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Macdiarmid, D. (1979). HOMANS, PETER, Ed. Childhood and selfhood. Lewisburg, Bucknell University Press, 1978. Pp. 294. £8.50. J. Anal. Psychol., 24(3):268-269.

(1979). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 24(3):268-269

HOMANS, PETER, Ed. Childhood and selfhood. Lewisburg, Bucknell University Press, 1978. Pp. 294. £8.50

Review by:
D. Macdiarmid

Critical admiration of Erik H. Erikson is the overt motive of the editor and presumably instigator of this lively and well-conceived little book, whose subtitle is ‘Essays on tradition, religion and modernity in the psychology of Erik H. Erikson’. Homans is Associate Professor of Religion and Psychological Studies at the University of Chicago. Five of the contributors have associations with that university; the other two are experts on Luther (one of them the late professor of Church History at Heidelberg) whom he has recruited to write about Erikson's Young man Luther. An Indian teacher of anthropology assesses Erikson's Gandhi's truth; a professor of anthropology, a professor of pastoral care and the psychology of religion, and another professor in Homans's own department consider Erikson's contributions to anthropology, his ‘psychohistory’, and his idea of what man should be like, respectively. Homans contributes an introduction longer than any of the essays, and a paper on the significance of Erikson's psychology for modern understandings of religion.

The general drift is to show appreciation of the penetration and truth of Erikson's rich and creative thought on these subjects, but also to demonstrate how his psychoanalytical orientation detracted from, as well as contributed to, his effectiveness in dealing with matters of cultural interest outside the field of the clinical. Bornkamm, for example, rebuts Erikson's tendentious account of Luther with careful reference to detailed historical material, and also resists his reduction of Luther's religion to infantile origins, asserting that one should ‘take Luther's relation to God for what it meant to him’.

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