YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

March 26, 2012

Henry A. Murray and the Thematic Apperception Test

Christiana Morgan sculpted

Today, the History of Madness website publicized a Harvard exhibition celebrating Dr. Henry A. Murray’s invention of the Thematic Apperception Test. Murray is one of major characters in the so-called Melville Revival, and I found abundant material at Harvard demonstrating his low-profile but leading role in left-liberal propaganda. Below is the citation for his original article, and some lines on how the test was used by progressive psychologists and sociologists. For more, see the blog links below. You will not find the material I dug up over many years elsewhere in academic land. The only biography of Murray, by Forrest G. Robinson, is inaccurate and obsessed with Murray’s sexual habits, particularly those that involved his mistress Christiana Morgan. Claire Douglas wrote an even more scandalous one that Murray’s widow Nina Fish Murray loathed.

For the TAT citation, see Dr. Henry A. Murray and Christiana Morgan, “A Method For Investigating Fantasies: The Thematic Apperception Test,” Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry 34, 1935. In the TAT, the subject is shown a drawing which he then interprets in written form. The Progressive Murray of course believed he was rescuing the patient from such neuroses as the Icarus complex (social radicalism, itself irrationally motivated). Murray’s OSS test for weeding out unstable spies was recommended by Harold Lasswell after WW2 as a test for potentially disloyal leaders, employers, and employees.  Lasswell went so far as to recommend a Loyalty Board. The TAT was recommended as a way of analyzing the content of mass media messages. Somehow, in the rage against HUAC and “McCarthyism” the adjurations of the Committee For Economic Development, have been lost to liberals, leftists, neocons, and conservatives alike.

https://clarespark.com/2011/06/13/weinergate-papa-freud-and-the-imperfect-father/

https://clarespark.com/2010/05/10/jungians-rising/ (includes three blogs on Murray and sadomasochism)

https://clarespark.com/2011/06/12/call-me-isabel-a-reflection-on-lying/

https://clarespark.com/2009/12/13/klara-hitlers-son-and-jewish-blood/

https://clarespark.com/2010/04/18/links-to-nazi-sykewar-american-style/.

https://clarespark.com/2011/03/27/progressive-mind-managers-ca-1941-42/

https://clarespark.com/2010/06/19/committee-for-economic-development-and-its-sociologists/

https://clarespark.com/2009/09/25/on-mobs-teaching-and-jungians/ (Alston Chase blames Murray for creating the monster Unabomber)

Murray biography cover art

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January 2, 2011

The Watchbird State

I object to the term “nanny state” as sexist. Here is an argument for “Watchbird State” as alternative, taken from chapter 9 of my book Hunting Captain Ahab. The powerful social psychologists I cite here viewed themselves as “moderate conservatives”. Today, they occupy the “left,” having purified the republic of the dangerous extremists who once perched on our shoulders.  The watchbird was an invention of Munro Leaf, and during the 1950s, was a familiar cartoon figure.  (For a related blog, preparing the reader for this one, see https://clarespark.com/2010/06/19/committee-for-economic-development-and-its-sociologists/.)

[book excerpt:]    Pragmatic Harvard social psychologists appropriated Madisonian pluralist politics, ignoring the libertarian, anti-corporative* aspect of their theoretical underpinnings. For the new moderates, social stability was achieved when triumphalist factions (instigated by religious enthusiasm or other forms of zealotry such as an inordinate love of gain), were replaced by amoral interest groups; relieved of (Hume’s) plundering or leveling extremists, bargains could be struck, reconciling private interest with public good: the moderates would have clambered onto solidly “mobile-middle ground.”[i]

Reading Madison in Federalist #10, they could infer that free speech was a safety valve, circumscribed spatially and irrelevant to political processes with realistic goals.[ii] Having banished irrationality from their own procedures, the Harvard clique could see themselves as resolutely antifascist, for it was the mob-driven Nazi movement (likened by Talcott Parsons to romantic puritans in other writing of 1942) that was pathological. Ritual rebellions could be safely confined within psychiatrists’ offices or the pages of Typee (or in the bed Ishmael shared with Queequeg). Parsons’ contribution appeared in Psychiatry along with a germinal article “Hitler’s Imagery and German Youth,” by Erik Homburger Erikson, another colleague of Murray’s at Harvard. Erikson presented Hitler as a “great adventurer” possessed of “borderline traits”; he was the perennial adolescent, a big brother to other unyielding gangsters. Erikson held that broken-spirited German fathers lacking inner integration and authority were responsible for the (hysterical) romantic revolt of the sons.[iii] Erikson’s identity politics owed more to Henry A. Murray and the romantic conservative Jung, a theorist of racial character, than to the cosmopolitan and bourgeois Freud. Soon the Jungian analyst Murray (who admired the Wandering Jew Freud’s eyes that penetrated walled-up areas of the psyche) would be advising President Roosevelt that Hitler, the autodidact Id-man, the Dionysiac Man of the Crowd who had overcome big Capital, was an “arch-Romantic,” a composite of Lord Byron and Al Capone, a paranoid schizophrenic, a homosexual, and probably a carrier of Jewish blood through his father; ergo Hitler’s “uncanny knowledge of the average man” should “be appropriated to good advantage.” Disillusion with the Führer was perilous; Murray argued for “a profound conversion of Germany’s attitude” after the Allied victory:

“Disorganization and confusion will be general, creating breeding ground for cults of extreme individualism. A considerable part of the population will be weighted down with a heavy sense of guilt, which should lead to a revival of religion. The soil will be laid [sic] for a spiritual regeneration; and perhaps the Germans, not we, will inherit the future.[iv]

Harold Lasswell and Murray, both progressives, thought as one. In his Power and Personality (1948), Lasswell contemplated the continuing plausibility of Marxist analysis, worried about “paranoids” with their fingers on nuclear buttons, and urged “genuine democrats to expose the dubious and dangerous expectation of democracy through mass revolution.” The world revolution of the twentieth century would probably culminate in mutually annihilating technocratic garrison states unless “the scientists of democracy” intervened to create the “sociocapitalist” “free man’s commonwealth.” Murray’s personality tests (developed in the mid-1930s and during his stint with the OSS during the war) fertilized Lasswell’s febrile, holistic imagination. While deploying the concepts of accountability and openness that for John Locke had been indispensable to the functioning of popular sovereignty, Lasswell, with Murray’s personnel assessment tests in tow, had turned Locke upside down:

One of the practical means by which tensions arising from provocativeness can be reduced is by the selection of leaders from among non-destructive, genuinely democratic characters…. This has already gone far in appointive jobs. Several businesses are accustomed to promote executives not only on the basis of the general administrative record but according to scientific methods of personality appraisal. The aim is to discern whether factors in the personality structure counterindicate the placing of heavier responsibilities on the person.

“To a limited extent selection procedures in army, navy and civil administration have been directed to the same end. But the procedure is not yet applied to elective office. What is needed is a National Personnel Assessment Board set up by citizens of unimpeachable integrity which will select and supervise the work of competent experts in the description of democratic and antidemocratic personality. The Assessment Board can maintain continuing inquiry into the most useful tests and provide direct services of certifications of testers. When this institution has been developed it will slowly gather prestige and acceptance. Sooner or later candidates for elective office will have enough sense of responsibility to submit voluntarily to an investigation by the board, which would say only that the candidate has, or has not, met certain defined minimum standards. Gradually, the practice of basic personality disclosure can spread throughout all spheres of life, including not only local, state, national or inter-nation government personnel, but political parties, trade unions, trade associations, churches and other volunteer associations.

