Year of Award


Document Type

Professional Paper

Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of History

Committee Chair

Michael S. Mayer

Commitee Members

Robert Greene, Lynne Koester


psychoanalyst, psychoanalysis, social construction, social norms, American dream, conformity


University of Montana

Subject Categories

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.



© Copyright 2016 Daniel P. Kamienski