The pragmatist project of the interdisciplinary journal Psychiatry
Keywords:Pragmatism, Interpersonal Psychiatry, Interdisciplinarity, Rhetoric of Science, Language and Personality, Social Formation of Self, Harry Stack Sullivan
The interdisciplinary journal Psychiatry, founded in 1938 by the psychiatrist Harry Stack Sullivan, provided a remarkable interdisciplinary forum for such outstanding social scientists as Edward Sapir, Harold Lasswell, Ruth Benedict, Gregory Bateson, Ashley Montague, Lev Vygotsky, Erich Fromm, Erving Goffman, A. H. Maslow, and Robert Merton. The journal sought an interdisciplinary synthesis concerning personality, problems of living, and community mental health. Almost all of the major contributors to the early years of the journal drew strongly on the pragmatic tradition. In that tradition, Sullivan saw language shaping the development of personality and the interactions that constitute social life. Major themes of articles in the journal included the relation of personality of culture, the relation of the political order to the psychic order, propaganda and the creation of public and private meaning, racial and gender issues, and social arrangements influencing mental health. While pursuing the many dimensions of being human revealed by the different social sciences, the journal never developed an integrative theory to create a coherence among the many thematic strands and disciplinary perspectives on its pages. The journal also never developed an adequate account of how language served a central role in mediating personality development and social interactions. With the added theoretical and methodological tools now at our disposal we may be in a position to advance the unfinished project proposed by this journal.
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