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The Romance Of American Psychology: Political Culture In The Age Of Experts

by Ellen Herman

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From Library Journal
Taking complementary approaches, these two authors examine the interrelationship of psychology and American culture and come to different conclusions to explain psychology's preeminent role in American life today. A psychotherapist and a teacher at the California School of Professional Psychology and at Saybrook Institute, Cushman shows how psychotherapy developed here and how it influenced the way Americans view themselves. Herman (social studies, Harvard) accounts for the unacknowledged role of behavioral scientists in shaping political and social policy in the United States over the last 50 years. In a series of related studies, covering such diverse areas as minstrel shows, mesmerism, psychoanalysis, comic strips, and advertising campaigns, Cushman examines the evolving concept of the individual in the United States and Western European society. Demonstrating that each era defines its concept of the self, Cushman contends that psychotherapy supports the individualism characteristic of 20th-century Americans: an "empty self," alienated from society and preoccupied with fulfillment through consumption. Herman surveys the role of behavioral science in shaping U.S. public and foreign policy beyond World War II. Academics and clinicians, mobilized to assist the war effort, conducted research on human behavior. After the war, these experts continued their research, advising politicians on matters relating to domestic and foreign policy including Project Camelot, race relations, the Kerner Commission on urban riots, and democratic movements in foreign countries. Clinical psychologists guided the transition from military to civilian life, shifting psychology's focus in the public mind from treatment of mental illness to promotion of mental health. Both books are recommended for academic and large public libraries where there is a focus on the history of ideas, psychology, and American culture.?Lucille Boone, San Jose P.L., Cal.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Michael Sherry, New York Times Book Review
"[A] smart history of the rise of a profession."

Laurel Bauer, Chicago Tribune
"Anyone who has wondered . . . how the public life of this country came to be in thrall to subjectivity and emotion will be intrigued by Ellen Herman's The Romance of American Psychology, an absorbing history and analysis of the convergence of public and private domains."

Book Description
Psychological insight is the creed of our time. A quiet academic discipline two generations ago, psychology has become a voice of great cultural authority, informing everything from family structure to government policy. How has this fledgling science become the source of contemporary America's most potent ideology?
In this groundbreaking book--the first to fully explore the political and cultural significance of psychology in post-World War II America--Ellen Herman tells the story of Americans' love affair with the behavioral sciences. It began during wartime. The atmosphere of crisis sustained from the 1940s through the Cold War gave psychological "experts" an opportunity to prove their social theories and behavioral techniques. Psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists carved a niche within government and began shaping military, foreign, and domestic policy. Herman examines this marriage of politics and psychology, which continued through the tumultuous 1960s.
Psychological professionals' influence also spread among the general public. Drawn by promises of mental health and happiness, people turned to these experts for enlightenment. Their opinions validated postwar social movements from civil rights to feminism and became the basis of a new world view. Fascinating and long overdue, this book illuminates one of the dominant forces in American society.

From the Inside Flap
"A wonderfully written book . . . [about] a little-recognized but enormously significant process that has shaped contemporary American political culture."--Cynthia Enloe, author of The Morning After

From the Back Cover
"A wonderfully written book . . . [about] a little-recognized but enormously significant process that has shaped contemporary American political culture." (Cynthia Enloe, author of The Morning After)

About the Author
Ellen Herman received her Ph.D. from Brandeis University and teaches in the Social Studies Program at Harvard University.



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