Alfred Adler Criticism - Essay

H. M. Kallen (essay date 1925)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Psychology without Compromise," in The Dial, Vol. LXXVIII, March, 1925, pp. 236-39.

[In the following review, Kallen offers a skeptical summary of Adler's system of individual psychology.]

Nowadays, when people talk of the "new psychology," they mean prevailingly the ideas about the human mind deriving from the work of Freud and his associates. Although the custom is to lump this work in a single, solid, homogeneous mass, it is, in fact, still nebular, with three definite heads distinguishable in it. At the centre is the system of human nature constructed and stated, more or less architecturally, by Freud himself and accepted as the incontrovertible orthodoxy by the congregation of the faithful. To the right and to the left are the heterodoxies of Jung, the Swiss, and Adler, the Austrian. Both heterodoxies consist primarily in a rejection or deprecation of the cardinal orthodox dogma regarding the supreme role of sexuality in the life of man from birth to death. Jung absorbs this sexuality in a prior and wider stream of activity which turns his speculations regarding human nature into a metaphysical sentimentalism of the type of Eucken or Bergson. Adler subordinates this sexuality to a prior and wider "will-to-power" which allies his speculations concerning human nature with a metaphysical voluntarism of the type of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Vaihinger. Both philosophers of mind differ from their metaphysical relatives in that they generate their speculative dogmas out of the material provided by means of the technique of psychoanalysis, of which both are practitioners. This technique is the common denominator of the three sects. The rest may be considered what Alder would call "arrangements" of the material drawn out by the technique.

[The Practice and Theory of Individual Psychology] is a redundant compilation of Adlerian "arrangements." It consists of a collection of twenty-eight occasional pieces, the earliest dating from 1911. Their sequence has been made, as nearly as it could be, logical rather than temporal, and the themes mount in technicality and range as the essays proceed. There are subjects as varied as the psychic treatment of trigeminal neuralgia and Dostoevsky; myelodysplasia and the individual-psychology of prostitution. Nevertheless, the essays do not avoid being boresomely repetitious. Dr Radin, in his work of translation, seems not to have succeeded so well as he might have in reducing the unnecessarily technical, involved, and pontificating style of the originals to a direct and readable English. Those who are familiar with Dr Adler's German will, however, not too greatly blame him. They will remember how much worse that is than even the bad German most of the German-speaking psychoanalysts seem to have fallen into.

Adler calls his system of human nature the system of "individual psychology." He intends by this phrase that the psyche of each man is always to be considered an organic and indissoluble unity. It is a...

(The entire section is 1249 words.)

Wayland F. Vaughan (essay date 1927)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Psychology of Alfred Adler," in Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, Vol. XXI, No. 4, January-March, 1927, pp. 358-71.

[In the following essay, Vaughan provides a survey of the tenets of Adler's psychological system.]

The heterodox nature of the Freudian psychology and the authoritative, dogmatic manner of its presentation, both favored the rise of spirited opposition in its train. Prominent among the secessionists are Jung and Adler. Jung has gained a wide audience for his theories through the attractive literary form in which they have been advanced. Adler has been less fortunate in a literary way, for his heavy, involved style has obscured a...

(The entire section is 5128 words.)

Herbert Blumer (essay date 1928)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Understanding Human Nature, in American Journal of Sociology, Vol. XXXIV, No. 2, September, 1928, pp. 391-93.

[In the following review, Blumer provides an assessment of three Adlerian themes: the inferiority feeling, the life-pattern, and the nature of character.]

Of all psychiatrists Dr. Adler seems to be most akin to sociologists in spirit and perspective. In earlier works he has shown a keen appreciation of the rôle of social relations in personal development; in [Understanding Human Nature], which is constructed out of a series of popular lectures, we have the simplest and clearest picture of these views.

Amid a...

(The entire section is 798 words.)

E. L. Grant Watson (essay date 1932)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of What Life Should Mean to You, in The Criterion, Vol. XI, No. XLV, July, 1932, pp. 733-35.

[In the following review, Watson contrasts Adler's stress on social cooperation to the sexual theories of Freud and the metaphysics of Jung.]

No statement on the meaning of life from Dr. Adler can avoid comparison with the statements of Freud and Jung, yet it seems strange that these writers should so consistently neglect each other's conclusions, and should follow exclusively, with what seems an almost compulsive energy, their own lines of thought. Dr. Jung has more than either of the others made allowance for his rivals, and, in relegating them to...

(The entire section is 915 words.)

Oliver Brachfeld (essay date 1936)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Alfred Adler and His Comparative Psychology of Individuals," in Inferiority Feelings in the Individual and the Group, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1951, pp. 73-93.

[In the following excerpt, which was originally published in Spanish in 1936, Brachfeld situates Adler's conception of human nature within the context of a social and philosophical debate over degeneracy.]

In Levin D. Schucking's work The Sociology of Literary Taste we possess an able, if incomplete, study of the changes of fashion in the domain of literature. But no one so far has attempted to give an account of the formation and development of taste in psychological matters. And yet...

(The entire section is 7784 words.)

The Times Literary Supplement (essay date 1958)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Individual Psychologist," in The Times Literary Supplement, No. 2960, November 21, 1958, pp. 665-66.

[In the following review, the critic provides an overview of Adler's life, career, and writings.]

Since Freud's death in 1939 psycho-analysis has certainly not remained stationary. Although the basic method has changed little, several of the major Freudian ideas have undergone considerable revision. In particular, serious attempts have been made to shake off the doctrine of instinct and to replace it by new conceptions of inter-personal relationship. There has also been a shift of interest from the unconscious mechanisms supposed to underlie neurosis to the...

(The entire section is 2678 words.)

Clarence J. Karier (essay date 1986)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Alfred Adler: Social Interest as Religion," in Scientists of the Mind: Intellectual Founders of Modern Psychology, University of Illinois Press, 1986, pp. 226-54.

[In the following excerpt, Karier offers a study of Adler's life and intellectual legacy.]

In the early morning hours of a day in late May 1937, Alfred Adler lay prostrate on a cobblestone street in Aberdeen, Scotland, stricken by a fatal heart attack. When, very much moved by the news, Arnold Zweig reported Adler's death to Sigmund Freud, the latter is said to have replied: "I don't understand your sympathy for Adler. For a Jew boy out of a Viennese suburb a death in Aberdeen is an unheard-of career...

(The entire section is 10586 words.)

Edward Hoffman (essay date 1994)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE:" 'Books Like Firecrackers' and Mass Politics" and "The Trap of Personality," in The Drive for Self: Alfred Adler and the Founding of Individual Psychology, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1994, pp. 248-70, 325-30.

[In the following excerpt, Hoffman discusses a number of Adler's later publications in terms of their political context.]

The spring of 1930 saw the release of [Adler's] three new books, all aimed at a relatively popular audience. These were The Pattern of Life, Guiding the Child, and The Education of Children. Their nearly simultaneous publication in the United States clearly reflected Adler's own shift in professional emphasis from...

(The entire section is 3729 words.)