Carol Gilligan believes that psychology has persistently and systematically misunderstood women--their motives, their moral commitments, the course of their psychological growth, and their special view of what is important in life. Here she sets out to correct psychology's misperceptions and refocus its view of female personality. The result is truly "a tour de force, which may well reshape much of what psychology now has to say about female experience.
"In a Different Voice begins with an indictment psychologists from Freud to Piaget have made a muddle and a mystery of female psychology by trying to treat women as if they were men. Repeatedly, developmental theories have been built on observations of men's lives. When women fail to develop in the way men do, the conclusion is that something may be wrong with women. Gilligan concludes, instead, that something must be wrong with theory. If, for example, male development is mainly a matter of increasing separation from others to achieve autonomy and independence, does that mean that women have failed to grow into mature adults if their development involves a continuing and unresolved struggle to balance their responsibilities to others with their commitment to themselves? If men see morality chiefly as a matter of impartial justice, are women less moral if they see morality more as a matter of care? If men are willing to sacrifice relationships with others in pursuit of achievement, are women wrong to sacrifice achievements to preserve relationships?
Gilligan's answers to these questions take her well beyond negative criticisms of existing theory; they give substance to her own view of female personality and round out a portraitof human nature that has too long been one-sided. Built on a careful hearing of many voices--some historical, some literary, but mostly those of the contemporary men and women Gilligan interviewed--"In a Different Voice rises above narrow disputes over sex differences to make a deeper assessment of what it is to be human.