Erik Erikson and the American Psyche

Ego, Ethics, and Evolution

By (author) Daniel Burston

Publication date:

28 December 2006

Length of book:

234 pages


Jason Aronson, Inc.

ISBN-13: 9780765704948

Erik Erikson and the American Psyche is an intellectual biography which explores Erikson's contributions to the study of infancy, childhood and ethical development in light of ego psychology, object-relations theory, Lacanian theory and other major trends in psychoanalysis. It analyses Erikson's famous portraits of Luther, Gandhi and Jesus, and his own ambiguous religious identity, in the context of his anguished childhood and adolescence, and his repeated emphasis on the need for strong intergenerational bonds to insure mental health throughout the life cycle. Given Erikson's persistent efforts to harmonize psychoanalysis with history and the human sciences, it interprets his invention of psychohistory as a "pseudo-schism" which enabled Erikson to throw off the stifling constraints of Freudian orthodoxy, disclosing the personal and intellectual tensions that prevailed between him and many leaders of the International Psychoanalytic Association. Finally, it demonstrates the enduring relevance of Erikson's unique perspective on human development to our increasingly screen-saturated, drug addled postmodern - or "posthuman" - culture, and the ways in which his posthumous neglect foreshadows the possible death of psychoanalysis in North America.
Erik Erikson and the American Psyche: Ego, Ethics, and Evolution is a very important intellectual history that does much to restore Erikson's ideas to the place that they deserve both within the psychoanalytic movement and within general psychology. Burston is an excellent guide to this very complex literature with many crosscurrents. He knows the many players and knows how to handle historical and biographical material with a deft touch that is both analytic and respectful of the various players' humanity. As a guide to Erikson, he is both deeply knowledgeable and appropriately critical.