“It is an axiom of democratic polity that rational opinion depends upon access to pertinent facts and interpretations. Surely no facts are more pertinent than those pertaining to character structure of candidates for leadership. Progressive democratization calls for the development of such new institutions as the Assessment Board for the purpose of modernizing our methods of self-government.[v]

The National Personnel Assessment Board set up by citizens of unimpeachable integrity,” “gradually” penetrating every institution, would control definitions of acceptable rational opinion. And yet Lasswell was no friend to totalitarian regimes; as member of the Research Advisory Board and spokesman for the Committee For Economic Development (CED), he condemned loyalty investigations. Instead of imitating sleazy witch-hunters on the Right or the “negative” tactics of the ACLU on the Left, he called for an overhaul of leaders and the led (the latter ultimately responsible for protecting First Amendment freedoms). A balance would be struck between national security and individual freedom through formation of community discussion groups, to be fed by appropriately cautious government experts supplying an interactive (but “expert”-controlled) free press and public broadcasting system. [vi] In the 1950s, Lasswell’s study of political symbols helped social scientists refine their tools in the surveillance of blooming political dissidents. Murray’s OSS recruitment test of 1943 could weed potentially disloyal government employees, while his Thematic Apperception Test (1935) could enhance content-analysis of mass communications. Lasswell frankly explained the purposes that infused the new discipline of communications studies, said to be relevant to literary scholars and historians; indeed he decoded authoritarian styles of discourse throughout. [vii]

Watchbird sights bad boy

Modern preventive politics did not begin with the machinations of Lasswell & Co. but with Humean or Burkean autopsies of the regicidal English and French Revolutions. According to the reform-or-ruin school of preventive hygiene, foul winds and cancers appear when aristocrats allow vices to ferment in the bowels; the social bond is broken, virtue and vice trade places.[viii] Through alert planning (like education and sports for the masses and psychoanalysis for their betters), elites would become more flexible while containing their passion for libertine excess and luxurious display; meanwhile the People would have healthy outlets for their discontent and desirousness–like libertine excess and luxurious display especially in the mass media. Thus Reason, Conscience, and the State would be brought into congruence. The reform-or-ruin strategy of social hygiene and preventive politics would dominate the political science and social psychology created by moderate conservatives. Understrapping their dreams of thoroughgoing surveillance, the watchbird watched everybody, leaders and the led.

*Corporative does not signify a state in cahoots with big business and Wall Street (as New Leftists and OWS folk would have it), but rather organizing representation by occupation, such as Mussolini’s “corporative state” where the state regulated relations between the sindicati, imposing harmony from above and erasing the conception of the dissenting individual.

NOTES.

[i]               21. Richard Chase, “New vs. Ordealist,” Kenyon Review, 11 (1949): 12-13, cited again below.

[ii]               22. See discussion of Madison and the Whigs, Daniel Walker Howe, Political Culture of the American Whigs, 90-91. As I interpret the Federalist Papers, the authors (Jay, Hamilton, and Madison) defined their republicanism against all feudal and corporatist entities– the sources of imbecility, war and anarchy. Liberty was a quality of the rational individual. Collectivities were fictions necessarily sustained by myth, not political science. Their interest groups corresponded to economic interest alone; there was no talk of national “identity.” The idea of using (irrationalist) propaganda to obtain consensus would or should have been anathema. Madison’s Federalist #10 does not discuss free speech directly. Addressing men of property alarmed by Shays Rebellion, the Whiskey Rebellion, and demands for several separate confederacies, the acutely class-conscious essay distinguished the benefits of a balanced republic controlling a large territory as compared with the vulnerabilities of small states and the confiscating propensities of small-scale popular democracies. The more interest groups the better, since no one group, unified by economic interest, could attain a legislative majority to oppress other citizens. Madison’s view of human nature does not include moral categories as such: individuals differ in their capacities to acquire property. Men of property, properly chosen (elected) to represent their constituencies for their inner  poise and sense of justice, would be fair to contending parties, abiding by the rule of law–rules that were the same for rich and poor alike. These may be the moderate men interrogated by Melville’s dark characters.

 [iii]             22. Erik Homburger Erikson, “Hitler’s Imagery and German Youth,” Psychiatry 5 (Nov. 1942): 475-493. On 30 Nov. 1952,  Murray sent Erikson a copy of his paper on Ahab, In Nomine Diaboli. On 4 Mar. 1952, Murray asked for a copy of Erikson’s paper “Growth and Crises of the Personality.” On 30 Nov. 1962, Talcott Parsons invited Erikson to present a study of Max Weber in the style of his Luther psychobiography for the 1964 meeting of the American Sociological Association, noting Weber’s “great creative contributions to our culture.” Erikson Papers, Houghton Library, Harvard University.

[iv]              23. The register of the Murray Papers at Harvard state that his analysis of Hitler’s psyche was in process since 1938: it is possible that Murray influenced Erikson, not vice versa. See Henry A. Murray, “Analysis of the personality of Adolph [sic] Hitler with predictions of his future behavior and suggestions for dealing with him now and after Germany’s surrender,” October 1943, 5-7, 31, 46-53, 83, 143, 145, 211 and passim. Declassified confidential report, FDR Library, Hyde Park, quoted with permission. Cf. Anton T. Boisen, “The Form and Content of Schizophrenic Thinking,” Psychiatry 5 (Nov. 1942): 23-33 (the same issue contained the Parsons article on propaganda). Primitives, children, romantic explorers, materialists, individualists, modern artists, and persons undergoing “conversion” experiences are conflated and diagnosed as anxious, fragmenting (“hebephrenic”) schizophrenics. Also see Charles Kligerman’s diagnosis of Melville’s paranoid schizophrenia in “The Psychology of Herman Melville,” Psychoanalytic Review 40 (Apr. 1953): 125-143.

[v]               24. Harold D. Lasswell, Power and Personality (New York: Norton, 1948), 222, 211, 186-187.

[vi]              25. Harold D. Lasswell, National Security and Individual Freedom (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1950). Howard B. Myers of CED wrote the brief forward which explained that “This report examines the problems that confront us in seeking national security without forfeit of the basic values and principles of American life.”

[vii]             26. Harold D. Lasswell, Daniel Lerner, Ithiel de Sola Pool, The Comparative Study of Symbols, 24-25. Murray may have gotten the term “apperception” from Goethe’s comments on the rigid moralist Dr. Stilling (aka Jung), an example of a God-intoxicated type, overly impressed by “experience,” that Goethe described in his Auto-biography: “The things sympathetic persons of this kind love most to talk of, are, the so-called awakenings and conversions, to which we will not deny a certain psychological value. They are properly what we call in scientific and poet matters, an “aperçu;” the perception of a great maxim, which is always a genius-like operation of the mind; we arrive at it by pure intuition, that is, by reflection, neither by learning or tradition. In the cases before us it is the perception of the moral power, which anchors in faith, and thus feels itself in proud security in the midst of the waves.” (Truth and Poetry, Vol. II, 75).

[viii]             27. See Richard A. Soloway, “Reform or Ruin: English Moral Thought During The First French Republic,” Review of Politics (Jan. 1963): 110-127.

June 19, 2010

Committee For Economic Development and its sociologists

 

From Athena’s mouth to your ears

[excerpt chapter 9, Hunting Captain Ahab] The pursuit of Herman Melville in elite eastern universities during the late 1930s was coterminous with the excising of radical will through antifascist liberal surgery.

As world war loomed, Marxists and many others from Center to Left were predicting fascism in America. New Deal policies, they argued, could not avert or repair the periodic structural crises of capitalism; only a corporate state could suppress the class warfare that would flare anew in the depression that was expected to follow demobilization. Irrationalist moderate conservatives viewed moralistic self-righteousness (on the Left) and selfishness (on the Right) as the source of social violence.

