In her new book, The Psychoanalytic Ear and the Sociological Eye: Toward an American Independent Tradition (Routledge, 2019), Nancy J. Chodorow brings together her two professional identities, psychoanalyst and sociologist, as she also brings together and moves beyond two traditions within American psychoanalysis, naming for the first time an American independent tradition. The book’s chapters move inward, toward fine-tuned discussions of the theory and epistemology of the American independent tradition, which Chodorow locates originally in the writings of Erik Erikson and Hans Loewald, and outward toward what Chodorow sees as a missing but necessary connection between psychoanalysis, the social sciences, and the social world.

Chodorow suggests that Hans Loewald and Erik Erikson, self-defined ego psychologists, each brings in the intersubjective, attending to the fine-tuned interactions of mother and child, analyst and patient, and individual and social surround. She calls them intersubjective ego psychologists—for Chodorow, the basic theory and clinical epistemology of the American independent tradition. Chodorow describes intrinsic contradictions in psychoanalytic theory and practice that these authors and later American independents address, and she points to similarities between the American and British independent traditions.

The American independent tradition, especially through the writings of Erikson, points the analyst and the scholar to individuality and society. Moving back in time, Chodorow suggests that from his earliest writings to his last works, Freud was interested in society and culture, both as these are lived by individuals and as psychoanalysis can help us to understand the fundamental processes that create them. Chodorow advocates for a return to these sociocultural interests for psychoanalysts. At the same time, she rues the lack of attention within the social sciences to the serious study of individuals and individuality and advocates for a field of individuology in the university.

About the Author: Nancy Chodorow, PhD, is a Training and Supervising Analyst at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute; a Lecturer in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School; and Professor Emerita of Sociology at University of California, Berkeley. She has written on gender and sexuality, feminism, the American independent tradition, comparative theory, and psychoanalysis and social science. She is the author of numerous articles and five books, including her groundbreaking publication The Reproduction of Mothering (1978, 1999), and, more recently, Individualizing Gender and Sexuality (2012). She is in private practice in Cambridge, Massachusetts.