Howard Stein is a brilliant, erudite, gentle, insightful, prolific outsider who even in distant Oklahoma became an extremely respected insider in psychohistory, psychoanthropology, psychogeography, and poetry. For his first few decades in the Sooner State, this transplanted Pennsylvanian, who even a close friend thought was originally a New York Jew, shook his head in wonderment as to how he could be living in middle America. Whatever the origin and place of his intellect, its dimensions are enormous. I was wowed when Howard came to the first International Psychohistorical Association (IPA) meeting in 1978. He presented a brilliant and extremely controversial presentation about Judaism as survival through martyrdom. Little did I know at the time, this young scholar who created such a stir was among the gentlest of colleagues. Through the years I have been admiring and learning a great deal from him. My focus will partly be on his contributions to psychogeography and our understanding of Judaism. However, I would be remiss to not mention the incredible range of his publications, which cover anxiety, cycles of health care, contests for control in health care, ethno-psychology, the ebb and flow in clinical relationships, envy, family neurosis, healing and suffering, medical culture, Midwestern male ethos, the need for enemies, and so much more. A remarkable amount of his work is collaborative, reflecting his ability to work constructively with his colleagues.

Psychogeography

As a psychogeographer, Howard argues that we humans create our world from the substance of our psyche, bodies,

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childhoods, and families, which is followed by projecting it outward. To him, “space is parable” as he explores “psychoanalytic ecology” (Stein, 1986, p. 194), going beyond our tendency to anthropomorphize, he adds our “familiomorphized mothers and fathers that we see in the world” (p. 196). As a European historian and presidential psychobiographer, I am well aware of the way we fantasize about politics; our European-made maps before cartographer Gerardus Mercator’s 1569 map were almost pure fantasy.

Today, we intellectually know the most precise details of the world’s geography, but our emotions lead us to act pretty much the same way as our ancestors, projecting aspects of ourselves in other places and other peoples. Thus on the first day of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, a headline in my local paper reads, “We Are All Ukrainians Today,” and some news programs speak almost as if the U.S. were being attacked. This reminds me that when the U.S. bombed Belgrade during our efforts to end Serbian genocidal activities in the former Yugoslavia, 70% of Russians felt as if Russia was being bombed. As this talented psychogeographer points out, “people perceive and act towards other people, groups, and the phenomenal world as though these were extensions of one’s own body” (Stein, 1986, p. 195). In moments of strong emotion, the inconvenient facts of the reality of geopolitics, including nuclear reality, are nowhere more apparent today as Russian forces besiege Ukraine’s capital. The U.S. and most of Europe identify with the Ukrainians as being like us and sometimes as if they are a part of us. When we struggled against the evils of Nazism in World War II, Soviet Russia was our ally, but we’re not as fully identified with Ukraine today because of Stalin’s purges and its communism. Our ability to identify and empathize with other people is a good thing that can become dangerous when it leads us to ignore the dangers and realities of our world.

While watching the news coverage of the run-up to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it was so striking to see not only ordinary Americans but sometimes the so-called pundits sometimes speak as if we were in control of the world and did not have to fear Russia, the greatest nuclear power. A positive thing that I will say about Donald Trump is that, as a man whose lifelong fantasies focused on buying, selling, and building, but not destroying real estate, there were few indications that he was inclined to go to war. Of course, he did rattle nukes against North Korea, the way Putin did at the beginning of his 2022 Ukraine invasion. A significant number of

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the ancestors of American Jews came from Ukraine, which fits in with Howard Stein’s contributions to the study of Judaism.

Judaism

I was awed and puzzled when Howard came to the first IPA meeting, presenting a brilliant, controversial presentation, “Judaism and the Group-Fantasy of Martyrdom: The Psychodynamic Paradox of Survival Through Persecution.” Throughout my life and especially in the face of overt anti-Semitism as an adolescent and in the U.S. Army, I confronted the meaning of being a Jew and struggled with my own strong secular Jewish identity. Howard’s (Fall 1976) controversial presentation and subsequent article in the Special Issue: Judaism as a Group Fantasy of the Journal of Psychohistory troubled me while exciting my imagination. However, it upset greatly valued colleagues to the point where some chose never to subscribe to the Journal again and dropped out as Contributing Editors.

At the time, it appeared that this very Jewish man, whose father had driven him 25 miles five days a week to synagogue, was acting out youthful rebelliousness, which he would outgrow. I blamed Lloyd deMause, as editor of the Journal, for not working with Howard to moderate what was published. As a journal editor and psychoanalyst, I believe we can say most anything, but we need to consider the timing of what we say and the feelings of our patients and audience. Unfortunately, deMause, as a businessman who worked on the assumption that shock value sold more of his publications, did not believe in moderation. Dr. Stein also greatly compounded the problem when he innocently said yes to the editors of the Journal of Historical Review (1980-2002) when they asked him to republish an article and then a book. At first, he did not know that these were Holocaust deniers, and when he did and was horrified by their distortions of his work, they still published the initial article he wrote for them as a book. In the early 1980s some of this group came to our psychohistory conference with the hope that they would find kindred spirits.

