The Anatomy of Prejudices

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Overview

Surveying the study of prejudice since World War II, Young-Bruehl finds a history riddled with assumptions, generalizations, and cliches. The Anatomy of Prejudices proposes a fresh start, and suggests an approach that distinguishes between different types of prejudices, the people who hold them, the social and political settings that promote them, and the human needs they fulfill. Young-Bruehl draws on theoretical and clinical, historical, and empirical literatures to show us prejudices from a variety of angles: there are those that help protect a group's identity (ethnocentrisms) and those that project a group identity (ideologies of desire); there are prejudices as socioeconomic phenomena, attitudes toward governments, products of historical periods, social mechanisms of defense, sexual fantasy structures, and puberty rites. Among the many forms of prejudice, Young-Bruehl pays particular attention to four - antisemitism, racism, sexism, and homophobia - which she exposes in their distinctiveness and their similarities.
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Editorial Reviews

Jewish Book World
Psycho-social investigation into mass group prejudice in the 20th century, principally concentrating on the post-World War II era. Prejudice is viewed from the prism of psychological factors, with the author arguing that much of the previous literature is a cliche, over-generalized, or both. Anti-Semitism is dealt with forthrightly and without any attempt to hide its manifestations by euphemistic expressions of "ethnic identity."
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Rejecting the common assumption that prejudice is a generalized attitude, this dense psychoanalytic study asserts that different prejudices fulfill different needs for various character types. Anti-Semitism, racism and sexism-three "ideologies of desire," or backlashes against movements for equality-all involve stereotypes, projection and faulty generalization, declares psychotherapist Young-Bruehl, biographer of Anna Freud and Hannah Arendt. But the similarities end there, she argues. She links anti-Semitism to the obsessional personality, given to fixed ideas and to sadistic behavior. Racism, in her framework, exemplifies the hysterical character, who unconsciously appoints a group to act out forbidden sexual and aggressive desires. Sexism, a prejudice of the (usually male) narcissistic personality, betrays a desire to control the differences between males and females. Young-Bruehl also probes the roots of homophobia, calling gays and lesbians "all-purpose victims" who fulfill the twisted needs of various prejudiced character types, and she also addresses ethnocentrism, calling it a universal form of prejudice that protects group identity. (Apr.)
Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
Rejecting the common assumption that prejudice is a generalized attitude, this dense psychoanalytic study asserts that different prejudices fulfill different needs for various character types. Anti-Semitism, racism and sexism-three 'ideologies of desire,' or backlashes against movements for equality-all involve stereotypes, projection and faulty generalization, declares psychotherapist Young-Bruehl, biographer of Anna Freud and Hannah Arendt. But the similarities end there, she argues. She links anti-Semitism to the obsessional personality, given to fixed ideas and to sadistic behavior. Racism, in her framework, exemplifies the hysterical character, who unconsciously appoints a group to act out forbidden sexual and aggressive desires. Sexism, a prejudice of the usually male narcissistic personality, betrays a desire to control the differences between males and females. Young-Bruehl also probes the roots of homophobia, calling gays and lesbians 'all-purpose victims' who fulfill the twisted needs of various prejudiced character types, and she also addresses ethnocentrism, calling it a universal form of prejudice that protects group identity.
Library Journal
Clearly written and accessible to general as well as scholarly readers, this is a major work in personality and culture that asserts the plurality rather than the unity of prejudice. The author, a professor at Haverford College and a psychotherapist, integrates psychoanalytic concepts with sociological and historical readings. Young-Bruehl deals with anti-Semitism, racism, sexism, homophobia, and classism, separating the prejudices into ethnocentricisms and ideologies of desire. She develops a characterological model of hysterical, obsessional, and narcissistic types and rejuvenates parts of psychoanalytic theory. Impressively erudite, she knows "how culture shapes the study of itself." Young-Bruehl confronts a great and enduring scourge of humanity while enriching many fields. Along with new and challenging ideas, this book provides an indispensable survey of past scholarship.-E. James Lieberman, George Washington Univ. Sch. of Medicine, Washington, D.C.
Paul Robinson
"As an analysis of the sources of prejudice, 'The Anatomy of Prejudices' is bold and profound. Along with Theodor Adomo's 'Authoritarian Personality", Hannah Arendt's 'Origins of Totalitarianism', Gordon Allport's 'Nature of Prejudice' and Gavin Langmuir's 'Toward a Definition of Antisemitism', it is one of the rare studies to explore this vexed topic with the conceptual amibiton and passion it deseves." --New York Times Book Review
New York Times Book Review - Paul Robinson
Young-Bruehl argues that anti-Semitism, racism, sexism and homophobia differ in their internal logic (or illogic) and, more important, that they are deeply rooted in character structure and the unconscious. Accordingly, she finds the most convincing evidence about prejudices not in the questionnaires and projective tests favored by social scientists but in the writings of psychoanalysts, philosophers, novelists, critics and historians. Above all, she finds it in the writings of the victims of prejudice themselves...Her interpretations boast the familiar psychoanalytic virtues of richness, nuance and complexity: they probe to a psychological depth appropriate to the intensity and irrationality of the ideas in question...As an analysis of the sources of prejudice, The Anatomy of Prejudices is bold and profound. Along with Theodor Adorno's Authoritarian Personality, Hannah Arendt's Origins of Totalitarianism, Gordon Allport's Nature of Prejudice and Gavin Langmuir's Toward a Definition of Antisemitism, it is one of the rare studies to explore this vexed topic with the conceptual ambition and passion it deserves.
