Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of Brainwashing in China / Edition 1

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Overview

Informed by Erik Erikson's concept of the formation of ego identity, this book, which first appreared in 1961, is an analysis of the experiences of fifteen Chinese citizens and twenty-five Westerners who underwent "brainwashing" by the Communist Chinese government. Robert Lifton constructs these case histories through personal interviews and outlines a thematic pattern of death and rebirth, accompanied by feelings of guilt, that characterizes the process of "thought reform." In a new preface, Lifton addresses the implications of his model for the study of American religious cults.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807842539
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 7/31/1989
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 524
  • Sales rank: 365,740
  • Product dimensions: 5.54 (w) x 8.49 (h) x 1.31 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Jay Lifton is lecturer on psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima and The Nazi Doctors.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2002

    Totalism and Psychotherapy

    Lifton provides content and commentary regarding attempts by the People's Republic of China to 're-educate' Westerners and citizens according to Communist ideology. Actual contents of his one-on-one interviews are particularly useful, as are Lifton's evaluations of the effects and causes of 're-education'. Lifton's principal shortcoming is the overarching psychotherapeutic interpretations, which sometimes stretch the imagination. Lifton's book is often misunderstood and misrepresented as a polemic against 'brainwashing' and religious 'cultism'. In fact, Lifton himself admits that 'brainwashing' is a misnomer; he denies that 're-education' was effective or that it converted people against their will. Furthermore, he argues that the principal difference between Chinese methods of thought-reform and normal, usual persuasion is the Chinese use of physical violence and imprisonment. Lifton never intended for his book to be used by the anti-cult industry to attack religious non-orthodoxy and constitutionally guaranteed religious expression.

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