In 1939 or 1940, three moderate men, Robert Hutchins, Paul Hoffman, and William Benton, invited University of Chicago faculty and “personal friends” from big business to join a study group, The American Policy Commission. Hutchins was President of the University of Chicago and defender of Great Books; he and his former partner Chester Bowles would be members of America First; Hoffman was President of Studebaker, later chief administrator for the Marshall Plan and first president of the Ford Foundation; Benton was Vice-President of the University of Chicago, promoter of modern radio advertising, Amos ‘n Andy, and Muzak, later publisher of Encyclopedia Britannica and other educational media, Assistant Secretary of State, then originator of “The Voice of America,” U.S. Senator from Connecticut, and backer of UNESCO enabling legislation. The American Policy Commission evolved into The Committee For Economic Development, institutionalized in 1942; its purpose to meet the anticipated postwar depression with Keynesian economics. The CED distinguished its “socially responsible” policies from those of the laissez-faire National Association of Manufacturers; it brought scholarly specialists together with liberal businessmen to steer America clear of the mad extremes of Fascism and Communism, later McCarthyism, inflated arms budgets, and commercial broadcasting.

The omnipresent political scientist Harold Lasswell[i] was central to their project of preventive politics: the Jung-inspired Lasswell discovered the psychopathology of communism and fascism. Benton’s biographer unambiguously placed Lasswell’s probe in the democratic tradition:

“[Lasswell] looked hard and long at these worldwide disorders of the political mind, hoping to find in them the terms for a program of preventive medicine and that could help maintain America as a free society with equal opportunity for human dignity open to all. [ii] 

With the examples of Plato and other classicists at hand, Lasswell and other psychopathologists could protect the old master narrative. Nazis sighted on the horizon (like the jingoistic followers of Father Coughlin and other American fascists) must be the People: sneaky, bloody, perverse, selfish and paranoid. Without good father navigation the hysterical People would be driven by shadows in Plato’s Cave, go berserk and drown “business.” Lasswell was worried about the possible transition from fascism to communism; while attempting to overcome Marxian socialism, (rational) European businessmen had been captured by the “romantic Fascists” of the squeezed “lower middle-class” who might go on to liquidate their former patrons.[iii] Interestingly, for Lasswell in 1936, the scenario in America seemed different. Here the middle class was so identified with “big business” and “big finance” that it was likely to fall for the propaganda against “reds” and smash labor. To avoid “piecemeal fascism” and to enhance “peaceful development,” Lasswell (and other ego psychologists) prescribed class-consciousness (but integration) through pluralist bargaining in “interest groups” to achieve emotional and intellectual independence from monopolistic big business. In 1941, Lasswell urged vigilant sighting and sympathetic treatment of bad seeds: [iv]

“Public opinion is profoundly distorted when there are deference crises in society; and these appear when the level of deference is suddenly interfered with, and when destructive personalities exercise a directive effect upon public opinion. Some persons are at odd with themselves, carrying heavy loads of anxiety, and from these anxiety types extremism may be expected. We need to become aware of which social practices in the home, school, factory, office–contribute to anxiety and which to security. We may be able to lower the level of the explosive reserves when human development is subject to gross distortion.”

Lasswell could have been describing Herman Melville’s anxious disillusion with paternal authority; perhaps explosions would be obviated by enhanced civilian morale with methods advocated by Harvard social psychologists Murray and Allport, also disseminated in 1941. By 1942, these social scientists were certain: the Head Self was sturdy guardian of “the public interest,” whereas overly egalitarian motions inside the Western Body levelled walls, erected barricades, then tossed up lonesome corpses.

In his article “Propaganda and Social Control,”[v] Talcott Parsons, Murray’s Harvard associate and mentor, addressed mental health practitioners, proposing that the government practice “social psychotherapy” to stabilize the national consensus. He advocated subliminal “reinforcement type” propaganda to calm the “revolutionary” and “disruptive” types that were inducing structural change or undermining “confidence in authority and leadership.” Maladjusted neurotics were fomenting conflict and fragmentation, not adaptation and interdependence. But froward rebels could be cured in the socially responsible psychiatrist’s office through  

“steady discipline to which the patient is subjected in the course of his treatment. While the fact that he is required and allowed to express himself freely may provide some immediate satisfactions, he is not really allowed to ‘get away’ with their implications for the permanent patterning of his life and social relations, but is made, on progressively deeper levels, conscious of the fact that he cannot ‘get away’ with them. The physician places him in a kind of ‘experimental situation’ where this is demonstrated over and over again (561).”


[i]               14. Lasswell was the son of a midwestern minister. Entering a project (1928) initiated by others in 1926, Lasswell had played “the primary role” in the shaping of methodology in interdisciplinary social sciences, against the methods of physical sciences. See Stuart A. Rice, ed., Methods in Social Science, A Case Book Compiled Under the Direction of the Committee on Scientific Method in the Social Sciences of the Social Science Research Council (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1931), vii, 732, 734, 737. Lasswell’s Appendix B, 740-742, limited scientific studies of social change to the methods of Sumner, Turner, and Spengler.

[ii]               15. Sidney Hyman, The Lives of William Benton (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1969), 232-233. In his preventive politics, Lasswell was emulating other conservatives, for instance the important English journalist Wickham Steed, editor of The Times, and before that, head of British war propaganda; see his Hitler, Whence and Whither? (London: Nisbet, 1934), 188-189: “German Nazism is the outcome of a morbid national mood, and of propagandistic suggestions working on mass neurasthenia…Great Britain and France have been and are relatively free from this morbid mood, though they are less free from perverse conceptions of democracy, which, by running wild in Italy and Germany, helped to produce a state of mind favourable to the rise of violent totalitarian dictatorship. We should have a care lest we too, by harbouring perverse and degenerate conceptions of democracy, betray its sound principles and smooth the path of the enslaver.”

[iii]              16. Harold D. Lasswell, Politics: Who Gets What, When, How (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1936), 239-242, 236. Commenting on the likely trajectory of romantic fascism, Lasswell warned, “At first private capitalism is preserved; but it seems probable that in the face of the necessity for a united nation, private capitalism will be liquidated in times of military stress. In a military state, the movement for equalization, governmentalization, and monopolization would no doubt proceed.”

[iv]              17. Harold D. Lasswell, Democracy Through Public Opinion (Menasha, Wisc.: George Banta Book Co. [Chi Omega Research Fund], 1941), 32-34.

[v]               18. Talcott Parsons, “Propaganda and Social Control,” Psychiatry 5 (Nov. 1942): 551-572.

From Athena’s mouth to your ears

June 18, 2010

Whaleness (2)

Mortimer Adler, co-founder Great Books Foundation

[Alfred C. Neal writing about the achievements of The Committee For Economic Development in Business Power and Public Policy, 1981, p.10.]  I cannot conclude these introductory observations without disclosing why a policy-making process that combines academic, professional, and government expertise with business acumen is likely to be better than others that do not employ that combination.  Academic and professional people are highly skilled in formulating policy alternatives in a kind of game that employs the symbols, relationships, and intellectual constraints of their disciplines.  The number of possible policy alternatives for resolving problems in social science is limited only by the imaginations of the scientists, which is high, or by the condition and assumptions that they impose to reduce the almost endless proliferation of possibilities in a world of uncertainty.  Assumptions and conditions are the security blankets of the social scientist’s mind.  Policy-making executives are similarly constrained in their choices by considerations of goal-acceptability and costs and benefits, as well as by considerations of organizational capability, public acceptance, and effective leadership needed to initiate and carry out policy decisions.  The interplay of all these inputs to the policy-making process is seldom explicit, but the interaction of good minds employing their intellectual capabilities is, I am convinced, the basis for much better policy making than we have had.  It is the description and analysis of such interactions over many years and the consequences of the policies resulting from that process, that constitute the main stuff of this book.

[Cultural historian Sander L. Gilman maps and hops with the Other, Difference and Pathology, 1985, 129:]  Certainly no stereotypes have had more horrifying translations into social policy than those of “race.”  Tied to the prestige of nineteenth-century science, the idea of racial difference in the twentieth century became the means for manipulating and eventually destroying entire groups.  The following essays document how easily racial stereotypes have been linked with images of pathology, especially psychopathology.  In this case the need to create the sense of difference between the self and the Other builds upon the xenophobia inherent in all groups.  That which defines one’s group is “good,” everything else is frighteningly “bad.” The cohesiveness of any group depends on a mutually defined sense of identity, usually articulated in categories that reflect the group’s history….We cannot eradicate images of difference, but we can make ourselves aware of the patterns inherent in these images.

