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Sanford's Vision

By Craig K. Comstock

from Editor's Preface to Learning After College (Montaigne), a collection of essays written by Nevitt Sanford, co-author of The Authoritarian Personality:



Sanford’s vision of adult development has been enriched by the multiplicity in his own career, and by his courage in marching to his own drummer. At Harvard he was identified not with its mainline psychology department but with the unorthodox climic which, in the words of its director, Henry Murray, was devoted to “the vast and intricate architecture” of personality. As an academic psychologist, Sanford has always been a clinician and social activist in a discipline dominated by value-free experimentalism. He became a lay psychoanalyst in a movement nearly monopolized, in America, by graduates of medical schools. As a so-called WASP, he became one of the leading researchers on anti-semitism; and as a professor at Berkeley he lost his job for a principled refusal to sign a “loyalty oath” during the hysteria of Joseph McCarthy’s era. At Vassar College he directed a project engaged in the nearly unheard-of practice of

studying the actual development of undergraduates. When he moved to Stanford University, the author started an institute that employed anthropologists, public health people, political scientists, therapists, public policy experts, even sociologists. Around the age of sixty, he left his job to found The Wright Institute, but even in his own free-standing organization he attained a kind of creative marginality....

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