TOYS AND REASONS: Stages in the Ritualization of Experience by Erik Erikson

TOYS AND REASONS: Stages in the Ritualization of Experience

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Based on the 1972 Godkin lectures at Harvard, these are Erikson's intricate ruminations on the relation of play to reality in different stages of life and in various aspects of human experience. He explores the interplay between inner experiences and social/political behavior, and attributes critical importance to early visual associations and to vision as a perceptual modality throughout life. Daily repetitions of particular actions, such as smiles exchanged between infant and parent, are influential because they are shared. ""Ritualization. . . is a formalization of interplay, a rhyming in time,"" more like custom than ceremony. Child's play becomes a training ground for the experience of making imaginative choices, and games are ""midway between individual play. . . and the arena of politics""--just think of nine-year-olds establishing rules during recess. Erikson's sequence of ritualizations has counterparts in the developmental constructs of Piaget and Kohlberg and in his own life-cycle scheme as well, although he concedes that some of his earlier formulations need ""amendment."" (He also discounts a frequent criticism of his work that ""only the privileged can afford a life cycle."") He concentrates on the years through adolescence, writing incisively on the meaning of violent responses to the war in Vietnam, and extends his thesis--too briefly--to My Lai, Watergate, and our national pastime of ""dreaming and scheming."" As in his other books, Erikson's concern for liveliness and the free play of the imagination is always apparent; here he closes with the contention that psychoanalysis must discover the changing visions and countervisions governing individual lives which reflect the interplay between institutions and life cycles. A continuing examination of Childhood and Society from its most affirmative observer.

Pub Date: Feb. 28th, 1976
Publisher: Norton