During an early IPA conference, as I went up in the elevator with a good friend who was a hidden child in the Holocaust, upon looking at the Institute for Historical Review nametags, she was emotionally shrinking into the floor as I put my arm around her and glowered at these deniers of the truth of the Shoah. Many years later, when I invited Howard, perhaps the only one of the Ramapo History Club speakers to wear a yarmulka, I had to convince the

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Provost of the college and the Director of the Holocaust Center that Dr. Stein was a brilliant colleague whose work was misused by Holocaust deniers. Fortunately, they did not picket, as I had threatened to do when I heard a known anti-Semite was being considered for an invitation to campus, or otherwise obstruct his presentation.

When he was interviewed by Professor Peter Petschauer as a featured scholar for Clio’s Psyche, Howard Stein (March 2000) said that “While I agree with the content of what I wrote, I find that the tone was often urgent, angry, even desperate” (p. 169). This pioneer in psychogeography has also pointed out the connection between a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe with uncertainty about psychological and geographical borders in the post-Soviet era.

Stein’s Opus

Howard Stein has been an extraordinarily productive scholar with 33 books, some of which he co-authored or edited. He started writing psychoanalytic studies in the 1970s and an early one is The Psychoanthropology of American Culture (1985) published by Lloyd deMause’s Psychohistory Press. In it, he stresses how America is organized around fantasies, fears, and wishes as an organization of our shared anxieties. Howard Stein is an extremely kind man who I am occasionally tempted to call a genius. However, since several times in my life people have called me a genius, I am very suspicious of this usage. Long ago, I decided that a genius is someone who surprises us with knowledge based on knowing something we don’t know and hadn’t even thought about very much, or someone who has published an incredible amount of insights into the human condition. Clearly, Dr. Stein is extremely erudite and perceptive. He also wows me with having published 33 books while I just finished up my ninth, and mine are mostly edited. In reading Psychoanalytic Insights into Social, Political, and Organizational Dynamics: Understanding the Age of Trump (2021), I appreciated his numerous insights. In reading his work I was moved to buy his Listening Deeply: An Approach to Understanding and Consulting in Organizational Culture (2017).

Howard has an appreciation for anything that he’s written and works hard to get it into print. As an editor, I know about this because he makes more inquiries about the status of a submission than almost any other colleague. To an Editorial Associate, I joke that Howard is like a mother hen who really cares for his children. This is a trait I would like to emulate since I often all but forget

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about articles I sweated over writing and rewriting after getting other people’s thoughtful opinions. When in his own humble manner at a professional meeting Howard makes a suggestion, I find that I and others listen most carefully and are inclined to take action. For example, while I have often said I can’t possibly write poetry and don’t even like modern poetry because it doesn’t rhyme, when at his IPA presentation, Howard not only lauded the value of poetry in getting to the unconscious rapidly and effectively, but he also suggested that each person in the audience should take a few minutes to think about something and write a poem about it. Putting aside a half-century of a self-fulfilling prophecy of my not being able to write in this medium of literature, I immediately put together a brief poem about my new office, which I love. When no other hands went up to volunteer to read the poem that might have been created in those few minutes, I raised my hand, and even read it aloud to the assembled plenary audience. This prompted me to write a second poem, “Psychohistory,” which is now published in a book. While I may never write a third poem because of the necessary subtlety that I lack to create the best work in this medium, I am still happy with my first two efforts. For these, I thank the amiable Dr. Stein.

Part of my admiration for Dr. Stein is that he has joined with others to build psychoanalysis. When he was asked to edit The Journal of Psychological Anthropology, he insisted that its title be changed to The Journal of Psychoanalytic Anthropology, despite the publisher’s fears that this would lessen the number of readers. Perhaps the name change made no difference in this regard, but regrettably, the inadequate readership resulted in the inevitable shuttering of the journal, which was a tough blow to his talented editor. As a founding member of the Group for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organization, Howard extended the reach of our scholarship in a way that I love since I’ve come to think of myself as a psychohistorical imperialist. Businesses, governmental agencies, hospitals, and all sorts of groups desperately need the considered insights of those who think in psychoanalytic terms. I’m all the more amazed that Howard has done this so well since in Oklahoma he lacked access to analytic training. Perhaps not being trained in analysis left him feeling freer to push its boundaries.

