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The great escape: World War II, neo-Freudianism, and the origins of U.S. psychocultural analysis


  • Edward J. K. Gitre

    1. A postdoctoral fellow, Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, University of Virginia, holding a PhD in History from Rutgers University
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    • He is completing a history of mid-twentieth-century conformity in America and has published in Church History and History of the Human Sciences, as well as elsewhere. His research includes the history of the social sciences, transatlantic religious movements, warfare in modern society and culture, and boredom and the history of emotions. Research for this article was partially supported by a generous Special Collections Research Fellowship from the University of Chicago.


Psychocultural analysis stands as a signal accomplishment of the 1930s U.S. assimilation of European refugee-intellectuals. Scholars in the U.S. had been moving toward a kind of psychocultural analysis well in advance of the Great Migration—the U.S. was not an intellectual vacuum or wasteland—nevertheless, it was through their interdisciplinary collaboration, fueled by the specter of war, that these international peers stimulated one of the most wide-ranging, dynamic, and productive exchanges of ideas of the century. Through the lens of Erich Fromm's Escape from Freedom, this article explores psychoculturalism's emergence in the interstices between cultures, nations, ideas, and disciplines—between Europeans and Americans, psychoanalysts and social scientists. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.