"Adjusted to What?"
Maslow was a self-proclaimed patriot, a supporter of the Vietnam War, and an advocate of restrictive population and reproductive control politics whose reaction to the political mood of the 1960s was to call his activist students and colleagues members of the "Spit-on-Daddy Club." As far as he was concerned, they were overindulged, underdisciplined, ungrateful, and impolite. According to Maslow, even his own beloved daughter Ellen was a naive kid who had fallen under the spell of the demagogic leaders and "hard-bitten revolutionaries" in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and other civil rights organizations.
It is ironic indeed that Maslow should have helped to prod an unruly new generation into the use of psychological theory for left-wing purposes. But that is exactly what he did when he pointedly asked,
Adjusted to what? To a bad culture? To a dominating parent? What shall we think of a well-adjusted slave? . . . Clearly what will be called personality problems depends on who is doing the calling. The slave owner? The dictator? The patriarchal father? The husband who wants his wife to remain a child? It seems quite clear that personality problems may sometimes be loud protests against the crushing of one's psychological bones, of one's true inner nature. What is sick then is not to protest while this crime is being committed.
To interrogate the wisdom of passive self-modification, disparage equations between maturity and conformity, and speak out against injustice in the name of one's own psychological integrity became characteristic
features of many 1960s social movements. Their inspiration came, in part, from critiques of adjustment such as Maslow's and from glowing advertisements for self-actualization, which Maslow and the other humanists had elevated to the very pinnacle of human development. Abbie Hoffman was only the most notorious individual to suggest that "Maslovian theory laid a solid foundation for launching the optimism of the sixties." Hoffman, an eager student of Maslow's in the late 1950s and president of the Brandeis psychology club during his senior year, insisted that "everything Maslow wrote [was] applicable to modern revolutionary struggle in America."
To be sure, Maslow protested loudly and repeatedly that his thinking had been misappropriated by Hoffman (a "pathological" publicity seeker) and other countercultural crusaders for human potential. Yet he also recognized a degree of kinship with the "nuts, fringe people, and borderline characters" who were seeking the "peak experiences" he had publicized and celebrated. In the end, Maslow could only clarify his intentions for the record and grudgingly admit that he had no control over the political lessons others extracted from his life work.
In contrast, Rogers did not distance himself from liberal and left-wing activists during the 1960s because he understood their goals to be identical to the goals of humanistic psychology and client-centered psychotherapy: authenticity, intimacy, nonjudgmental empathy, and trust in subjective experience, to name but a few. One of Rogers's last pieces of writing expressed his support for movements among black Americans, students, hippies, and others. "I simply say with all my heart: Power to the emerging person and the revolution he carries within."
During the twenty-five years after 1945, the federal government moved toward methodically governing the mental health of ordinary U.S. citizens, those ordinary citizens moved toward enthusiastically consuming psychotherapeutic services, and psychological experts moved to solidify their authority over every aspect of individual and social life implicated in the manufacture of normality and psychological well-being. The work of theorists and clinicians affiliated with humanistic psychology, such as Rogers and Maslow, demonstrated that the durability of democratic ideas and institutions might even depend upon an intentional quest for better-than-normal psychological development. The absence of mental illness and presence of mental health were no longer sufficient. An ongoing process of conscious becoming, of self-actualization,
in psychotherapy or elsewhere, was necessary to cultural as well as to personal evolution.
Each of the developments described in this chapter expanded psychology's jurisdiction by applying the theories and technologies of clinical expertise to more people in more places for more reasons than before. In so doing, psychological experts helped to stretch the definition of "the political" and alter the goals of political participation. Not only had mental health been encompassed as a legitimate sphere of public action, but subjectivity itself had been exposed as the key to maintaining social stability and attaining prosperity in communities and in the nation. Strengthening feelings of human connection and identification, struggling to adjust, gain insight, and become fully human—these were gradually transformed into important social goals as well as widespread individual preoccupations during the postwar decades.
Not only did the history of clinical experts have public repercussions; it was a significant factor in blurring the lines between culture and politics, between the immediate experience of everyday life and more abstract dialogue on matters of public power and social conflict. Especially during the 1960s, it is possible to see how profoundly clinical vocabulary influenced political thought, political action, and political change. As chapter 10 will show, psychology's cultural progress energized women's collective action during the early years of the second wave of feminism, making the public pursuit of psychological happiness more political than ever.