Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
From the late 1930’s through the early 1960’s, a sizeable cohort of psychiatrists and psychoanalysts wrote for lay audiences. Their writing merged the concerns of the professional with the interests of the lay person, and motivated special conditions for the establishment of the author’s authority. This situation gave rise to a variety of strategic forms of authoritative presentations, considered here in terms of cultural authority, a term that allows for a focus on both the terminology and the narratives that were constructed in this genre of writing. This sense of cultural authority is applied to the popular writings of the following prominent psychiatrists and psychoanalysts: Karl Menninger, William Menninger, Edward Strecker, Fredric Wertham, Robert Lindner, Erich Fromm, and Thomas Szasz. It is argued that the strategies that these experts used were shaped by their professional backgrounds, as psychiatric and psychoanalytic standpoints reproduced their institutional alignments and oppositions through the authoritative discourse offered by these experts. Opposing, though occasionally blended, appeals for cultural authority included die pure professionalism offered by popular psychiatrists and the antiprofessional appeals most commonly found among the lay analysts who lacked the medical credentials of their psychiatric counterparts. Both points of view attempted to install the author’s own point of view as the legitimate way to serve the public, and both involved ways of highlighting the authors’ claims to expertise. The differences between the psychiatric and psychoanalytic claims to cultural authority are considered in light of Antonio Gramsci’s notions of traditional and grounded intellectuals, recasting these labels as stakes in the game of cultural authority that these experts played. All of the psychological experts used narratives that emphasized their own physical proximity to their subjects as an index of their authority to address the issues they described, and they all merged their popular appeals with implicit claims of the broad relevance of their respective fields. Concluding notes address the role of professionalism in the world of public intellectuals, and suggest a broader application of the label ‘public intellectual’.
Park, David W., "Putting the World on the Couch: Cultural Authority as a Dimension of Mid-20th Century Popular Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis" (2001). Dissertations (ASC). 32.