It is a generally accepted fact that Freud, in particular, and psychoanalysts, in general, hesitate to focus on aggression as an important underlying element in the development and expression of the psyche. Most probably, the exploration of aggressiveness and anger is too difficult an emotional task for clinicians to investigate as it parallels their own discomfort with these emotions. Joseph Berke’s book, Malice Through the Looking Glass analyzes to the core “our capacity for destruction” which Berke feels “lies in the origins of malice.”
The important contribution of this book is that a gifted theoretician and clinician has written an in-depth study of malice, evil and envy which blends together the theoretical, clinical, anthropological, historical and literary, in a well-written, clearly elucidated manner with a unique blend of intellectual honesty interspersed with humor and freshness.
The section entitled: ‘Elaborations,’ is a massive array of endnotes which adds immeasurably to our understanding of the ideas and concepts presented in the body of the book, and shows us the wide range of the author’s knowledge and expertise. This user-friendly tool can be read simultaneously with the main text or alone.
The book is a helpful entrance into understanding today’s world of violence and fundamentalism. Berke has done a masterful job integrating a wide array of information and presenting it in a clear, understandable manner.
Stanley Schneider: Supervising and Training Psychoanalyst; Professor & Chairman, Integrative Psychotherapy Program, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Joseph Berke has made a distinctive place for himself in the history of psychoanalytic theory. He has produced a major output of books, articles and other writings (visit: www.jhberke.com ) exploring psychotherapy, psychoanalytic concepts, psycho-social environments, the experiences of therapists and patients and the interface between Kabbalah and psychoanalysis.
This book is an updated, re-thought and expanded version of The Tyranny of Malice, which first appeared in 1988. The updating attends to events in the nearly two decades which have ensued, particularly related to terrorism.
In his introduction, Joe points out that there has been little serious work on envy, greed and jealousy – the dark side of character, the underpinning of malicious hatred, and the counterparts of the virtues of gratitude, generosity and compassion. He thinks that in our times, envy occupies a similar position to sex for the Victorians, an obsession best forgotten denied or avoided. To listen or read Joe Berke, speaking or writing about everyday human emotions, is an unforgettable experience, which will have a profound and salutary effect on the way we see ourselves. This is the intended effect of The Looking Glass.
Kate Loewenthal: Professor of Psychology, Royal Holloway, University of London
This is a new edition of an old classic. Careful additions have been made to a book that has never lost its freshness, appeal and relevance. Malice is a feature of the human condition and motivation. This book is the antithesis to a celebration of it, but it is not a condemnation of the human spirit either. It celebrates if anything the survival of the human spirit in the face of malice. It is a source book of fascinating detail of the way people, groups and nations give themselves over wholeheartedly to hatred in all its various forms. The rhetoric of evil has become fashionable in politics and Hollywood, although it is always the evil of the ‘other.’ What this book commands us to face is that evil is endemic: it is in us, not just in ‘them.’
The book’s appeal is not by inviting us to wallow in the human misery we create for each other. Rather the plot ends with our survival: love survives. This is not a sentimental ’count your blessings,’ or ‘accentuate the positive’ kind of point. The message is that through arduous effort – the most arduous of all being ruthless self-acceptance – we can come through the rage that life engenders. We may be bruised, torn, and ashamed, but we still acknowledge that the human spirit can achieve benevolence among ourselves. We live, we bleed, we love--all against the specifically human backdrop of malice. This is a book for those who can stomach the gory details of being human; for those who cannot, it is a gentle primer in what you have to discover.
Robert Hinshelwood: Member of the British Psychoanalytical Society and the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Professor of Psychoanalysis and the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies, University of Essex
This is a fascinating exploration of the darkest components of character and culture. In this brilliant study Dr. Berke examines the origins of malicious feelings and the way that these feelings are expressed in action through forceful, destructive behavior in individuals, families and in society as a whole. Moreover, he addresses a most relevant and timely topic of our age by showing how malice, the embodiment of envy, greed and jealousy, may foster terrorism.
Ilany Kogan: Supervising and Training Psychoanalyst, Lecturer and Writing.
Joseph Berke has, with this book, deepened his inquiry into the vicissitudes of states of envy, a project he began some years ago. His researches offer new food for thought into personal, psychological and social crises associated with these immensely powerful emotions, often poorly discernible, that can wreak havoc in lives everywhere.
The book’s range is remarkable. It addresses the ‘micro’ personal and the ’macro’ social dimensions of malice; the smallest intrapsychic ‘part objects’ and the explosive relations between nation states and cultures. This is a dark subject: however, Berke never abandons his clinical roots to condemn or judge,and as a result, he helps us to learn a great deal about ourselves.
Paul Williams: Joint Editor-In-Chief, International Journal of Psychoanalysis.