WINTER 2015 Vol 42 Issue #3

Winter 2015

Empathy and Humanity, Ken Fuchsman

ABSTRACT: This has been called the Age of Empathy; empathy is seen as the glue that holds society together, the capacity without which humans would not have evolved. It is the ability to accurately perceive others internal states and to have affective responses to them. Empathy is most likely to emerge with those with whom we are familiar, those that are an ‘us.’ Universally, humans divide ‘us’ and ‘them.’ Those in the out-group are treated with disdain, and sometimes with lethal actions. In human history and psychology, trends often move in opposite directions. Empathy has a limited domain, and is accompanied by hostility to ‘outsiders.’

Exceptional Achievement and Early Parental Loss: The Phaeton Effect in American Writers, Presidents, and Eminent Individual    By Lionel G. Standing, Shari Aikins, Brent Madigan,                            and Willa Nohl, Bishop’s University

Abstract: This study explored predictions made from Lucille Iremonger’s Phaeton theory (1970), which argues that individuals who show exceptional personal achievement in certain fields frequently have experienced childhoods that were marked by parental loss through death and desertion. Three groups were examined: eminent American writers, presidents of the USA, and the 100 Americans who were judged by Life magazine to have been the most influential in 20th century society. Bereavement was common in the childhoods of these outstanding individuals, but was also high, or even higher, for those individuals who achieved somewhat less eminence (less successful writers, and presidential also-rans). More than half the total set of the presidents and also-rans were orphans. Eminent Americans showed substantial although lower levels of parental loss, and nearly three-quarters had experienced difficult childhoods that were marked by some form of loss. Eminent Americans, like the presidents, tended to be first-borns; they also showed elevated levels of divorce, suicide, and name changing. The results provide support for the Phaeton theory, but suggest that the child’s struggle to overcome other losses than bereavement may also promote eminence, as may the presence of significant mentors.

Henry Morgenthau’s Voice in History, Pamela Steiner

Author’s Note: This essay is based on a lecture I gave to the Euxeinos Club of Thessaloniki, Greece, in 2010, at an event honoring my great-grandfather, Henry Morgenthau, for his extraordinary service in Turkey and Greece during and post-World War

Abstract: Henry Morgenthau (1856-1946) distinguished himself as the U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, 1913-1916, and as the chairman of the League of Nations Refugee Settlement Commission (RSC) for Greece, 1923-24. I describe aspects of his early life that shaped the man he became, his accomplishments in these two posts, and his feelings about himself over time. At the end I briefly describe his attitude toward a possible Jewish state in Palestine

Dr. Rudolph Binion: Professor, Mentor, Psychohistorian,       Jacques Szaluta

As the title of my paper indicates, Dr. Rudolph Binion was my professor, mentor, and a leading psychohistorian. My paper in memoriam to Rudolph Binion is intended as both a retrospective and an introspective account of my relationship with him, as he had a pivotal influence on me when he was my professor at Columbia University. His help and influence continued after I left graduate school. In my paper I also deal with the enormous stresses of navigating through graduate school, for those students whose goal was to earn the Ph.D. degree. Some examinations were dreaded, FOR EXAMPLE THE “Examination in Subjects,” popularly called the “Oral Exam.” The “incubation” period was long indeed, frequently averaging nearly ten years, and it was an ordeal, as the rate of attrition was very high. There is then also the question of “ego strength” and that of “transference” toward the professor. Graduate school is indeed a long and strenuous challenge. I took a seminar in modern French history, a requirement for the Master’s degree with Professor Binion, which was consequential for me, as he taught me to be objective in writing history. Professor Binion was a demanding and outstanding teacher.

Psychohistory in Contrast: An Encounter with Psychoanalysis and Sociology, Review Essay by Kenneth Alan Adams

Neil J. Smelser, The Social Edges of Psychoanalysis. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998, contents, preface, index, xx, 263 pp., no price.

