The Bonds of Love: Psychoanalysis, Feminism, and the Problem of Domination By Jessica Benjamin

This book is a very challenging read. If you are prepared to struggle through the thicket of psychoanalytic theory and critique, and a tiresome reference to a host of eminent thinkers on the subject, there are some worthwhile gems of wisdom to be gained, as well as shifts in perspective that can be awakening. It is definitely thought-provoking in parts and merits discussion. The book does seem to have something important to say and for this reason I would recommend it to others if they are conscientious and up for the challenge. Unfortunately, I think the significance of what this book has to say is a little too mired down in all the theory and footnoting, and it was a bit overladen with psychobabble for my liking. 0394757300 I thought this book was really insightful. Benjamin's use of Hegel's master-slave dialectic was excellent and prepared the way for her wider points about how both philosophy and to some extent psychoanalysis have been trapped in the Cartesian view of the subject with this monad then having to make contact with an other who is called (and seen) as an object. Against this, Benjamin emphasies intersubjectivity and the possibility of avoiding the master-slave dialectic of one subject seeking (fruitlessly) to dominate the other by instead focusing on the mutual recognition of two subjects. The problem otherwise is that as one subject reduces another to an object they lose the possibility of their subjectivity being recognised, so domination ends up destroying both the subject and the other.

The other big influence on Benjamin is Winnicott and she makes great use of his paradoxical idea that we can only make contact with the other if we destroy them. I think what he (and she) means is that our need for the other makes us fear them and when we seek to destroy them to overcome our fear and our dependency, then if they survive, we discover the limits to our omnipotence which although disappointing moderates the guilt we would feel if our rage turned out to be as totally destructive as we hoped (then feared) it would be. It also convinces us that the other is genuinely independent of us and so creates the scope for having a relationship with the them. However, if rather than enduring and surviving, the other flees or retaliates, the master-slave dialectic continues indefinitely.

Benjamin is keen to show that domination is a two-way relationship, i.e. there are attractions both to being the master and to being the slave. The master hopes to establish his subjectivity by violating the subjectivity of the slave, but the slave may share the master's ideal of omnipotent subjectivity and seek to connect to this ideal not actively but passively via identification. Her argument is that they may share the dream of finding salvation in asserting their subjectivity over that of others even if this dream is more immediately apparent in the master than the slave.

I also liked Benjamin's deconstruction of the classic Freudian account of the Oedipus complex. The traditional account does seem sexist and her alternative (grounded in a Winnicottian view of the pre-Oedipal period) seemed both interesting and compelling. I thought it also carried forward well into her discussion of the social and political world. So overall a powerful and thought-provoking book. Definitely one I will come back to! 0394757300 Second attempt reading this one -- finally clicked! Benjamin walks us through the gendered processes of human development (in which boys are encouraged to differentiate and girls to remain connected), which she argues lay the foundation for dominant boys and submissive girls. Each side of the polarity is frustrated: the boy because he must renounce his mother's love in order to differentiate, and the girl because she can't differentiate, as there appear to be no other options for her than identifying with her mother. The result, Benjamin argues, is a loss of ability by both parties to recognize the girl as an independent subject. With this comes a loss of vital tension, the tension between two mutually recognizing, self-asserting subjects. Domination is a way of reestablishing tension, though Benjamin warns that it's a slippery slope: as one submits more and more of themselves, they become less of a subject and therefore less able to recognize the other -- thus, they eventually get used up and become worthless. Quite sad.

Benjamin doesn't exactly give us a road map to establishing intersubjectivity, but she does paint some beautiful images: the container self who cultivates inner space in which to establish an authentic self, and the endless shores of intersubjective possibility are my two favorites.

It takes some determination to get through all the subject/object/splitting/etc. jargon, but for me it was well worth it. Would recommend for anyone hoping to better understand, well, psychoanalysis, feminism, and/or domination! 5 stars. 0394757300 Changed my mode of apprehension from as an object to be seen, back to a subject that sees, the original position. I also began to write my novel at this time. I began staring strangers down on the sidewalk to experiment with Benjamin's idea of personhood as colored by this neat dichotomy. Poof, like that, I was looking, seeing thinking and writing.