Washington Post Book World - Paul L. Wachtel
Young-Bruehl is a perceptive observer. Her accounts of the preoccupations and qualities of psychological experiences that are revealed in different prejudices are useful and illuminating.
Boston Globe - Robert Coles
No subject is of more importance than that of this book...[Young-Bruehl] wants us to concentrate on the plural of the word prejudice, as she does in her title; she wants us, thereby, to think of the different kinds of hate to be found among us, the different psychological roads traveled to those diverse animosities. Such a conceptual approach requires careful psychological distinctions, and to make them, the author calls upon her thorough, nuanced knowledge of psychoanalytic thinking.
Washington Times - Rita Nolan
The Anatomy of Prejudices is a book of epic proportions that is sure to stimulate debate on many levels inside and outside the academy. It raises challenges to and for the social sciences, philosophy of culture, philosophy of science, studies of mind and of social development. And this is only the short list. Implications will be drawn concerning current warring groups and political agendas. Indeed, it is of such vast scope that it may invite discourse for some time to come. The goal of this ambitious study is to propose an alternative to theories of prejudice that are familiar from the social sciences...[which] tend to treat prejudice as itself a single, universal concept and to construct a general theory intended to apply to all forms of prejudice...The book exhibits the wide and deep erudition that its task demands. It critically surveys and analyzes the most influential psychological and social scientific theories that have shaped academic study and popular understanding of prejudice...The Anatomy of Prejudices is a striking achievement that may well alter profoundly the way we think of prejudices. If it provides insight into the phenomena of prejudices, it also may suggest ways of disabling or disarming them in the future.
San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle< - Susan Osborn
Although this theoretically daring volume may present difficulties to readers who are not familiar with psychoanalytical theory, by integrating classical psychoanalytical concepts into the current discussion of prejudice, Young-Bruehl's challenging work serves as a provocative corrective to the perceptual illusions and superficialities spawned by the customary social scientific approach. It's a book that is sure to have enormous implications for historians, war theorists, criminologists and other scholars interested in understanding the multiple facets of various kinds of prejudice...[She] provide[s] us with a brilliant new sense of the territory and allows us to ask new questions about different kinds of prejudices and their particularly virulent modern forms.
Psychoanalytic Books - Jeffrey H. Golland
Elisabeth Young-Bruehl has written a bold and important book of comprehensive scope, and she has done so with historical and psychoanalytic sophistication. She addresses a topic of utmost concern to citizens of good will, and she treats this topic with full respect for its complexity.
The International Journal of Psycho-Analysis - Donald Moss
For a psychoanalyst, one of the many felicitous consequences of reading Elisabeth Young-Bruehl's impressively panoramic study is being drawn into a reconsideration of the relationship between the terms 'clinical' and 'prejudicial'. This relationship is often thought tangential. But for Young-Bruehl, it is an intimate relationship. She thinks of individual psychopathologies and socially mediated hatreds as conceptually bound...[Young-Bruehl] presents the phenomena of racisms, sexisms, homophobias and anti-Semitism mainly through the use of historical and literary texts. Her reach is extensive and compelling.
Tzvetan Todorov
Prejudice against another group is quite different from preference for one's own. Starting from this basic insight, Young-Bruehl develops a much needed inquiry of the ideologies of desire, where political theory meets psychoanalysis.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674031906
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/1996
  • Pages: 640
  • Product dimensions: 6.74 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 1.46 (d)

Meet the Author

Elisabeth Young-Bruehl was a psychotherapist at the Institute of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia. She was the author of two well-known biographies, one of Hannah Arendt and one of Anna Freud, as well as Freud on Women, Creative Characters, and a collection of essays, Mind and the Body, and a novel, Vigil.
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Table of Contents

Prologue 1
Introduction: Studying Prejudices 7
1 Theories of Prejudice: A Preliminary Classification 43
2 What Happened to the "Prejudiced Personality" 57
3 Sociology Surveys the American Dilemma 81
4 The Prejudice That Is Not One 104
5 The Homophobias 137
6 "Social Character" in Search of a Theory 163
7 Character Types and Their Ideologies of Desire 200
8 Origins and Developmental Lines: Children and Prejudice 253
9 Adolescence and the Aims of Hatreds 299
10 Shared Prejudices, Societal Styles 340
11 Constructing Ideal Types 386
12 The Body and Soul of Narcissism 412
13 Varieties of Silencing 457
14 On Resistance to Hysterical Repression 486
15 Feeling the Contradictions of Sexism and Being the Targets of Homophobias 517
Epilogue 541
Notes 549
Bibliography 591
Index 619
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