very unwelcome to families and mothers); and providing school meals to children (even when mothers perceived it as an act that undermined the maternal and paternal role, namely the assumption that parents cannot provide a good enough home even when it comes to basic needs). This nineteenth-century legacy of an "interventionist state" flourished even more in the interwar period. As Mark Mazower put it, "with the interventionist public sector came the rise of the professional social worker, the housing manager, the school health visitor, and the educational psychologist." A new social contract emerged: "the state was meddling in the most intimate matters of the private life, offering—it is true—a range of new benefits, but demanding in return adherence to an increasingly explicit model of sexual behaviour."

The maternal cause gained ground throughout the war, and moreover after the war, as the importance of mothers in maintaining modern civil society was acknowledged in increasingly wider circles. Yet it was precisely because, as historian Geoff Eley argues, maternalist politics "was the only game in town" for "reestablishing ... women's place in the home," that policy makers of all sorts were determined not to leave it to feminists. The equation of motherhood and citizenship—promoted in Britain first by feminists such as Eleanor Rathbone—was now used by interwar male policy makers merely as rhetoric for restoring mothers to the household. As historian Sally Alexander points out, the socialist and labour movements were organized around the notion that the "individual subject was masculine and founded on the notion of independence through, and property in, labour." Women who were not "wives and mothers" were considered "a problem associated with either their 'sex' or, worse, the threat of 'cheap labour.'"

Another key issue that affected mothers was low birth rates. This topic became a main concern for interwar social scientists, physicians, and policy makers, who fueled collective fears about the ability of society to regenerate itself. In 1876 there were 36.3 births per 1,000 people of the population in Britain; in 1931 this number decreased to 15.8. The main concern was about working-class mothers: between 1901 and 1931, the rate of working-class women who gave birth was cut in half. However, a key reason for the low birth rate was a deliberate effort by women to regulate their fertility, either by abstinence, contraception, or abortion. Alexander argues that interwar birth rates can serve as an indication of an intergenerational crisis between mothers and their daughters over the latter's refusal to accept their mothers as a feminine model. Many mothers lost their authority as providers of knowledge on issues of domesticity and sexuality, especially when in many places these issues were left unspoken. This was the daughters' "resistance to their mothers' lives, a recognition that if mothers had the knowledge that they the daughters wanted, it was not wanted in the way their mothers seemed to hold it."

Interwar feminism was oriented more on the working class than it had been before the First World War, with campaigns for equal pay, education for women, and improvement of life conditions for working-class women. But it was also preoccupied with questions about sexual difference and birth control. These tendencies often contradicted each other: some "feminists wanted to educate women in the workings of their bodies in order to protect them from venereal disease, from man's lust, from too many children. Others wanted to awaken women to the pleasure of sexual desire and love."

Maternalism and (Non-)Feminism

Interwar psychological and psychoanalytical discourses were imbued with strong anxieties about new forms of domestic life and new models of femininity. By the end of the 1920s, Carl Jung's writings on women and femininity, and especially his essay "Woman in Europe" (1927), gained some popularity in Britain. In this controversial text, Jung argued that "there is no 'modern European woman' properly speaking," as "if she is married, she usually has to depend economically on her husband; if she is unmarried and earning a living, she is working in some profession designed by a man." As historian Luisa Passerini notes, "For Jung and some of his followers—such as Mary Esther Harding—women were at the core of the social and spiritual crisis in Europe, particularly those emancipated women at the forefront of the process of modernity who were undergoing a mental masculinisation."

Other theorists who criticized modernity for degrading the maternal role did not do it necessarily from a feminist perspective, but as leverage for promoting their anti-modernist and very often anti-colonial perspectives. Interwar maternalist thinkers such as Robert Briffault, Bronislaw Malinowski, and Ian Suttie (see Chapters 3 and 4) were not female feminists, but male scholars and public intellectuals who believed that many of the failures of modern society were due to its patriarchal structure. At the same time, they used idealized—and sometimes imaginary or indeed fantasized—perceptions of non-Western forms of motherhood both to criticize their own countries' imperial policy and to blame Western motherhood for the interwar totalitarian crisis (i.e., the emergence of European fascism). These figures had little to contribute to real mothers in their own society, apart from preaching to them that they are not "good enough mothers" in comparison to their non-Western equivalents. By doing so, they no doubt joined a long tradition of "blaming mothers" for all sorts of political, social, and moral crises. As Jacqueline Rose has pointed out recently, it is "because mothers are seen as our point of entry into the world, there is nothing easier than to make social deterioration look like something that it is the sacred duty of mothers to prevent—a type of socially upgraded version of the tendency in modern families to blame mothers for everything."

