The Psychohistory of Child Maltreatment Among Antebellum Slaveholders: Part II, Kenneth Alan Adams

ABSTRACT: In the psychohistory of the antebellum South, the extent of child abuse in slaveholder families is important for understanding how members of the southern elite were reared and the extent to which they were infected with the toxic residue of their elders’ passions and rages. It is argued that the Old South was a developing region, rather than an already developed one. Consequently, the rate of child abuse that is characteristic of contemporary postindustrial societies is not the proper paradigm for conceptualizing the abuse rate in slaveholder families. It is proposed instead that the rate of child abuse in contemporary developing societies is a better fit for estimating abuse in the antebellum South. Societal and familial variables impinging on the abuse of slaveholder children—corporal punishment, alcohol consumption, hyper-masculinity, a traumatogenic culture of violence, wife abuse, maternal ambivalence and neglect, miscegenation and incest are discussed, as is the likelihood of maltreatment by slaves. Using a study of child abuse across 28 nations, tentative rates of abuse are proposed.

John Woolman and Ethical Progress in Kitcher’s Pragmatic Naturalism, John Barresi

ABSTRACT: The development of John Woolman’s views on slavery plays an important evidentiary role in Philip Kitcher’s recent book, The ethical project (Kitcher 2011). In this work Kitcher takes what he calls a “pragmatic naturalist” approach to ethics and claims that the discovery of ethical truth plays no role in the emergence of ethical progress. To support his view, he argues that Woolman’s contribution was not due to his discovery of an ethical truth about slavery, not previously known, but due to his sensitivity to slavery and his influence on others, which contributed to collective progressive change in moral norms involving slavery. While not disputing Kitcher’s ethical theory, I argue that personal discoveries of a moral psychological nature made by Woolman served both as insights and motivations for his contribution. Thus, even if there are no such things as independent ethical truths that can be discovered by individuals, a fully naturalistic approach to ethical progress requires that we make room not only for group-level progressive evolution of norms, but also for individual discoveries of a moral psychological nature that can sometimes cause an individual to play a significant initiating role in progressive ethical transitions that occur at a group level.

Keywords: John Woolman, Philip Kitcher, slavery, pragmatism, moral foundations theory, ethical progress

John F. Kennedy, Jr. and the Torn Self: A Psychological Portrait, Joseph G. Ponterotto

ABSTRACT: John F. Kennedy, Jr., (1960-1999) was one of the most recognizable figures of the 2nd half of the 20th century. He died tragically in an airplane he was piloting on route to Hyannis Port, Massachusetts to attend the wedding of his cousin, Rory Kennedy. Though much has been written about the life of J.F.K., Jr., this article represents the first psychobiographical portrait of the iconic personality. Employing a multi-theoretical approach to psychobiography, this profile integrates psychodynamic theory (James 1902/1982, Winnicott 1965), psychosocial development theory (Erikson 1950, 1980), and a modern theory of emerging adulthood (Arnett 2004) to develop a deep psychological portrait of the beloved son of President John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. J.F.K., Jr.’s life is traced along the four developmental periods of infancy and childhood, high school and college, emerging adulthood, and young adulthood. Psychobiography often focuses on unsolved mysteries in the lives of historic figures, and this profile of J.F.K., Jr., explores his search for his unique identity, whether he would have entered political life, and the likely future of his life with Carolyn Bessette Kennedy had they lived.

Keywords: John F. Kennedy, Jr., psychobiography, psychological biography, lifestory, George Magazine


Critical Controversies in Psychoanalysis: The contributions of Arnold D. Richards, Ken Fuchsman

Psychoanalysis: Critical Conversations: Selected Papers by Arnold D. Richards, Volume 1, Arnold D. Richards (edited by Arthur A. Lynch), New York: International Psychoanalytic Books, 2015.

