Flügel, John Carl (1884-1955)

views updated

FLÜGEL, JOHN CARL (1884-1955)

The English psychoanalyst John Carl Flügel was born on June 13, 1884, in London, where he died on August 17, 1955. An honorary fellow of the British Psychological Society and an honorary member of the Indian Psychological Association, he was president of the Programme Committee of the International Congress on Mental Health in 1948 and president of the psychology section of the British Medical Association in 1950.

His father was German and his mother English, and the family had close ties with France; John Carl grew up learning all three languages. Because of a congenital malformation of his feet, he did not follow a normal school program, and he attended Oxford University when he was only seventeen. He studied philosophy and grew interested in hypnotism, becoming a member of Frederick W. H. Myers's famous Society for Psychical Research. He obtained a doctorate in philosophy at Oxford and a doctorate of science from the University of London, where he taught as an auxiliary professor from 1929 to 1944 in the experimental psychology laboratory. In 1913 he married Ingeborg Klingberg, who also became a psychoanalyst and with whom he had a daughter.

Flügel was an active member of the British Psychological Society: he was honorary secretary from 1911 to 1920, honorary librarian from 1911 to 1932, and president from 1932 to 1935. During the First World War he made a number of important psychological contributions to the society. After undergoing psychoanalysis with Ernest Jones, the two became friends, and Flügel became involved in the refounding of the British Psycho-Analytical Society in 1919. He also served as secretary of the International Psychoanalytic Association from 1919 to 1924. With John Rickman, Douglas Bryan, and Ernest Jones, he helped create the International Journal of Psychoanalysis in 1920, and with Ernest Jones and Joan Riviere, he helped translateSigmund Freud's Vorlesungen (Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis ; 1916-1917a [1915-1917]).

His knowledge of biology, experimental psychology, and philosophy, and his involvement in psychoanalysis enabled him to produce a considerable number of literary works, although these works are rarely read in the early twenty-first century. Ernest Jones wrote to Freud, "Flügel is certainly not predisposed to self-sacrifice, but what he does, he does very well and he is our best report writer. In non-medical circles he is of inestimable value and always uses his influence for the PAS [Psycho-Analytical Society]" (April 10, 1922). He wrote many books and articles, including The Psycho-Analytic Study of the Family (1921), which was the third volume (but the first English contribution) in the then recently created International Psycho-Analytical Library of Hogarth Press; "Psychoanalysis: Its Status and Promise" (1930a); The Psychology of Clothes (1930b); and Man, Morals, and Society (1945).

Upon Flügel's death, Ernest Jones wrote of his "good nature, kindness, humor, and fondness for an exceptionally large circle of good friends." Jones was less charitable, however, in a letter to Freud dated December 7, 1921: "Flügel has excellent written English and is intelligent, but he has two weaknesses. He is somewhat egotistic and the only thing he enjoys is doing his own work, not helping others; and he has not overcome a strong reaction to a sadistic complex that has paralyzed his efforts to criticize or disagree in any way, with very rare exceptions. He is thereby inhibited when he is asked to carry out any work of this sort (the same holds true for the correction of the American translation of the Vorlesungen ), and he returned the manuscript almost in the same condition as it was. A mixture of laziness and inhibition. But he has to work with the tools available to him and I am trying to find out what interests him most and what is most suitable for him (which is to say, not much)."

Alain de Mijolla

See also: Great Britain.


Flügel, John Carl. (1921). The psycho-analytic study of the family. London: Hogarth and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis.

. (1930a). Psychoanalysis: Its status and promise. In Carl Murchison (Ed.), Psychologies of 1930. Worcester, MA: Clark University Press.

. (1930b). The psychology of clothes. London: Hogarth Press.

. (1945). Man, morals, and society. New York: International Universities Press.

Freud, Sigmund, and Jones, Ernest. (1993 [1908-1939]). The complete correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Ernest Jones, 1908-1939. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Jones, Ernest. (1956). J. C. Flügel. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 37, 193-197.