In some respects, the maternalistic way of thinking grew even stronger after the Second World War, although developed by different people and for different goals. The state was now more sensitive to the material, social, and cultural interests of mothers—indeed, to some extent it aimed to become more "maternalistic." Maternalism was no longer only the ideology of "feminists" or "radicals," nor was it necessarily presented as a set of idealized images of "primitive" societies. It was now part of official discourses of the state itself. The ideological aspects of maternalism were now much more emphasized, since it was seen not only as a set of strategies for improving the living conditions of mothers, such as providing all of them and their children with full health insurance by the National Health Service (NHS), but also as a set of values such as security, stability, and maturity. Many considered these values to be essentially "maternal," and sought to promote them in various aspects of social life. Psychoanalysis was to play a key role in this process; it provided the state with the vocabulary, theory, and set of practices which would enable the state to "maternalize" itself.
It should be emphasized that arguing that maternalism became important in the postwar years implies neither that the lives of mothers really improved during that period, nor the contrary. What is suggested here is that the understanding of the relationship between mothers and the state was redefined in a way that did not affect only the self-understanding of British mothers, but also the ways in which the state itself was conceived after the Second World War. The question was no longer how motherhood could be integrated into the postwar effort, but how to make the body politic of men and women in Britain after the war more "maternal," as part of a new collectivist welfarist effort. The British psychoanalytic movement contributed much to the articulation of this question and provided a specific idiom for framing possible answers.

Psychoanalytic arguments were used to justify the restoration of traditional ideas of maternity after the Second World War, namely bringing mothers back home to their children. The best-known example here is the work of the psychoanalyst John Bowlby and the controversy over its "essentialist" assumptions about women. Bowlby argued that a separation of young children from their mother can cause great psychological and social damage. He therefore strongly advised that children be accompanied by their mothers at all times until the age of three. Moreover, he made extensive use of arguments drawn from the then-new discipline of ethology, claiming that an ongoing attachment between mothers and their children is a "natural" form of motherhood.

In the 1970s, feminist critics, such as Juliet Mitchell, claimed that Bowlby biologized the maternal role and locked women into a traditional sphere of domesticity. But not all feminists agreed that "Bowlbyism" had an exclusively negative impact on women, and some even argued that it had empowering dimensions. The new maternal discourse, which Bowlby did so much to promote, had the potential for turning the relationship with mothers into a paradigm for more benign social relations in both the private and the public spheres. Indeed, as this book shows, thinking of maternal relationships as a less authoritarian or even a nonauthoritarian political model was precisely what a new wave of postwar British psychoanalysts such as Michael Balint and Donald Winnicott tried to do.

The "Brief Life of Social Democracy in Britain" and Its Historiography

The late historian Tony Judt has offered the following reflection upon the British welfare state:

It is all too easy, looking back today upon the miscalculations of the first post-war reformers, to minimize and even dismiss their achievement. Within a few years many of the universal provisions of the NHS proved unsustainably expensive; the quality of the services provided has not been maintained across the years; and over time it has become clear that certain of the fundamental actuarial assumptions—including the optimistic prediction of permanent full employment—were short-sighted or worse. But anyone who grew up (like the present writer) in post-war Britain has good reason to be grateful for the Welfare State.

For other contemporary historians, however, the welfare state was mainly a disappointing project, with not much to be grateful about. It is not only that the "brief life of social democracy in Britain," to quote historian James Vernon, did not manage to provide a real human-yet-radical socialist alternative to Cold War communism, but also, as various leftist critics of the postwar Labour government have claimed, under the façade of a social-democratic program, post-1945 British governments promoted liberal consumerist policies rather than the expected progressive ones. In the 1970s and 1980s, historical discussions of the welfare state were focused largely around fierce arguments for and against the emergence of new neoliberal political forces (represented in Britain by Margaret Thatcher) and their attack on the postwar welfarist social policy. The debate over the welfare state was also a debate between the two big parties in Britain, and the consensus among historians that the parties represent opposite ideologies remained firm. But for historians in the last two decades, Left and Right no longer seem as far apart. The neoliberal age did not begin in 1979, when Thatcher came to power, several of them argue retrospectively, but much earlier, when the postwar liberal economy emerged.

Yet what is the evidence for the claim that the welfarist moment—if it was only a moment—was essentially problematic? A key premise of this argument is that the core program for the welfare state was devised under a bipartisan political "consensus" between the Labour and Conservative parties—a consensus that was practically achieved between 1944 and 1947. Whether this was a rare moment of real ideological consensus (what Lowe calls a "historically unusual degree of agreement" ) or only a reflection of common political interests (which should perhaps be regarded as a "compromise" rather than a "consensus") is less important for our purposes. What is more important is that assuming such a "consensus" is one starting point for historians to show that in political terms, the welfare state was never a truly "radical" project and should not be considered a model for a successful twentieth-century social democracy.

A focus on the history of 1940s and 1950s domestic life has, in the last few decades, become paradigmatic in its highlighting of the nonprogressive features of the postwar welfare state. In her highly influential book, Family, Dependence, and the Origins of the Welfare State: Britain and France, 1914-1945, Susan Pedersen makes a strong case for characterizing "the evolution of British social policy as the articulation of a male breadwinner logics of welfare." According to this gendered line of thinking, women and children were not entitled to have any benefits (e.g., pensions, insurances, and the like) of the state in their own right, but only as dependent on the male "breadwinner." Indeed, for some feminist critics, it is precisely the interwar and postwar welfarist politics that demonstrates why twentieth-century European "welfarism" was always about building a "patriarchal welfare state," to use Carole Pateman's words:

As participants in the market, men could be seen as making a public contribution, and were in a position to be levied by the state to make a contribution more directly, that entitled them to the benefits of the welfare state. But how could women, dependents of men, whose legitimate "work" is held to be located in the private sphere, be citizens of the welfare state? What could, or did, women contribute? The paradoxical answer is that women contributed—welfare. The development of the welfare state has presupposed that certain aspects of welfare could and should continue to be provided by women (wives) in the home, and not primarily through public provision.