Psychoanalysis is a major strand within psychohistory. But which psychoanalysis? For decades there have been divergent and overlapping approaches in the field, sometimes fragmentation has been prominent, sometimes reconciliation. Paul Stepansky says that in the early twenty-first century, psychoanalysis is like a band of brothers who “make war among themselves, and then declare a truce. The truce is the state of ‘theoretical pluralism’” (2009, 132). How then to make sense of these divergent outlooks and fraternal conflicts? Extensive examination and evaluation of psychoanalytic pluralism is contained in the first volume of Arnold P. Richards selected papers. He is a rigorous, perceptive and interesting guide through contemporary controversies within psychoanalysis.

Dr. Richards is well-qualified to write about the divisions and common ground within psychoanalysis. He was the Editor of the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association from 1994 to 2003, and before that that edited The American Psychoanalyst. In 2000, he was given the Mary Sigourney Award for Achievement in the Advancement of Psychoanalysis. The American Psychoanalytic Association in 2004 honored Dr. Richards with its Distinguished Contributor Award, and in 2013, he earned the Hans W. Leowald Memorial Award for his article, “Psychoanalysis of the Left and Far Left.”

His book is divided into six sections. One on diversity and unification, another on Heinz Kohut, still another on interpersonal and relational theory, he also discusses hermeneutics in two thinkers, has a section on contemporary conflict theory, and a brief epilogue.

The Psychology of Religion Today, Donald L. Carveth

Psychological Perspectives on Religion and Religiosity, Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, London & New York: Routledge. Paperback, 316 pages,  (2015). 

Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi is Professor of Psychology at the University of Haifa. In this book he applies scientific psychology, including cognitive evolutionary psychology and perspectives from sociology, anthropology and psychoanalysis, to the study of religion. He reviews findings from a multitude of empirical studies regarding the psychological roots of religion, the role of social learning and identity in its formation, variations in religiosity, women and religion, the consequences and correlates of religiosity, conversion and conversion-dependent groups, psychoanalytic contributions to the study of religion, and the issue of secularization and the persistence of religion. The author’s writing is lucid and sustains the reader’s interest while reviewing the results of countless empirical studies and assessing their most salient implications for the understanding of religion. His approach is consistently that of the empirical social scientist. Regrettably, Routledge chose to print this book using a small type font that may create difficulty for the aging reader, as it did for this reviewer.

As a sociologist and psychoanalyst who has often been unimpressed by a good deal of the research produced by positivistic psychology, I have to acknowledge that Beit-Hallahmi has led me to qualify my views in this area. Much of the empirical work he reviews here, meaningfully addresses important questions in this field, offering clear evidence for and against various assumptions, propositions and theories about religion. The author’s approach is that of Enlightenment, rationalism, and empiricism. There is no theology or postmodern obscurantism here, only interpretation of relevant empirical research findings for important questions concerning religion. In the spirit of the Enlightenment he writes that “What is socially and politically significant is that a strong religious commitment may interfere with support for religious freedom and tolerance, as the concern of group members for their own rights does not extend to the rights of others” (p. 148). In this connection he quotes Slavoj Zizek who argues “Atheism is a European legacy worth fighting for, not least because it creates a safe public space for believers” (Zizek, 2006, p. A 23 as quoted by Beit-Hallahmi, p. 148).


The Hidden Structure of Violence: Who Benefits from Global Violence and War by Marc Pilisuk and Jennifer Achord Rountree (2015), Review by Molly Castelloe,

         The Hidden Structure of Violence: Who Benefits from Global Violence and War, demonstrates comprehensively how today’s global capitalism inflicts a level of economic and military violence unprecedented in human history.

The authors emphasize, early in their book, that Western social institutions create the conditions for structural violence in both direct and indirect ways,. Institutional violence assaults us directly, for instance, when the Oklahoma bombing claimed its victims. This form of destruction continues in contemporary wars, in which 90% of those killed are civilians.

Pilisuk and Rountree highlight the indirect forms of violence that afflict us more insidiously.