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Road to Malpsychia: Humanistic Psychology and Our Discontents [Hardcover]

Joyce Milton
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Aug. 1 2009
Joyce Milton's fascinating narrative begins in the early 1960s with psychologist Abraham Maslow's prediction that psychologists would soon seize control of values from religion and be able to create an ideal society made up of "self-actualized men and women." Maslow became the prophet of the new humanistic psychology movement. Its leading practitioner was Carl Rogers, the California human potential guru who used encounter groups to teach people to get in touch with the dark impulses of their "true selves." And the marketer-in-chief was Harvard's Timothy Leary, who saw LSD as a tool for helping in the task of deconstructing the "Judeo-Calvinist" worldview.

"The Road to Malpsychia" gives us intriguing portraits of these patriarchs of the new secular order. Milton also shows what happened when Maslow disciples Abbie Hoffman and Betty Friedan applied Maslow's teachings to political activism and feminism, and when educators too eagerly adopted the principle that children must develop "intrinsic knowledge," free from authoritarian influences and the tyranny of facts. Impatient with human limitations, anxious to put the self at the center of the universe, the humanistic movement was momentarily triumphant. But instead of becoming, in Maslow's phrase, "fully human," the questing selves built a culture of narcissism; the new values were revealed as clichés in disguise; and the new gospel of self-esteem devolved into psychobabble. "The Road to Malpsychia" charts the rise and fall of one of the most significant cultural movements of our time. It is a story filled with character and anecdote and also with daunting implications for the secular souls left stranded by the failure of what Maslow once called "the religion of human nature."

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From Publishers Weekly

Offering vivid portrayals of the major players in the humanistic psychology movement is Joyce Milton's The Road to Malpsychia: Humanistic Psychology and Our Discontents. This cultural movement which sprouted from an impatience with human limitations and a desire to put the self at the center of the universe had its heyday in the 1960s. Milton (The First Partner: Hilary Rodham Clinton) writes about psychologist Abraham Maslow, the movement's prophet, and of its followers, including Carl Rogers, a Californian who instructed people to get in touch with the dark impulses of their true selves.'
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


"Vivid portrayals of the major players in the humanistic psychology movement."