This "male breadwinner logics of welfare" remained the dominant one also in the post-1945 years. Denise Riley has argued that what was perceived by many as a progressive program providing welfare services for the whole society was actually only one manifestation of a wider social and cultural discourse that promoted nonfeminist domestic ideologies. As will be discussed in Chapter 5, after the Second World War women were expected to stay at home with their children rather than do anything else. In fact, historian Sonya Rose has shown that this was expected from mothers even during the war, when many men were still at the front, and women had an important task in maintaining the war economy.

However, The Maternalists will show that the new welfare state blurred the line between traditional categories of "private" and "public." Even when there was a demand to keep mothers themselves out of the job market, in order to stay at home with their children, the state applied interventionist practices that, in some cases, undermined the relevance of these categories. Thus, mothers became the main negotiators between the household and the state agents—the social worker, the general practitioner (GP), the psychotherapist, the teacher. These professions were not new, of course, but under the welfare state they adopted a much more interventionist role in family life. Mothers were expected to act according to strict gender norms, based on the traditional binary of the private and the public domains. However, these two allegedly different spheres no longer functioned according to these strictly traditional lines, and thus destabilized perceptions of gender much more widely.

We have seen that some of the critique of the welfare state points to a substantial gap between welfarist rhetoric and the welfare state's "real" aims. It argues, for example, that the forces that promoted a liberal consumerist society, one which included the guarantee of only some elements of social welfare, were stronger than any other; namely, that the more "radical," left-wing political forces were left behind. However, a political order's unwillingness to deliver on its promises, or its double standards, should be neither historians' only criterion for assessing the ideological components of societies, nor necessarily their main focus. Thus, some feminist historiography suggests that it would be useful to draw conclusions about the domestic ideology of the welfare state by looking at welfare's "real" subjective products—that is, the personal experiences of people who lived at the heyday of this project. Accordingly, oral historians within the feminist tradition have contributed a great deal to our understanding of twentieth-century motherhood as a field of study that needs to be measured by subjective criteria.

The Maternalists takes a different route, though in many ways complementary one, to that taken by oral historians. Rather than asking what it was like to be a mother under a state driven by a welfarist ideology, this book examines public perceptions of motherhood and the nature of "maternal discourse" itself. Here I follow literary scholar Elissa Marder, who suggested that we should not "confuse unconscious representations of feminine figures with actual women." As Marder suggests—and as this study demonstrates—"there may indeed be a relationship between unconscious representations of feminine figures and the place assigned to women in social and political life, but that relationship is neither transparent nor mimetic." Evidently, such collective imagination of the "maternal" and its "real" nature was often unrepresentative of mothers' actual needs and desires, and instead represented collective fantasies—very often male fantasies—about what motherhood should be. But such public perceptions still have important political and personal implications, and understanding this "structure of feeling" is therefore necessary if we are to have a better picture of the history of motherhood and the welfare state. As Williams suggested, "the peculiar location of a structure of feeling is the endless comparison that must occur in the process of consciousness between the articulated and the lived." In that sense, rather than "motherhood," or indeed the lived experience of real mothers, the maternal is a structure of feeling, which takes different forms in different historical times and places.

Like other modern ideologies, postwar welfarism had a specific civil discourse, and it aimed to have British citizens speak it fluently. Historians such as Sally Alexander, Angela Davis, and Katharina Rowold have explored the gap between the ideological language of the state and the ways in which people actually used welfarist terms in their personal lives. But to recognize such a gap is not to deny that such ideological vocabulary played an important role. Indeed, we have good evidence that it did. For Steedman, as for Tony Judt and millions of other Britons, the welfare state was neither a successful political project nor a failure: it was a largely unspoken context within which their childhoods occurred. The British welfare state was—for them—simply the world they knew and grew up in. Steedman gave voice to a new generation of historians who wished to analyze nostalgic dimensions of our perceptions of the post-1945 period and provide a more nuanced cultural history of this period. It may be more difficult today to look back and press the politics of this period into a simple division of "Right" and "Left." But ideological lines did exist all the same, and they should be portrayed according to new criteria, if the old ones are no longer suitable. Thus, I suggest we can think of psychoanalysis not only as a psychological theory and practice, but also as a mediator between the "subjective" and the "ideological" in order to reformulate the description of mid-century political thought in Britain.

The Early History of the British Psychoanalytical Movement

From its early days, the British psychoanalytical movement took a different route from other psychoanalytical movements in Europe and the United States. Firstly, in Britain, psychoanalytic ideas appeared later than in some other parts of Europe. The Interpretation of Dreams was translated into English as late as 1913, thirteen years after it was published in German. This was a year after Ernest Jones published his Papers on Psycho-Analysis, considered the first book on psychoanalysis in English. Thus, psychoanalysis only gained traction in Britain about a decade after it had emerged in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and Hungary.