0394757300 Overall it was a decent historical/psychoanalysis history of the psychology behind gender social norms; it is too wordy. Each chapter can be cut in half and still say the same thing. Yes, the way we were brought up is affected by the societal norms from generation from generation. Yes, all the males in psychology focused on men in their study and assumed that duality in things makes women the opposite. We know now that is not the case. But the book was interesting in regards that I read the 1988 edition and see how far we have come in a short matter in time in understanding but not in reality. 0394757300

Why do people submit to authority and derive pleasure even others have over them? What is the appeal of domination and submission, and why are they so prevalent in erotic life? Why is it so difficult for men and women to meet as equals? Why, indeed, do they continue to recapitulate the positions of master and slave? In The Bonds of Love, noted feminist theorist and psychoanalyst Jessica Benjamin explains why we accept and perpetuate relationships of domination and submission. She reveals that domination is a complex psychological process which ensnares both parties in bonds of complicity, and shows how it underlies our family life, our social institutions, and especially our sexual relations, in spite of our conscious commitment to equality and freedom. The Bonds of Love: Psychoanalysis, Feminism, and the Problem of Domination

Not sure this belongs on my read-enough-of shelf (for books where I think I've got the gist adequately) rather than on my simply unfinished shelf, but what the heck. I'm gonna live dangerously. The first chapter is on some competing theories of the development of the ego, focussing mostly on what the author calls intersubjective theory, inspired by Hegel (on the master-slave dialectic) and Winnicott - her approach - and the alternative ego-psychology account (associated here with Margaret Mahler). The former, preferred, account sees subjectivity as arising from the beginning on the basis of mutuality and recognition of the other. The latter sees the ego as as differentiating itself from a primal unity with the early caregiver (referred to as the mother, since it is usually the mother) and deploying a range of identifications and introjections in its engagement with the world, thus not really confronting the other in her own reality.

The second chapter, near the end of which I felt I had read enough of the book, deals with the problem of domination in the erotic context, via a lengthy discussion of The Story Of O. After a while, the descriptions of what goes on in this book in terms of recognition, annihilation, ideal other, dependence, and so on becomes like white noise. If all the sentences were shuffled into paragraphs randomly, I suspect I would not be able to tell the difference. I seem to have this reaction to some psychoanalytic writing (see my review of Bechdel's Are You My Mother?). Not sure whether this is a deficiency in me or it. 0394757300 This is a fabulous fabulous book. It lags at times, but for someone who is only sparsely versed in psychoanalytic theory (as I am--now being forced out of my protective zone, since I like using people like Kristeva, sans hardcore psychoanalytic theory), Benjamin provides very accessible accounts of major frameworks and debates that have been--and are still being--articulated in the theory. For example, we all know a bit about oedipalization--but Benjamin clearly defines the parameters of various visions of the process, laying everything lucidly out in order to structure her own argument concerning identificatory development. Someone here said that the chapter on S&M is badly researched (which admittedly, using a single book as representative isn't really social critique--it's literary critique), but the explication of the Story of O. was beautifully written and certainly fit in with the rest of the text--and ill-formed or not, it was probably my favorite chapter of the book.

In any case, this one comes highly recommended for those interested in feminist psychoanalytic criticism, those hoping to read more on domination and subordination, and anyone trying to escape the specter of penis envy. I'm actually planning to read another of her books soon, as this was so engaging and fascinating a read. 0394757300 No, psychoanalysis is still primarily useless aside from literary analysis... but hey, sometimes it produces really stunning works of contemplative feminism. Her discussion of the Story of O is obnoxious; instead of seizing the opportunity to interview an individual involved in the BDSM community, she just interrogates a piece of erotica. Other than that, stellar book. 0394757300 It is pretty good and easy to read. I've read it enthusiastically as if it were a novel... 0394757300 I was introduced to this book nearly ten years ago by my favorite professor, Dr. Schapiro, and have read and referenced it numerous times since then. I consider it one of the core books that have shaped my personal belief system and values. In fact, almost every book I read for Dr. Schapiro in college is part of that core collection!

Benjamin writes in a way that makes psychoanalysis and feminist theory accessible even to those who have not studied psychology and/or literary criticism. She ties the concepts of master and slave, dominance and submissiveness, to psychoanalytic theories such as object-relations or intersubjectivity. While she references the patriarchal order and certain societal stereotypes, she does not place blame.

This book is valuale in understanding the dynamics of relationships- In every person's life, there are those we lead, and those we follow; those we manipulate, and those we are manipulated by; those we dominate, and those we submit to. The Bonds of Love provides insight into the psychological and psychosocial causes of this dynamic. 0394757300


review · eBook or Kindle ePUB Ô Jessica Benjamin