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Wolfenstein, E.V. (1987). The Leader. Psychohistorical Essays: Edited by Charles B. Strozier and Daniel Offer. New York/London: Plenum Press, 1985. 324 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 56:583-589.

(1987). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 56:583-589

The Leader. Psychohistorical Essays: Edited by Charles B. Strozier and Daniel Offer. New York/London: Plenum Press, 1985. 324 pp.

Review by:
Eugene Victor Wolfenstein

This volume originated in a 1979 conference on the implications of Heinz Kohut's work for the study of leadership. Strozier and Offer report that they "worked with the papers from the conference, elicited other contributions, and, over four years, researched the topic of leadership on our own" (p. xiii). In my judgment, the results are not commensurate with the labors which brought them forth. With one exception, the contributions are undistinguished; the editorial framing of the essays is not illuminating; and the case for the value of a self psychological approach to the study of leadership is not convincingly made.

I will take up the essays in turn. Strozier's "Lincoln and the Crisis of the 1850's: Thoughts on the Group Self" is an attempt at an analysis of collective political experience. It focuses on Lincoln's famous "house divided" speech of 1858, which in substance "outlined a remarkable Southern conspiracy to nationalize slavery" (p. 89). Strozier finds Lincoln's position problematical because it was unsupported by evidence, was implausible, and seems out of keeping with Lincoln's compassionate and rational character. But it was of a piece, Strozier contends, with the national mood of the 1850's, when the "dark shadow of paranoia that has always lurked on the fringes of American politics and culture came to block out the sun entirely. Suspiciousness reached extreme proportions" (p. 93). Lincoln "sensed the crisis and made it his own.

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