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Frosh, S. (1988). Surplus humanism and healing power. Free Associations, 1O(14):39-56.

(1988). Free Associations, 1O(14):39-56

Surplus humanism and healing power

Stephen Frosh

Surplus Powerlessness: The Psychodynamics of Everyday Life … and the Psychology of Individual and Social Transformation, by Michael Lerner, Oakland, CA: Institute for Labor and Mental Health, 1986, xii + 350 pages, $9.95

Power. It is a kingly word.

Jack London, The Iron Heel

The first draft of this essay review was returned from the editors of Free Associations with a number of critical comments. Apart from those which dealt with points of clarity and of impoverished argument on my part (which I have tried to deal with more successfully in this later version), there was a general objection to the tone of my review, summed up by the criticism that ‘it seems like a very long article that mainly slams a book’. As I dislike articles like that, I had a careful look at what I had written and had to agree with the editors. It is not that I could find nothing of value in the book: even in the first draft I pointed to descriptions, analyses and arguments in which Lerner has made a substantial contribution to me literature on what might be termed ‘radical therapy’. Rather, I showed irritation with what transpires in this book, with the claims it makes, but even more with its style.

This is to present itself as ‘a new kind of self-help book’ (p. xii), telling the reader not only what is wrong with the life she or he lives, but how to do something about it.

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