Academic journal article The Journal of Psychohistory

Psychohistory: Creating a New Discipline

Academic journal article The Journal of Psychohistory

Psychohistory: Creating a New Discipline

Article excerpt

As Novales pointed out: "Theories are nets: only he who casts will catch."

- Lloyd deMause "Psychogeneology" 29

On December 2, 1968, Lloyd deMause, as Chairman of the Research Committee of the Association for Applied Psychoanalysis (hereafter AAP), wrote to the members of the AAP Executive Council with a proposal for a research project. This project, outlined in a 29-page report, was by no means a modest proposal. This proposal suggested the foundation of a Center for Research in Psychogeneology to be set up under the auspices of the AAP. Psychogeneology was therein described as the "new science of evolution of the psyche from generation to generation" and defined as "the science of evolution of parent-child relations as the basic cause of man's personality" (deMause "Psychogeneology" 6). Through research in Psychogeneology, the proposal's author sought to "extricate applied psychoanalysis from its current theoretical impasse" (deMause "Psychogeneology" 4). This impasse, upon which applied psychoanalysis "has beached itself," is the primacy accorded to cultural norms and institutions, otherwise known as 'society/ in the development of the psyche (deMause "Psychogeneology" 3). Instead, the theory of psychogeneology proposed to "affirm the radical content implicit in psychoanalytic theory that the character of the parents is the cause of basic psychic structure" (deMause "Psychogeneology" 5). In other words, applied psychoanalysis had "floundered" by supposing that society is somehow responsible for "changes in childhood upbringing" (deMause "Psychogeneology" 5). Provocatively, the proposal asks "Can we not, as a thought experiment, simply reverse the age-old causal sequence of an evolving society being the cause of man's personality, and replace it with the theory of evolving parent-child relations being the cause of the evolution of man's psyche and therefore his culture" (deMause "Psychogeneology" 5)? Over 40 years later, Lloyd deMause is still asking this same question.

Those familiar with The Journal of Psychohistory, The Institute for Psychohistory and the International Psychohistorical Association will no doubt recognize in this proposal the embryo of deMause's work. Some might even be familiar with his initial forays into the realm of psychohistory undertaken through the auspices of the AAP. Certainly, deMause has himself in several articles taken the opportunity to recount the history of his own research and provide some detail pertaining to his efforts in the cause of founding psychohistory. Still, this richly textured narrative has yet to be recorded in any systematic way. With this in mind, this paper begins with an account of the early years of deMause's project, a history of the foundations that would become a book entitled The History of Childhood and a journal called The History of Childhood Quarterly: The Journal of Psychohistory. Much of the information for this account of the early years of deMause's project comes from unpublished correspondence to be found in deMause's personal archive, access to which has been generously provided for the purpose of this paper. We will then move into an account of the past thirty-six years of the Journal, attempting to understand the work it has done toward creating the discipline of psychohistory.

In his essay "On Writing Childhood History" deMause explains that "Although I have spent a good part of my adult life searching in libraries for evidence of what it might have felt like to have been a child in past times, I actually never planned on being an historian of childhood" (deMause "On Writing Childhood History" 135). When I first met deMause, he explained to me that he returned from the Korean War determined to discover why, since war itself seemed to accomplish nothing, nations went to war in the first place (deMause 21 Nov. 2008). This desire, with his G.I. Bill in hand, brought deMause to Columbia University, where in the late 1950s we find him working on a "doctorate in political theory [. …

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