ERIK H. ERIKSON: The Power and Limits of a Vision by Paul Roazen
Kirkus Star

ERIK H. ERIKSON: The Power and Limits of a Vision

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

In this critical analysis of Erikson's work, Roazen uncovers the assumptions behind his thinking, scrutinizes his alterations of Freudian teachings, and explores his main contributions to psychoanalytic theory, forcefully establishing that ""the development of his ideas is consistent with some of the tensions in his own life."" Erikson, an artist and teacher of young children before happening on his new career (late 1920s), has been reluctant to acknowledge disagreement with traditional psychoanalysis although much of his work--certainly the more popular aspects--is at odds with Freudian orthodoxy. Roazen finds that Erikson's writings reflect a strong optimistic outlook, a constant search for the sources of ego strength and successful personality adaptation in contrast to Freud's concentration on neurosis, on the sources of individual weakness. This approach, with its high regard for the conflicts of adolescence, may yet have ""disturbing conformist implications"" for it tends to support the status quo; Erikson has a pronounced ""need for an identity confirmed by social institutions"" and Childhood and Society is evidence of this disposition. Roazen never fails to relate Erikson's own past (the fuzzy parentage glossed over even in his autobiography, the significance of his chosen name, the token comments on his religious identification) to the subjects and themes of his work. which makes this far more commendable than the affectionate, uncritical estimation by Robert Coles in Erik H. Erikson: The Growth of His Work (1970). The author also deals with Erikson's observations on women which, while less limiting than Freud's ""destiny"" misreading, are nevertheless heavily tied to biological constructs. And Roazen gives him credit for his pioneer work in psychohistory although Erikson, an early advocate, has been quick to dissociate himself from much that is now done under that name. An impressive, exacting examination from the author of the well-received Freud and His Followers (1975).

Pub Date: Nov. 19th, 1976
ISBN: 0765700948
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan