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Self, Social Structure, and BeliefsExplorations in Sociology$
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Jeffrey Alexander

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780520241367

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520241367.001.0001

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Introduction

Introduction

Chapter:
(p.16) (p.17) Introduction
Source:
Self, Social Structure, and Beliefs
Author(s):

Christine L. Williams

Publisher:
University of California Press
DOI:10.1525/california/9780520241367.003.0002

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

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