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American Protestantism in the Age of Psychology Hardcover – July 18, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-1107010673 ISBN-10: 1107010675

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Editorial Reviews


"Stephanie Muravchik illuminates the cultural paths traveled by psychological ideas as they move from their original professional sources into the general public's considerably religious lives. Her richly documented narrative explains how therapeutic concepts have guided American Protestants not only in their quests for transcendence, but also in their search for stronger communal bonds. This is an important cultural and intellectual history of our creative journeys toward faith, fellowship, and responsibility." - Robert C. Fuller, Bradley University

"We know a great deal about economic success, but what is spiritual success? In her incisive challenge to conventional critiques of the therapeutic ethos, Stephanie Muravchik documents three profound and by now enduring examples of the constructive links between the therapeutic aims of psychology and authentic expressions of religious commitment and fellowship. This fine work charts a new path in the historiography of therapeutic culture, one worth following toward a new and more accurate consideration of therapy, religiosity, and democratic order." - Jonathan B. Imber, Wellesley College

"Observers of modern culture have long been trapped in the antithesis between religious community and scientific skepticism. Historians of therapeutic culture have tended to draw bright lines between the healing possibilities of faith, the secular practices of clinical psychology, and the requirements of liberal democracy, placing care of the soul at odds with care of the psyche and the cultivation of citizenship. Muravchik's fascinating and insightful book shows us a way out of this analytical dead end." - Ellen Herman, University of Oregon

"This excellent book argues that faith, and God more specifically, could thrive in the midst of an increasingly therapeutic culture preoccupied with self-help, individualism, and psychological theories." - Gary Laderman, Emory University

"Recommended." -Choice

"[T]he three stories of Protestantism and therapy [Muravchik] tells in the body of the book are well worth the cultural historian's attention. With fine-grained use of archival data and obscure in-house periodicals, she builds concise and clear accounts of how adopting therapeutic practices and values "democratized" and thus transformed the therapeutic ethos even as it aided the larger spiritual and community-building goals of these religious movements." -A. Gregory Schneider, Journal of American History

"American Protestantism in an Age of Psychology is an innovative and important book, and one hopes scholars will follow its lead. Muravchik's analysis definitively rejects the tired slogans of psychology's critics and sparks an exciting new discussion of old-time religion." -Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences

"Muravchik introduces us to the shifting terrain of everyday hopes and struggles among young pastors, recovering alcoholics, the urban poor, and others improvising their faith in daily life. She introduces us to fascinating and understudied figures and has a knack for incorporating biographical notes and anecdotes that bring her narrative to life. . . . Muravchik's book is filled with thoughtful and provocative claims. One of her most provocative was that therapeutic impulses led to civic-mindedness and democratic agency. This fascinating idea, if developed further, would go a long way to revising a longstanding assumption about the impact of therapeutic culture in America." -Christopher G. White, Church History

Book Description

The social history of three major psycho-spiritual movements since World War II - Alcoholics Anonymous, The Salvation Army's outreach to homeless men, and the "clinical pastoral education" movement - reveals that, counter to popular belief, the ubiquitous practice of psychology has not corrupted American faith, eroded civic virtue, and weakened community life.

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American Protestantism in the Age of Psychology
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