Alexander Mitscherlich succeeded in his life project of returning psychoanalysis to post-Nazi central Europe—and securing for it far greater cultural prestige than it ever had in Sigmund Freud's own day—by advancing an idiosyncratic version of psychoanalysis as a secular moral-political language. Mitscherlich was also an effective public intellectual, serving as “the conscience of the nation,” a “gentle repentance-preacher.” Precisely what worked so well in the West German context was, however, anathema in America. This article explores the reasons for the depoliticized version of psychoanalysis ascendant in the postwar United States; the counterintuitive combination of factors shaping Mitscherlich's distinctive theorizing; and the many ironies in his delayed-reaction American reception in the 1990s and early 2000s, including in the unlikely realms of the turn-of-the-millennium “men's rights movement” (in its complex relation to second-wave feminism) and in post–Cold War international diplomacy, especially in sites of interethnic conflict.

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