Travels with the Self: Interpreting Psychology as Cultural History, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Travels with the Self

Interpreting Psychology as Cultural History, 1st Edition

By Philip Cushman


312 pages

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Paperback: 9781138605541
pub: 2018-08-14
Hardback: 9781138605497
pub: 2018-08-14
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pub: 2018-10-09
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Travels with the Self uses a hermeneutic perspective to critique psychology and demonstrate why the concept of the self and the modality of cultural history are so vitally important to the profession of psychology. Each chapter focuses on a theory, concept, sociopolitical or professional issue, philosophical problem, or professional activity that has rarely been critiqued from a historical, sociopolitical vantage point. 

Philip Cushman explores psychology’s involvement in consumerism, racism, shallow understandings of being human, military torture, political resistance, and digital living. In each case, theories and practices are treated as historical artifacts, rather than expressions of a putatively progressive, modern-era science that is uncovering the one, universal truth about human being. In this way, psychological theories and practices, especially pertaining to the concept of the self, are shown to be reflections of the larger moral understandings and political arrangements of their time and place, with implications for how we understand the self in theory and clinical practice.

Drawing on the philosophies of critical theory and hermeneutics, Cushman insists on understanding the self, one of the most studied and cherished of psychological concepts, and its ills, practitioners, and healing technologies, as historical/cultural artifacts — surprising, almost sacrilegious, concepts. To this end, each chapter begins with a historical introduction that locates it in the historical time and moral/political space of the nation’s, the profession’s, and the author’s personal context.

Travels with the Self brings together highly unusual and controversial writings on contemporary psychology that will appeal to psychoanalysts and psychotherapists, psychologists of all stripes, as well as scholars of philosophy, history, and cultural studies.


"Reading Philip Cushman reminds us of what matters in psychotherapy and in human life, and of what seduces us away. Culture, both as situation and as "overwhelming, indispensable" human need, is his subject matter and vocabulary. His clear prophetic voice calls us out on our hypocrisies and temptations to equivocate, while challenging and beguiling us into hermeneutic engagement that might begin to save us in dangerous times."-Donna M. Orange, NYU Postdoc Program and Institute for the Psychoanalytic Study of Subjectivity, New York City; author of The Suffering Stranger and Climate Crisis, Psychoanalysis, and Radical Ethics

"Phil Cushman writes about the self, and brings his own self to this book: his style is both intensely cerebral and deeply personal-- fitting for a champion of hermeneutics. These essays show the development of a restless, questing mind evolving over the course of a fruitful career that has bridged theory, practice, and activism. Throughout, Cushman has held himself--and the profession-- to the highest intellectual and ethical standards. His writings demonstrate both how difficult and how necessary it is to constantly question therapeutic institutions and practices as late capitalism unfolds around us."-Trysh Travis, Center for Gender, Sexualities, and Women's Studies Research, University of Florida, USA

"Travels with the Self is an invitation to voyage, once again, with Philip Cushman—a more gracious and inspiring guide can hardly be imagined. Dr. Cushman is psychology’s foremost theorist of contemporary individualism. His earlier book, Constructing the Self, Constructing America, is a crucial, now classic study of the intertwined topics of selfhood, hermeneutics, and modern culture. How lucky we are to have this superb new book, which probes further while also breaking new ground at the intersection of psychology with politics. Each chapter is filled with Cushman’s signature combination of deep empathy, ethical compass, and critical edge."-Louis Sass, PhD, Distinguished Professor at Rutgers University; author of Madness and Modernism, Revised Edition (2017) and of The Paradoxes of Delusion (1994)

"In this unique and wonderful book, Philip Cushman offers wise and humane reflections on psychotherapy and its cultural history. His critical disclosure of the place of psychotherapy in our world makes the book required reading for every therapist. It is a deeply cohesive, historically and conceptually cumulative anthology from a treasured teacher and scholar. His warm and questioning nature leaps from every page."-Blaine J. Fowers, Ph.D., Professor, Counseling Psychology, University of Miami, author of Frailty, Suffering, and Vice: Flourishing in the Face of Human Limitations

