LIFE HISTORY AND THE HISTORICAL MOMENT by Erik H. Erikson

LIFE HISTORY AND THE HISTORICAL MOMENT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This new collection of long essays, which first appeared in Daedalus, The American Scholar, The New York Review of Books, The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, represents the consolidation of the psychohistorical approach that Erikson first proposed in his studies of Luther and Gandhi. At a time when Freudian orthodoxy is under fire, Erikso'n, the loyal son, reviews the ""identity crisis"" of his formative years -- his artistic Wanderschaft, his analysis with Anna Freud, his evolution from clinician to social historian. His critiques of Freud's posthumous publications apply his revisonary method to the Master himself. Erikson interprets his letters to Fleiss, a far lesser colleague, as an expression of Freud's urgent need for a mentor to try out the early creative misconceptions and excesses that ultimately led to his basic doctrine. Needless to say, the oedipal undercurrents are formidable and revelatory on all personal and theoretical matters. In two further pieces on Gandhi, who still provides raw material, Erikson sets out schemata for the would-be psychohistorian's evidence and its integration -- an indispensable lesson and summation of Erikson's major contribution as an original thinker. Beyond biography, his reflections on contemporary protests by youth and women and on the relationship of psychoanalysis to the issue of freedom seem tentative -- much less far-reaching in fact than Freud's classic work on Civilization and its Discontents. But it's here that Erikson seems to be pushing forward rather than refining -- beyond individuals, even beyond the charismatic influence of the chosen on the masses, to the consideration of mass psychology and the widening concentric circles of history.

Pub Date: March 24th, 1975
Publisher: Norton