THE DRIVE FOR SELF: Alfred Adler and the Founding of Individual Psychology by Edward Hoffman

THE DRIVE FOR SELF: Alfred Adler and the Founding of Individual Psychology

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Hoffman (The Right to Be Human, 1988, etc.) throws steady, if hardly sparkling, light on a career overshadowed by Freud's. A gift for coining apt and memorable names for his governing psychological concepts -- ""inferiority complex,"" ""sibling rivalry"" -- has meant that Alfred Adler's ideas currently enjoy greater renown than the man himself. But during his lifetime, Adler's accessible approach to child psychology, education, and social adjustment found a receptive audience, especially in the US, where his optimism (""Anyone can become anything,"" he proclaimed) struck more chords than did Freud's darker vision. Much to his own frustration, Adler was popularly associated with Freudian thought, from which he in fact broke well before WW I. Like Freud, Adler was a largely assimilated Viennese Jew who died abroad in exile from a hostile political climate. His movement, ""Individual Psychology,"" emphasized individual experience (rather than the unconscious drives posited by orthodox Freudianism) and denied the fundamental importance of the libido. Furthermore, whereas for Freud our tragic dilemma was that civilization could thrive only by denying and repressing our most basic urges, Adler believed humans to be instinctively social. In his view, what inhibited social energies or diverted them into inadequacy or aggression were ""mistakes"" in early childhood that led to neurotic overcompensation for a burning sense of inferiority, mistakes that could be set right through patient attention by parents, therapists, and educators. Adler's convictions were grounded too in social democratic principles that saw individual pathologies in the context of the social and economic whole. Hoffman chronicles Adler's life and ideas dutifully, recapitulating the familiar cultural landscape of fin de siècle Vienna and interwar America in a serviceable but rather pedestrian style marred by occasional awkwardness. A worthwhile effort, covering important ground competently.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1994
Page count: 376pp
Publisher: Addison-Wesley