Saturday, April 02, 2011

Law Firm Alloplasty

The New York law firm of Vladeck, Waldman, Elias & Engelhard, P.C. prides itself on a history of fighting discrimination.  The firm was founded predominantly by Jewish lawyers at a time when most large law firms discriminated against the hiring of Jews.  It attracted top law graduates from the most prestigious law schools who could not obtain employment at other large law firms in Philadelphia and New York.  From its beginnings the firm has continued to maintain its high standards for and emphasis on analytic ability.

Alloplastic adaptation (from the Greek word allos) is a form of adaptation where the subject attempts to change the environment when faced with a difficult situation. Criminality, mental illness and activism can all be classified as categories of alloplastic adaptation.

The concept of alloplastic adaptation was developed by Sigmund Freud, Sándor Ferenczi, and Franz Alexander. They proposed that when an individual was presented with a stressful situation, he could react in one of two ways:
  • Autoplastic adaptation: The subject tries to change himself, i.e. the internal environment.
  • Alloplastic adaptation: The subject tries to change the situation, i.e. the external environment.
One form of alloplasty involves the creation by an individual or group of individuals of a new environment expressly suited to the existing identity, capacities and needs of its founders.  The German opera composer Richard Wagner, dissatisfied with the limitations of opera houses in Germany that were ill-suited to produce his Ring of the Nibelungen tetralogy, had his own opera house built in the small German town of Bayreuth that would be expressly suited to present the Ring.  Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, dismayed by the negative reaction of universities to his fledgling and then-suspect science in the early 20th century, created his own psychoanalytic training institutes and, as a gesture of defiance, decreed that institutes should never be beholden to a university and this has remained the case, by and large, today.

The founding lawyers of Vladeck, Waldman, Elias & Engelhard created a law firm in which Jewish lawyers might flourish -- an expression of alloplastic adaptation.

4 comments:

Gary Freedman said...

The retrovirus, an RNA virus, a class of viruses that includes the organism that causes AIDS, changes itself by means of the enzyme reverse transcriptase into a DNA form (autoplasty) and simultaneously alters the host cell's genetic structure to manufacture more viruses (alloplasty).

A very clever virus, indeed!

Gary Freedman said...

In Wagner's opera Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg, Hans Sachs describes the Mastersingers' act of creating their own guild to perpetuate their artistic vision:

Das waren hochbedürft'ge Meister,
von Lebensmüh' bedrängte Geister;
in ihrer Nöten Wildnis
sie schufen sich ein Bildnis,
dass ihnen bliebe der Jugendliebe
ein Angedenken klar und fest,
dran sich der Lenz erkennen lässt.

Gary Freedman said...

Obviously, I continue to suffer from severe mental illness. Note the loose associations and flight of ideas!

Gary Freedman said...



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