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The Redemptive SelfStories Americans Live By$
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Dan P. McAdams

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780195176933

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195176933.001.0001

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The Redemptive Self

Dan P. McAdams

Oxford University Press

The redemptive self is a psychologically powerful life narrative that supports a caring and productive (that is, generative) approach to life in the midlife years. However, the story is not without its shortcomings — shortcomings that reveal peculiar features of American narrative identity. This chapter identifies and analyzes four potential problems inherent in redemptive life narratives: (1) the conflict between power/freedom and love/community; (2) the arrogance and self-righteousness that comes from (individual and cultural) narratives of American exceptionalism; (3) the danger of redemptive violence; and (4) naïve expectations regarding the deliverance from suffering and the denial of tragedy in human life, from such experiences as living through the Holocaust. The classic of American sociology, The Lonely Crowd, a study of the changing American character, is also discussed.

Keywords:   individualism, American exceptionalism, The Lonely Crowd, self-esteem, tragedy, the Holocaust

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