This piece for The Philosophers’ Mail profiles Melanie Klein, a Viennese psychoanalyst best known for applying the principles of Freudian psychoanalysis to children. Klein’s work primarily focused on the role of ambivalence and moral ambiguity in human development.
“We don’t have to believe in the literal truth of Klein’s theory to see that it has value for us as an unusual but useful representation of maturity. The impulse to reduce people into what they can do for us (give us milk, make us money, keep us happy), rather than what they are in and of themselves (a multifaceted being with their own often elusive centre of gravity), can be painfully observed in emotional life generally. With Klein’s help, we learn that coming to terms with the ambivalent nature of all relationships belongs to the business of growing up (a task we’re never quite done with) – and is likely to leave us a little sad, if not for a time quite simply depressed.”