Critique of Horney

Horney s social psychoanalytic theory provides interesting perspectives on the nature of humanity, but it suffers from lack of current research that might support her suppositions. The strength of Horney s theory is her lucid portrayal of the neurotic personality. No other personality theorist has written so well (or so much) about neuroses. Her comprehensive descriptions of neurotic personalities provide an excellent

Chapter 6 Horney: Psychoanalytic Social Theory 181

framework for understanding unhealthy people. However, her nearly exclusive concern with neurotics is a serious limitation to her theory. Her references to the normal or healthy personality are general and not well explicated. She believed that people by then very nature will strive toward self-realization, but she suggested no clear picture of what self-realization would be.

Horney's theory falls short on its power both to generate research and to submit to the criterion offalsifiability. Speculations from the theory do not easily yield testable hypotheses and therefore lack both verifiability and falsifiability. Horney's theory was based largely on clinical experiences that put her in contact mostly with neurotic individuals. To her credit, she was reluctant to make specific assumptions about psychologically healthy individuals. Because her theory deals mostly with neurotics, it is rated high on its ability to organize knowledge of neurotics but very low on its capacity to explain what is known about people hi general.

As a guide to action, Horney's theory fares somewhat better. Teachers, therapists, and especially parents can use her assumptions concerning the development of neurotic trends to provide a warm, safe, and accepting environment for then students, patients, or children. Beyond these provisions, however, the theory is not specific enough to give the practitioner a clear and detailed course of action. On this criterion, the theory receives a low rathig.

Is Horney's theory internally consistent, with clearly defined terms used uniformly? In Horney's book Neurosis and Human Growth (1950), her concepts and formulations are precise, consistent, and unambiguous. However, when all her works are examined, a different picture emerges. Through the years, she used terms such as "neurotic needs" and "neurotic trends" sometimes separately and sometimes interchangeably. Also, the terms "basic anxiety" and "basic conflict" were not always clearly differentiated. These inconsistencies render her entire work somewhat inconsistent, but again, her final theory (1950) is a model of lucidity and consistency.

Another criterion of a useful theory is parsimony, and Horney's final theory, as expressed hi the last chapter of Neurosis and Human Growth (Horney, 1950, Chap. 15), would receive a high mark on this standard. This chapter, which provides a useful and concise introduction to Horney's theory of neurotic development, is relatively simple, straightforward, and clearly written.

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