The Ernest Becker Foundation
Welcome Deborah Jacobs, our new Executive Director
The Ernest Becker Foundation is pleased to announce that Deborah Jacobs will serve as our Executive Director. Many in our community already know Deborah through her work as a member of our Board of Trustees over the past decade.
Deborah is a successful non-profit executive with more than 20 years experience in civil liberties and human rights advocacy, including leadership roles in the ACLU and the Ms. Foundation for Women. She brings extensive knowledge of organizational management and development. She has an outstanding record for starting and growing programs, most notably as executive director for the ACLU of New Jersey, which expanded dramatically under her leadership.
Deborah’s exposure to Becker came from reading The Birth and Death of Meaning as a student at Skidmore College, taught by Sheldon Solomon. As with many of us, Becker’s theories spoke to Deborah and shaped her understanding of human behavior and needs. She has applied this understanding to her work promoting human rights as well as through her contributions as a member of our Board of Trustees.
Deborah holds a B.A. in English Literature and an M.A. in Liberal Studies from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. In 1990, she served as a Fulbright Scholar in Helsinki, Finland, studying the history of Finnish Jews.
Deborah’s new leadership comes at an ideal time, with a recent surge of interest in denial of death and terror management, fueled in part by projects like the publication of Worm at the Core. We can’t think of a better opportunity to bring in an experienced executive director to help lead our next phase of Ernest Becker Foundation work.
This long-awaited book for the educated general public will deepen their appreciation for the work of Ernest Becker. His synthesis finds eloquent substantiation here in the pioneering scientific studies of experimental existential social science (xxss), a field of study unfamiliar to most. Even if you’ve read Denial of Death, if you don’t know Terror Management Theory (TMT, an xxss model extraordinaire) this work, elegantly presented and explained, will thrill you. The three inventors of TMT, Jeff, Sheldon and Tom, are the authors with Sheldon the lead writer, and his fame for entertaining phrases shines throughout.
Random House will put the book on sale May 12. Simultaneously Penguin Random House UK will publish it in the UK. Note the enthusiasm in the letter below to Sheldon from that Editor. It quite lacks the usual Brit restraint!
“Deep, important, and beautifully written, The Worm at the Core describes a brilliant and utterly original program of scientific research on a force so powerful that it drives our lives, but so frightening that we cannot think clearly about it. This book asks us to, compels us to, and then shows us how—by shining the light of reason on the heart of human darkness.”
Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology,
Author of Stumbling on Happiness
“As psychology becomes increasingly trivial, devolving into the promotion of positive-thinking platitudes, The Worm at the Core bucks the trend. The authors present—and provide robust evidence for—a psychological thesis with disturbing personal as well as political implications. This is an important book.”
Author of The End of War and director
of the Center for Science Writings,
Stevens Institute of Technology
This is a wonderfully (terrifyingly) broad and deep study of most everything we know or have thought about death. It
carries Becker’s work a long way further down the road. I have been working and playing with such a book for a long while—but now you have saved me from having to write it. You did what I would have done—and more. This would be a hard act to follow. I know Becker would have been pleased."
Author of Faces of the Enemy
I’m the editor at Penguin UK responsible for publication of your wonderful book. I found THE WORM AT THE CORE truly fascinating, an entertaining, absorbing read, and it has had a profound impact on me. Everyone in my team who has now read it has had a similar response and we’re looking forward to publishing in May.
We will publish in our Allen Lane imprint, UK home to the authors such as Steven Pinker, Daniel Kahneman and Malcolm Gladwell. We’re absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to help bring your ideas to a wider audience. As we’re short on time, our Publicity Director will work alongside a member of her team to target the
media. I will introduce you via email.
I will be in touch about copy and artwork for the cover of our edition as we progress, and we will liaise with Will’s team at Random house for up-to-date text files to print from.
