An’ I say, “Aw come on now
You must know about my debutante”
An’ she says, “Your debutante just knows what you need
But I know what you want”
(Dylan, "Stuck Inside of Mobile...")
At the invitation of my friend Jeff Weintraub I will be framing the December 13 Penn FRG discussion of Abraham Maslow's work and its impact on mid-20th century social science. I've enjoyed thinking how a group this diverse and sophisticated will address the history/philosophy of the (social) sciences implications of theories like Maslow's.
My own work in cultural psychology, the result of long residence in Morocco, is a book about adolescence, co-authored with Susan Schaefer Davis. Adolescence in a Moroccan Town helped me understand just how far one could and couldn't get with Personality Theory.
This blog entry will serve as a brief introduction to the topics to be discussed and a link to suggested readings and sources I've consulted.
[Note: comments to this blog are open for the time being, but I may approve only those from FRG members.]
Background. Maslow was one of several theorists who attempted to develop a coherent approach to theorizing and empirical work on human personality in the decade after WWII. In his case, this involved experimental psychological, ethological, and psychodynamic approaches to human motivation and behavior. Maslow knew and worked with many of the major players in the postwar years, and his hierarchy of needs attracted considerable attention. He is still cited in the context of "holistic" clinical psychology, and his ideas have inspired some significant study of long-term personality devlelopment.
Criticism. General enthusiasm for grand personality theory in the '50s and '60s and growing philosophical skepticism about such theorizing in the '60s and '70s are two themes I suggest for discussion.
Maslow's "clinical" methods are breathtakingly ill-described, and I find myself wishing for a fully-fledged example of the concepts via clinical histories or close reading of fictional charaters, e.g., a "Rat Man" (Freud, 1909) ruminating about the rock in the road his true love might travel, or a Peyton Loftis (Styron, 1951) on her wedding day. With the bewildering diversity of his list of "self-actualized" people, Maslow (1954) undercuts this reader's readiness to believe the man knows what he's talking about, that he's seen '-actualization.
For a recent review of Maslow's concepts and examples of their application, see Koltko-Rivera (2006).
My POV. My graduate and professional workwas grounded in Freud and psychodyamic theories, along with some philosophy of science (Meehl, 1973; 1978), and had to do with Morocco, adolescence, and cyberspace. Existing personality and clinical theories are untestable with the means at our disposal, and the existing "empirical literature" barely speaks to the largest of the personality theory terms. OTOH, the desire for personality theories speaking to our own challenges of living persists. Where are the 21st Century Maslows and Freuds? With what sort of human beings will they be trying to cope?
Suggested Reading for December 13, 2012
Davis, Doug. (2005). Psychology of Adolecence: (Haverforf Psychology 214) hypersyllabus. www.haverford.edu/psych/ddavis/psych214/p214syl.05b.html
Devereux, George. (1967). From anxiety to method in the behavioral sciences. The Hague: Mouton & Co. excerpt
Freud, Sigmund. (1909). Notes Upon A Case Of Obsessional Neurosis.
Koltko-Rivera, Mark E. (2006) Rediscovering the Later Version of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Self-Transcendence and Opportunities for Theory, Research, and Uniﬁcation. Review of General Psychology, Vol. 10, No. 4, 302–317. View
Maslow, Abraham. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370-396. Republished as Chapter 3 of Motivation and Personality. View
Maslow, Abraham. (1954). Motivation and Personality. Chapter 12: "Self-actualizing people" Download Maslow chapter 12 [Note: PDF may take a minute to load, and you'll probably have to right-click and rotate clockwise to read on screen.]
Maslow, Abraham. Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Wikipedia entry View
Meehl, P.E. (1973). Why I do not attend case conferences. In #97 Psychodiagnosis: Selected papers (pp. 225-302). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. View
Meehl, P.E. (1978). Theoretical risks and tabular asterisks: Sir Karl, Sir Ronald, and the slow progress of soft psychology. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 46, 806-834. View
Styron, William. (1951). Lie down in Darkness.