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Sperling, M. (1950). The Problem Family. An Investigation of Human Relations: By A. S. Neill. New York: Hermitage Press, 1949. 224 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 19:123-124.

(1950). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 19:123-124

The Problem Family. An Investigation of Human Relations: By A. S. Neill. New York: Hermitage Press, 1949. 224 pp.

Review by:
Melitta Sperling

Generalizing from his experience with mishandled children, for whom the permissive atmosphere of Summerhill actually represented therapy, Neill proposes a solution for all emotional evils of 'sick mankind'. What he advocates is in essence to live according to the pleasure principle (uninhibited instinctual gratification), with little or no recognition of the necessary frustrations which the average child has to learn to tolerate in the world of reality. In an iconoclastic mood throughout his book, Neill ridicules civilization, the concepts of a conscience, sublimation, self-control, etc. Why live a human life, when only cats are happy! If the goal of life is to live the aimless, uninhibited existence of cats as extolled by Neill, then his philosophy might apply.

Not burdened by a scientific background nor a solid foundation of real knowledge, Neill in a chatty informal manner talks in twenty-one chapters about everything and actually says nothing.

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