With wit and erudition, Mariano Plotkin explores the history of the diffusion and reception of psychoanalysis in twentieth-century Argentina. The author sets for himself a daunting intellectual task: “Only a multidimensional approach that integrates into the narrative the complex of conditions that facilitated the phenomenon can explain why and how a psychoanalytic culture emerged” (p. 8). Notwithstanding the challenge of sifting through ever-changing interpretations of Freud, Marx, and Lacan—a challenge complicated still further by a confusing alphabet soup of organizations and splinter organizations—the author succeeds in his purpose. Furthermore, because Plotkin studies psychoanalysis as both a therapy and an “interpretative system,” this work transcends the confines of medical history.

Psychoanalysis, which is an integral part of the cultural life of Buenos Aires, arrived in Argentina through visiting foreign psychiatrists, but met a cold response in the first decades of the twentieth century. By...

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