The goal of studying stereotypes is not to stop the production of images of the Other, images that demean and, by demeaning, control.  This would be the task of Sisyphus.  We need these stereotypes to structure the world.  We need crude representations of difference to localize our anxiety, to prove to ourselves that what we fear does not lie within….The stereotypical categories that we use are rarely without some point of tangency with reality (biological, social, medical) but their interpretation is colored by the ideology that motivates us. [S. Gilman, 240].

[E. L. Doctorow,”A Gangsterdom of the Spirit,” Nation, Oct. 2, 1989, 352-353.  Commencement address to Brandeis University, May 21, 1989, suppressed by The New Republic, printed as another blow for freedom of speech by Nation.]…I will venture to say that insofar as Mr. Reagan inserted his particular truth into the national American mind he made it the lobotomizing pin of conservative philosophy that has governed us and is continuing to govern us to this very moment.

…A decade ago you did not have college students scrawling racial epithets or anti-Semitic graffiti on the room doors of their fellow students.  You did not have cops strangling teen-age boys to death or shooting elderly deranged women in their own homes.  You did not have scientists falsifying the results of experiments, or preachers committing the sins against which they so thunderously preached.  A generation or so back, you didn’t have every class of society, and every occupation, widely, ruggedly practicing its own characteristic form of crime.

So something poisonous has been set loose in the last several years…To speak of a loss of cohesion in society, a loss of moral acuity, is tiresome.  It is the tiresome talk of liberalism.  In fact, part of this poisonous thing that I’m trying to describe is its characteristic way of dealing with criticism: It used to be enough to brand a critic as a radical or a leftist to make people turn away.  Now we need only to call him a liberal.  Soon “moderate” will be the M word, “conservative” will be the C word and only fascists will be in the mainstream.  And that degradation of discourse, that, too, is part of this something that is really rotten in America right now….As an unacknowledged legislator, I am giving you not a State of the Union Address but a State of the Mind of the Union Address.

 BLOOD AND DIRT

      Ralph Bunche once said, “Democracy, to be lived at all, must be lived broadly.” The organicism that I analyze throughout this YDS series is not just a tic, more or less regrettable, but a consciously constructed strategy to delimit political aspiration by circumscribing political possibilities; it represents itself as acting in the interests of peace, science and democracy, meanwhile attacking the critical tools (materialism, empiricism, critical reason) that would make science and democracy realizable.  Organicism tries to blunt the critical tools that empowered lower-class autodidacts in a century whose central trope (they say, following Freud) was sexuality, not modernity as science and an excellent popular education.  For Sander Gilman there is no radical Enlightenment, no rational mind that could peer at irrational behavior, then imagine social arrangements that might reduce the “anxiety” Gilman finds natural.  Rather we are told (without self-criticism, even though we are all irrational) that there is an eternally given and inevitable “xenophobia” that would make talk of Rousseauvian solidarity (social bonds as contractual, not given) psychologically naive.  Finally we are left with the contradictory message that stereotypes are constructed, but also, in some unstated way, reflective of historical experience; although stereotypes are tangentially related to “biological, social, medical” reality, we should strive to understand that stereotypes are, in some unspecified way, bogus.

These thinkers are not allies of the labor movement as it once existed: their agenda was made clear in Gordon Allport’s influential and constantly reprinted post-war Freedom Pamphlet, The ABC’s of Scapegoating.[1]  Denouncing “prejudice,” Allport, a colleague and ally of Henry A. Murray at Harvard, advised Americans to learn to live with pluralism: whites should stop scapegoating blacks, Christians should stop scapegoating Jews, “labor” should stop scapegoating “the spokesmen for ‘business,’ and conservatives should stop confusing liberals with communists by scapegoating F.D.R.[2]  A Harvard psychologist has asked us to look inside and check our “moral cancer” (p.7), our projections or archetypes, as Jung and Murray would say.  But we do not look inside to probe physiological facts and relationships that link all humanity beneath the skin; we do not look outside to see the objective structures (class societies—and I include women as a class) that impede cooperation and development for all by constructing an unyielding “subjectivity” and a propensity to evil as the human condition.  Instead we fix our attention on “boundaries” and “roots” that may not be leveled or exposed as fiction by “Jewish” science and “Jewish” (because deracinating) internationalism.  Now that Women’s Studies and Ethnic Studies have been institutionalized within academe as a conservative accommodation to potentially unifying social movements, blood and soil pluralism may be with us for the duration, as will therefore the contradictory and vague adjurations from “progressive” radical subjectivists who say that stereotypes are both rational and irrational.[3]

Not that the organicists are willing to allow contending pluralities to slug it out: that could eventuate in “the tragedy of the Civil War” as Frederick Jackson Turner warned Woodrow Wilson [AHR, 1942, 548].  William Diamond thought that “distinguished and stimulating” historians like Turner, armed with knowledge, must intervene; Turner knew best how to apply “American sectional and party history to world organization,” so as to keep the Bolsheviki serpent from creeping under the fence.  Alfred C. Neal of the Committee For Economic Development, told Americans that businessmen enlightened by academic experts knew best.  Doctorow told Brandeis students that poets knew best.  Turner, Neal and Doctorow, unacknowledged legislators all, advised their readers and listeners to go shopping for (or bring back) the moderate man who abides in the neutral state: the good father, a paragon of self-control and disinterestedness capable of harmonizing the conflicting and extremist demands of sections and biologically/culturally differentiated “groups,” tucking all his children into bed without favoritism.  The formula is plain: DO NOT try to merge your interests with those of your fellow-creatures, promiscuously defined; DO join the group in which you are naturally rooted; purge the system of venomous false promises and infantilizing utopian demands: evacuate these poetically-yet-scientifically designated poisons and heal the National Mind, then you will be ready for those very high levels of interaction and interplay that permit conciliation and compromise. And if all conflicts were susceptible to mediation, who could disagree?

Gentlemen prefer pre-modern societies (or do they?) because they are judenrein, free of complicating facts and dubious speculation: patriarchal, pastoral, holistic, communitarian, stable, healing, virtuous, and soulful.  There is a continuity between Burkean concepts of natural sublimity and terror and Carlylean romantic conservatism; the Anglo-American culture promoted by Melville’s closet American Tory monarchist in Mardi, the Oxford historian Edward Augustus Freeman (another source of Turner-type theories of expansionism mentioned in Mood, 1943) and James Thomson (“B.V.”); the Weltanschauung disseminated by the Macmillan family (publishers of The English Men of Letters Series, edited by the Fabian/Tory/Mussolini enthusiast J.C. Squire, which brought out the Tory John Freeman’s Melville biography in 1926, and publisher of the Journal of American History quoted above); Frederick Jackson Turner’s “American sectionalism and the geography of political parties”; the belief in “national character” promoted by Jungian psychologists, hereditarian racism in the eugenics of Lothrop Stoddard and William McDougall, the nativist radicalism of Van Wyck Brooks, Lewis Mumford, and Henry A. Murray, some nativist assumptions in the American Studies movement, and the “anticapitalism” of the New Left.  Gentlemen and sectors of the New Left speak with the accents of Jeffersonian agrarianism; gentlemen and some New Leftists prefer “Melville” and the delicious specter of whaleness that does him in.  In spite of family quarrels between bohemians and crypto-bohemians in the Melville industry, these men, along with “Melville,” occupy the vital center of the political spectrum, not the subversive margins as some critics might imagine.  In the vital center, it is not elites and non-elites that confront each other, but the Anglo-Saxon countryside and the Jewified city: the latter naughty and finally off-limits.  Using the oft-proscribed tool of comparative historical analysis, I have surmised that veterans of authoritarian families are not perversely blind to impersonal and abstract social processes, but have projected their forbidden resentment at being “moulded” onto bad Jews and modern women, the perverse manufacturers of modernity.  For romantic conservative Jungians (not many Freudians) “individuation” signified separation from the moral mother, Jew of the Home.  By contrast, the radical bourgeois Freud sought treatments that fostered autonomy and separation from idealized authority.  Perhaps Gilman and other semioticians are so merged with authority, so invaded by recoiling and alien Ishmaels (“fierce and irresistible” “English Tartars”), and so helpless and confused that they must constantly “beat the boundaries”[4] to differentiate themselves from the “m(other)” from whom they have never separated, and whose mixed-messages forced them to retreat from the task of autonomy [5] into an armored corporatism, [6] into an ironic acquiescence with the “narcissistic disorder” their analyses of stereotypes and “splitting” is supposed to alleviate.

