Jung: A Very Short Introduction

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OUP Oxford, Feb 22, 2001 - Psychology - 192 pages
4 Reviews
Though he was a prolific writer and an original thinker of vast erudition, Jung lacked a gift for clear exposition and his ideas are less widely appreciated than they deserve. In this concise introduction, Anthony Stevens explains clearly the basic concepts of Jungian psychology: the collective unconscious, complex, archetype, shadow, persona, anima, animus, and the individuation of the Self. He examines Jung's views on such disparate subjects as myth, religion, alchemy, `sychronicity', and the psychology of gender differences, and he devotes separate chapters to the stages of life, Jung's theory of psychological types, the interpretation of dreams, the practice of Jungian analysis, and to the unjust allegation that Jung was a Nazi sympathizer. Finally, he argues that Jung's visionary powers and profound spirituality have helped many to find an alternative set of values to the arid materialism prevailing in Western society. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

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Jung is a tightly written, comprehensive yet short overview of Jung's ideas and biography. Stevens managed to connect how Jung's biography influenced the development of his ideas and how influential those ideas have been. Stevens' survey of Jung's relationship with Freud is interesting and balanced, as is his refutation of the anti-semitism charges that have floated around Jung since before the second world war.
Now after all that praise, I would suggest that Jung is a book without a really strong audience. The book is detailed enough and I suspect generally as accurate as a 3rd party biography can be. But that is its biggest problem. I suspect that many people completely unfamiliar with Jung's writings are likely to come away from this book with an exaggerated understanding of the power and range of Jung's ideas and influence and decide to not read anything else. They will not understand that the reason people read Jung is to begin the journey of self-understanding, what Jung called individuation.
On the other hand, those who are significantly familiar with Jung will not find too much new here. It remains simply a summary and review, albeit a very good one. It does have some nice quotable bits for those interested in quips or sound bites.
But what moved this book from just a solid four to five stars was something Stevens observed I had until reading it here thought that I had uniquely noticed. Thank god I am not the only one to have spotted the remarkable similarity between Noam Chomsky's linguistic theories and Jung's conceptualization of the collective unconscious and archetypes (p37). Now, it is possible that other Jungian commentators I have previously read made this connection too, but at a time in my life before I was familiar with Chomsky's linguistic ideas. But I do not remember even one such reference, and definitely haven't seen one since then. Nor have I seen anyone from the Chomsky side making the connection. (For those curious about this, a good overview of Chomsky's linguistics is Justin Lieber's Noam Chomsky: A Philosophic Overview. And in it was my first publication of my perception of the strong equivalent between Jung's collective unconscious and Chomsky's Deep Structure and Universal Grammar. (No, as of this writing, the writers of the Wikipedia do not make a similar claim.)
Furthermore, Chomsky completely eviscerates behaviouralist models as having been completely ineffectual at explaining anything. Jung found the idea that behaviouralism could explain the human experience as untenable as well.

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - fearless2012 - LibraryThing

Incidentally this is essentially the same book as 'Jung-- A Brief Insight', with different pictures. Overall, it's a neat little book. (9/10) Read full review

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About the author (2001)

Anthony Stevens is a distinguished Jungian analyst, psychiatrist, and writer on Jungian themes. He is a graduate of Oxford University and in addition to his DM has two degrees in psychology. His other books include Archetype: A Natural History of the Self (1982), The Roots of War (1989), On Jung (1990), The Two-Million-Year-Old Self (1993), and Private Myths: Dreams and Dreaming (1995).

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