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The Americanization of Narcissism

domingo, 4 de mayo de 2014

The Americanization of Narcissism



invites you to


Elizabeth Lunbeck, PhD    

The Americanization of Narcissism 

Harvard University Press, 2014 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

169 Herrick Rd, Newton MA 02459

    7:45 p.m. reception

    8:15 p.m. book discussion

    9:30 p.m. book signing


About the Book:   

 American social critics in the 1970s, convinced that their nation was in decline, turned to psychoanalysis for answers and seized on narcissism as the sickness of the age. Books indicting Americans as greedy, shallow, and self-indulgent appeared, none more influential than Christopher Lasch's famous 1978 jeremiad The Culture of Narcissism. This line of critique reached a crescendo the following year in Jimmy Carter's "malaise speech" and has endured to this day.


But as Elizabeth Lunbeck argues, the American critics missed altogether the breakthrough in psychoanalytic thinking that was championing narcissism's positive aspects. Psychoanalysts had clashed over narcissism from the moment Freud introduced it in 1914, and they had long been split on its defining aspects: How much self-love, self-esteem, and self-indulgence was normal and desirable? While Freud's orthodox followers sided with asceticism, analytic dissenters argued for gratification. Fifty years later, the Viennese émigré Heinz Kohut led a psychoanalytic revolution centered on a "normal narcissism" that he claimed was the wellspring of human ambition, creativity, and empathy. But critics saw only pathology in narcissism. The result was the loss of a vital way to understand ourselves, our needs, and our desires.
Narcissism's rich and complex history is also the history of the shifting fortunes and powerful influence of psychoanalysis in American thought and culture. Telling this story, The Americanization of Narcissism ultimately opens a new view on the central questions faced by the self struggling amid the tumultuous crosscurrents of modernity.


"A penetrating intellectual history of perhaps the most important decade of American psychoanalysis. Lunbeck reveals the basic machinery of psychoanalytic discourse in the context of historical and cultural movements of the fin de siècle. It is a highly entertaining and deeply edifying read" - Peter Fonagy, University College London.

"Lunbeck brilliantly conveys the ins and outs of narcissism in the past century. With a historian's insight, she marshals sources from the popular press to the academic and psychoanalytic literature to produce a highly readable book that will be of very great interest to a broad range of readers" - Anton O. Kris, Harvard Medical School. 

About the Author

Elizabeth Lunbeck teaches courses in the history of psychoanalysis in the Department of the History of Science at Harvard and is a candidate at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute.


Books are on sale in the library at a discounted price!

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