Klerman's “credo” reconsidered: neo-Kraepelinianism, Spitzer's views, and what we can learn from the past

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In 1978, G. Klerman published an essay in which he named the then-nascent “neo-Kraepelinian” movement and formulated a “credo” of nine propositions expressing the movement's essential claims and aspirations. Klerman's essay appeared on the eve of the triumph of neo-Kraepelinian ideas in the DSM-III. However, this diagnostic system has subsequently come under attack, opening the way for competing proposals for the future of psychiatric nosology. To better understand what is at stake, in this paper I provide a close reading and consideration of Klerman's credo in light of the past forty years of research and reflection. The credo is placed in the context of two equally seminal publications in the same year, one by S. Guze, the leading neo-Kraepelinian theorist, and the other by R. Spitzer and J. Endicott, defining mental disorder. The divergences between Spitzer and standard neo-Kraepelinianism are highlighted and argued to be much more important than is generally realized. The analysis of Klerman's credo is also argued to have implications for how to satisfactorily resolve the current nosological ferment in psychiatry. In addition to issues such as creating descriptive syndromal diagnostic criteria, overthrowing psychoanalytic dominance of psychiatry, and making psychiatry more scientific, neo-Kraepelinians were deeply concerned with the conceptual issue of the nature of mental disorder and the defense of psychiatry's medical legitimacy in response to antipsychiatric criticisms. These issues cannot be ignored, and I argue that proposals currently on offer to replace the neo-Kraepelinian system, especially popular proposals to replace it with dimensional measures, fail to adequately address them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4-25
Number of pages22
JournalWorld Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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