Lawrence J. Friedman is a multi-faceted colleague: a baseball fan, historian, mentor, organizer of Public Intellectuals conferences, political activist, psychobiographer, and psychohistorian. Among Larry’s many activities and accomplishments were his serving as an Associate Editor of the Psychohistory Review for 15 years and his presence on the Board of International Advisors of the Psychoanalysis and History journal. He was also a member of Robert Jay Lifton’s Wellfleet psychohistory group. (Mark West has commented on the fascinating accounts Larry has given about attending Robert Jay Lifton’s Wellfleet group.) Professor Friedman is open to new ideas, thus when he noticed in The History of Psychohistory (2018) a reference to deMause’s The Emotional Life of Nations (2002), he enthusiastically declared it to be a brilliant idea. I agreed while pointing out that the evidential base for the book was so weak that it undercut the concept.

It is only in the 21st century that I got to know this talented colleague. Earlier on, I had attempted to introduce him to the New York-based psychohistorical circle that I had been organizing since the mid-1970s, but apparently, he had heard too much about the badmouthing of anyone associated with Lloyd deMause. Regrettably, this was commonplace among colleagues in the Midwest and elsewhere. In all fairness, this came about because of several factors. One reason was the rivalry between those associated with the Group for the Use of Psychoanalysis in History (GUPH)/Psychohistory Review and deMause’s Institute for Psychohistory/Journal of Psychohistory/International Psychohistorical Association (IPhA). Then there was the pioneering psychohistorian Peter Loewenberg, who for years denigrated the New York group because of Lloyd’s various missteps and claims that psychohistory was a science, which led Peter to leave the Journal’s Editorial Board. However, when Charles Strozier moved to New York from Illinois to assist Robert Jay Lifton in running the newly founded

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psychohistorically based Center on Violence and Human Survival, more historians in the Midwest began to understand that not everything emanating out of Manhattan should be ostracized. Chuck Strozier was delighted to then accept being a featured speaker at the IPhA, leading Friedman and others in the Midwest to realize that there were solid historical psychological colleagues who, while associating and building psychohistory with Lloyd deMause, were as critical of deMause’s extreme views as they were.

Lawrence J. Friedman’s outstanding psychobiographical studies of the Menningers, Erik Erikson, and Erich Fromm deserve to be read repeatedly. They are a tribute to outstanding psychohistory, reflecting the intense archival work of a well-trained psychological historian who also knows how to tell a good story. His scholarship has led to his lecturing in 11 different countries and building friendships around the world. I have learned of Larry’s many talents through his writing as well as in his presentations to the Psychohistory Forum and our personal communications.

Although he boasts of his childhood correspondence with the Yankee great Yogi Berra, Larry is an intense Yankee hater and fan of the Cleveland Indians (whoops, I mean Cleveland Guardians). As an 18-year-old, he had tried out to pitch for one of their Ohio farm teams. In our early years of personal communications, I was at first put off by his denigration of the Yankees. It took me a while to realize that I could just be joshing with him about baseball and defending my beloved Yankees. As I write at the moment, it’s still up for grabs as to whether Cleveland or New York will emerge from their five-game playoff series as the victor: Larry and I have a gentleman’s bet on the outcome (usually the bet is for lunch or dinner, but at the moment, we are forced into a bi-coastal relationship, and eating virtually just isn’t the same thing as sitting at the table with a friend).

As a passionate storyteller, Larry excels, although he can be a bit of a tease. Such as when he was enthusiastically starting to tell me about his friendship with then Vice President designate Biden, who in 2008 came to Indiana to campaign with him for the Obama ticket, resulting in a Democratic win (as Larry tells it). As I sat at the edge of my seat, waiting for some wonderful information that I knew I might not be able to share with anyone (as an analyst, I learned how to never reveal something spoken in confidence), Larry clammed up. Perhaps this was for good reason since Biden was about to step into the White House. It would have been

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wonderful to have known Larry during his days as a Freedom Rider helping disenfranchised Southern Blacks to have the courage to risk their lives by voting. I have no doubt that the stories would have been exciting and wonderful. His commitment to social justice led him to write the book The White Savage: Racial Fantasies in the Postbellum South (1970), which I had vainly hoped someone would write about in detail for this Festschrift.

