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Constructing the Self, Constructing America


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Table of Contents

* Psychotherapy, the Impossible Bridge * Selves, Illnesses, Healers, Technologies * The Self in America * Healing through Self-DominationCapitalism, the Asylum, the Untamed Female Body, and Freud * Healing through Self-LiberationMesmerism and the Enchanted American Interior of the Nineteenth Century * Strange BedfellowsThe Americanization of Psychoanalysis in the Early Twentieth Century * The Road Not TakenHarry Stack Sullivan, Melanie Klein, and the Location of the Social * Self-Liberation through ConsumerismPost-World War II Object Relations Theory, Self-Psychology, and the Empty Self * Psychotherapy as Moral DiscourseA Hermeneutic Alternative * The Politics of the Self * The Self in Western Society

About the Author

Philip Cushman, Ph.D., is associate professor at the California School of Professional Psychology, is also in private practice in Oakland, California.


In this unsettling study, historian and psychotherapist Cushman maintains that each epoch produces a distinct configuration of the self‘the ``nondeep, horizontal, inclusive'' self of the ancient Greeks; the communal self of the Hebrews, a partner with God; the crusading medieval Christian self, container for the immortal soul; etc. In modern times, the ``empty self,'' marked by a pervasive sense of personal hollowness, is committed to self-liberation through consumption. Cushman, who teaches at the California School of Professional Psychiatry and the Saybrook Institute, argues that psychotherapy, permeated by the ethos of self-contained individualism, unknowingly reinforces the isolated, status quo-oriented empty self. After reviewing the theories of Freud, Jung, Harry Stack Sullivan, Melanie Klein and Donald Winnicott, he urges therapists to acknowledge the importance of moral discourse with the patient and to adopt a perspective that recognizes the individual's links to society. This dense yet rewarding study delves into mental asylums, maladies of Victorian women, African American minstrel shows, mesmerism and advertising campaigns. (Mar.)

Taking complementary approaches, these two authors examine the interrelationship of psychology and American culture and come to different conclusions to explain psychology's preeminent role in American life today. A psychotherapist and a teacher at the California School of Professional Psychology and at Saybrook Institute, Cushman shows how psychotherapy developed here and how it influenced the way Americans view themselves. Herman (social studies, Harvard) accounts for the unacknowledged role of behavioral scientists in shaping political and social policy in the United States over the last 50 years. In a series of related studies, covering such diverse areas as minstrel shows, mesmerism, psychoanalysis, comic strips, and advertising campaigns, Cushman examines the evolving concept of the individual in the United States and Western European society. Demonstrating that each era defines its concept of the self, Cushman contends that psychotherapy supports the individualism characteristic of 20th-century Americans: an "empty self," alienated from society and preoccupied with fulfillment through consumption. Herman surveys the role of behavioral science in shaping U.S. public and foreign policy beyond World War II. Academics and clinicians, mobilized to assist the war effort, conducted research on human behavior. After the war, these experts continued their research, advising politicians on matters relating to domestic and foreign policy including Project Camelot, race relations, the Kerner Commission on urban riots, and democratic movements in foreign countries. Clinical psychologists guided the transition from military to civilian life, shifting psychology's focus in the public mind from treatment of mental illness to promotion of mental health. Both books are recommended for academic and large public libraries where there is a focus on the history of ideas, psychology, and American culture.‘Lucille Boone, San Jose P.L., Cal.

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