1st Edition

Kohut's Self Psychology for a Fractured World New Ways of Understanding the Self and Human Community

By John Hanwell Riker Copyright 2024
    290 Pages
    by Routledge

    290 Pages
    by Routledge

    Drawing from Kohut's conceptualisation of self, Riker sets out how contemporary America's formulation of persons as autonomous, self-sufficient individuals is deeply injurious to the development of a vitalizing self-structure—a condition which lies behind much of the mental illness and social malaise of today's world.

    By carefully attending to Kohut's texts, Riker explains the structural, functional, and dynamic dimensions of Kohut's concept of the self. He creatively extends this concept to show how the self can be conceived of as an erotic striving for connectedness, beauty, and harmony, separate from the ego. Riker uses this distinction to reveal how social practices of contemporary American society foster skills and traits to advance the aims of the ego for power and control, but tend to suppress the needs of the self to authentically express its ideals and connect with others. The book explores the impact that this view can have on clinical practice, and concludes by imaginatively constructing an ideal self-psychological society, using Plato's Republic as a touchstone.

    Informed by self psychology and philosophy, this book is essential reading for psychoanalysts, psychotherapists and philosophers, seeking to revisit and revise constructions of both self and humanity.

    Introduction  Part One: Kohut and Self Psychology  1. The Structure of the Self as a Transformation of Narcissistic Libido  2. The Functions of the Self, Selfobjects, and Ethical Life  3. The Self as Erotic Striving  4. Metapsychology: The Self, the Ego, and Personhood  5. A Self Psychological Understanding of Psychopathology  Part Two: The Concept of Self in the Modern World  6. The Construction of Individuals in Modern Society  7. Contemporary Social Practices that Undermine the Self and the Psycho/Social Ills that Result from this Destabilization  Part Three: Plato's Republic and a New Self Psychological Society  8. Plato's Republic: The Ideal of a Rational State and Soul  9. The Ideal Self Psychological State: A New Republic  10. Transcending the Self: Metaphysics, Spirituality, and the Meaning of Life  


    John Hanwell Riker has been an award-winning professor of philosophy at Colorado College since 1968 and has published four books. He was the Kohut Distinguished Professor at the University of Chicago in 2003. 

    'John Riker brilliantly examines Heinz Kohut's ideas of self with the astute eye of the philosopher. Riker, who is thoroughly versed in the literature, picks apart the critics of Kohut and shows how this remarkable psychological thinker offers hope for the healing of the modern soul.'

    Charles Strozier, author of Heinz Kohut: The Making of a Psychoanalyst and The New World of Self: Heinz Kohut's Transformation of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy

    'It is well known that one of the least clearly defined concepts in psychoanalytic self psychology is the concept of the self—until now. With this deeply probing and rigorous treatise on the self from the perspective of a seasoned philosopher who is well versed in Kohut's theories, Riker sets out to correct this deficit. He provides us with a comprehensive account of the structural, functional, and dynamic dimensions of the self which is equally illuminating to those of us who are well versed in self psychology as well as to those readers who want to learn more. Riker does not stop there. He draws on Kohut's ideas, applies them to Plato's Republic, and thereby imaginatively and boldly conceives of a world based on the ideal of empathy and interconnectedness rather than on reason and autonomy alone. It is an illuminating journey and a joy to read.'

    Peter Zimmermann, PhD, co-author of Intersubjective Self Psychology: A Primer

    'What a treasure John Riker is giving to the contemporary intellectual culture with his epic new book! His book is in the rare scale of psychoanalysts like Erik Erikson and Erich Fromm, in their broad visions of the potential power of psychoanalysis to humanity.' 

    Raanan Kulka, founder and director of the Human Spirit-Psychoanalytic-Buddhist Training Institute, Israel