“Modernism” (a misnomer) may be understood as a repository for genteel anti-Semitism insofar as artists are in “primitivist” revolt against the modern world that has nourished and elevated the critical spirit identified with “the corrosive Jewish intellect,”[7] the witch who unmasks the happy family and identifies incompatible expectations thus inciting “civil wars.” As a representation of the impersonal capitalist market, the Jewish principle destroys the warm, face-to-face interactions  that supposedly moderated relations between master and man, substituting the remote and faceless stock exchange for paternalistic bosses, balefully introducing “political class cleavage” [Mein Kampf, 1940, 432].  As a representation of modernity (gestating liberalism and its feared offspring, socialism), the Jewish principle destroys family and sectional unity (T. S. Eliot’s “native culture”), the shared blood and rootedness in the common soil that links the best of past and present. The Jewish principle would substitute a levelling, polluting internationalist identity thus confiscating a man’s wife, children, dogs, cats, cows and chickens, leaving him prey to “six-lane motorways,” Big Brother’s centralized machinery, and other rats. [8]

We are not accustomed to seeing such connections because official American culture since 1917 has drawn sharp distinctions between Western “democracy” and German or Soviet “autocracy.”[Gruber, 1975]  Since Melville’s death in 1891, “critical thought” has been increasingly on the defensive.  After 1945, the victorious West did not hold a conference to examine the economic, social, political, and cultural sources of fascism and genocide.  Rather, propagandists declared the German nation collectively insane, while covertly admiring Hitler’s methods of mind-control and pretended the Western powers knew nothing of the Holocaust until 1945.[9]  While some psychologists joined Theodore Adorno, inventing the F-Scale to measure the nuances of “the authoritarian personality” [10] (a spectrum of prefascist “types” who would be contrasted with the Genuine Liberal, [11] other conservatives claiming to be sane liberals [12] purged crazy and destructive (“Jewish”) leftists and left-liberals, spreading a miasma of fear that has never dissipated.  American Jews could read the handwriting on the wall: the noisy, abrasive culture of cities and class politics would have to be jettisoned as a condition of economic survival.  American Jews who wanted jobs in academia or in the media had better embrace the tradition of “honest Anglo-Saxon democracy” and shadow-dappled country lanes that had defined itself against both Jewish materialism and against fascism and Nazism. [13]  The marching bands and country airs, the discourse of organicism that had been recognized as imperialist and protofascist before the war,[14] was acceptable to such esteemed postwar Jewish intellectuals as Lionel Trilling, Harry Levin, and Alfred Kazin.  What the postwar intellectuals did was miraculous though not original: like earlier reactionaries, the protofascist material world was off limits, while the Christian-Platonic order became the sanely (s)mothered democracy.  There was no place for modern women or radical Jews in the protocols of the moderate men.

NOTES:


[1] Gordon Allport, ABC’s of Scapegoating (Anti-Defamation League of B’nai Brith, 1983, ninth rev. ed., first publ. 1948).

[2] Allport, p.26 and passim.

[3] Robert Miles, Racism (London and New York: Routledge, 1989) is a summary and critique of scholarly literature, with a useful bibliography. Miles is writing from the Left and using semiotic analysis; he does not look at narratives and metamorphoses, but mechanically reifies Self/Other; such static formulations do not explain connections between the variables of class, gender, “race” and ethnicity.

[4] A ritual in rural England, in which the earth is flogged to delimit the land owned by the parish, a declaration of boundaries.

[5] Cf. Erich Fromm, Greatness and Limitations of Freud’s Thought (New York: Harper and Row, 1979), 135-136. “…Freud thought as a child of his time.  He was a member of a class society in which a small minority monopolized most of the riches and defended its supremacy by the use of power and thought control over those it ruled.  Freud, taking this type of society for granted, constructed a model of man’s mind along the same lines.  The “id,” symbolizing the undeducated masses, had to be controlled by the ego, the rational élite.  If Freud could have imagined a classless and free society he would have dispensed with the ego and the id as universal categories of the human mind.  In my opinion the danger of a reactionary function of psychoanalysis can only be overcome by uncovering the unconscious factors in political and religious ideologies.  Marx in his interpretation of bourgeois ideology did essentially for society what Freud did for the individual.  But it has been widely neglected that Marx outlined a psychology of his own that avoided Freud’s errors and is the basis of a socially oriented psychoanalysis.  He distinguished between instincts which are innate, such as sex and hunger, and those passions like ambition, hate, hoarding, exploitativeness, et cetera, which are produced by the practice of life and in the last analysis by the productive forces existing in a certain society, and hence can be subject to change in the historical process.”  I was impressed with this essay when I first read it, but now I think Fromm was unfair to Freud and to the radical liberals. What makes Marx different from his class conscious predecessors is his view of the inevitability of revolution at the hands of the working-class. Marxists have taken this prediction to mean that they should separate themselves from liberal reformers, designated as worse enemies to the toiling masses than the traditional Right.  I am arguing here that such positions are grounded in irrational institutional and psychological processes that Freud helped us to uncover; for purposes of this essay I am emphasizing the double-bind and the identification of liberal reform with the moral mother, seen as a hypocrite and crazy-making.

As I have tried to show, all conflations of social/historical processes with processes of natural history (catastrophic or gentle) is a mystification that may contribute to immobility in the face of objective dangers to our species and to the earth.  Classes are not strata, revolutions are not volcanic eruptions or avalanches, either “gradualism” or “revolution” may be unnecessarily cruel and violent to the living who suffer (the latter a point made by Mark Twain).  There can be no archetypal rule for radical conduct, no cast of characters that retain their auras, no escape from analysis grounded in the specific and unique matter at hand.

[6] Turner did not advocate ethnic separatism; rather he, like Thomson, imagined a welding together of various (white) European stocks into one nationality, but discreetly guided by a class unmistakably English in its imputed administrative skills.

[7] Jung, quoted in Webb, Occult Establishment.

[8] Cf. Hitler, Mein Kampf on “filth and fire” spawned by parliamentary democracy; the credulous, swindled masses: the Big Liars were the Jewish press: 66-84,99,328, 379.

[9] See Deborah Lipstadt, Beyond Belief, 1986. Also NYT Book Review, April 4, 1948, p.7.  J.R. Rees, The Case of Rudolph Hess was described as “but one more page in the history of mentally ill people who governed a continent.”  A photograph of Hess emphasizes his crazed and staring eyes; both Hess and Hitler are described as romantics and mystics, not as bearers of conservative Enlightenment.  Murray report (Hitler was a combination of Byron and a thug); and Langer report, for FDR and the OSS, 1943 (see below).

