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LaMothe, R. (2003). Cultural Contributions to Pride: The Vicissitudes of Identification, Valuation, and the Refusal to Surrender. Free Associations, 10(3):331-351.

(2003). Free Associations, 10(3):331-351

Cultural Contributions to Pride: The Vicissitudes of Identification, Valuation, and the Refusal to Surrender

Ryan LaMothe, Ph.D.

“But pride and envy together include all wickedness—both of them leading on to deeds of savage violence.” (History of Herodotus, translated by George Rawlinson)

Because of the tendency to search for developmental sources of adult arrogance or pride, psychoanalysts often direct less attention to the cultural constructions and dynamics of pride. Culturally based pride systems, which are shared and tacitly accepted as good or normal, tend to remain unacknowledged and unanalyzed. In this article, I define the pride system as an interlocking set of beliefs, rituals, and self-other representations used by privileged members of the group to maintain an elevated subjective and intersubjective sense of self-worth and pleasure in relation to an ‘other’ who is recognized as being of lesser or no value. I claim that ‘good’ pride may indeed have salutary effects for many, but tragically ‘good’ pride is accompanied by alienation, which may range from relatively mild to more violent forms. The interpersonal and intrapsychic dynamics of pride and alienation are explained in terms of identification, hierarchical valuation, and the refusal to surrender.

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