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The Evolving Self: Problem and Process in Human Development Reprint Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674272316
ISBN-10: 0674272315
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Kegan acknowledges a debt to Piaget, Kohlberg, and the psychoanalytic object-relations theorists. He regards his theory as a synthesis and extension of their views, resulting in a developmental theory that presents a unified conceptualization of affective, cognitive, and moral development. Individual chapters are devoted to each of six developmental stages--their growth and loss. The last chapter explores the implications of the theory for psychotherapy and for implementing growth in everyday life...The theory is elegant...There is much food for thought and many hypotheses for research in Kegan's book. If one has not appreciated the importance of meaning-making as a central concept in personality theorizing, the book might even propel one into the next stage. More likely, the reader will...obtain some important new insights. All in all I recommend the book highly. (Seymour Epstein Contemporary Psychology)

Kegan's great contribution is his description of the powers and difficulties entailed in each of these bases for conducting relations with self and others and his systematizing of considerations involved in changing from one basis to another...Kegan's is indeed a provocative contribution! (Guy E. Swanson American Journal of Education)

Replete with literary allusions and personal anecdotes, this scholarly and appealing discourse represents a fascinating appraisal of the evolution of the self, devoting particular attention to the role of environmental forces which may have crucial impact on the individual. It evaluates, compares, and contrasts the contributions of Piaget, Erikson, Freud, Kohlberg, and others in a refreshing and informative fashion. Written by a clinician, the book also proposes a thought-provoking metatheory of therapy and considers the topic of depression from an evolutionary orientation. [This work is] well articulated and comprehensive in scope. (Lucille F. Halgin Library Journal)

Robert Kegan has created a new perspective of personality development, focusing on the dynamics of the evolving self. The perspective integrates two universal human processes--meaning-making and social development--into a scheme that can be used to derive testable generalizations and simultaneously inform the practice of therapy. A very tall order which he fulfills admirably. (Chris Argyris)

Kegan has written a vigorous, exhilarating, and brilliant book. If it is read with the same grace and modesty and aliveness with which it is written, it could make psychotherapy more useful, psychology richer, and speculation on the nature of being human infinitely more rewarding. (Robert L. Grossman)

A landmark book...[It] proposes to integrate thought and emotion in human development and I responded to it on this double level. Breathlessly I encountered all the disparate ideas I had had about human development in the last ten years, all under one single solidly constructed theoretical roof...It is a book about meaning-making which revises one's own meaning-making in very profound ways. (Sophie Freud Lowenstein Review of Psychoanalytic Books)

A major contribution to the human development literature. Like Freud, Kegan's literary style matches the brilliance of his insights. (William R. Torbert, Boston College)

Review

Robert Kegan has created a new perspective of personality development, focusing on the dynamics of the evolving self. The perspective integrates two universal human processes--meaning-making and social development--into a scheme that can be used to derive testable generalizations and simultaneously inform the practice of therapy. A very tall order which he fulfills admirably. (Chris Argyris) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Problem and Process in Human Development
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; Reprint edition (June 3, 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674272315
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674272316
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #179,947 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Evolving Self is one of the best books that I have ever read. Kegan's eloquent presentation of the dynamic process of human consciousness evolution is incredible. Kegan presents the very best of developmental theory, while at the same time acknowledging and avoiding the trappings that such a perspective tends to fall into. Developmental theory can often lead to a very compartmentalized view of people, but Kegan's emphasis on the person as a meaning-making process sidesteps these tendencies. Throughout his writings, I felt an incredible empathy with the undercurrent of evolution sliding under all personality. Rather than using his model to categorize myself and those around me (as I have an unfortunate inclination to do with developmental theory) I instead found myself identifying with the universal forces that run through all human beings which express themselves in and as the developmental stages. This might perhaps seem like an unimportant semantic shift, but in actuality it discloses a monumental difference between these two stances. This is true precisely because my ability to help another is proportional to the degree to which I can identify with them and their struggles. The warmth of this genuinely empathetic approach to psychological development is refreshing and liberating.
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Format: Paperback
A challenging comprehensive look at human development through the lense of "meaning making" which Kegan asserts is the fundamental human activity. Not interested in developing the five (six if you count the birth stage) stages so much as describing the dynamic of forming (and dissolving) the negotiated "truces" between the need for inclusion (assimilation) and the need for differentiation. On this point, Kegan includes the feminist concern that most developmental research has been done on male subjects (who tend to test out on the differentiation end of what Kegan believes is a continuum) and includes the notion of assimilation in his dynamic helix (the paperback cover drawing is enormously descriptive of the text inside). Kegan is interested in the person who is doing the meaning making and his theory has enormous applicability in the therapeutic project: we are helping a human person whose ability to make meaning of their lives is temporarily in crisis (often because of the very proces of meaning making itself). One should expect this type of crisis because meaning making by its very nature is a process in evolution: various "made meanings" contain within themselves the components of an as yet unrevealed meaning that will come about in the future. When it begins to emerge the human experience will be one of loss of meaning in the service of the new meaning that is to be made. Wonderful, reverential treatment of the subject as meaning maker. Challenging to therapists to maintain their human touch and not pathologize the client by thinking that the present crisis is regression; rather the present crisis is an instance of the attempt to make meaning.Read more ›
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book provides an explanation of the evolution of our sense of self in several dimensions: moral, emotional, intellectual etc. Kegan is an unabashed apologist for Piaget's perspectives on differentiation, but his context Is that of the human as a meaning-making being, and his treatment avoids pathology in favour of a humane, holistic, evolutionary approach.

As other reviewers have said, the language is sometimes inaccessible and borders on the turgid at times, but my sense is that this is a by-product of Kegan's commitment to a holistic unfolding of his thesis. Even though it has nearly 30 years of age on it, this work rewards the reader with a deeper understanding of important dimensions of our shared humanity, which in turn allows a greater depth of respect for the individual.

Another thing that may be of interest: for me, Kegan's treatment of the subject, including his emphases on biology, evolution and self in action, have many correspondences with the work of Humberto Maturana, the biologist. Maturana speaks of "human doings" (rather than human beings), and reading Kegan in the light of Maturana's view of the autopoietic nature of biological life and his notion of close structural coupling illuminate Kegan's "balancing" of the different dynamics of inclusion and autonomy in a rich way.

Now a word of warning: the Kindle edition is a decidedly inferior ripoff. Numerous times, illustrations are missing, replaced with a terse "to view this image, refer to the print version of this title". Who do these people think they are? It seems like sheer thoughtless laziness on Harvard's and/or Amazon's part; the kind of arrogant laziness that large corporations pretending to compete in a monopoly or "cozy oligopoly" marketplace seem to think they can get away with. This omission greatly subtracts from the reading experience and to me is tantamount to misleading and deceptive conduct. Don't buy the Kindle, get it from your library.
1 Comment 37 of 39 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
I happened to read Kegan's, "In Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life," prior to reading "The Evolving Self." While both books were very good, I don't think I gleaned a whole lot of additional insight from "The Evolving Self." So, if you are busy and can only afford to read one or the other of these two books by Kegan, I recommend you select "In Over Our Heads."
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