Secondly, although the first psychoanalysts in Britain were doctors, much of the interest in psychoanalytic ideas came from lay people—literary scholars, educators, clergymen, natural scientists, and philosophers. Whether amateurs or experts, they adopted only selected Freudian ideas, often the ones which were congruent with their personal morality. It was mainly the role of sexuality that was rejected by some of Sigmund Freud's lay reviewers in the popular press until the mid-1920s.

Psychoanalysis was also promoted in Britain by individual spiritualists, mystics, and occultists. While some of them belonged to elite and liberal groups that were preoccupied with what one might call, by way of shorthand, the fin de siècle mystical revival, others were much more related to old Christian traditions of spiritualism; and while the former were the first supporters of Freud in Britain (mainly the Society for Psychical Research, or SPR, in Cambridge, which Freud himself joined in 1911 as a corresponding member), the latter became part of a wider opposition to the Freudian ideas, even if by doing so they still contributed to the popularization of Freud in Britain. Rather than rejecting Freudianism entirely, many of them preferred to study the work of Carl Jung, whom they perceived as much more appropriate to their occultist perspective, as well as more optimistic regarding the real character of the unconscious. His ideas were also more widely accepted because they could be more easily interpreted as not necessarily related to sexuality.

By the beginning of the First World War, interest in psychoanalysis gradually shifted to more literary, scientific, and modernist-secular circles. It was mainly figures from Cambridge University and the Bloomsbury group who were dominant in the proliferation of Freudian thought among the cultural elite in the interwar period. Unlike former British readers of Freud, they did not consider his sexual theories inappropriate, and some of them even went to Vienna to be analyzed directly by him. Among them were Alix and James Strachey (the main translators of Freud's work into English), John Rickman, and Joan Riviere, but also figures such as the famous botanist A. G. Tansley, the scientist J. D. Bernal, and the philosopher and mathematician Frank Ramsey.

Finally, a difference between the history of psychoanalysis in Britain and in continental Europe is apparent in relation to the "Jewish question." In short, this question was much less prominent in psychoanalytical discussions in Britain. This is neither to say that Jews were not part of the history of psychoanalysis in Britain, nor to deny the presence of some anti-Jewish commentary within this specific national history. Indeed, some of the first prominent leaders of the British movement, such as David Eder and Barbara Low, were Jewish, not to mention some later influential émigrés such as Melanie Klein and Anna Freud. But others, like James Strachey, Susan Isaacs, James and Edward Glover, Joan Riviere, and Ernest Jones, came from Christian middle-class families in England, Scotland, and Wales. In contrast to Vienna, Berlin, and Budapest, in London Jews were not the dominant group within psychoanalytic circles.

It is true that Freud's Jewishness did not increase his popularity among English readers, who held it against him implicitly and sometimes explicitly. This was mainly true during the First World War, when it was not always clear whether negative responses to psychoanalysis were motivated by anti-Semitic views, or whether it was the denunciation of everything that was perceived as German that led many to reject Freudian ideas. In many cases, anti-Germanism and anti-Semitism were perceived as one and the same, and this was the reason for what one historian describes as a "xenophobic atmosphere from which Jews suffered disproportionately." Moreover, a few major figures in British psychoanalysis, such as James and Alix Strachey and Ernest Jones, were, over the years, accused of anti-Semitism.

Nevertheless, it seems that the question of whether psychoanalysis was a "Jewish science" was never part of the mainstream psychoanalytic discourse in Britain, as it was on the Continent. As Graham Richards has shown, psychoanalysis in the interwar period must be understood in the context of the emergence of what was called the new psychology, a term that was used in Britain "as an umbrella term for the whole range of psychological work" which had emerged in the 1920s. Richards sees the work of William McDougall, W. H. R. Rivers, Wilfred Trotter, Émile Coué, Pierre Janet, Freud, and Jung as being particularly important in the development of the new psychology. The emergence of this new, more eclectic psychological movement was seen as an opportunity by the church, which had been suffering from a decline in its power since the late nineteenth century. Some Christian psychologists wanted to emphasize the therapeutic aspects of religion, thereby showing what they considered the pragmatic and nondogmatic essence of Christianity. Thus, many Christians considered psychoanalysis another legitimate tool, even if a slightly more radical one, in creating a new type of psychologically oriented Christianity. Indeed, many of the practicing psychologists who were influenced by psychoanalysis in Britain in that period were devoted Christians who wished to show that psychology and religion are not contradictory and in fact have much in common.

The reasons, then, for the acceptance of some psychoanalytic notions and for the rejection of others were mainly determined by local motivations. The first adherents of psychoanalysis in Britain—spiritualistic movements before the First World War, prominent scientists from Cambridge in the interwar period, bohemians from the Bloomsbury group during the 1920s, professional psychoanalysts, and other "new psychologists"—all promoted a psychoanalytic theory and practice for intellectual and cultural reasons unrelated to the history of continental psychoanalysis.

