Modern Intellectual History recently published an article by Jonathyne Briggs that may be of interest to H-Madness subscribers. His abstract for “The Enduring Fortress: The Influence of Bruno Bettelheim in the Politics of Autism in France” is quoted below.
“This article examines how the work of Bruno Bettelheim remained influential in debates concerning the meaning of autism as well as its treatment in France well after it was marginalized in the United States. The persistence of Bettelheim’s work among French audiences speaks to how the French understanding of autism diverged from its conception in the United States thanks to the social and cultural interest in psychoanalysis in French society and the perceived effectiveness of his form of treatment. The conflation between Bettelheim and the psychoanalytic approach to autism meant that advocates for other approaches needed to rebut his influences well into the 1980s and 1990s, which further reinforced his position as a prime representative for the problems of psychoanalysis for parents. The durability of Bettelheim’s presence in these debates also underscores the perceived relationship between disability and motherhood in the case of autism and how Bettelheim buttressed that assumption for the French rooted in anxieties about the dangers of bad mothering. Bettelheim’s ideas solidified the intersection of intellectual ascendance and social acceptance of psychoanalysis in France and anxieties about motherhood during the emergence of autism within the public discourse.”