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Book Title: The Ernest Becker Reader|
The author of the book: Ernest Becker
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Edition: University of Washington Press
Date of issue: December 1st 2004
ISBN 13: 9780295984704
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 974 KB
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Ernest Becker (1924-1974) was an astute observer of society and human behavior during America's turbulent 1960s and 1970s. Trained in social anthropology and driven by a transcending curiosity about human motivations, Becker doggedly pursued his basic research question, "What makes people act the way they do?" Dissatisfied with what he saw as narrowly fragmented methods in the contemporary social sciences and impelled by a belief that humankind more than ever needed a disciplined, rational, and empirically based understanding of itself, Becker slowly created a powerful interdisciplinary vision of the human sciences, one in which each discipline is rooted in a basic truth concerning the human condition. That truth became an integral part of Becker's emerging social science. Almost inadvertently, he outlined a perspective on human motivations that is perhaps the most broadly interdisciplinary to date. His perspective traverses not only the biological, psychological, and social sciences but also the humanities and educational, political, and religious studies.
Ernest Becker is best known for the books written in the last few years before his death from cancer, including the highly praised Pulitzer Prize-winning volume The Denial of Death (1974) and Escape from Evil (1975). These late works, however, were built on a distinguished body of earlier books, essays, and reviews. The power and strength of Becker's ideas are fully present in his early works, which underlie his later contributions and give direction for interpreting the development of his ideas.
Although Ernest Becker's life and career were cut short, his major writings have remained continually in print and have captured the interest of subsequent generations of readers. The Ernest Becker Reader makes available for the first time in one volume much of Becker's early work and thus places his later work in proper context. It is a major contribution to the ongoing interest in Becker's ideas.
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Read information about the authorDr. Ernest Becker was a cultural anthropologist and interdisciplinary scientific thinker and writer.
Becker was born in Springfield, Massachusetts to Jewish immigrant parents. After completing military service, in which he served in the infantry and helped to liberate a Nazi concentration camp, he attended Syracuse University in New York. Upon graduation he joined the US Embassy in Paris as an administrative officer. In his early 30s, he returned to Syracuse University to pursue graduate studies in cultural anthropology. He completed his Ph.D. in 1960. The first of his nine books, Zen, A Rational Critique (1961) was based on his doctoral dissertation. After Syracuse, he became a professor at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, BC (Canada).
Becker came to the recognition that psychological inquiry inevitably comes to a dead end beyond which belief systems must be invoked to satisfy the human psyche. The reach of such a perspective consequently encompasses science and religion, even to what Sam Keen suggests is Becker's greatest achievement, the creation of the "science of evil." In formulating his theories Becker drew on the work of Søren Kierkegaard, Sigmund Freud, Wilhelm Reich, Norman O. Brown, Erich Fromm, and especially Otto Rank. Becker came to believe that a person's character is essentially formed around the process of denying his own mortality, that this denial is necessary for the person to function in the world, and that this character-armor prevents genuine self-knowledge. Much of the evil in the world, he believed, was a consequence of this need to deny death.
Because of his breadth of vision and avoidance of social science specialization, Becker was an academic outcast in the last decade of his life. It was only with the award of the Pulitzer Prize in 1974 for his 1973 book, The Denial of Death (two months after his own death from cancer at the age of 49) that he gained wider recognition. Escape From Evil (1975) was intended as a significant extension of the line of reasoning begun in Denial of Death, developing the social and cultural implications of the concepts explored in the earlier book. Although the manuscript's second half was left unfinished at the time of his death, it was completed from what manuscript existed as well as from notes on the unfinished chapter.
The Ernest Becker Foundation is devoted to multidisciplinary inquiries into human behavior, with a particular focus on contributing to the reduction of violence in human society, using Becker's basic ideas to support research and application at the interfaces of science, the humanities, social action and religion.
Some of the above information is from the EBF website and used by permission.
Becker also wrote The Birth and Death of Meaning which gets its title from the concept of man moving away from the simple minded ape into a world of symbols and illusions, and then deconstructing those illusions through his own evolving intellect.
Flight From Death (2006) is a documentary film directed by Patrick Shen, based on Becker's work, and partially funded by the Ernest Becker Foundation.
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