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Schulz, G.A. (2004). Psychological Man in Classic European Art Films. Psychoanal. Rev., 91(1):113-138.

(2004). Psychoanalytic Review, 91(1):113-138

Psychological Man in Classic European Art Films

Gordon A. Schulz, PsyD

In his influential, psychoanalytically oriented sociological writings, Rieff (1959, 1963) argued that four character ideals have competed for dominance in Western society. The first ideal, formed in classical antiquity, is political man, who dedicates himself to public service. The second ideal, transmitted by the Judeo-Christian tradition, is religious man, who devotes himself to religious faith. The third ideal, born out of the Enlightenment and the bourgeois democratic revolutions, is economic man, who pursues his individual self-interests. The fourth character ideal, which emerged in the twentieth century, is psychological man, or the “therapeutic,” who tends to his subjective experiences, private life, and personal well-being. Rieff claimed that the really existing character type that corresponds to the ideal of psychological man is supremely self-concerned, but he lacks self-confidence, as he has lost faith in the world.

Rieff (1966) attributed the emergence of psychological man to a cultural revolution defined by a shift from the control and suppression of impulses to the free expression of impulses.

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