This is not to say, however, that European psychoanalysis did not play any role in the making of the British psychoanalytic movement. To the contrary, there are many other aspects in which what was known as the post-World War II "British school of psychoanalysis" was deeply rooted in other traditions of thought, taken from continental psychoanalysis, and especially from the Budapest school. More than any other individual in the history of psychoanalysis in Britain, the Hungarian psychoanalyst Sandor Ferenczi (1873-1933) and his former analysand Melanie Klein (1882-1960) provided the British school with its maternal orientation, which characterized it for most of the twentieth century. The reception of Kleinian work in Britain is well documented. However, the centrality of Ferenczi in the intellectual and cultural history of British psychoanalysis has only recently been researched.

Ferenczi and the Maternal Shift in Psychoanalysis

The years 1923-24, as several psychoanalytic scholars have suggested, were particularly significant in the history of psychoanalytic theory. Peter Rudnytsky posits that four books—all published in these two years—constituted a "collective counterweight" to Freud's book The Ego and the Id. These texts are: Otto Rank's The Trauma of Birth, Georg Groddeck's Book of the It, Ferenczi and Rank's The Development of Psycho-Analysis, and Ferenczi's Thalassa: A Theory of Genitality. This group of five works would together give rise to the two major psychoanalytic schools of the following decades—Freudian "ego psychology" and what Rudnytsky called the "relational tradition." It was particularly Rank's theory regarding the trauma of birth as the most fundamental event in one's psyche that initiated what Antal Bokay calls the "1924 Rank debates," which proved to be a watershed in the history of psychoanalysis. Freud not only strongly dismissed Rank's theory for what he perceived as its undermining of the Oedipus complex, but also stripped Rank of all his official titles (directorship of the Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Verlag and editorship of the Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse).

The debate between Rank and Freud was not entirely different from the one Freud would have with Ferenczi ten years later. Freud's main disagreements with Rank in 1924 and with Ferenczi in the early 1930s were both over the real meaning of fantasy. While Ferenczi and Rank argued that many psychosomatic phenomena such as hysteria and regression are enactments of real pieces of experience from one's past, Freud insisted that these perceptions are simply the same mistakes that he himself had made in the late 1890s, when he developed his "seduction theory" only to abandon it for good in 1897. Rank and Ferenczi insisted to the contrary that symptoms are not only a manifestation of "fantasized" life but also realizations of desired, as well as traumatic, events from the past.

But the most important consequence of the 1924 debates was that instead of the Freudian focus on the paternal role in the development of the psyche, the mother was now positioned as the origin of all mental capacities. The understanding that the initial maternal bond with the child is as crucial as the later paternal one was not gained by Ferenczi and Rank alone. A few psychoanalysts after the First World War, such as Karl Abraham, Karen Horney, and Helen Deutsch, described the Freudian understanding of the mother as insufficient and tried to suggest alternative accounts of what happens in the pre-Oedipal phases. Freud himself was not unaware of these trends. In a series of publications between 1925 and 1933, he significantly revised his earlier ideas on sexuality in general, and on femininity in particular. The major change in Freud's theory was his new observation that girls, like boys, are initially attached to their mothers, and only in a later phase, after acknowledging their lack of a penis, shift their libidinal attachment toward the father. The implication was that boys and girls experience a completely different Oedipus complex: boys are attached to the opposite sex from the beginning and normally are not socially required to change their object of desire, whereas girls need to do so.

Freud was indeed a leading figure in interwar debates over the nature of female sexuality , but even he was not satisfied with his own explanations of the "riddle of femininity." It was left to his successors throughout the twentieth century to provide revised theories on female sexuality and femininity. Among Central European psychoanalysts, it was Ferenczi who insisted that psychoanalysis needed a totally new maternal agenda. He was also the one who suggested some clinical directions for this mission. Ferenczi's regressive approach—his insistence that the traumatic past must be reenacted in order to be worked through—enabled him to argue that he had new epistemological access into patients' earliest pre-Oedipal phases, and to locate the source of many traumatic situations in the initial bond between the mother and her child. This understanding was taken most seriously by the British school of psychoanalysis in the decades following Ferenczi's death.

Ferenczi himself expressed his deep affinity with his English readers: Anglo-Saxon readers, he wrote in 1926, "with their broad-mindedness . . . often strive to view such opinions as mine quite without prejudice, whereas elsewhere these are turned down a limine on account of their novelty or their boldness." The fundamental influence of Ferenczi on British psychoanalysis is well demonstrated in the recently published correspondence between him and Ernest Jones. By the mid-1920s, Ferenczi had become the most popular analyst for English people who wanted to be trained on the Continent. Jones referred many of them to Freud, but Freud himself, who was already unhealthy, referred some of them to Ferenczi. In fact, by the late 1920s, many senior British psychoanalysts were trained by Ferenczi, including Jones, Klein, Rickman, David Eder, Estelle Cole, and Samuel William Inman.

Ferenczi was known after the First World War in the international psychoanalytic community as the most creative and pioneering of all Freud's followers, especially in Britain. However, in the last five years of his life he had a major dispute with Freud, and after his death all interest in his clinical work and theoretical ideas subsided for many decades. Moreover, many believed (after reading Jones's accusations in his biography of Freud) that Ferenczi had lost his mind toward the end of his life. Since the 1980s, however, the psychoanalytic community has rediscovered Ferenczi's writings. Feminists especially have valued him because of his innovative approach to the treatment of sexual abuse and have reevaluated his objections to Freud's approach to this subject. Trauma scholars have also shown a new interest in him. Most importantly for our purposes, in the last decades a case has been made for his special place as a pioneer in studying the maternal role in psychoanalytic theory.

