Academic journal article Indo - Pacific Journal of Phenomenology

Levinsonian Seasons in the Life of Steve Jobs: A Psychobiographical Case Study

Academic journal article Indo - Pacific Journal of Phenomenology

Levinsonian Seasons in the Life of Steve Jobs: A Psychobiographical Case Study

Article excerpt

Introduction and Rationale

This paper constitutes a psychobiography of the late businessman and entrepreneur, Steve Jobs (1955-2011). Isaacson (2011) and the editors of TIME (2011) agreed that Jobs belongs in the pantheon of America's great innovators, alongside Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Walter Disney. Jobs was a remarkable individual with a distinctive personality, whose inspiration and tenacity radically transformed not only technology (Hoerr, 2012), but, due to the impact of this, the social world. The study illustrates that Jobs developed through an on-going process of individuation, a key theme in the life cycle proposed by Levinson, Darrow, Klein, Levinson, and McKee (1978), which guided his development as a man, entrepreneur, businessman, creator, innovator, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), husband and father. The study employed a single case psychobiographical design, which utilised Levinson's (1996) theory of the human life cycle in a systematic fashion in order to illuminate Jobs's ongoing development over his lifespan. Levinson et al. (1978) described the life cycle as a whole by examining the engagement of the individual in society, considering both the individual and the world, as well as the relationships between them.

Many scholars have emphasised the value of studying individual lives by means of psychobiography and case study (Alexander, 1988; Carlson, 1988; Elms, 1994; Fouché, 1999; McAdams, 1990/2006; Roberts, 2002; Runyan, 1982; Schultz, 2005). As Elms (1994) asserted, psychobiography has proven to be an invaluable method to investigate aspects of individual development in a holistic way. Ponterotto, Reynolds, Morel, and Cheung (2015) have found it surprising that psychobiography does not draw more attention as a research method, as this approach has made significant contributions to psychological theory and our understanding of human development. Psychobiography as a specialised field of practice has witnessed prolific growth (Du Plessis, 2017) and is experiencing an upswing internationally, such that it is anticipated that a growing number of students and scholars will engage in this process (Ponterotto, 2015a). This study contributes to the current knowledge base of psychobiographies, especially the growing field of academic psychobiography in South Africa. More specifically, the researchers are of the opinion that this study contributes to a psychosocial and historical understanding of Jobs's development as framed by Levinsonian theory against the background of Merleau-Ponty's phenomenological ontology.

Synoptic Chronicle of the Life of Steve Jobs

Steven Paul Jobs was born on 24 February 1955 in San Francisco (Isaacson, 2011; TIME, 2011). Paul and Clara Jobs were his adoptive parents (Isaacson, 2011; Pollack & Belviso, 2012). As a consequence of having suffered an ectopic pregnancy, Clara was unable to bear children. After nine years of marriage, the couple decided to adopt a child and, in due course, assumed parenthood of Jobs shortly after his birth (All about Steve Jobs, 2015; Isaacson, 2011; Lakin, 2015). From an early age, Jobs's adoptive parents were very open about his adoption and emphasized that he was special and talented (Blumenthal, 2012; Lakin, 2015). Jobs became the cofounder of Apple Inc., an American multinational corporation that designs and sells consumer electronics, computer software and personal computers, which was founded in his parents' garage during 1976 (Isaacson, 2011; Schlender & Tetzeli, 2015). He was also the founder of Pixar and NeXT (All about Steve Jobs, 2015; Schlender & Tetzeli, 2015). Eventually appointed as CEO of Apple, Jobs contributed to transforming Apple into a prosperous company (Isaacson, 2011). In the process, he played a role in radically transforming seven industries: (a) personal computing, (b) animated motion pictures, (c) music, (d) mobile phones, (e) tablet computing, (f) retail stores, and (g) digital publishing (Isaacson, 2011; TIME, 2011). …

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