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Daniel Burston, Ph.D.,
Daniel Burston, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Psychology who holds doctorates in Psychology (1989) and in Social and Political Thought (1985) from York University in Toronto. He is also an Associate of the Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh, and on the Advisory Board of the C. G. Jung Analyst Training Program of Pittsburgh, the Advisory Board of Janus Head, and the Editorial Board of the Journal of the Society for Existential Analysis. His books have been reviewed in numerous journals and newspapers, including: The New York Times Book Review, The New York Review of Books, The Boston Sunday Globe, The Boston Book Review, The New Republic, The Washington Times, The Times, The Sunday Times, The Observer, The Guardian, The Economist, The New Statesman, The New Scientist, The Financial Times, The Globe and Mail, The Jerusalem Post, Library Journal, MacGill’s Literary Journal, The Journal of the History of the Human Sciences, Radical Philosophy, The Australian Journal of Psychotherapy, The Canadian Journal of Psychology and The Canadian Journal of Sociology.
Since 1986, Burston has been an invited and/or keynote speaker at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital (NYC), The Autonomous University of Mexico (Mexico City), The Mexican Institute of Psychoanalysis (Mexico City), The Erich Fromm Society (Tubingen/Munich), The William Alanson White Institute (NYC), The Philadelphia Association (London), The Washington School of Psychiatry (Washington, DC) , The Royal College of Psychiatry (London), The Institute for the History of Psychiatry (Cornell University Medical Center, NYC), McMaster University (Hamilton, Ont.), Austen Riggs Treatment Center (Stockbridge, MA), Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (Pittsburgh, PA) and Division 32 of The American Psychological Association (San Francisco, 2001).
Dr. Burston's most recent book is entitled Erik Erikson and the American Psyche: Ego, Ethics and Evolution. At the peak of his popularity, from 1965-1975, Erik Erikson was the most loved and respected psychoanalyst in the United States. At the same time, in his own estimation, he was also one of the least understood. In the last quarter century, his ideas have often been reduced to sterile formulas and fallen into disuse outside academia, while inside academia, they are often eclipsed by Lacanian and postmodern perspectives. Burston reassesses Erikson's legacy to postmodern America, applying his perspectives on human development to the study of history, religion and a wide range of contemporary social issues, including the decline of literacy and media saturation, global warming, stem cell research, the psychiatric overmedication of children and the looming irrelevance and collapse of Erikson's beloved and beleaguered discipline - psychoanalysis.
His first book, The Legacy of Erich Fromm (Harvard University Press, 1991) emphasizes Fromm's attempt to create a viable Freud/Marx synthesis, his conflicted relationships with the International Psychoanalytic Association and Franfkfurt School of Social Research, and the reasons for his once vast popularity and recent decline into semi-obscurity. He argues that Fromm's critique of the facile tendency to equate adaptation to society or the mere absence of symptoms as the defining criteria of mental health contributed to his stature as a public intellectual, while estranging him from many mental health professionals.
Burston’s second book, The Wing of Madness: The Life and Work of R.D.Laing (Harvard University Press, 1996) looks at another once famous psychoanalyst whose willingness to question the tacit equation between normality and mental health that pervades the mental health professions fueled his surging popularity and subsequent decline. Laing's frontal assault of biological psychiatry, his emphasis on the disturbed individual's search for authenticity, on the social intelligibility of psychotic symptoms and his radical innovations in treatment struck a deep chord with some members of the mental health professions, but antagonized the majority of his psychiatric colleagues.
Whereas The Wing of Madness was an intellectual biography, Burston’s most recent book, The Crucible of Experience: R.D.Laing and the Crisis of Psychotherapy, is an attempt to distill the essence of Laing’s vision. Though it dwells at some length on his approach to psychotherapy, it focuses less on Laing’s relationship to psychiatry and psychoanalysis, and more on the religious and philosophical roots and ramifications of his ideas. While freely acknowledging the tensions and contradictions in Laing’s work , Burston points out that, like Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, Laing was an anti-systematic thinker, who was more concerned with asking the right questions and provoking his readers to question their own fundamental assumptions than he was with providing definitive answers. (For more on this point, click on The Crucible of Experience)