Making extensive use of his clinical studies, McAdams examines the stories of highly generative Americans-people with strong commitments to the well being of their country, community and family. A narrative psychologist, McAdams is not concerned with diagnosing his subjects or deciding whether the events they describe actually happened. His purpose, instead, is to understand why his subjects tell the kinds of stories they do, which makes the book feel more like social history or literary criticism than clinical psychology. "It is to the best-adjusted, most fully functioning, and most productive and caring adults...that I have turned to to discern some of what is most characteristic and problematic in American culture." McAdams draws on a vast range of sources to provide the context for this effort: Puritan confessions, slave narratives, Horatio Alger success stories, 20th-century self-help classics, developmental psychology, the lives of Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln and Oprah Winfrey, as well as back issues of People magazine. Although the first half of the book, where McAdams argues for the existence of his redemptive paradigm, is repetitive, the second half is a delight, particularly his chapters on race and on nongenerative life stories. Sociologists and psychologists will undoubtedly find this book appealing, but McAdams makes complex topics accessible to the nonspecialist, so the book will likely interest anyone looking to learn more about American culture or McAdams's obscure branch of psychology.
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"The Redemptive Self" by Dan McAdams is part cutting-edge psychology and part American history. Drawing on his rich research examining people's life stories, McAdams explores how successful people look back and describe their lives. He finds that the successful or generative life story is one characterized by overcoming adversity, connections with others, and a belief in the future. This common story is, in many ways, the story of America itself. It is the story we like to tell about our past, our leaders, and ultimately ourselves. McAdams constructs a compelling story of his own by drawing on philosophy, history, neuroscience, religion, and psychology. As with his other books, this is a great read." --James W. Pennebaker, Professor of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin
"In a book that beautifully encompasses imagination and civilization, eminent psychologist Dan McAdams has fashioned a lively and persuasive account of the manner in which we Americans account for our lives. McAdams shows that our personal identity is founded on the stories we tell about our own lives and on our shared membership in the American community, which itself leads to a broad cultural story about enjoying an early advantage in life, being aware of the suffering of others, and transforming our own and others' adversity into an ever more positive future. The Redemptive Self is an elegant masterpiece that dramatically integrates psychology into the realm of human affairs - a memorable book that readers will recommend to their friends." --Bertram J. Cohler, William Rainey Harper Professor, The University of Chicago
"McAdams has produced a book that shows what is distinctive about Americans' stories--and what is wonderful and also not so wonderful about that distinction. It is a book that can be read for pleasure and insight by psychologists, sociologists, political scientists, and historians, but also by just about anyone who would like to know what it is that distinguishes Americans from others in the rest of the world. I recommend the book highly and with enthusiasm." --Robert J. Sternberg, IBM Professor of Psychology and Education, Department of Psychology, Yale University and Director, Center for the Psychology of Abilities, Competencies, and Expertise (PACE Center), Yale University; Past-President, American Psychological Association
"Making extensive use of his clinical studies, McAdams examines the stories of highly generative Americans--people with strong commitments to the well being of their country, community and family...a delight, particularly his chapters on race and on nongenerative life stories. Sociologists and psychologists will undoubtedly find this book appealing, but McAdams makes complex topics accessible to the nonspecialist, so the book will likely interest anyone looking to learn more about American culture or McAdam's branch of psychology."--The Publisher's Weekly Review Annex
"[A] penetrating and fascinating psychological, sociocultural, and historical analysis of...America as it expresses itself in a comprehensive story that the author calls 'the redemptive self.'.... McAdams has authored a very ambitious book that succeeds in great measure."--PsycCRITIQUES
"...a readable, lively work by a skillful storyteller, and it has won the 2006 William James Award from the American Psychological Association for best general-interest book in psychology. The tale McAdams offers is as rich and nuanced as a fine novel...a tour de force, a model of how cultural criticism should be conducted."--Christian Century
"Dan P. McAdams' recent book, The Redemptive Self: Stories Americans Live By, is a complex and inspiring examination of American life stories. The book considers some defining American traitsand shows how such beliefs help shape the personal narratives of many who have chosen to work toward the benefit of others..... [A] compelling, well-written work.... It invites personal reflection and a personal response. It speaks with its own narrative voice that is at once approachable and authoritative. [McAdams] has genuine admiration for these individuals and the life stories they tell, and he recounts their stories in a way that engenders this same admiration in the reader." --The Journal of Positive Psychology