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Peyser, E.R. (1998). Classics Revisited: Erik Erikson's Childhood and Society. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 46(1):249-255.

(1998). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 46(1):249-255

Classics Revisited: Erik Erikson's Childhood and Society

Ellen R. Peyser

John Munder Ross opened the panel, saying that the aim of Classics Revisited panels is to reflect on the impact of a particular psychoanalytic work on the thinking and clinical work of practicing psychoanalysts over the course of their academic and professional lives. He had asked the panelists what Erik Homberger Erikson's Childhood and Society and “The Dream Specimen in Psychoanalysis” (to be discussed by a separate panel later in the day) first meant to them, how these works had influenced their clinical technique and theorizing over the years, and what significance these works had for them today. In answering these questions himself, Ross said that Erik Erikson, who had been his teacher, had very simply been the most important influence in his intellectual life. He thought that since Erikson had died earlier in the year (1994), it was a fitting time to honor him and to reevaluate his contribution to psychoanalysis.

In introducing the morning panel, on Childhood and Society, Ross emphasized the importance of Erikson's breadth of perspective. He noted that David Rapaport had asserted that Erikson's and Hartmann's ideas about adaptation to the social environment were the most important contributions to psychoanalytic theory since Freud. Erikson had been concerned with the individual (and the individual ego) within a sociocultural context. He had wanted to investigate the ego and the drives as they are patterned and organized from within and without.

Erikson's perspectives were multiple and complex. The individual was seen simultaneously in diverse frames of reference—somatic, intrapsychic, interpersonal, cultural, and historical.

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