Sigmund Freud was a more radical and speculative thinker than many have been willing to concede. This is apparent in his many discussions of childhood sexuality. For example, few really understand how Freud’s conclusions about childhood sexuality predate by decades the clinical observations of actual children – later done by dutiful analysis, most often by women analysts like Melanie Klein and Freud’s own daughter Anna Freud, most often of children within their own families or close friends. Beyond that, readers sometimes forget that Freud’s commitment to speculation is practically institutionalized within psychoanalysis as the “metapsychology,” Freud at his most theoretical – and also most misunderstood. But it’s really very simple: the metapsychological speculations of the middle period (1912-1920), culminating with the death drive theory of Beyond the Pleasure Principle, simply developed the late Romantic philosophy and materialism of the early (1897-1912) and pre-psychoanalytic periods (before 1897); while the cultural works of the final period (1920-1939) simply developed and ratified the metapsychology of the previous three periods.
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