All Commentary
Tuesday, May 1, 1956

Book Review: Must You Conform? by Robert Lindner

New York: Rinehart. 210 pp. $3.00.

This is another blast of the Trumpet of Revolt. It comes from that “peculiar” called psychotherapy. I use the word “peculiar” in its precise medieval Canon Law meaning, as describing a “jurisdiction proper to itself.” Psychotherapy, and indeed all physicianship, today is assuming the empty seat of mental authority, the throne of public conscience, left vacant when religion surrendered its freedom of “clerk’s orders” and submitted to the State. And so psychoanalysts, because they have had the nerve to become keepers of private consciences and the very odd confidences of those consciences, can now go further, and from the citadel of man’s psyche—if not his spirit—counterblast at the bureaucratic bombardiers and invaders of our liberties. The psychotherapist is now speaking as a privileged expert who is concerned for the public health and the social sanity.

In a series of telling trumpetings, Dr. Lindner has called for an arrest of the impolite and indeed impolitic police state. He has demanded that the uncivil and sometimes even uncivilized civil service halt its incursions on the citizen’s rights of privacy and has called on us to reassert our personal liberties. He can do this because he is prepared to show how the very coercions we impose in the name of order, or under the claim that we are preventing anarchy, are really causing anarchy. You do not prevent, you only amp-lily, a plague of thistles by flailing at the thistledown-laden heads. To change the simile, Dr. Lindner refuses to put cart before horse. If you want order, you can have it only if you permit the liberty of full growth. The author of Must You Conform? is a constructionist, an orthogeneticist. He wants a society of creative order and therefore writes under such provocative titles as Prescription for Rebellion, for he believes that men distorted by suppression and repression are the real danger to civilization.

Many of those who would not listen to a sound moralist or an expert economist will attend to one who has shown that he has some striking clues to human character, motivation, and amenability.

Gerald Heard