Primitive object love in Melanie Klein's thinking; early theoretical influences.Int J Psychoanal. 1993 Apr; 74 (Pt 2):241-53.IJ
Melanie Klein's thinking on early object love is pivotal to her vision of development. Yet within her texts it is often enmeshed in complex formulations that obscure its full significance. A greater clarity in viewing Klein's concept of early object love is achieved through tracing some of its historical origins. The author notes that it was inspired by aspects of Ferenczi's theory, hence its similarities with the concept of 'primary love' formulated by another of Ferenczi's analysands, Michael Balint. Ferenczi's thinking on the subject formed part of a broader network of theoretical developments in the history of psychoanalytic ideas. These are shown to have origins in Freud's fluctuations between a 'passive' and a 'genital' characterisation of infantile sexuality. A dialectical tension between these two possibilities, as maintained in the Freudian texts, was partly embodied in the differing outlooks of Klein's two psychoanalysts, Abraham and Ferenczi. The author suggests that it is a mixture of their approaches that partly shaped Klein's thinking on the earliest experiences of love. After outlining these developments the author analyses the nature of early object love as it emerges from Klein's powerful, if intermittent descriptions in the texts. The analysis also tackles a textual ambiguity in Klein's formulations, showing that she explored two kinds of primitive ideal experience without explicitly differentiating them. Such differentiation is important inasmuch as it highlights negative and positive aspects of Kleinian theory at root.