FEMININITIES, MASCULINITIES, SEXUALITIES

FREUD AND BEYOND

Feminist theorist Chodorow conducts a complex, uneven, though occasionally intriguing investigation of some of the more controversial aspects of Freud's (and others', from Klein to Lacan) work on sex, gender, and psychoanalysis. Based on a series of lectures Chodorow (Feminism and Psychoanalytic Theory, 1989) presented at the University of Kentucky in 1990, this slim volume examines the limits of Freud's psychoanalytic theory and practice, and argues that they can still help us ``fully understand gender and sexuality in all their forms.'' Addressing the persistent criticisms of Freud by feminists, gay and lesbian theorists, and contemporary psychoanalysts, Chodorow largely agrees that psychoanalysis offers reductive and universalizing accounts of gender and sexuality (i.e., male dominance and heterosexualtiy are normal), but she expends great intellectual effort to illustrate exceptions and to provide more complex psychoanalytic understandings. Her first chapter contrasts the wide variety of outcomes of female development that Freud's clinical work actually acknowledges with the account of ``normal femininity'' that we often take for Freudian theory. In her most compelling chapter Chodorow contends that psychoanalysis does not have an adequate developmental account of ``normal heterosexuality,'' though all sexuality results from psychological struggle and needs to be accounted for. She contrasts this with the rigorous psychoanalytic examination of homosexual development, which provides something of a model. Least comprehensive by far (because there appears to be less source material) is her chapter dealing with how men and women love. Here Chodorow maintains that there are as many kinds of feminine love (or masculine love) as there are women (or men), and that they are shaped by culture, family, and personal psychology. Though this collection suffers from a dense academic style and does not significantly build on Chodorow's previous work, it nonetheless provides a provocative reminder that these are complex issues and that humans, with their capacity for individual variation, are complicated subjects.

Pub Date: June 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-8131-1872-7

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Univ. Press of Kentucky

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1994

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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