Best Selling Books by Robert Jay Lifton

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release date: Oct 03, 2017
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The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President

The New York Times bestseller! More than two dozen psychiatrists and psychologists offer their consensus view that Trump's mental state presents a clear and present danger to our nation and individual well-being.

This is not normal.

Since the start of Donald Trump’s presidential run, one question has quietly but urgently permeated the observations of concerned citizens: What is wrong with him? Constrained by the American Psychiatric Association’s “Goldwater rule,” which inhibits mental health professionals from diagnosing public figures they have not personally examined, many of those qualified to answer this question have shied away from discussing the issue at all. The public has thus been left to wonder whether he is mad, bad, or both.

In THE DANGEROUS CASE OF DONALD TRUMP, twenty-seven psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health experts argue that, in Mr. Trump’s case, their moral and civic “duty to warn” America supersedes professional neutrality. They then explore Trump’s symptoms and potentially relevant diagnoses to find a complex, if also dangerously mad, man.

Philip Zimbardo and Rosemary Sword, for instance, explain Trump’s impulsivity in terms of “unbridled and extreme present hedonism.” Craig Malkin writes on pathological narcissism and politics as a lethal mix. Gail Sheehy, on a lack of trust that exceeds paranoia. Lance Dodes, on sociopathy. Robert Jay Lifton, on the “malignant normality” that can set in everyday life if psychiatrists do not speak up.

His madness is catching, too. From the trauma people have experienced under the Trump administration to the cult-like characteristics of his followers, he has created unprecedented mental health consequences across our nation and beyond.

It’s not all in our heads. It’s in his.

"There will not be a book published this fall more urgent, important, or controversial than The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump...profound, illuminating and discomforting" ―Bill Moyers

release date: Oct 10, 2017
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The Climate Swerve: Reflections on Mind, Hope, and Survival

Over his long career as witness to an extreme twentieth century, National Book Award–winning psychiatrist, historian, and public intellectual Robert Jay Lifton has grappled with the profound effects of nuclear war, terrorism, and genocide. Now he shifts to climate change, which, Lifton writes, "presents us with what may be the most demanding and unique psychological task ever required of humankind," what he describes as the task of mobilizing our imaginative resources toward climate sanity.

Thanks to the power of corporate-funded climate denialists and the fact that "with its slower, incremental sequence, [climate change] lends itself less to the apocalyptic drama," a large swathe of humanity has numbed themselves to the reality of climate change. Yet Lifton draws a message of hope from the Paris climate meeting of 2015 where representatives of virtually all nations joined in the recognition that we are a single species in deep trouble.

Here, Lifton suggests in this lucid and moving book that recalls Rachel Carson and Jonathan Schell, was evidence of how we might call upon the human mind―"our greatest evolutionary asset"―to translate a growing species awareness―or "climate swerve"―into action to sustain our habitat and civilization.

release date: Apr 12, 1988
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The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide
Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize

With a new preface by the author

In his most powerful and important book, renowned psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton presents a brilliant analysis of the crucial role that German doctors played in the Nazi genocide. Now updated with a new preface, The Nazi Doctors remains the definitive work on the Nazi medical atrocities, a chilling exposé of the banality of evil at its epitome, and a sobering reminder of the darkest side of human nature.
release date: Apr 11, 2003
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Cults in Our Midst: The Continuing Fight Against Their Hidden Menace
Cults today are bigger than ever, with broad ramifications for national and international terrorism. In this newly revised edition of her definitive work on cults, Singer reveals what cults really are and how they work, focusing specifically on the coercive persuasion techniques of charismatic leaders seeking money and power. The book contains fascinating updates on Heaven's Gate, Falun Gong, Aum Shinrikyo, Hare Krishna, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, and the connection between cults and terrorism in Al Queda and the PLO.
release date: May 16, 2017
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The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide
Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize

With a new preface by the author

In his most powerful and important book, renowned psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton presents a brilliant analysis of the crucial role that German doctors played in the Nazi genocide. Now updated with a new preface, The Nazi Doctors remains the definitive work on the Nazi medical atrocities, a chilling exposé of the banality of evil at its epitome, and a sobering reminder of the darkest side of human nature.
release date: Jun 14, 2011
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Witness to an Extreme Century: A Memoir
On a fateful day in the spring of 1954 Robert Jay Lifton, a young American psychiatrist just discharged from service in the Korean War, decided to stay in Hong Kong rather than return home—changing his life plans entirely—so that he could continue work that had enthralled him, interviewing people subjected to Chinese thought reform. He had plunged into uncharted territory in probing the far reaches of the human psyche, as he would repeatedly in the years ahead, and his Hong Kong research provided the first understanding of the insidious process that came to be known as brainwashing.

From that day in Hong Kong forward, Lifton has probed into some of the darkest episodes of human history, bearing his unique form of psychological witness to the sources and consequences of collective violence and trauma, as well as to our astonishing capacity for resilience.

In this long-awaited memoir, Lifton charts the adventurous and constantly surprising course of his fascinating life journey, a journey that took him from what a friend of his called a “Jewish Huck Finn childhood” in Brooklyn to friendships with many of the most influential intellectuals, writers, and artists of our time—from Erik Erikson, David Riesman, and Margaret Mead, to Howard Zinn and Kurt Vonnegut, Stanley Kunitz, Kenzaburo Oe, and Norman Mailer.

