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Gedo, J.E. (2002). Heinz Kohut: The Making of a Psychoanalyst. Charles B. Strozier. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2001. xiii & 495 pp. $35.00.. Am. Imago, 59(1):91-102.

(2002). American Imago, 59(1):91-102

Book Reviews

Heinz Kohut: The Making of a Psychoanalyst. Charles B. Strozier. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2001. xiii & 495 pp. $35.00.

Review by:
John E. Gedo

Self psychology may have been the most influential new movement within psychoanalysis in the late twentieth century. Heinz Kohut, its founder, often proudly claimed that it was the product of his introspective efforts; hence a biography of Kohut is amply justified by the role it should play in clarifying the intellectual history of the field. As it turns out, the narrative of Kohut's life happens to be a fascinating story that may interest a wide public, even those unconcerned with psychoanalysis as such. Charles Strozier, a professional historian, honed his biographical skills by writing a psychological study of Abraham Lincoln; Strozier has full command of all the tools of the discipline. His book is well written, diligently researched, and (as far as I am able to judge) surprisingly free of errors and solecisms.

Strozier has not written an official biography—far from it. In fact, lack of cooperation from Kohut's widow forced him to suspend his efforts for many years; after her death, the biographer's task was facilitated by the collegial efforts of Thomas Kohut, the sole survivor, who is himself a distinguished historian. Strozier's point of view is, however, strongly biased by the fact that in recent years he has become a practitioner of self psychology. In other words (in a classification of psychoanalytic convictions proposed some years ago by Moraitis [1994]) Strozier is a fervent “believer.” His beliefs may have had little bearing on his attitude toward Kohut as an individual, but they have compromised his ability to assess Kohut's contributions to psychoanalysis in a balanced manner.

I can claim no greater objectivity, either about Kohut's work and his person or about Strozier's book, in which I appear as one of the cast of characters and am portrayed with a certain lack of empathy.

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