[10] Here is Horkheimer’s formulation in the Preface to the influential work of 1950, The Authoritarian Personality:  “This is a book about social discrimination.  But its purpose is not simply to add a few more empirical findings to an already extensive body of information.  The central theme of the work is a relatively new concept–the rise of an “anthropological” species we call the authoritarian type of man.  In contrast to the bigot of the older style he seems to combine the ideas and skills which are typical of a highly industrialized society with irrational or anti-rational beliefs.  He is at the same time enlightened and superstitious, proud to be an individualist and in constant fear of not being like all the others, jealous of his independence and inclined to submit blindly to power and authority.  The character structure which comprises these conflicting trends has already attracted the attention of modern philosophers and political thinkers.  This book approaches the problem with the means of socio-psychological research.  Max Horkheimer, Preface, The Authoritarian Personality, 1950, ix.  Cf. Meinecke on the technocrat/monomaniac as base for Nazism, below.

[11] T.W. Adorno, et al, The Authoritarian Personality, 1950; Leo Lowenthal and Norbert Guterman, Prophets of Deceit, 1949.

[12] T.W. Adorno, et al., Authoritarian Personality, 975.  This is the prescription pessimistically bequeathed by the Adorno group as it advocates revolutionary changes in child-rearing, understanding that without structural economic change, no adjustment is possible; here they conservative reformers defending the embattled New Deal. (Both Henry Murray’s and Harold Lasswell’s works are listed in recommended reading): “It would not be difficult, on the basis of the clinical and genetic studies reported in this volume, to propose a program which, even in the present cultural pattern, could produce nonethnocentric personalities.  All that is really essential is that children be genuinely loved and treated as individual humans…For ethnocentric parents, acting by themselves, the prescribed measures would probably be impossible.  We should expect them to exhibit in their relations with their children much the same moralistically punitive attitudes that they express toward minority groups–and toward their own impulses…[Many other] parents…are thwarted by the need to mould the child so that he will find a place in the world as it is.  Few parents can be expected to persist for long in educating their children for a society that does not exist, or even in orienting themselves toward goals which they share only with a minority.”

[13] Villard, 1919, Frederick Jackson Turner, 1921, Sinclair Lewis, It Can’t Happen Here, 1935.  In a group of essays written in 1893-1918, and fearing the “recoil” now that free lands were used up, Turner called for a class-conscious social history to compete with un-American Marxist historical materialism; the state university would dig deep into the earth to extract the golden nuggets of the talented lowly, who would then mediate the antagonisms between capital and labor: “By training in science, law, politics, economics and history the universities may supply from the ranks of democracy administrators, legislators, judges and experts for commissions who shall disinterestedly and intelligently mediate between contending interests.  When the words “capitalistic classes” and “the proletariate” can be used and understood in America it is surely time to develop such men, with the ideal of service to the State, who may help to break the force of these collisions, to find common grounds between the contestants and to possess the respect and confidence of all parties which are genuinely loyal to the best American ideals” (“Pioneer Ideals,” 1910, Frontier, 1921, 285).  George Rawick commented to me upon Turner’s ugly anti-Semitism that surfaces in his papers. I have not yet examined Turner’s unpublished works, but Turner, no less than T.S. Eliot, would say that “freethinking Jews” could not be an American “type;” perhaps they were the “European type” into which freedom-loving Americans were apparently evolving in the early twentieth century.

[14] See Ellis Freeman on proto-Nazi propaganda in Western culture and in America, Conquering The Man in the Street (N.Y.: Vanguard Press, 1940).

June 17, 2010

Whaleness

American Progress

This blog continues a series in which I show how the post-Civil War Progressives appropriated Herman Melville’s fiction and poetry: one could describe their project as the taming of a rugged individualist, of a frontiersman. Their project was first designed to attenuate sectional loyalties in the American Leviathan: the moderate men will weigh in with their “materialist” history to monitor and ambivalently celebrate the frontiersman. In their construction of a national literature they intended to overcome post-Civil War sectional bitterness, while using that bad example to support the new Progressive reading of American history, as exemplified by Frederick Jackson Turner (an ex-student of Woodrow Wilson). Hence, Ahab (surfacing in 1851) would have to be a negative model for the moderate men of the following century, who attempted unsuccessfully to both defend national interests while simultaneously cooperating with an “international community” as embodied in the United Nations. If Ahab stands for a brutally expanding Amerika, then Melville as the converted Ishmael could be seen as the moderate corrective to a young country fatally dedicated to WASP supremacy and hyper-individualism, or worse, especially after two world wars, with recent immigrant masses frighteningly susceptible to the siren call of Bolshevism.

First read https://clarespark.com/2009/09/03/advice-for-the-lovelorn-with-thoughts-on-hero-worship/ (retitled Manifest Destiny and Political Liberty), and https://clarespark.com/2009/09/06/the-hebraic-american-landscape-sublime-or-despotic/.

I begin with two views of Anglo-American culture and its expansionist frontiersmen as defined by Herman Melville in his allegorical work Mardi (1849).  Vivenza[1] stands for America, Bello is England, Dominora is Europe, Oro is God, Mardi is the world.  The first speaker is Taji the narrator who expects the Jacksonian expansionists to moderate their behavior in time; the second is Babbalanja, the philosopher who calls for all youthful minds in the West to join the Anglo-American project of intellectual emancipation, associating oppressive domination with the English upper classes, who have suppressed their libertarian tradition; the third speaker is a fiery youth antagonistic to free thought, associating it with the tyranny of the newly empowered democratic polity, some of whom, at the time of Melville’s writing, were promoting the extension of slavery to the Western territories.  The dialogue between democrat and aristocrat runs throughout Melville’s writing; but it is the third speaker, the fiery Tory youth, whose fear and anger pervade the humanities throughout its whispering sacred groves. Have they transmuted the boundless expansion of our moral and intellectual development (arguably Ahab’s project) into the illicit penetration and appropriation of Mother Earth, so that the act of discovery itself becomes criminal, tantamount to endorsing slavery?

Materials from my research into the Melville Revival along with the history of “Progressive” history-writing are presented chronologically, in order of publication.

[Taji:]    This chieftain, it seems, was from a distant western valley, called Hio-Hio, one of the largest and most fertile in Vivenza, though but recently settled.  Its inhabitants, and those of the vales adjoining,–a right sturdy set of fellows,–were accounted the most dogmatically democratic and ultra of all the tribes in Vivenza; ever seeking to push on their brethren to the uttermost; and especially were they bitter against Bello.[2] But they were a fine young tribe, nevertheless.  Like strong new wine they worked violently in becoming clear.  Time, perhaps, would make them all right….

[Babbalanja:] “…my lord, King Bello should never forget, that whatever be glorious in Vivenza, redounds to himself…My lord, behold these two states!  Of all nations in the Archipelago, they alone are one in blood.  Dominora is the last and greatest Anak of Old Times; Vivenza, the foremost and goodliest stripling of the Present.  One is full of the past; the other brims with the future.  Ah! did this sire’s old heart but beat to free thoughts, and back his bold son, all Mardi would go down before them.  And high Oro may have ordained for them a career, little divined by the mass.  Methinks, that as Vivenza will never cause old Bello to weep for his son; so, Vivenza will not…be called to weep over the grave of its sire.  And though King Bello may yet lay aside his old-fashioned cocked hat of a crown, and comply with the plain costume of the times; yet will his frame remain sturdy as of yore, and equally grace any habiliments he may don.  And those who say, Dominora is old and worn out, may very possibly err.  For if, as a nation, Dominora be old–her present generation is full as young as the youths in any land under the sun.  Then, Ho! worthy twain!  Each worthy the other, join hands on the instant, and weld them together.  Lo! the past is a prophet.  Be the future, its prophecy fulfilled.”

[Fiery Tory youth:]   “Sovereign-kings of Vivenza! it is fit you should hearken to wisdom.  But well aware, that you give ear to little wisdom except of your own; and that as freemen, you are free to hunt down him who dissents from your majesties; I deem it proper to address you anonymously.

