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06/30/92

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Book Digest

Novel of Obsession. In 1989, Stanford psychiatry Professor Irvin D. Yalom wrote the national best-seller Love's Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy. Before that, he wrote classic textbooks on group psychotherapy. Now he's turned his talents to fiction, with When Nietzsche Wept: A Novel of Obsession (Basic Books, August 1992).

Set in 19th-century Vienna on the eve of the birth of psychoanalysis, When Nietzsche Wept is the story of an imagined relationship between the great philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and one of the founding fathers of psychoanalysis, Josef Breuer.

The novel begins when Breuer is asked to treat the suicidal despair Nietzsche feels after the end of a love affair - a difficult task under any circumstances, but virtually impossible in the days when the medical profession did not consider common human misery to fall within its domain.

Breuer, who himself suffers from an obsessive and destructive passion for a former patient, devises an experimental "talking cure" for Nietzsche. But ironically, as he gets to know this dark and lonely genius, the doctor discovers that he can be a healer only by allowing Nietzsche to heal him.

Other characters in the novel include Nietzsche's ex- lover Lou Salome and a young medical intern named Sigmund Freud.

Holmes remembered. When he retired from the Supreme Court at the age of 90 in 1932, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. was revered as a national treasure. Now, in The Legacy of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (Stanford University Press, 1992), seven essayists reassess Holmes as an intellectual, a legal theorist and cultural hero.

The volume begins with a look at Holmes' relations to various strands of Victorian social thought. Other essays examine the development of Holmes' legal thinking, his use - and misuse - of German philosophy, and how he deliberately went about the work of fashioning the public persona of a judge.

The book was edited by Robert W. Gordon, professor of law at Stanford and the author of several works on legal history and theory.

Under the influence. In the United States today, more than 10,000 disciples of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon are engaged in the classic "Moonie" style of recruiting new members. Another 40,000 to 50,000 live mainstream lives in neighborhoods across the country. What makes Moonie recruitment methods as effective as they are?

"It isn't mass hypnosis or brainwashing . . . and it isn't physical force," write psychologists Philip Zimbardo of Stanford and Michael Lieppe of Adelphi University. "The social influence techniques that lead to this relatively rapid religious conversion can be understood in terms of normal psychological processes."

In their book The Psychology of Attitude Change and Social Influence (McGraw-Hill, 1991), Zimbardo and Lieppe explore the psychology of influence tactics, whether they take place in interpersonal settings, persuasion settings (through a charismatic speaker) or through the mass media.

The book is full of everyday examples, as well as research and theoretical viewpoints. It is intended primarily for undergraduates, but others interested in psychology, sociology and communciations also should find the book informative.

"At the practical level," the authors write, "we expect that this knowledge will prove valuable in your everyday life by making you a more successful agent of social influence and a wiser citizen schooled in detecting and resisting unwanted types of influence and obedience to unjust authority."

That's entertainment. Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Randall, in Paris for a conference on Latin America, is tired of the official diplomatic lifestyle, and decides to relive the Paris of his youth. He enlists the aid of his hotel chambermaid, Gabrielle, who, with the help of her many friends, turns his night on the town into a whirlwind tour of the European underground.

So goes Gabrielle (Donald I. Fine, Inc., 1992), an "entertainment" by Albert Guerard, Stanford professor emeritus of English. Written in the style of a Graham Greene novel, the book combines a quick pace and cast of characters with the style and political insight for which his earlier novels were acclaimed.

In addition to many works of literary criticism, Guerard has written several novels, including The Exiles, The Hunted and Maquisard. His past students have included John Updike, Allison Lurie, Jonathan Kozol and Alice Hoffman.

Dependency theories. In the late 1960s, dominant theories of Third World development, most of them rooted in the liberal tradition of Locke, Adam Smith and Weber, were challenged by writers from Latin America and elsewhere. Blending Marxism and nationalism, their "dependency theories" - relating historical sequences and systems of economic and social organization to patterns of national autonomy and national dependency and to various developmental outcomes - transformed a number of scholarly fields, including Latin American and African studies, comparative politics, international political economy and comparative sociology.

Stanford political scientist Robert Packenham's new book, The Dependency Movement: Scholarship and Politics in Development Studies (Harvard University Press, 1992) describes the origins, substantive claims and methods of various dependency theories, drawing on the most influential texts and neglected sources in Portuguese and Spanish.

The author looks at the positive intellectual contributions of dependency ideas, as well as their role in the costly politicization of U.S. scholarship.

Hard-won ignorance. "Social psychology," write psychologists Lee Ross and Richard Nisbett, "rivals philosophy in its ability to teach people that they do not truly understand the nature of the world." The Person and the Situation: Perspectives of Social Psychology (McGraw-Hill, 1991), "is about that hard-won ignorance and what it tells us about the human condition."

Ross of Stanford and Nisbett of the University of Michigan begin with a look at how social psychology challenges fundamental beliefs about human behavior. For example, research shows that individual differences or traits cannot be used to predict precisely how people will behave in new situations. And the effects of social intervention "experiments" can sometimes be far different from what intuition, theories or even the existing psychological literature says they should be.

"The remainder of our book represents an attempt to reconcile common sense and common experience with the empirical lessons and challenges that lie at the core of social psychology," they write. "In so doing, the book seeks to provide an overview of social psychology's primary scientific and intellectual contributions, one that serves to challenge, reform and expand common sense."

-tj-

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