Caruso, Igor A. (1914-1981)

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CARUSO, IGOR A. (1914-1981)

An Austrian psychologist and psychoanalyst, Igor Caruso was born February 4, 1914, in Tiraspol and died June 28, 1981, in Salzburg. Born into a family of Italian aristocrats who had settled in Russia, the young Caruso left home to study psychology in Louvain. He wrote his thesis on the development of ethics in children. The growing importance of Piaget and his followers turned his attention to philosophy and orthodox Russian philosophy, German philosophy, and new French thought. In 1942 Caruso settled in Austria and worked for a while as an assistant for children at the large Steinhof psychiatric hospital in Vienna. Shocked by the Nazis' experiments in euthanasia, he left the hospital and found work as a psychologist in a small neuropsychiatric clinic under the direction of Alfred Auersberg. Although he was encouraged to join the "Viennese working group" of the Deutsches Reichinstitut für Psychologische Forschung und Psychotherapie (German State Institute for Psychological Research and Psychotherapy), there is no proof of his participation. Nor is it certain that he underwent his first analysis with August Aichhorn. However, it is likely that he did his training analysis with Viktor Emil Freiherr von Gebsattel, a German psychoanalyst whose philosophical-anthropological-Christian ideology must have fascinated this Italian nobleman more than Aichhorn's charisma, social commitment, or his work with abandoned adolescents.

After the fall of Nazism and the end of the Second World War, Caruso distanced himself from the group formed by the Wiener Psychoanalytische Vereinigung (WPV) [Vienna Psychoanalytic Association], which he found to be too dogmatic. In 1947 he created the Wiener Arbeitskreis für Tiefenpsychologie (Viennese Depth Psychology Study Circle) as a relatively open and autonomous scientific community that rejected any form of strict orthodoxy, even though academic thought was becoming more consistent with orthodox standards.

After spending time studying with Carl Gustav Jung, in 1952 Igor Caruso defined his psychoanalytic program in his Existential psychology: from Analysis to Synthesis. Here the term "psychoanalysis" is primarily considered in terms of technique, while Freudian theory is expanded in the direction of "personal psychoanalysis." This fixation on the concept of the "totality of the person" led to a consideration of a dialectic relation between freedom and constraint, and between psychophysical conditioning and the transcendent mind as an expression of a hierarchy of values within which the formation of the highest and most sublimated aspects of the mind could not be reduced to primitive drives or understood from a naturalist point of view. The translation of Caruso's book into six languages not only gave Caruso and his followers international recognition, especially in South America, it also led to the formation of other study circles in the largest cities in Austria. A symposium in Brussels in 1954 on personal psychology provided the opportunity for a meeting between Igor Caruso and Jacques Lacan, which was the start of their intellectual friendship and mutual admiration.

While Caruso's early theoretical ideas were impregnated with Catholic theological concepts, these gradually disappeared from his writings, giving way to a lively discussion of Freud's work. In 1957, in Bios, Psyche, Person, a book known to the Vienna study circle, he introduced a theory of symbols within the framework of the Freudian theory of drives and in relation to psychic acts and the interpretation of dreams.

During the early sixties, Caruso adopted a kind of Marxist Freudianism, which is apparent in his Soziale Aspekte der Psychoanalyse (Social Aspects of Psychoanalysis), 1962. The emphasis, here and in his subsequent essays on the social dimensions of psychoanalysis, implies an analysis of concrete, material structures of power in the analysis of the ego and superego, and of the analyst as the bearer of ideologies and rationalizations of which he needs to be made aware. In 1962 Caruso also published a series of articles that he wrote in French between 1952 and 1961 with the title Psychanalyse pour la Personne. It contains his program for the reform of psychoanalysis, which must be, according to Caruso: realistic; in search of truth; concrete; world-based; existential; historic; of its time and therefore liberating; and personalistic, the gradual growth of consciousness leading to gradual personalization ("Une analyse de l'opacité," 1960).

A confrontation with the phenomenon of separation and refusal of the death impulse led to his Die Trennung der Liebenden [Love and Separation], published in 1967. Of his written work (approximately two hundred publications excluding his books) this essay has become the most widespread and the most popular.

In 1972, Caruso was appointed to the chair of psychology at the University of Salzburg, a remarkable event that reflected the recognition of Caruso and of psychoanalysis in Austria. Following the boom in psychology of the late seventies (the Psychoboom ), which affected members of the Salzburg study circle and spurred an interest in Bioenergetik, transactional analysis, Gestalt therapy, and so on, Caruso felt obligated to show his disapproval by leaving the association, which was now psychoanalytical in name only.

"I am an orthodox disciple neither of Freud nor Jung nor Adler. I am not eclectic, or the head of a new school of psychoanalysts," wrote Caruso in Existential Psychology: From Analysis to Synthesis. His existential psychology was a critical attempt that, in spite of its Freudian references, became increasingly less Freudian.

After his retirement from the University of Salzburg in 1979, Caruso spent the remainder of his life examining theoretical questions, primarily issues of epistemology and methodology characteristic of a psychoanalysis that was closely related to other fields, especially the social sciences.

August Ruhs

See also: Austria; Frankl, Viktor Emil; International Federation of Psychoanalytic Societies.


Caruso, Igor A. (1962). Psychanalyse pour la personne. Paris: Le Seuil.

. (1964). Existential psychology: from analysis to synthesis (Eva Krapf, Trans.). New York: Herder and Herder. (Original work published 1952).

Huber, Wolfgang (1977). Psychoanalyse inÖsterreich seit 1933. Vienna-Salzburg: Geyer.

Parth, Walter (1998). Vergangenheit, die fortwirkt. Texte. Psychoanalyse.Ästhetik. Kulturkritik, II, pp. 61-75.

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Caruso, Igor A. (1914-1981)

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