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Levitt, C. (2016). The Call of Character: Living a Life Worth Living by Mari Ruti Columbia University Press, New York, 2014; 192 pp; $25.00. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 97(5):1462-1466.

(2016). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 97(5):1462-1466

The Call of Character: Living a Life Worth Living by Mari Ruti Columbia University Press, New York, 2014; 192 pp; $25.00

Review by:
Cyril Levitt

In the Preface, the author Mari Ruti begins by referring to one of the “peculiarities” of the book and follows that up by outlining the three “interventions” which run throughout its pages. The peculiarity relates to the presentation of “relatively complex ideas in relatively simple language.” Indeed, the double use of the adjective “relatively” in the first sentence is a perfect introduction to what follows which is the ambiguity of postmodern language “in relatively simple language.” The reader might ask how complex? or how simple? Well, there is no ‘objective’ or ‘clear’ answer or standard. The ambiguity of language is but an expression of the ambiguity of life. And if the reader is confused, then he or she or they are on the right track. The reader will note in square brackets my reactions to the author's relativism.

The three “interventions” are all “meant to counter the manner in which the so-called good life is usually discussed in our culture.” Ruti later goes on to explain that this is the life of conformism, of security, of marriage, of a family with its lifelong commitments. It assumes that the good life is the socially prescribed life which crushes our desire, our character, our erotic impulses, which struggle against the straight-jacket of the ideological impositions by Western, capitalist, consumer society. However, “self-cultivation is not a matter of nurturing an essential core of being that makes us who we are, but rather of dwelling in the world in ways that allow us to add ever new layers of meaning into an identity that is always in the process of forming itself.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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