Year of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Department or School/College
Department of History
Michael S. Mayer
Robert Greene, Lynne Koester
psychoanalyst, psychoanalysis, social construction, social norms, American dream, conformity
University of Montana
Cultural History | History | History of Gender | History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Intellectual History | Political History | Social History | United States History | Women's History
This paper surveys how and why psychoanalysis during the 1950s—its “Golden Age” in the United States—emerged as a highly respected professional discipline with great public currency. The prevalence and popularity of psychoanalysts in public culture is substantiated by an extensive survey of primary print sources featuring psychoanalysts opining on many of the major social and political issues of the decade. Combining these opinions with those expressed in professional journals and publications, this paper reveals how psychoanalysts used their growing public currency to shape debates about which social identities and behaviors, cultural values, and political ideals were appropriate and legitimate for Americans during the era. By determining the boundaries between normal and abnormal, and associating some identities, values, and behavior with mental illness, psychoanalysts helped construct and legitimize social and political norms in postwar society. The behaviors and ideals psychoanalysts publicly promoted included marriage, home-ownership, and a new nuclear family; separate gender spheres and clearly defined roles for men and women; heterosexuality; personal industriousness; anticommunism; and individualism. Finally, despite the preeminence of concerns about conformity among intellectuals during the 1950s, and the apparent promise of psychoanalysis to support better self- realization for individuals, the construction and normalization of this limited set of values actually promoted conformity and thwarted individuality.
Kamienski, Daniel P., "Prescribing the American Dream: Psychoanalysts, Mass Media, and the Construction of Social and Political Norms in the 1950's" (2016). Graduate Student Theses, Dissertations, & Professional Papers. 10651.
Cultural History Commons, History of Gender Commons, History of Science, Technology, and Medicine Commons, Intellectual History Commons, Political History Commons, Social History Commons, United States History Commons, Women's History Commons
© Copyright 2016 Daniel P. Kamienski