Larry’s politics lean to the Left, but he knows his own mind, as when he told his Communist parents after Party leader Gus Hall, upon release from jail in the 1950s, slept in their house: “He’s a dumb shit” (Elovitz & Lentz, December 2003, p. 102). This was much to the chagrin of his father and the agreement of his mother. As a result of the Cold War, the contributions of American Communists fighting for their ideals and the rights of Blacks, women, workers, and humankind in general, have been regrettably forgotten. As he said in his 2003 interview for this journal: “I was a sympathizer. [But Hall and] The Party did a lot of stupid things” such as being anti-Gorbachev (Elovitz & Lentz, December 2003, p. 102). Like most who came out of these Leftish traditions, he ended up a supporter of the progressive aspects of the Democratic Party. Despite the predictable conservative reaction under Trump to the extension of rights, many of the ideals American Communists contributed to have become embedded in our society.

Larry’s mentoring of colleagues, both young and old, is key to why we have many contributions to the Clio Festschrift in his honor. Larry, upon fulfilling his Harvard dream and moving to Metropolitan Boston, would speak at length about graduate students and other young scholars he was mentoring and working to connect with the Psychohistory Forum in New York as well as Clio’s Psyche. Professor Friedman went out of his way (and got me to do the same) to help Professor Pilar Damião de Medeiros gain tenure through an invitation to present in the United States, though the trip itself never materialized. He not only helped Mark West, now the Bonnie E. Cone Professor in Civic Engagement and English at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, as a member of his dissertation committee, but he also helped get Mark a job at the Menninger Foundation. Professor West has done so much to solicit submissions for this Clio Festschrift; many colleagues enjoy reciprocating Friedman’s generosity. While it is tempting to write that Larry epitomizes Erikson’s generativity in later life, since at Indiana University he was a Professor of History and Philanthropy, his

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giving has been a career-long activity.

Professor Friedman is an outstanding example of a public intellectual who delights in this task and advocates for change publicly and in politics while organizing Public Intellectual meetings at Harvard. Graduate students loved being invited and sitting next to world-famous intellectuals. I asked him, “How can psychologically oriented scholars have more influence in academia and on society in general?” He responded: “We need to rediscover the public intellectual tradition and write for broader audiences. We should get out there in the real world and fight real problems, and attend fewer department meetings. We should never aspire to be deans and chairs. That experience [as Coordinator of Graduate Studies in History, 1989-1993] nearly did me in” (Elovitz & Lentz, December 2003, p. 108). This is excellent advice, although I do have some thoughts about interviewing colleagues such as the president of Wesleyan College to see how he’s managed to avoid this pitfall

There is so much that one can say and celebrate about Professor Lawrence J. Friedman, who is an extraordinarily productive and multi-faceted person. Despite the health problems that incline to come with age and my wish for him to enjoy his daughter and grandsons during his retirement in Washington state, I know it is psychological history that does so much to motivate him. So, for the sake of our field, and especially knowledge of the prelude to the Cold War, I wish him every success in finishing his wonderful forthcoming book, A World Without Nations: Pragmatic Visionaries and the Quest for Global Peace. I also wish that the many younger scholars who he has inspired will emulate his incredible contributions as a colleague, mentor, public intellectual, scholar, and teacher.

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References:

  • Elovitz, Paul H., & Lentz, Bob (December 2003). Lawrence J. Friedman: Psychohistorian. Clio’s Psyche, 10(3), 75, 101-108.

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 .

How to Cite This:

Elovitz, P. H. (2023). An outstanding psychobiographer, psychohistorian, and organizer of public intellectual events. In M. I. West, P. H. Elovitz, & N. D’Andria (Eds.), Lawrence Jacob Friedman Festschrift. Clio’s Psyche, 29(3), 321-324.

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