Ferenczi was arguably the first to claim that the analyst could not be the objective scientist that Freud wished him to be, and that his or her own subjectivity influences the treatment process. The Freudian approach, argued Ferenczi, ignored this mutual dimension. Consequently, in Ferenczi's view, Freudian analysis, in both the diagnostic and prognostic phases, was the product of subjective impressions and a reality constructed by the psychoanalyst on the basis of status and gender. Sexual trauma served as a particularly pertinent example of the alleged psychoanalytic blindness of Freudian analysts, some of whom refused to acknowledge the real extent of actual abuse. Ferenczi's determination to confirm stories of sexual abuse in the family among middle-class women, which at the time were perceived as Oedipal fantasies and treated accordingly, was part of his broader intention to revise the power relations between analysts and their patients. Between 1919 and 1932, Ferenczi conducted his most important experiments, with the help of local patients and students from all over Europe and the United States. These led him to various clinical innovations, including a revision of the use of hypnosis in psychoanalytic treatment, the development of his "active technique" for handling uncooperative patients, an attempt to conduct mutual treatment between analysts and patients, and to develop pioneering approaches in the field of domestic sexual abuse.

Ferenczi, like many of his colleagues in the Budapest school, thought that the real challenge of psychoanalysis was to create a new kind of psychosomatic medicine that would better understand the interface between the mind and the body. Members of the Budapest school believed that some European psychoanalysts gave priority to theoretical issues over the analytic experience itself, focusing too much on interpretation, thus causing an unnecessary intellectualization of the treatment. Ferenczi's resistance to the intellectualization of the analytic process was particularly relevant to his innovative approach to trauma. In treating patients who had previously suffered traumatic events, he maintained, it is neither enough to remember what happened, nor to know the event's effects on the present: there must be a regressive emotional reenactment of the trauma, which will include the patient's body as well as his or her mind. Ferenczi's regressive approach was one of the main points of disagreement between him and Freud. The latter was particularly worried that by encouraging patients to reenact their original traumatic events in the consulting room, the analyst might fall into what Freud thought of as the trap of hypnosis and become a hypnotist rather than a psychoanalyst.

Ferenczi, however, was not only less cautious about inducing a state of regression in the patient, but believed that regression was the core of the treatment. He was fully aware of the paradoxical essence of regression, namely that it is both the illness and its cure: severe mental conditions create severe regressive states, which can be treated only through regression itself. Only regression, he thought, could enable the patient to enact the initial traumatic events, and so emancipate him or her from the ongoing effects of the traumatic reality: "[analysis] must make possible for the patient, morally and physically, the utmost regression, without shame!" Ferenczi's approach to regression, as to other clinical issues, had a substantial influence on the history of British psychoanalysis and its ongoing preoccupation with the maternal.

Ferenczi himself is not a central figure in this study, but the Ferenczian tradition certainly is. In terms of theory, the British school of psychoanalysis emerged from the integration of local traditions of psychological thinking with specific notions adopted from continental psychoanalysis, in which the interwar Budapest school played a central role. This "knowledge in transit," to use historian of science James Secord's useful notion, was not only a transition of floating ideas from one country to another, but also a product of the ways in which people from one historical setting contributed to the circulation of knowledge in another. In this sense, my aim will not be to show any indirect "influence" of Ferenczi himself on British politics and culture—an influence which would be difficult to demonstrate—but rather to suggest the presence of some sort of Ferenczianism in shaping attitudes to domestic life in interwar and postwar Britain. A large part of this book is concerned with a period in which Ferenczi was no longer alive. Moreover, as we have seen, mainstream circles in all of the main psychoanalytic centers rejected his heritage by the 1930s. This study, however, will show that a very specific Ferenczian language survived, albeit unacknowledged, even "undercover," at the heart of the very psychoanalytic discourses that tried to repress it. Indeed, many in the British psychoanalytic movement before and after the Second World War spoke "Ferenczian" very fluently.

Outlines and Arguments

Through a close examination of the debate between Anna Freud and Klein, Chapter 1 locates the emergence of child psychoanalysis in the 1920s as a major historical point in the twentieth-century history of childhood. The main issues at stake, I will argue, were not only the aims of child psychoanalysis as a profession, but also the correct perspective for understanding childhood itself. Central European psychoanalysis had roots in a nineteenth-century evolutionary tradition, which perceived childhood as a set of phases in a normative life cycle—that is, as part of the developmental process of becoming an adult. It is true that Freud and Ferenczi—and subsequently Anna Freud—challenged the idea that, in mental terms, people's life cycles are linear. Dreams, mental regressions, hysteria, the unconscious as a whole—all proved, for them, the opposite. But they never abandoned the developmental perspective and always perceived the psyche as a diachronic entity.

