The Protean Self: Human Resilience in an Age of Fragmentation

Robert Jay Lifton, Author Basic Books $25 (272p) ISBN 978-0-465-06420-5
The ``protean self,'' as psychiatrist Lifton defines it, feeds on bits and pieces of experience in our fragmented, deracinated society and continuously reinvents itself. In an ambitious, highly stimulating, original synthesis, the prolific author of Death in Life and The Nazi Doctors contends that the protean self is a phenomenon unique to our centruy. Lifton's growth-oriented, malleable achievers improvise upon the conventional life cycle and seek alternatives to narrowly defined career paths. He profiles protean individuals such as Vaclav Havel, photographer/novelist Gordon Parks and social activists. He tracks the ever-changing self in the fiction of Kurt Vonnegut, Don DeLillo and Gunter Grass. He also interviews Christian fundamentalists, said to be in flight from protean openness, and black ghetto dwellers in whom he found alarming psychic fragmentation. This inspiring essay veers off into social commentary, discussing the U.S. as a laboratory of self-invention and the worldwide plunge into ethnicity. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 11/01/1993
Release date: 11/01/1993
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 276 pages - 978-0-465-06421-2
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