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A flawed but important work Nov. 22 2003
It's easy enough to find fault with this book: it's poorly organized, there is a lot of material in it (on Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict, for instance) that does not belong, and there is a lot that belongs but is not in it (many of the lesser lights of the T-group movement, for example). It's very gossipy ways that will offend even those with a prurient interest. Much of what the author claims is not documented. And so forth. But with all that, I found it a valuable book. Its overall story is valuable and persuasive. The T-groups, the Encounter movement, EST, the Esalen crowd, they are all shown for what they are, and convincingly so. The "humanistic psychology" movement was ( is ?) deplorable and a bit of a menace, and Joyce Milton, with all the faults of this book, has shown how and why this is so.
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By A Customer
Having basically grown up in the context of this movement, studied it, I think I am qualified to talk about it. The movement has and had excesses. It also has a lot of twisting and BS that has nothing at all to do with what the founders did, said or thought. That is most of what Joyce attacks.
Fundamentally, the movement was and is about honesty. Honesty about what one is really about and why one does things. Honesty about the reality of relationships. This can be and is abused, no question about it. There are plenty of people who simply use the forms to perform their sadism, manipulations, excuse addictions, what have you.
But so is priestly authority abused. So is political authority of almost every kind. So is the demagogic authority of talk show hosts and TV preachers who take advantage of the uneasiness and fears of others for personal gain.
People are made this way, and it is part of the parcel of life.
This book is full of cheap shots at great people. Everyone has problems in their lives. Einstein was not very nice and liked the ladies. Does that invalidate his physics?
No. It doesn't. Poor scholarship, sloppy thinking, and cheap shots are the primary content of this book. It has some points worth making, but they could be made in a few pages.
The basic thought that people have a responsibility to society as well as to themselves seems to be the theme here. Or that's the underlying thread I got. Real humanism most definitely is in agreement with that.
I have no objections to her attack on idiot pop-psych. But she goes way too far and hurts her argument.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A great book about American History. Feb. 16 2003
As a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst I have been exposed to many theories about the human mind. I have had ample opportunity to see which of these theories when applied to a given situation is most likely to be of help. It has been startling to me how many elaborate models of the mind and corresponding therapies are not only obscure but disorganized, unverifiable, and unaccountable. Joyce Milton's fast paced book is clear and concise in examining the parents of Humanistic Psychology and its theories. (I had not known where all that silly stuff about encounter groups,
LSD, etc. came from but now I do.) In examining this movement Ms. Milton suggests origins for many of the cultural and political aberancies which have been so antithetical to the best of American institutions and values.
The Humanistic Psychology Movement seemed to assert that the highest form of human mental activity was the quest for the Ecstacy of Self-Congratulation. Ms. Milton wryly describes the resultant frenetic, self-deluded, and self-serving Flakiness which often passed for Advanced Deep Thought and which justified in the mind of the affected the wholesale overhaul of everything. The ability to discern Nonsense in our culture has been greatly enhanced by this book. Another great part of this lively book is the dark humor to be continuously found in the absurdities of popular Psycholgy. I highly recommend The Road to Malpsychia...
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1.0 out of 5 stars Poor and biased Scholarship Jan. 28 2003
Ms Milton admits to her anger at humanistic psychology, so she attacks without understanding. She does not seem to grasp even some of the basic concepts of the people's work she denigrates. Maslow's hierarchy of needs is one example. I have spent a great deal pf time studding humanistic psychology and writings. I have had the pleasure of being trained in group therapy with Carl Rogers, and William Coulson as instructors. Any one who really studies these writers will see how bad a job Ms Milton did presenting them. She should have let her anger subside before she wrote the book. Her bias is extreme and obvious. So consider this when reading the book. No doubt Ms Milton will have a new career appearing on the conservative religious programs. I am sure Pat Robinson and Jerry Falwell have or will book her to speak out against the evils of humanistic psychology.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Author's agenda wastes readers' time Nov. 15 2002
I was looking for a good history of recent psychology - this isn't it. The author's agenda is clear from the start, but the writing and research is sloppy. Distinguished scientists like Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers get lumped in with misguided idealists like Timothy Leary and con men like Werner Erhard. I remember from college that Carl Rogers' therapy was one of the most thoroughly researched and validated of them all - you wouldn't know that from reading this. There's lots of dirt on private lives, lots of horror stories about insensitivity, but few facts to back up her blame of psychology for narcissism, divorce, feminism, etc.
There might be valid critiques of humanistic psychology in here, but they're hard to separate from the ax-grinding. The author also wrote hatchet jobs on Hillary Clinton and Charlie Chaplin, which explains some of the vitriol. Get this for the Rush Limbaugh fans on your list - people who want a reliable history of humanistic psychology are out of luck.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Author's agenda wastes readers' time
I was looking for a good history of recent psychology - this isn't it. The author's agenda is clear from the start, but the writing and research is sloppy. Read more
Published on Nov. 15 2002 by "jonmiller9"
1.0 out of 5 stars Read Russell Jacoby's "Social Amnesia" instead
The humanistic psychology movement was indeed populated by intellectual mediocrities peddling dubious ideas at best. Read more
Published on Sept. 30 2002 by Milantyus
4.0 out of 5 stars Review of Malpsychia
The author captures very well the ambience of the '50s, '60s and '70s. She describes the extraordinary influence on American culture of such humanists as Rogers, Maslow, and Leary,... Read more
Published on Sept. 3 2002 by Anton Hardy
3.0 out of 5 stars early indications are not good...
"In her later years Mead transformed herself into a Druid-priestess figure who invariably wore earth-toned dresses, a flowing cape and Hobbit-like shoes. Read more
Published on Aug. 29 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars It's about time
This book reflects on pop culture and the way it developed from the Progressive era of the late 1800's into the 60's. Read more
Published on Aug. 21 2002 by Eugene A Jewett
3.0 out of 5 stars The pendulum swings
I enjoyed this book for its gossipy quality (did you know, for example, that Ruth Benedict was devastated by her husband's sexual rejection? Read more
Published on July 28 2002 by Cathy
5.0 out of 5 stars It Answered My Questions by Martha B. Banks
For decades, I wondered where the strange ideas were coming from. Who on earth started the first encounter group where we were told to bare our souls in front of people we... Read more
Published on July 27 2002 by Martha B. Banks
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most important books of the decade
Humanistic psychology rolled over American culture like a vast tidal wave, leaving every school awash in classes on self-esteem, and every starlet appearing on Leno babbling about... Read more
Published on July 19 2002 by A. Moore
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