Assuming childhood as a phase in a normative life cycle means also accepting an inevitable gap of authority and power relations between children and adults. Thus, Anna Freud was a loyal representative of Central European psychoanalysis when she argued that, for the child patient, the psychoanalyst is first and foremost an adult and is inevitably perceived by the child as an educational agent. In other words, any adult is a "superegoistic" figure for the child, whether the adult likes it or not; the child's mind is a site of authoritarian "intervention" by adults, either the parents or any other educational agent of society.

Klein challenged the developmental tradition by arguing that some major mental "positions" of the infant are not essentially different from mental "positions" of the adult. No doubt, people develop and grow up, but at the same time, she argued, the psyche is not a developmental entity. There are no mental progressions and regressions: everything is already there from early life. Understanding one's mind means understanding it synchronically rather than diachronically. Moreover, because some psychical elements are not developmental, the child's mind and the adult's mind are similar in many respects, and therefore child psychoanalysis and adult psychoanalysis are not as different as it might be thought. A further implication of this theory for Klein was that child psychoanalysis is by no means part of an educational process. The role of the psychoanalyst, Klein thought, is to treat his or her child patient—as he or she would if the patient were an adult—and not to induce pedagogical norms in the consulting room.

There was, however, one point on which Ferenczi, Anna Freud, and Klein agreed, namely that the child encounters morality much earlier than the Oedipal phase, which Freud had imagined reaching its apogee for the child between the ages of three and five years. Anna Freud and Klein adopted Ferenczi's idea of a "sphincter-morality," a forerunner of the superego, which takes hold in the child's mind in the pre-Oedipal phases, when the dominant figure for the child is the mother. Thus, we can see that after the First World War, the focus in psychoanalytic discourse shifted. In short, the mother was placed clearly as the major figure in the psychic development of the child. This was apparent in most psychoanalytic schools: all agreed that the most formative stages occur during early life, when the bond of the infant to his or her mother is closest.

At the center of the second chapter stands the educationalist and psychoanalyst Susan Isaacs (1885-1948). She is mainly known among educationalists as the charismatic manager of the 1920s Malting House School—one of the notable experiments in the history of progressive education—as well as one of the leaders of the London Institute of Education. In the late 1920s she also became a popular "agony aunt" in childcare journals. At the same time, in her role as psychoanalyst, she was a prominent theoretician and one of Klein's closest colleagues. This chapter, however, will mainly focus on a relatively neglected aspect of her work: the anti-colonial perspective of her critique of developmental psychology, and specifically of Jean Piaget. She thought that Piaget was part of a much wider way of thinking, which drew heavily on late nineteenth-century colonial anthropology and its fundamental assumption that children and "savages" are similar in their "primitive" thinking. By reading Isaacs's critique—and by placing it in the context of wider anti-colonial attitudes, evident in the thought of various intellectuals based in interwar Bloomsbury—this chapter explores the political dimension of her anti-developmental argument.

Isaacs will be only one of several figures to be discussed here for their anti-colonial views. The next two chapters show other attempts, from within the psychoanalytic community, to denounce the usage in the human sciences of the category of the "primitive" to indicate an inferior evolutionary state. Despite the differences between these thinkers—such as Geza Róheim and Ian Suttie—they shared some common ground. Most important for our purpose is their use of the new psychoanalytic literature on the maternal role—namely, the works of Ferenczi and Klein—to show an explicit link between the patriarchal structure of Western societies and their imperialistic policies.

However, critics of the primitive as a category did not necessarily object to the concept altogether but sometimes tried to change its normative usage: rather than thinking of "primitive" societies as inferior, some researchers attempted to idealize them. The third chapter concentrates on the ways in which interwar psychoanalysts applied the category of the primitive to motherhood (i.e., "primitive motherhood") in order to criticize the Western world and its own models of mothering. At the center of the chapter is the debate between the Polish-born London School of Economics (LSE) anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski and the psychoanalytic community, represented mainly by Jones and Róheim. Without dismissing psychoanalysis as a whole, Malinowski's main claim was that his research on matrilineal "primitive" societies shows that in them, the Oedipus complex is not a relevant category. Thus, he opposed the Freudian stance that psychoanalytic findings are universally valid. To refute Malinowski's highly popular argument, Róheim conducted his own field research among central Australian matrilineal societies in the late 1920s. Yet beneath the surface of the controversies between the two, one may find a strong agreement: both were convinced that pre-Oedipal relationships between mothers and their children are the fundamental factor in the development of the child's morality—that is, the child's superego. "Primitive" motherhood is benevolent and generous—in contrast to Western motherhood, which has some essentially sadistic elements—and therefore, they thought, totalitarian societies cannot be found among primitives. This 1930s anthropological stance on motherhood joined other popular perceptions that considered motherhood as the key to the long-term solution of social, cultural, and political problems. At the same time, however, mothers were perceived as responsible for creating these problems in the first place, and thus, this discourse had strong nonfeminist, even misogynistic, dimensions.