“And if it please you, you may ascribe this voice to the gods; for never will you trace it to man….” [Mardi, 1849; 518, 519, 520, 524]

[Victorian poet and radical journalist (“B.V.”) James Thomson to Bertram Dobell, from the U.S., ca. 1872.  An admirer of Melville and Whitman, Thomson ambivalently contemplates the American melting pot and offers an interpretation of the sublime (“vastitude”) similar to Taji’s and Babbalanja’s; cf. Charles Olson’s emphasis on “scale” in his Melville criticism, along with the anti-expansionism he picked up from Frederick Merk at Harvard:]  I think we must forgive the Americans a good deal of vulgarity and arrogance for some generations yet.  They are intoxicated with their vast country and its vaster prospects.  Besides, we of the old country have sent them for years past, and are still sending them, our half-starved and ignorant millions.  The Americans of the War of Independence were really a British race, and related to the old country as a Greek colony to its mother city or state.  But the Americans of today are only a nation in that they instinctively adore their union.  All the heterogeneous ingredients are seething in the cauldron with plenty of scum and air bubbles atop.  In a century or two they may get stewed down into homogeneity–a really wholesome and dainty dish, not to be set before a king though, I fancy.  I resisted the impression of the mere material vastitude as long as possible, but found its influence growing on me week by week: for it implies such vast possibilities of moral and intellectual expansion.  They are starting over here with all our experience and culture at their command, without any of the obsolete burdens and impediments which in the course of a thousand years have become inseparable from our institutions, and with a country which will want still more labour and more people for many generations to come. [3]

[William F. Allen, Frederick Jackson Turner’s teacher, 1885:]  The solid and substantial character which the Federalism of Hamilton during the years 1789-97, gave to the national edifice secured by the Constitution; the sudden list to individualism, equally unexpected and undesired by the “fathers of the republic,” which was given by the Democracy of Jefferson during years 1793-1800; the territorial expansion of 1803, with its inevitable and far-reaching consequences–here were three fundamental and discordant forces, whose reduction to harmony would alone make this a period of vital importance in American history.  As the ship, sliding from the ways, lurching first to one side then to the other, settles down into her natural position, American history not only then but thereafter, was made during those fourteen years.[4]

[From the Preface to Scribner’s Statistical Atlas of the United States, 1885, the crucial and unappreciated influence on Turner’s sociological method of writing history, Fulmer Mood, 1943, 309.  “Race” and “nativity” are given the same objective status as “physical features” and economic statistics.]  It is the aim of this work to bring together and to present by graphic methods, all the leading statistical facts regarding the physical, social, industrial, commercial and political conditions of the United States.  It portrays the physical features of the country which more or less determine its development, the political history of the nation, the succession of parties and the ideas for which they existed; and the progress of settlement, throughout the valley of the Mississippi, and beyond the barriers of the Cordilleras.  It treats of the population, its varieties of race and nativity, its educational and religious condition, its occupations and its mortality.  Passing to the industries, it exhibits the great leading branches, agriculture, manufactures, mining, trade and transportation.  Under the head of Finance and Commerce, it pictures the wealth of the country, and its public debt and taxation, its foreign commerce and carrying trade, its expenditure and its force of revenue–thus presenting to the comprehension of all, the balance sheet of the General Government.  The work closes fittingly with a series of diagrams which summarize and bring together for comparison, the leading facts previously developed.

[F. J. Turner,“The Significance of the Frontier,” The Frontier in American History, 1921, 2, 3, 33, 34, 38, 39. A scientific warning about conditions favoring the recurrence of populist agitation delivered in 1893 to the American Historical Association:]  Thus American development has exhibited not merely advance along a single line, but a return to primitive conditions on a continually advancing frontier line, and a new development for that area.  American social development has been continually beginning over again on the frontier.  This perennial rebirth, this fluidity of American life, this expansion westward with its new opportunities, its continuous touch with the simplicity of primitive society, furnish the forces dominating American character….A primitive society can hardly be expected to show the intelligent appreciation of the complexity of business interests in a developed society.  The continual recurrence of these areas of paper-money agitation is another evidence that the frontier can be isolated and studied as a factor in American history of the highest importance.

The East has always feared the result of an unregulated advance of the frontier and has tried to check and guide it.  The English authorities would have checked settlement at the headwaters of the Atlantic tributaries and allowed the “savages to enjoy their deserts in quiet lest the peltry trade should decrease.”  This called out Burke’s splendid protest: “If you stopped your grants, what would be the consequence?  The people would occupy without grants.  They have already so occupied in many places.  You cannot station garrisons in every part of these deserts.  If you drive the people from one place, they will carry on their annual tillage and remove with their flocks and herds to another. Many of the people in the back settlements are already little attached to particular situations.  Already they have topped the Appalachian mountains.  From thence they behold before them an immense plain, one vast, rich, level meadow; a square of five hundred miles.  Over this they would wander without a possibility of restraint; they would change their manners with their habits of life; would soon forget a government by which they were disowned; would become hordes of English Tartars; and pouring down upon your unfortified frontiers a fierce and irresistible cavalry, become masters of your governors and your counselors, your collectors and comptrollers, and of all the slaves that adhered to them.  Such would, and in no long time must, be the effect of attempting to forbid as a crime and to suppress as an evil the command and blessing of Providence, ‘Increase and multiply.’  Such would be the happy result of an endeavor to keep as a lair of wild beasts that earth which God, by an express charter, has given to the children of men.” [end Burke quote]

[Turner, cont..:] …[T]o the frontier the American intellect owes its striking characteristics.  That coarseness and strength combined with acuteness and inquisitiveness; that practical, inventive turn of mind, quick to find expedients; the masterful grasp of material things, lacking in the artistic but powerful to effect great ends; that restless, nervous energy; that dominant individualism, working for good and evil, and withal that buoyancy and exuberance that comes with freedom–these are traits of the frontier, or traits called out elsewhere because of the existence of the frontier….And now, four centuries from the discovery of America, at the end of a hundred years of life under the Constitution, the frontier has gone, and with its going has closed the first period of American history.

[Frank Jewett Mather, Jr. The Review, August 9, August 16, 1919:]…no ordinary person loves Melville….Upon the reader’s slant towards this sort of parable [Ishmael and the try-works, as Ishmael separates his persona from Ahab’s] will very much depend his estimate of “Moby Dick.” [5]

[H.M. Tomlinson, The Literary Review of the New York Evening Post, Nov. 5, 1921:]  “Moby Dick” is a supreme test. If it captures you, then you are unafraid of great art.  You may dwell in safety with fiends or angels and rest poised with a quiet mind between the stars and the bottomless pit.

[John Freeman to John Haines, April 23, 1926:]…Melville is out, and I wait to see if two continents are aware of his greatness.  Or will the brave sprats gore this Whale anew?  God forbid that the traducers of Swinburne’s genius should perceive Melville’s, with their little viper eyes all of rancour and squint….

[Lewis Mumford to Raymond Weaver, May 21, 1928:]  Melville is a very whale to handle, isn’t he?  My task waxes as my energies wane.

[Raymond Weaver, 1931, p.190:]  The man who had created Moby Dick had in early manhood prayed that if his soul missed its haven it might at least end in utter wreck. “All Fame is patronage,” he had once in long past written to Hawthorne; “let me be infamous.”  But as if in contempt even for this preference, he had, during the last half of his life, cruised off and away upon boundless and uncharted waters, and in the end he sank down into death without a ripple of renown.

