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Published online by Cambridge University Press: 14 October 2011
By the middle 1990s the recovery movement for personal self-esteem and, thus, mental health for the individual, had reached a new level of penetration into American culture. Many commentators and interpreters of contemporary affairs judged the President of the United States, Bill Clinton, a potential recruit. As the archetypical adult child of an alcoholic parent—the product of a dysfunctional family if there ever was one, according to the movement's clerics-Clinton seemed lacking in selfesteem. His painful childhood was the culprit. And recovery was the solution. In a word, he was too anxious to please his critics—the classic trademark of the adult child of an alcoholic parent. Contemporary therapists taught that such persons were placaters of their critics because of the emotional abuse that their parents had inflicted on them, often for no apparent reason. The damaged child, regardless of his or her chronological age, could not, without appropriate therapy and personal “recovery,” ever get over such incidents, which were seared into their psychological and neurophysiological apparatus.
1. On the recovery movement, see Kaminer, Wendy, I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional: The Recovery Movement and Other Self-Help Fashions (Reading, Mass., 1992)Google Scholar. I would like to thank Professors M. Susan Lindee and Charles E. Rosenberg of the History and Sociology of Science Department, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and Professors Michael Dietrich and James R. Griesemer, of the History and Philosophy of Science Program, University of California, Davis, for inviting me to give early (and crude) versions of this paper and for their hospitality. I would also like to acknowledge, with gratitude, the constructive criticisms and questions that they and their students so graciously offered me.
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