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Barrett, W.G. (1950). Male and Female. A Study of the Sexes in a Changing World: By Margaret Mead. New York: William Morrow & Co., 1949. 477 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 19:255-257.

(1950). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 19:255-257

Male and Female. A Study of the Sexes in a Changing World: By Margaret Mead. New York: William Morrow & Co., 1949. 477 pp.

Review by:
William G. Barrett

In the preface to the new edition of his great work, Élie Faure says, 'I have been reproached with having written not a "History of Art", but rather a sort of poem concerning the history of art'. This book of Margaret Mead's is a beautiful book, and it may be that she will be similarly reproached for having written a sort of poem about anthropology. She, too, understands how barren is the mere description of human experience and endeavor when stated in terms of action and conscious motivation alone. Human life is inextricably bound to values: desires, traditions, good and evil. She knows the need for the bare data to be reworked through the personality of the observer, to be interpreted in the light of special knowledge, special training and particular experience. Unfortunately there are but few social scientists who can thus produce the 'poetic transposition' that Faure hopes for, but Margaret Mead is one of these.

Mead employs new tools and has thought deeply since she published Sex and Temperament in 1935. Additional field work up to 1939 enabled her to apply these tools in simple homogeneous cultures and so gain deeper insight into much that she had observed during earlier work in the field. (Her field data, studied through new lenses, may be the foundation for another excellent study such as this.) It is sometimes said that one can not really and truly believe the findings of psychoanalysis until one has observed children intimately. Margaret Mead has observed many, many children, and very intimately. What she has learned of psychosexual development, of the meaning of body zones and their modes of functioning, of the flow of libido and its fixation, has been enriched by warm, sympathetic emotional participation. She is never 'too grown-up' to share the simple experiences of simple people and consequently understands easily the complications of complicated people.

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