Chapter 4 will focus on the interwar Tavistock psychiatrist Ian Suttie, who was known in the psychoanalytical community as one of Freud's harshest critics. In his writings, Suttie used a wide range of historical, ethnological, and folkloristic literature, mainly from premodern, allegedly matriarchal cultures, to show that what Freud portrayed as essentially and naturally Oedipal is in fact a specific historical manifestation of patriarchy, which characterized the modern period. Our patriarchal society, he and his wife, Jane Suttie, wrote, is characterized by an "Oedipus culture . . . [that] manifests itself in anti-feminism, anti-sexuality, a neurotic dread of mother-incest and of mother-worship, and therefore in propitiatory father-worship." All that, he believed, is a result of the dismissal of the primal bond of the mother with her baby in favor of a culture that glorifies a "jealous father." In his idealization of a premodern matriarchal past, Suttie sought ways to restore the primal bond with the mother, which according to him, patriarchal modernity had lost. Thus, Suttie joined other 1930s social thinkers who attempted to rehabilitate collective memories of allegedly imaginary matriarchal times in history—here, again, in light of rising totalitarian regimes in Europe.

Suttie was also a main representative of what one may define as the "regressive tradition" in the "psy" disciplines. This strand of thought was particularly strong in the history of psychoanalysis, in which regression was always a core concept. For Ferenczi and his followers—Suttie indeed one of them— regression had a very specific meaning: it came to express one's mental tendency to reach backward to the very initial bond with the mother. According to this line of thought, since the desire to restore this very early relationship is impossible to fulfill, people compensate with a wide range of regressive behavior (dreams, hallucinations, déjà vu, hysteria, and so on). Suttie thought that in matriarchal societies, many of these regressive phenomena used to be considered legitimate and natural. However, in modern patriarchal orders, as the primal bond with the mother is culturally dismissed, regressive tendencies are seen by society as belonging solely to a clinical discourse, and indeed eventually become clinical matters. Suttie's attempt to redefine regression as a legitimate and necessary phenomenon—for the individual and society as a whole—made him a precursor of postwar psychoanalytic thinkers such as Donald Winnicott and Michael Balint: the notion of regression was central to their demand to allow an increased maternal presence in the public sphere.

The last two chapters are devoted, respectively, to Winnicott and Balint. Both felt strongly that there was an urgent need to maternalize the British public sphere in order to avoid another totalitarian crisis like the one experienced in the 1930s and 1940s in Europe. They believed that maternalizing society meant making more room for regressive behavior in the private and public domains—an allowance that is crucial for developing a more mature personality. The "mature" mind of citizens was perceived as the key to creating a real democratic society. At the same time, both perceived the state as having an interventionist role, similar to the one parents must have.

Reading Winnicott's case studies, and case studies under his supervision, demonstrates how engaged he was in this project of creating a new social-democratic society, which according to him would inevitably be a more maternal one. These cases reveal, however, another effect of the postwar maternal discourse: in many of them, perhaps for the first time in the history of psychoanalysis, the father figure is absent from the clinical picture. In some cases discussed in this chapter, fathers are neither a key figure in their child's development nor the cause of a damaging patriarchal maldevelopment (as has been suggested by 1930s anthropologists, for example)—they are simply not taken into account.

The final chapter focuses on the post-1945 work of Michael Balint, Ferenczi's most remarkable pupil and successor, who escaped from Budapest to London in 1939 and became an eminent figure in postwar British psychoanalysis. Balint was an enthusiastic follower of Ferenczi's regressive approaches: he believed that regressive behavior is the core of the treatment and should be encouraged by the therapist, especially with severely traumatized patients. Balint did not confine his thinking about regression to the private clinic but thought that this concept could be widely used in other social domains such as family therapy, in the study of delinquency, and above all in general practice.

In the early 1950s, he established, together with his third wife, Enid, the first Balint group. Drawing on their psychoanalytic knowledge and vision, they sought to create a peer group where GPs would be able to discuss psychosocial dimensions of their work with patients. The Balints provided doctors with a new language to think about the ways in which an unconscious role playing between them and their patients takes place—especially when patients with no access to other psychotherapeutic forms of treatment seek help. Here in the GP's consulting room, too, maternal relationships served as a paradigm for benign and less authoritarian relationships at large. According to the Balintian approach, this maternal relationship should serve as a model for treatment. Indeed, I maintain that Balint's main argument was that the doctors—most of whom were men—should learn about and then seek to assimilate and deploy maternal capacities in their work. Thus, the Balint movement followed the line of the new welfarist ideology in post-1945 Britain of the state as a provider of maternal capacities, especially to people who had been deprived of good parenting in the first place and developed certain kinds of regressive needs.

Drawing on new archival sources, this chapter will also try to answer the question of why GPs, who for many decades had not necessarily shown any marked interest in psychological approaches, were so attracted by ideas that were heavily psychoanalytically based. I will suggest that by drawing the GPs closer to a flourishing psychosocial way of thinking, Balint offered them both a platform for improving their professional status in the new age of the NHS, as well as a new ethics, which they felt their profession lacked after the Second World War. Thus, as in other cases presented in this book, the story of the Balint movement is also the story of Britons before and after the Second World War who became highly interested in what psychoanalysis had to offer, not only because of the discipline's psychological innovations, but also for its hidden promise of providing a new set of private and public values, namely, what they portrayed as a maternal ethics.


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