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Mehra, B. (1982). The Inner World: A Psycho-Analytic Study of Childhood and Society in India. By Sudhir Kakar. Delhi: Oxford University Press. 1981 (2nd Edition) Pp. 241.. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 9:363-365.

(1982). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 9:363-365

The Inner World: A Psycho-Analytic Study of Childhood and Society in India. By Sudhir Kakar. Delhi: Oxford University Press. 1981 (2nd Edition) Pp. 241.

Review by:
Baljeet Mehra

It has often been questioned whether psychoanalysis is a discipline only for western civilization or whether its basic tenets are equally applicable to the people brought up in different societies with their own cultural patterns. Various anthropological studies have highlighted the differences in child-rearing patterns and the meaning of concepts such as masculinity and femininity in other societies. However, no systematic approach has yet been made to apply the psychoanalytic model for the understanding of the inner world in Indian society.

Sudhir Kakar has undertaken this daunting task. Trained in Germany; visiting lecturer in notable western universities such as Frankfurt, Vienna, McGill and Harvard, he has kept close to his roots in Hindu India and this book is an attempt at psychoanalytic exposition of the Hindu way of life to the western reader. It is based on his experiences as a practising psychoanalyst and uses as a backcloth the traditions, religious beliefs and parenting patterns as dictated—and still practised—by the ancient Hindu scriptures. The book is divided into four parts: Hindu world image; Mothers and Infants; Families and children, and the Fourth part is devoted to a psycho-social analysis of some of the great personalities of India.

Freud, in the 'Outline of psychoanalysis', describes the superego as representing, 'the influence of a person's childhood, of the care and education given him by his parents … in all this, it is not only the personal qualities of these parents that is making itself felt, but also everything that had a determining effect on them themselves, the tastes and standards of the social class in which they lived and the innate disposition and traditions of the race from which they sprang' (S.E. 23, p. 206). The race of the Hindus is over four thousand years old. Life in society, in the family and of the individual is governed by the edicts laid down in the ancient manuals with detailed instructions about proper behaviour in every walk of life.

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