While Lloyd deMause introduced the idea of the IPA as a self-analytic group, in its early days after the wonderful inaugural analysis of John Hartman and his female colleague, this lofty goal

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backfired and hampered the growth and the harmony within the membership. When Howard Stein took over the position of Group Process Analyst, it worked very well and perhaps even better than in the hands of Mel Goldstein, Mel Kalfus, Henry Lawton, and me, as well as faring far better than when Lloyd deMause and Casper Schmidt handled it. Although even without the benefit of psychoanalytic training, Howard is an unusually careful, empathetic, and sympathetic listener.

Individuals of Rare Talent

As a scholar who had the incentive of becoming a psychoanalyst so I could be the best possible psychohistorian to justify entering analysis (at a time when I really needed the benefits of therapy), I am struck by how some colleagues can become such good psychohistorians, group analysts, and even therapists without these enormous advantages. The first of the three who come to mind is the late Henry Lawton (1941-2014). For years, I worked as a close friend to get Henry into psychoanalysis and then psychoanalytic training, which had been one of his dreams. He did some wonderful psychohistorical work before he finally entered analysis; however, the cost and ill health prevented him from fulfilling the dream of psychoanalytic training.

My second example is a talented colleague who by attending psychohistory classes and the IPA went from being a “Nowhere Man” (from a Beatles song) to a highly productive colleague. Yet even without psychoanalytic training or personal therapy, he has become a wonderful clinician and psychohistorian. I am amazed and puzzled at how some individuals can grow so well without the advantages that made my psychohistorical career possible. I suspect it has a lot to do with his personality as an individual who can, like Freud, break ground without the advantages of a transference object, that is, a psychoanalyst or other clinician. Perhaps, like some assert that Freud used Fleiss as his transference object, these uniquely talented colleagues have had friends or spouses they could rely on. I regret that he prefers to remain anonymous as I praise him.

Now let’s move on to the subject of this Festschrift, who I suspect has had therapy if not analysis. When I asked Howard (personal communication, 10/14/2021) how he could do such excellent and often pathbreaking work without having psychoanalytic training, he wrote: “With respect to the centrality of using countertransference in all my scholarly, clinical, consulting, poetry, and

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stories, I hope that the fact I have not been through formal analytic training,” he rightfully declares, “does not disqualify me from using a large universe of psychodynamic theories, methods, applications in my work, including countertransference—since the mid-1960’s. My ‘analytic training’ comes from life, experience, reading primary and secondary sources, and many wonderful analysts-friends-colleagues-books-mentors along the way.” When I read some of his work, I am in awe of his ability to use his countertransference so well and be such a pathbreaking psychoanalytic anthropologist and psychohistorian.

Conclusion

Howard Stein has been a rare gift to group process, poetry, psychoanalytic anthropology, psychohistory, and all those who’ve had the pleasure of his knowledge and personality. Had time allowed, I would have written a separate article on his extraordinary contributions to psychogeography. I just read a thoughtful article on the psychology of Jewish self-hatred, which paled in comparison to his brilliant 1976 contribution that caused such a stir. I love his belief in his scholarship, which leads him to become like a mother hen in working toward the publication of everything he writes, including his 33 books. I am proud to call Howard a friend and to have inaugurated this Clio Festschrift.

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References:

  • Petschauer, Peter (March 2000). An intellectual odyssey. Clio’s Psyche, 6(4), pp. 162-172.

Authors:

Paul H Elovitz

Dr. Paul H. Elovitz, PhD, began organizing scholarly meetings when he started as a faculty member at Ramapo College and then as convener of the Institute for Psychohistory Saturday Workshops (1975-1982). In 1982 he founded the Psychohistory Forum to nurture psychohistorical research and continues to lead its Executive Council. In 1994 he created Clio’s Psyche (cliospsyche.org) to publish its scholarship, of which he is Editor-in-Chief. Prof. Elovitz is a historian, psychoanalytic researcher, and author of about 400 publications, covering presidential psychobiography, teaching, documenting the field of psychohistory, and much more. After taking his doctoral degree in history, he trained and practiced as a psychoanalyst, and in 2019 was made the first Research Psychoanalyst by the New Jersey Institute for Psychoanalysis. Elovitz is the author of The Making of Psychohistory, editor of The Many Roads of the Builders of Psychohistory, and edited or wrote eight other books. He is a founding member and past president of the International Psychohistorical Association (1978-) who serves on its leadership council and presents at all meetings. Prof. Elovitz is a founding faculty member at Ramapo College who previously taught at Temple, Rutgers, and Fairleigh Dickinson universities. He may be contacted at cliospsycheeditor@gmail.com.

How to Cite This:

Elovitz, P. H. (2022). Stein’s contributions to group psychohistory, Judaism, and psychogeography. In D. R. Beisel, P. H. Elovitz, & N. D’Andria (Eds.), Howard Stein Festschrift. Clio’s Psyche, 28(3), 280-286.

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