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Peck, J.S. (1963). Anti-Intellectualism: Psychoanalytic Notes on a Cultural Trait. Am. Imago, 20(4):385-391.

(1963). American Imago, 20(4):385-391

Anti-Intellectualism: Psychoanalytic Notes on a Cultural Trait

John S. Peck, M.D.

This paper is an attempt to apply psychoanalytic concepts and insights to the understanding of one element in American culture. It is a report on the expansion from one isolated clinical observation, to a possible psychoanalytic explanation for the attitude of anti-intellectualism.

Since the pioneering works of Sigmund Freud, the interrelationships between psychoanalysis and other disciplines such as sociology and anthropology have produced a voluminous literature. The insights of psychoanalysis have been used to deepen the understanding of cultural systems, and detailed studies of widely varying cultures have been used to increase the insights of psychoanalysis. It is beyond the scope of this paper to attempt a review of this literature, but reference should be made to some fundamental principles. In “Civilization and its Discontents” (1), Freud defines culture as “the sum of the achievements and institutions which differentiate our lives from those of our animal forbears and serve two purposes; namely, that of protecting humanity against nature and of regulating the relations of human beings among themselves.” Later in this book, Freud refers to the striking similarity between the development of a culture and the development of an individual.

In his paper, “The Origin and Function of Culture” (2), Geza Roheim states that “civilization — is a huge network of more or less successful attitudes to protect mankind against the danger of object loss, the colossal efforts made by a baby who is afraid of being left alone in the dark.”

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