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Levin, K. (1987). The Structure of Mind in History: Five Major Figures in Psychohistory: By Philip Pomper. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985. 192 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 56:722-726.
(1987). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 56:722-726
The Structure of Mind in History: Five Major Figures in Psychohistory: By Philip Pomper. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985. 192 pp.
Review by: Kenneth Levin
Professor Pomper, a historian at Wesleyan University, offers a structural analysis of the psychohistorical formulas developed by Freud, Erik Erikson, Herbert Marcuse, Norman O. Brown, and Robert J. Lifton. He expresses the belief that his analysis is applicable to psychohistorical thought generally. In the chapters devoted to consideration of these writers individually, he provides incisive and comprehensive reviews of their forays into psychohistory. But as Pomper himself acknowledges, and as these five writers demonstrate, the application of Freudian psychodynamics to history has attracted a wide spectrum of authors who differ dramatically in their interests, assumptions, and purpose; and generalizations about their work are likely to be, at best, anemic.
In his introduction, Pomper suggests that contemporary psychohistorians "now see the unconscious mind mainly as the product of external historical forces" and have discounted innate, organic determinants of the unconscious as postulated by Freud. But, in fact, while this is true of some, many writers of psychohistory have no problem with the notion that psychosexual development and, therefore, the development of the unconscious are determined in significant part by organic processes, with only a limited role played by culture and society in the shaping of the unconscious.
In his first chapter, "The Psychohistorical Intelligentsia," Pomper considers the attraction of the intelligentsia to reformist or revolutionary ideologies and the enlistment of Freudian psychodynamics in the service of such ideologies.
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