Adler, Alfred (EoH)

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Adler, Alfred (1870-1937)

Austrian psychiatrist, founder of Individual Psychology, commonly known as the Adlerian School. Like Sigmund Freud, Adler came from a lower middleclass Jewish family in Vienna. A central figure in Freud's psychoanalytic circle from 1902 to 1911, his heated disputes with the master in the latter year led to his seceding with several other members to form an independent group.

Adler's theories are technically less complex than those of Freud, and draw more directly on his experiences with patients of humbler social origin. As a result they have a commonsense quality that earned them considerable popularity in the middle decades of the twentieth century, a popularity that has since ebbed. Alfred Adler's thinking emphasized the individual's striving for power and selfesteem (with the inferiority complex often arising as an unwanted byproduct) and the patient's lifestylea concept that, much modified over the decades, was to play a notable role in the ideology of the gay movement.

Although he attained a qualified approbation of the goals of the women's movement, he insisted on classifying homosexuals amongthe "failures of life"- together with prostitutes and criminals. His writings on homosexuality began with a 52-page brochure in German in 1917 and continued sporadically through most of the rest of his life. Possessing little independent explanatory power, Alfred Adler's views on homosexuality are now chiefly of historical interest, as instances of stereotyped judgmentalism and reified folk belief of a kind not uncommon among professionals of his day. Beginning in the 1970s some adherents of (Adlerian) Individual Psychology proposed a less negative approach to homosexual behavior, but their revisionism was opposed by others.


Alfred Adler, Cooperation Between the Sexes: Writings on Women, Love and Marriage, Sexuality and Its Disorders, H. L. and R. R. Ansbacher, eds., Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1978; Paul E. Stepansky, In Freud's Shadow: Adler in Context, Hillside, NJ: Analytic Press, 1983.

Ward Houser

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