Christine L. Williams

in Self, Social Structure, and Beliefs

Published by University of California Press

Published in print September 2004 | ISBN: 9780520241367
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520937857 | DOI:

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Neil Smelser is a professionally trained psychoanalyst who maintained a clinical practice for several years while maintaining and managing his more visible career as academic sociologist and statesman. This fact is not well known to the many who know him principally through his published work. However, his interest in the unconscious, in the irrational and the ambivalent were apparent to his students and to anyone who knows him personally. Smelser taught respect for and inquisitiveness for personality and selfhood, and the conviction that social problems can only be adequately understood by grasping the complex and hidden motives of individuals in social life. In the following three chapters, ambivalence is thoroughly examined and analyzed. Smelser argued that extreme feelings of love and hate are likely to arise in any social situation of high dependency. Ambivalence is experienced in highly idiosyncratic ways, but it tends to elicit predictable responses, such as defense mechanisms. These three chapters demonstrate that accepting ambivalence as a tangible and permanent part of the human condition is the key to achieving a deeper and richer understanding of social life.

Keywords: Neil Smelser; psychoanalyst; academic sociologist; selfhood; defense mechanisms; ambivalence

Chapter.  1514 words. 

Subjects: Social Theory

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