In his remarkable study of Hiroshima survivors, he explored the human consequences of nuclear weapons, and then went on to uncover dangerous forms of attraction to their power in the spiritual disease he calls nuclearism. During riveting face-to-face interviews with Nazi doctors, he illuminated the reversal of healing and killing in ordinary physicians who had been socialized to Nazi evil. With Vietnam veterans he helped create unprecedented “rap groups” in which much was revealed about what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder, helping veterans draw upon their experience for valuable, even prophetic, insights about atrocity and war. As a pioneer in psychohistory, Lifton’s encounters with the consequences of cruelty and destructiveness led him to become a passionate social activist, lending a powerful voice of conscience to the suppressed truths of the Vietnam War and the dangers of nuclear weapons.

Written with the warmth of spirit—along with the humor and sense of absurdity—that have made Lifton a beloved friend and teacher to so many, Witness to an Extreme Century is a moving and deeply thought-provoking story of one man’s extraordinary commitment to looking into the abyss of evil in order to help us move beyond it.
release date: Jul 24, 2014
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Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of Brainwashing in China
2014 Reprint of 1961 Edition. Full facsimile of the original edition, not reproduced with Optical Recognition Software. Lifton's research for the book began in 1953 with a series of interviews with American servicemen who had been held captive during the Korean War. In addition to interviews with 25 Americans, Lifton also interviewed 15 Chinese who had fled their homeland after having been subjected to indoctrination in Chinese universities. From these interviews, which in some cases occurred regularly for over a year, Lifton identified the tactics used by Chinese communists to cause drastic shifts in one's opinions and personality and "brainwash" American soldiers into making demonstrably false assertions. This work has become a classic text in the field and continues to serve as a fundamental guide in the debriefing of former cult members. Lifton's famous eight criteria for thought control are: Milieu Control. This involves the control of information and communication both within the environment and, ultimately, within the individual, resulting in a significant degree of isolation from society at large. Mystical Manipulation. There is manipulation of experiences that appear spontaneous but in fact were planned and orchestrated by the group or its leaders in order to demonstrate divine authority or spiritual advancement or some special gift or talent that will then allow the leader to reinterpret events, scripture, and experiences as he or she wishes. Demand for Purity. The world is viewed as black and white and the members are constantly exhorted to conform to the ideology of the group and strive for perfection. The induction of guilt and/or shame is a powerful control device used here. Confession. Sins, as defined by the group, are to be confessed either to a personal monitor or publicly to the group. There is no confidentiality; members' "sins," "attitudes," and "faults" are discussed and exploited by the leaders. Sacred Science. The group's doctrine or ideology is considered to be the ultimate Truth, beyond all questioning or dispute. Truth is not to be found outside the group. The leader, as the spokesperson for God or for all humanity, is likewise above criticism. Loading the Language. The group interprets or uses words and phrases in new ways so that often the outside world does not understand. This jargon consists of thought-terminating clichés, which serve to alter members' thought processes to conform to the group's way of thinking. Doctrine over person. Member's personal experiences are subordinated to the sacred science and any contrary experiences must be denied or reinterpreted to fit the ideology of the group. Dispensing of existence. The group has the prerogative to decide who has the right to exist and who does not. This is usually not literal but means that those in the outside world are not saved, unenlightened, unconscious and they must be converted to the group's ideology. If they do not join the group or are critical of the group, then they must be rejected by the members. Thus, the outside world loses all credibility. In conjunction, should any member leave the group, he or she must be rejected also.
release date: Nov 01, 1999
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The Protean Self: Human Resilience in an Age of Fragmentation
"We are becoming fluid and many-sided. Without quite realizing it, we have been evolving a sense of self appropriate to the restlessness and flux of our time. This mode of being differs radically from that of the past, and enables us to engage in continuous exploration and personal experiment. I have named it the 'protean self,' after Proteus, the Greek sea god of many forms."—from The Protean Self

"A fascinating and appealing book. . . . As he revises the psychology of the self, Dr. Lifton is subtle, even profound, in drawing a line between multiplicity and fragmentation. To those who are nostalgic for the age of the unitary ego, his message is that it is better to be fluid, resilient and on the move than to be firm, fixed, self-assured and settled. To those who worry that the post-modern age is an age of shattered selves, dissociative states, multiple personality disorders and identity diffusion, Dr. Lifton brings the good news that discontinuity can be a mirror of reality, and the standard for a reasonable life."—Richard A. Shweder, New York Times

"Lifton has challenged the conventional social-scientific wisdom of the last half century. . . .He has called attention to the emergence of a new form of self and considered it in a bold and imaginative light."—Howard Gardner, Boston Book Review
release date: Nov 25, 1991
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Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima
In Japan, "hibakusha" means "the people affected by the explosion--specifically, the explosion of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima in 1945. In this classic study, winner of the 1969 National Book Award in Science, Lifton studies the psychological effects of the bomb on 90,000 survivors. He sees this analysis as providing a last chance to understand--and be motivated to avoid--nuclear war. This compassionate treatment is a significant contribution to the atomic age.

release date: Dec 06, 2004
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Why Did They Kill?: Cambodia in the Shadow of Genocide (California Series in Public Anthropology)
Of all the horrors human beings perpetrate, genocide stands near the top of the list. Its toll is staggering: well over 100 million dead worldwide. Why Did They Kill? is one of the first anthropological attempts to analyze the origins of genocide. In it, Alexander Hinton focuses on the devastation that took place in Cambodia from April 1975 to January 1979 under the Khmer Rouge in order to explore why mass murder happens and what motivates perpetrators to kill. Basing his analysis on years of investigative work in Cambodia, Hinton finds parallels between the Khmer Rouge and the Nazi regimes. Policies in Cambodia resulted in the deaths of over 1.7 million of that country's 8 million inhabitants—almost a quarter of the population--who perished from starvation, overwork, illness, malnutrition, and execution. Hinton considers this violence in light of a number of dynamics, including the ways in which difference is manufactured, how identity and meaning are constructed, and how emotionally resonant forms of cultural knowledge are incorporated into genocidal ideologies.
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