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Leites, M. Leites, N. (1949). The American People. A Study in National Character: By Geoffrey Gorer. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1948. 246 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 18:112-113.

(1949). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 18:112-113

The American People. A Study in National Character: By Geoffrey Gorer. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1948. 246 pp.

Review by:
Martha Leites

Nathan Leites

Geoffrey Gorer's book on contemporary America belongs to one of the productive trends in cultural anthropology. This trend undertakes to study complex literate cultures instead of simpler nonliterate ones; it attempts to discover psychological regularities in the behavior of groups; it describes and explains such differences by the implicit or explicit use of psychoanalysis.

In this vein Mr. Gorer treats what he believes to be distinctively American in relation to: father and mother figures; other aspects of emotional development from birth to maturity; the emotional rôle of skills; the inanimate environment; money. He then delineates American interrelationships and the relationships of America to the rest of the world.

Among numerous clever hypotheses, one is concerned with the manifold sequels of the conditional character of early maternal love, another with the impact of maternal influence in superego formation, a third with the fostering and disarming of the son's hostility toward the father and its perpetuation in families recently immigrated; furthermore, Mr. Gorer is particularly aware of defenses against what he feels to be a peculiarly intense American fear of passive homosexuality.

This is the kind of study that tends to evoke extreme reactions of assent and dissent. When psychocultural hypotheses (by Gregory Bateson, Ruth Benedict, Clyde Kluckhohn, Margaret Mead and others) are examined, they usually involve general propositions of psychoanalytic psychology. The psychocultural statements apply these general propositions to what are affirmed to be typical childhood experiences and adult syndromes of a group (not necessarily

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