Commissioning Editor Penguin Press"
Death, ideologies, and cultures: The legacy of Becker at SFU
By Larry Green and EBF Staff
As part of Simon Fraser University’s 50th anniversary celebrations, this conference (Oct 2–4) commemorates the time, 1969-1974, that Ernest Becker lectured here. He is of course best known for his Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Denial of Death. Being the only SFU faculty member so honored, a conference that acknowledges and extends his contribution will highlight SFU’s intellectual legacy over the past half century.
By Daniel Liechty
In September, Sheldon Solomon was invited to deliver the 4th annual James W. Carey Memorial Lecture at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Carey was an important cultural historian and communications theorist, widely known for his “ritual” theory of communications. Echoes of his perspectives still ring loudly in the background of the writing of many journalists in particular. The Memorial Lecture series was instituted in his honor as a joint effort by the Institute of General Semantics and the Grand Valley School of Communications, the Department of Psychology, and the College of Liberal Arts. Solomon spoke on the topic “Afraid of the Dark: Humanity at the Crossroads,” an ideal topic for such an interdisciplinary setting. In this lecture, Solomon pointed toward four major global issues that we face as a species, the convergence of which could more easily than we want to admit make us the first species in the history of our planet to become the conscious architects of its own demise. These are the problem of war, the problem of climate instability, the problem of economic instability and inequality, and the problem of psychological instability. Following the lead of Ernest Becker, Solomon suggested that each of these problems, while no doubt having many and complex sources, can be understood as a result of or massively magnified by our malignant reactions to ongoing anxiety about our mortal condition. The lecture, attended by more than 200 people, was well received, and is available for viewing here: https://vimeo.com/107669439
Dr. Solomon also was the guest at an afternoon class the day of the lecture, which was an open discussion on the question of meaningful work in the 21st century. There is also a video of this discussion available here: https://vimeo.com/107669438. Unfortunately, because most of the talking during that class came from the audience, and audience voices were not included in the soundtrack of the video, it is very difficult to follow the discussion.
By Jerry Piven, Ph.D.
Freud, Psychoanalysis, and Death is in many ways a brilliant, provocative, perspicacious venture. Liran Razinsky endeavors to explore: 1) Freud’s complex and contradictory thoughts on death; 2) post-Freudian theory and rejection of death as a significant psychological problem; 3) the pervasiveness of death anxiety and the importance of clinical openness toward a quintessentially human source of concern and dread.
Razinsky begins by delineating the psychoanalytic rationales for rejecting the import of death anxiety. As others have also explicated in considerable detail (Piven, 2004) Freud reduced the fear of death to castration anxiety or guilt, maintained that death could not be represented in the unconscious, and asserted that the psyche could not fathom death since one was always present as a spectator when envisioning one’s own mortality. Space doesn’t permit elaboration of Freud’s complex and contradictory arguments here, as he also argued that the dread of death impels religious beliefs and fantasies of life beyond the grave. Razinsky’s primary innovation in his own book is the detailed analysis of some of the post-Freudians like Klein, Lacan, and Yalom. Razinsky is also at his most provocative (and often beautifully analytical) when dissecting the arguments that reject the importance of the fear of death, and further asseverating that such theoretical refutations are themselves psychologically motivated.
- Written by EBF Staff
The Ernest Becker Reader
The University of Washington Press publishes with the EBF The Ernest Becker Reader, an anthology of Becker’s lesser-known earlier works by our Dan Liechty. It was Dan’s conception, his knowledge, his gestalt that made it possible and then he masterfully selected, edited and introduced the material in the book which appeared in 2005 and is now in its second printing. And still bringing in royalties which Dan, bless him, gives to the EBF. We just received $242 for last year. Thanks Dan.
The Ernest Becker Reader can be purchased here.
Jane McCormmach, JD, a Founder of the Foundation, has resigned from the Board of Directors after many years of service. It was her idea for me to start the EBF way back in 1993. We plan for her to be on the Advisory Board so will keep in touch.
Thanks, Jane —NJE
Our Guiding Principles
"The root of humanly caused evil is not man's animal nature, not territorial aggression, or innate selfishness, but our need to gain self-esteem, deny our mortality, and acheive a heroic self-image. Our desire for the best is the cause of the worst."