Table of Contents

  1. (2017) Introduction: strange and unexpected travels with the self
  2. (1990) Why the self is empty: Toward a historically stuated psychology (American Psychologist, 45, 599-611)
  3. (1995) What we hold in our hand (APA Annual Convention)
  4. (2000) White guilt, political activity, and the analyst (Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 10, 607-618)
  5. (2000) Will managed care change our way of being? (Co-author Peter Gilford) (American Psychologist, 55, 985-996)
  6. (2003) Welcome to the 21st century, where character was erased: The William James lecture in psychotherapy and ethics (University of Nevada, 1st Annual William James Lecture in Psychological Ethics)
  7. (2005) Between arrogance and a dead-end: Psychoanalysis and the Heidegger-Foucault dilemma (Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 41, 399-417)
  8. (2005) The case of the hidden subway station and Other Gadamerian mysteries (Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 41, 431-445)
  9. (2013) Flattened selves, shallow solutions: A commentary on "The McDonaldization of Psychotherapy" (APA Division 24 MidWinter Meeting)
  10. (2013) Because the rock will not read the article: A discussion of Jeremy D. Safran’s critique of Irwin Z. Hoffman’s “Doublethinking our way to scientific legitimacy” (Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 23, 211-224)
  11. (2013) Your cheatin’ heart: From scientism to medicalization to an unethical psychotherapy (APA Annual Convention)
  12. (2015) Horror, escape, and the struggle with Jewish identity: A Review of Contemporary Psychoanalysis and the Legacy of the Third Reich (Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 51, 176-184)
  13. (2015) Relational psychoanalysis as political resistance (Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 51, 423-459)
  14. (2015) The Golem must live, the Golem must die (APA Annual Convention)
  15. (2016) The earthquake That Is the Hoffman Report on torture: Toward a re-moralization of psychology (APA Annual Convention)
  16. (2017) Living In the politics of uncertainty: Cultural history as generative hermeneutics (APA Division 24 MidWinter Meeting)

About the Author


Philip Cushman

Vashon Island, Washington, United States

Learn more about Philip Cushman >>

Philip Cushman, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist in private practice on Vashon Island, Washington, and retired Clinical Core Faculty member from doctoral programs in psychology at the California School of Professional Psychology (Alameda) and most recently Antioch University Seattle. He has been a member of APA divisions 24, 26, 29, and 39 and the Washington State Religious Campaign Against Torture.

About the Series

Psychoanalysis in a New Key Book Series

When music is played in a new key, the melody does not change, but the notes that make up the composition do: change in the context of continuity, continuity that perseveres through change. Psychoanalysis in a New Key publishes books that share the aims psychoanalysts have always had, but that approach them differently. The books in the series are not expected to advance any particular theoretical agenda, although to this date most have been written by analysts from the Interpersonal and Relational orientations.

The most important contribution of a psychoanalytic book is the communication of something that nudges the reader’s grasp of clinical theory and practice in an unexpected direction. Psychoanalysis in a New Key creates a deliberate focus on innovative and unsettling clinical thinking. Because that kind of thinking is encouraged by exploration of the sometimes surprising contributions to psychoanalysis of ideas and findings from other fields, Psychoanalysis in a New Key particularly encourages interdisciplinary studies. Books in the series have married psychoanalysis with dissociation, trauma theory, sociology, and criminology. The series is open to the consideration of studies examining the relationship between psychoanalysis and any other field – for instance, biology, literary and art criticism, philosophy, systems theory, anthropology, and political theory.

But innovation also takes place within the boundaries of psychoanalysis, and Psychoanalysis in a New Key therefore also presents work that reformulates thought and practice without leaving the precincts of the field. Books in the series focus, for example, on the significance of personal values in psychoanalytic practice, on the complex interrelationship between the analyst’s clinical work and personal life, on the consequences for the clinical situation when patient and analyst are from different cultures, and on the need for psychoanalysts to accept the degree to which they knowingly satisfy their own wishes during treatment hours, often to the patient’s detriment.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Movements / Psychoanalysis
PSYCHOLOGY / Psychotherapy / General
PSYCHOLOGY / Social Psychology