The International Journal of Psychoanalysis | 2021
Drive theory, redux: a history and reconsideration of the drives
ABSTRACT A large and significant portion of contemporary psychoanalytic theory has given up on the drives. The shift toward object relations in the 1940s and 50s, the scepticism about metapsychology in the latter half of the twentieth century, and a general confusion about the coherence of Freud’s drive theory have all contributed to their slow decline in prominence. There are legitimate criticisms of the drives that deserve attention but the drives themselves require a careful examination before any successful defence of their place in the metapsychology may be mounted. The current paper provides an account of the drives informed by the intellectual history of German and English thought related to the drives and instincts as they came to Freud. This history allows us to clearly distinguish between “drive” (or Trieb) and its conceptual neighbour “instinct” (or Instinkt).