A book by Neil J. Smelser provides an opportunity for psychohistorians to evaluate their discipline by juxtaposing it with other viewpoints. In the Social Edges of Psychoanalysis, Smelser focuses on interdisciplinary approaches to studying the social world, primarily sociology and psychoanalysis, with an aside to psychohistory. He divides his attention among four areas, only some of which will be dealt with here. “Disciplinary Articulations” includes chapters on psychoanalysis and sociology, social and psychological aspects of collective behavior, and Erik Erikson as a social scientist. “Psychoanalytic Sociology” examines determinants of destructive behavior and vagaries of work and love. “Ambivalence” highlights fantasies of the good life in California, the politics of ambivalence in universities, problems of affirmative action in California, and rationality and ambivalence in social science. And “Micro-Macro Connections” concludes with an examination of depth psychology and society and psychoanalysis as a mode of social analysis. Smelser’s ideas raise questions about psychohistory and its future direction worthy of consideration.

Psychohistorical Perspective on Current Events and Issues 

Eric Cantor’s Last Hurrah…and Last Laugh, Dan Dervin

Last June House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor (Rep. Va.), after seven terms and in line to be the next Speaker, was painfully reminded of a former Speaker’s warning that “All politics is local” (Tip O’Neill, Dem. Mass.). With a reputation for standing up to Obama but also for across-the-aisle dealing, Canter was upset by a political nobody, a college economics professor from central Virginia with tea party backing. By late July Cantor had resigned from his position and cleaned out his office. By then the shock waves had subsided and the reasons were plain to see. En route to becoming a major player on the national stage, Cantor had ignored his constituents back home. In fact, he began Election Day at a Capitol Hill Starbucks fundraiser with lobbyists, expecting thereafter a leisurely drive to his home-base for a victory celebration. After all, he had been consistently reelected by handsome margins.

Book Reviews

Angry White Men, Michael Kimmel, Nation Books: New York, 2013.  Reviewed by Harriet Fraad

            Kimmel’s Angry White Men describes the rage of American men who have been cast out of their dominant roles within the economy, the family and personal life. The book is relevant to psychohistorians because these furious people are fathers and male models for the next generation. Kimmel correctly noted the way white men are demoted from the economic and social dominance they once had. He blames white men’s now lowered position on two developments. One is a vaguely referenced “neo-liberal agenda”. The second is the movements for economic, political and civil rights for women and minorities. The civil right movements permitted more minorities and women to compete for jobs formerly reserved for white males.

The Wolf at the Door: Stanley Kubrick, History, and the Holocaust, Geoffrey Cocks. NY: Peter Lang, 2004. xii, 338pp.             Reviewed by Henry Lawton

This book is well written and appears to have been very meticulously researched. Cocks gives general information about Kubrick’s life but devotes most of the book to his films. He does so informatively (I have seen most of Kubrick’s films at least once, but learned of some I had never even heard of). He makes his case that Kubrick wanted to do a film on the Holocaust. Had Kubrick been able to put it together I am absolutely certain that it would have been a very strong film. Cocks claims that Kubrick’s Holocaust film was The Shining.

Sadly this is where his otherwise admirable book falls on its face. He devotes considerable ingenuity in trying to make his case but in my view his argument fails. “Kubrick developed his own creative strategy for representing the Holocaust, one that expands the definition of a Holocaust film to include reflecting a trauma-like discourse. Kubrick’s personal hesitations and artistic sensibilities are manifested most evidently in the systematic burial of a Holocaust subtext in The Shining,” even though such an indirect approach “risks cold abstraction … The greatest problem with Kubrick’s indirect approach is that his Holocaust subtext [has] gone almost – almost –unnoticed.” (pp. 16,17).

Elizabeth Kolbert (2014). The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. New York: Henry Holt & Co., print. 319 pages.            Review by Don Carveth

While the aged have famously always tended to complain that the world is going to hell in a hand-basket, it has usually been the social, not the natural world they had in mind. However, the roots of the environmental movement lie much earlier. (See: With Rachel Carson’s The Silent Spring (1962) and Dorothy Dinnerstein’s (1976) The Mermaid and the Minotaur, the idea of man-made environmental disruption and crisis entered our everyday consciousness. In light of science writer Elizabeth Kolbert’s review of the five previous major extinctions (End-Ordovician, Late Devonian, End-Permian, Late Triassic and End-Cretaceous) and the growing evidence of the prospect of a sixth (End-Anthopocene?) due to anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD), the threat ceases to be a premonition: it is increasingly evident that we are destined soon to go the way of the dinosaurs and the great auk, together with species currently on the way out such as the Panamanian golden frogs, the bats, the Sumatran rhinos, the coral reefs … rats and cockroaches possibly excepted.