Eric Berne: Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships. André Deutsch. 21s.

The games are, of course, the games which people play with each other, and one of the consequences of books such as these is to stimulate and reinforce one of the metagames: pointing out the other person’s ‘game’. Eric Berne provides a very handy checklist—complete as of 1962, he ambitiously asserts—or typology of games, each with its easy-to-remember name: ‘Look How Hard I’m Trying’, ‘If it Weren’t for Him’, ‘Why Don’t You—Yes, But’, ‘Rapo’, ‘Psychiatry’ and many others.

Games People Play will have the success that its publicity and, to a lesser extent, its merits deserve. It might even, as London Life quoted on the jacket predicts, ‘alter London’s conversation for ever’. What are its limitations? A willed and conscious refusal to take people seriously, which facilitates its easy incorporation into cocktail conversation as a pastime and which, while improving people’s ‘knowledge of’ the games that people play, tends precisely to decrease the chances of intimate knowledge of the persons behind the games. In its very ambiguity, it is typical of a more general cultural trend towards the parodies of true self awareness which never really connects with real awareness. An intelligent, useful, and nasty book. And why does it appear to limit the role of psychiatry to stopping the games of other people without confronting the wider problems raised by the psychoanalytic critique of culture and society? A former Consultant in Psychiatry to the Surgeon General of the us Army, Eric Berne is resolutely interpersonal and anti-sociological in his focus.