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Robbins, B. (1975). The Need to Dominate. Am. J. Psychoanal., 35(1):33-39.

(1975). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 35(1):33-39

The Need to Dominate

Bernard Robbins

In any discussion on the need to dominate it is important to determine the objective of the domination or the object of the domination. Otherwise, we may find it difficult to determine whether we are dealing with needs that are normal or needs that are abnormal. The progress and growth of civilization has depended in large part upon our domination and mastery of things rather than of people. The need to dominate things has made it possible for us to develop in a civilized way. We can regard as normal our mastery of the soil and of the ores and minerals we have extracted from it, our mastery of chemistry, physics, air, fire, and so on, as well as our building of machines and tools. The need to master nature develops out of necessity; it is created from the need to exist and to exist well. It is only because of this domination that we continue to master more and more things. This kind of domination we can at all times regard as normal, and it is to be striven for.

What I shall discuss here, however, is a different kind of need for domination — the need to dominate people, to master, enslave, and exploit them. We must always consider as abnormal the need for domination of people. Our mastery of things and our domination of nature has, in effect, been possible through the ability of human beings to get along with one another and to work together. The need to dominate others is abnormal in a psychological sense because of its effect on the individual himself. It stands in the way of his developing into as rich and happy an individual as he might be.

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