The Designed Self: Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Identities, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Designed Self

Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Identities, 1st Edition

By Carlo Strenger


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What can contemporary psychoanalysis bring to the understanding of Generation X, a cohort for whom the trivialization of a dizzying array of possible experiences teamed with the pressure to lead spectacular lives often leads to diffuse feelings of confusion, depression, and disorientation. The Designed Self chronicles Strenger's therapeutic encounters with five extraordinarily gifted young adults for whom the ideal of authenticity long associated with the Baby-Boom generation was supplanted by the need to experiment endlessly with the self. Perpetual self-experimentation, constantly reinforced by the media, came to encompass everything from career choice, to hair color, to body shape, to gender identity. In compelling clinical stories, Strenger introduces us to patients for whom the project of shaping the self had become a cultural imperative no less than an expression of individuality. At once insightful and cautionary, The Designed Self investigates how psychoanalysis must change if it is to claim cultural relevance and therapeutic effectiveness in The Age of the Designed Self.


"Carlo Strenger has written an engaging and truly original book that offers some provocative ideas about reconstructing psychoanalysis in the context of a fast-changing world. Strenger argues persuasively that the culture of 'Generation X' is very different from that in which psychoanalysis evolved, or even that with which the middle-aged analyst of today is familiar. With compelling clinical examples and wide-ranging scholarship and erudition, Strenger puts forth a vision of a psychoanalysis that innovates, like the new generation itself, without giving up its connection to its own tradition. This book is essential reading for all therapists who want to stay current with the lives of their patients."

- Neil Altman, Ph.D., Editor, Psychoanalytic Dialogues

“With intellectual and stylistic grace, Carlo Strenger weaves a seamless web of good story and compelling thought. Open to the changing cosmos he and his patients inhabit, he speaks with equal ease of clinical process, psychotherapeutic technique, and theories philosophical, social, and psychoanalytic. Continuing in the cosmopolitan tradition of Civilization and Its Discontents, The Designed Self shows us the dialectical process by which psychoanalysis illuminates and changes the very world it belongs to and is thereby changed itself.”

- Muriel Dimen, Ph.D., Author, Sexuality, Intimacy, Power (Analytic Press, 2003)

"Strenger challenges psychoanalysis and culture, daring us to live in new ways yet not to leave ourselves behind. The Designed Self is not only an edifying read but a thoroughly enjoyable one."

- Michael Eigen, Ph.D., Editor, The Psychoanalytic Review

Table of Contents

Prologue: The Designed Self in the Global Village. The Self as Perpetual Experiment. Nobrow: Forming an Identity in an Urban Culture. The Bobo Dilemma. Failing Fathers, Failing Sons. Finding Ethnic Identity and a Place in Western Society. Psychoanalysis in the Age of the Designed Self. Epilogue: Requiem to the Dream of Metaphysical Depth.

About the Series

Relational Perspectives Book Series

The Relational Perspectives Book Series (RPBS) publishes books that grow out of or contribute to the relational tradition in contemporary psychoanalysis. The term relational psychoanalysis was first used by Greenberg and Mitchell (1983) to bridge the traditions of interpersonal relations, as developed within interpersonal psychoanalysis and object relations, as developed within contemporary British theory. But, under the seminal work of the late Stephen Mitchell, the term relational psychoanalysis grew and began to accrue to itself many other influences and developments. Various tributaries—interpersonal psychoanalysis, object relations theory, self psychology, empirical infancy research, and elements of contemporary Freudian and Kleinian thought—flow into this tradition, which understands relational configurations between self and others, both real and fantasied, as the primary subject of psychoanalytic investigation.  

We refer to the relational tradition, rather than to a relational school, to highlight that we are identifying a trend, a tendency within contemporary psychoanalysis, not a more formally organized or coherent school or system of beliefs. Our use of the term relational signifies a dimension of theory and practice that has become salient across the wide spectrum of contemporary psychoanalysis. Now under the editorial supervision of Lewis Aron and Adrienne Harris with the assistance of Associate Editors Steven Kuchuck and Eyal Rozmarin, the Relational Perspectives Book Series originated in 1990 under the editorial eye of the late Stephen A. Mitchell. Mitchell was the most prolific and influential of the originators of the relational tradition. He was committed to dialogue among psychoanalysts and he abhorred the authoritarianism that dictated adherence to a rigid set of beliefs or technical restrictions. He championed open discussion, comparative and integrative approaches, and he promoted new voices across the generations.  

Included in the Relational Perspectives Book Series are authors and works that come from within the relational tradition, extend and develop the tradition, as well as works that critique relational approaches or compare and contrast it with alternative points of view. The series includes our most distinguished senior psychoanalysts along with younger contributors who bring fresh vision.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Mental Health
PSYCHOLOGY / Developmental / General
PSYCHOLOGY / Developmental / Lifespan Development