Fratriarchy: The Sibling Trauma and the Law of the Mother

Author(s) : Juliet Mitchell

Fratriarchy: The Sibling Trauma and the Law of the Mother

Book Details

  • Publisher : Routledge
  • Published : February 2023
  • Cover : Paperback
  • Pages : 224
  • Category :
  • Catalogue No : 97073
  • ISBN 13 : 9781032364407
  • ISBN 10 : 1032364408
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In Fratriarchy, Juliet Mitchell expands her ground-breaking theories on the sibling trauma and the Law of the Mother. Writing as a psychoanalytic practitioner, she shows what happens from the ground up when we use feminist questions to probe the psycho-social world and its lateral relations.

In this pivotal text, Mitchell argues that the mother’s prohibition of her toddler attacking a new or expected sibling is a rite of passage from infancy to childhood: this is a foundational force structuring our later lateral relationships and social practices. Throughout the volume, Mitchell chooses the term 'Fratriarchy' to show that, as well as the up-down axis of fathers and sons, there is also the side-to-side interaction of sisters and brothers and their social heirs. Making use both critically and affirmatively of Freud, Klein, Winnicott, Bion, Pontalis and others, Fratriarchy indicates how the collective social world matches the individual family world examined by established psychoanalysis. Decades on from Mitchell’s work on psychoanalysis and feminism which argued that feminism needed psychoanalysis to understand the position of women, Fratriarchy now asks psychoanalysis to take on board the developing practices and theories of global feminism.

This volume will be essential reading for analysts, psychotherapists, psychologists and anyone who wants to re-think the ubiquity of unconscious processes. It will also interest students and teachers of social theory, psychoanalysis, group analysis, gender studies and feminism.

Reviews and Endorsements

'In her riveting new book, Fratriachy: The Sibling Trauma and the Law of the Mother, Juliet Mitchell makes a persuasive case for a psychoanalytic examination of sibling relations. Omitted from psychoanalytic discourse – until now – is what Mitchell characterises as "The Law of the Mother": the force that tempers a child’s homicidal impulses against their perceived usurper. In casting a light on horizontal relations and exploring their interactions with vertical control, Mitchell provides a fantastically entertaining and important feminist analysis of the functions of patriarchy and fraternity in a social world.' - Inbali Iserles, award-winning author of children’s books and fellow of the Royal Literary Fund (2020-2022), University of Cambridge, UK.

'Juliet Mitchell’s astonishingly rich contributions to psychoanalysis and its social meanings, from Psychoanalysis and Feminism onward, culminate in Fratriarchy with a stunningly new conception of siblingship and what she tellingly calls 'the Law of the Mother.' This is a great and convincing work, taking us through psychoanalytic theory, and literature—finding its most eloquent enactments in Shakespeare. A major book by one of the leading thinkers of our time.' - Peter Brooks, Yale University, USA.

'The contention of the existence of a horizontal axis along which siblings interact is the starting point of Fratriarchy. With her characteristic theoretical consistence and exquisite clinical sensitivity Juliet Mitchell proposes that the intersection of this looked axis with the hierarchical vertical patriarchal axis set the coordinates needed for an understanding of the universality of the prohibitions of incest and murder. The consequences of these prohibitions are different when operating on the horizontal and the vertical axes as they correspond to different Law-givers and different recipients. Mitchell’s Law of the Mother rules during the pre- social infancy prohibiting incest and murder between siblings along the horizontal axis. It is the necessary complement of the Law of the Father -to use the Lacanian translation of Freud’s formulation- that prohibits incest and murder in the vertical axis of filiation.' - Max Hernandez Camarero, former Vice-President of the International Psychoanalytical Association and Founding Member of the Peruvian Psychoanalytic Society. He has been honoured with the Mary Sigourney Award.

'In the face of war, and gender, racial, and colonial oppression, it is crucial to define new frameworks of analysis that have the potential to end violence. Mitchell’s fascinating account of the Law of the Mother, sibling trauma, and the fratriarchy offers a route to deliverance articulated through new narratives about the self and the others, and a call to sisterhood.' - Laura López Paniagua

'In Juliet Mitchell’s Fratriarchy the author drives her argument with freewheeling and exhilarating force, into the prevailing foundations of psychoanalytic thinking---the Law of the father, the paternal function of the Oedipus, and its antecedent, the earliest relationship with the mother, "good enough" or not. What is left out , she asserts, is the separation and loss of infancy specifically through the replacement of the toddler by the baby he/she is no longer. This trauma is a product of "The Law of the Mother," and its consequences are death of the toddler, who dare not risk, by fulfilling the wish to murder the baby, his or her own death by maternal abandonment. Mitchell puts this dilemma powerfully, starting with the psychoanalytic writing of Winnicott and Klein, the British pillars of early infantile experience. Their early cases all start with the trauma of the birth of the sibling, but their theoretical focus backs away from this trauma, looking for antecedents in the first months of life. Juliet Mitchell says look again, at the trauma which is equal for boys and girls, and which marks the entry into all the relationships outside the family, those relations which will eventually find expression in love and war. Confusions of love, sex and gender, the ubiquity of war, are the discontents we live with and Juliet Mitchell has much to say to illuminate the world in which we find ourselves. And she offers more than she explores in relation to adolescence. It is a riveting read.' - Sara Flanders, British Psychoanalytic Society, UK.

About the Author(s)

Juliet Mitchell FBA is a psychoanalyst, socialist feminist, emeritus professor and author.

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