[Poet and editor of the London Mercury, J.C. Squire (former Fabian Socialist, during this period, interested in adapting Italian Fascism for England) delivers a lecture series on American poetry at Cambridge University, his alma mater; this excerpt on Whitman, Nov. 11, 1933.  Squire quietly  warns old fogeys about the stultifying American practice of writing only about the Bay of Naples, Vesuvius, Acropolis, Pompeii, etc. which had been rejected by Walt Whitman, father of modern poetry]: “…all that went on while Whitman was writing that revolutionary stuff.  Can you blame the man for being so spasmodic and violent?  He simply could not bear these cultivated surroundings: it was bad enough in the old cultivated surroundings: it was bad enough in the old cultivated country but when you have got a new one, as Whitman found when he was a young man and a middle-aged man, a thing that was not deeply rooted but just existed because it was supposed to be good form to be cultivated, an extremely violent reaction is sure to be expected.  Had he been born in Europe he no doubt would have been an original, eccentric and rather violent revolutionary, but being born in America with that hot, fiery temper and modulation it was only natural that he should go to the extremes to which he did.  We must forgive him his eccentricities, his endless undigested catalogues geographical and geological…facts which make no music and always any sense even: we must forgive him all this because of the havoc he made of things being too crustified, that music seldom came out in rhyme….[Box 5, J.C. Squire papers, UCLA]

[Ralph Henry Gabriel, The Course of American Democratic Thought, 1940, 74:]  Melville sensed that the concept of the moral law which dominated the Middle Period was a utopian ethics.  The doctrines of progress was [sic] an affirmation that men, through apprehending the moral law and through making it effective in society can advance toward some paradise from which sin and baseness have vanished.  Melville looked upon such a goal as a Never-Never Land.  To found, as Emerson did, a philosophy of individualism upon such a dream of utopia seemed to Melville to be an attempt to transform men into children.

What then is the fundamental moral law?  Melville could only answer that the essence of the world is a dualism between good and evil.  He saw it everywhere: the beautiful English countryside and the rotting tenements of Liverpool where he had seen a mother and her babes starving; Fayaway and the sweating bones left from the cannibal feast; the law of love proclaimed by the Man of Nazareth and the world [“] a den/Worse for Christ’s coming, since His love/ (Perverted) did but venom prove.”….

[From a document first published in 1942: Frederick Jackson Turner’s proposal for “International Political Parties in a Durable League of Nations” (for Woodrow Wilson, 1918):]

[F. J. Turner is saying below that national political parties in America overcame sectional loyalties; that this precedent would be effective in stopping Bolshevism internationally, indeed would respond to the pacifist democratic masses. Note the double bind: the elastic bond makes it possible to cater to local interests without destroying international unity. Remember that Wilson was a Southerner who opposed the sectional bitterness that followed the Civil War, hence his delight with The Birth of a Nation. By following his ex-student Turner’s formulation of wild West in contrast to conservative East, he could displace the North-South polarization—indeed as did Thomas Dixon in his novels.]

[Turner:] The following is an abstract of suggestions (derived from the study of the history of American sectionalism and the geography of American political parties) upon the bearing of American experience on the problems of the League of Nations.  The conclusion is reached that in such a League there should be a Legislative body, with substantial, but at first limited, functions, as well as a Court, or Council of Nations, and particularly that the operation of international political parties in connection with such a Legislature would promote the permanence of the League….

…American ideals as so nobly set forth by the President, have found a quicker response among the European laboring classes than elsewhere, and in the passion for democratic peace among the masses lies the hope of the peace of the World internationally.  What light does American experience cast upon the possibility of so using the masses as to promote international unity?…We have given evidence that immigrants from all nations of the world can live together peacefully under a single government that does justice….In a region as diversified in some respects as Europe itself, and as large, the national political parties ran across all sections, evoked intersectional or nonsectional party loyalty, checked the exclusive claim of the section to a vote in the interest of the section, furnished the dissenting minority within the section an organic connection with party associates in other sections, at the same time that this connection was dependent upon just recognition of the special section in which the minority lived.  It was an elastic bond, but one that was strong.  It ran horizontal cross-sections of party ties across the vertical lines of sectional division.  It enabled the voter to act continentally, and it compelled the statesman to act on lines of policy that transcended his section, if he would secure a continental following strong enough to bring him success.

6. There is a distinct advantage in utilizing this party system in a League of Nations…In essence it means the utilization of that body of internationalism already in evidence not only in such organizations as radical political parties, such as the International, the I.W.W., Socialists generally, etc. but also the opposite tendencies seen in international business combinations, scientific and educational international organizations, and conservative forces generally.  The class struggle, so called, is in fact not a national but an international struggle.  If party organization of the radical element alone exists, and if this organization is also dominated and shaped by some one or two nations, as Germany or Russia, it will be extended, as it has been, to other countries in the form of secret, or intriguing societies, proceeding by revolutionary methods, with little or no regard for the separate interests of the nation into which it is introduced as an alien, and with the helmsman operating from the outside, and steering a course which almost necessarily involves adhesion to the primary interest of the country in which such a party is recognized as a powerful interest in the determination of the policy.

Is it better to try to exclude these international political forces from the organization of the new order, or to utilize their internationalizing tendencies by enabling them to operate upon an international legislative body, responsive to play of parties?  Is it worth while to use the fact of class consciousness to diminish the violence of national consciousness?

There can be little doubt that the common people, whether of the extreme radical wing of socialists, or of the conservative party groups, were reluctant to enter the war, and are now in Germany and Austria-Hungary the severest critics of the autocratic group which deceived them and misled them….

7. One recoils from any suggestion of adding a party loyalty international in its appeal to the loyalty of the individual nation.  But the very idea of a League of Nations involves some diminution of the national feeling, some cultivation of international loyalty.  If one could keep the Bolsheviki serpent out of the American Eden, he would hesitate to admit any international party organization which permitted such organization.

But in the reconstruction and ferment which will follow the return of peace, there will be doubts about the existence of Edens anywhere, and the Bolsheviki serpent will creep in under whatever fence be attempted.  May it not be safer to give him a job of international legislation rather than to leave him to strike from dark corners, and with no sense of responsibility?….

…It must…be admitted that the difference between section and nation are many and deep, and that there are some points in which international jealousy and controversy might be promoted rather than restrained by internationally organized parties operating on a legislature…There will be sectional jealousy and suspicion in any League, with whatever form of political organization.  It is inherent in its nature.  The problem is the introduction of checks and antidotes to this tendency.[6]

[Ralph Henry Gabriel, “Thorp, Curti, Baker: American Issues,” American Historical Review, July 1942, 875-876:]  Dr. Thorp and Dr. Baker insist in the foreword [American Issues, 1941] that aesthetic considerations have controlled the choices for Volume II.  “American eagerness to have a national literature,” they affirm, “has too often led us to praise as creative writers men who produced social documentation rather than works of art.”  “We have aimed”, they add, “to include in the second volume only such writing as can honestly be said to show the artist’s hand at work, consciously shaping his material.”…The functional approach to intellectual history fails to take account of some of the forces that bring about the change from one climate of opinion to another….”

[Fulmer Mood on the molding of a great mind:  Frederick Jackson Turner descended from 17th century immigrants, born in the “native community” of Portage, Wisconsin to newspaperman father and ex-schoolteacher mother, no longer pioneers, hence: “Their home was thus one in which some concern was felt for things of the spirit, a space where limited and cramped views did not prevail.”  His insights into behind-the scenes management were gleaned from father, Chair of Board of Supervisors of Columbia County who had to harmonize the interests of Protestants and Catholics, rival nationalities and towns [284-287].  Turner’s democratic ideals were shaped by the character of his birthplace: “The world of Portage, which he had a chance to study thoroughly, taught him things not learned in books.  Portage was plain, a homespun community, democratic in spirit, neighborly.  Turner was of it, genuine; unassuming.  In after years he was to walk in stately academic processions, wearing the cap and gown, singled out for special distinction, for honorary degrees.  But he took the honors with the humility of spirit of one who knew that thereby American democracy complimented not the man Turner but Turner the scholar, the servant of a nation’s best ideals….The social ideals of this young man, early acquired, never disintegrated.  To the last he retained his loyalty to democracy” [285, 287, 293].  Turner’s conception of American history: “as the history of a group of sectionally different communities, each one established in a physiographic area of its own, each one devoted to its particular economy and social life, its own culture and politics.  In the large view of affairs that he upheld, it was the interplay and interdependence of these sections with one another that formed the stuff of American history.  The forward moving frontier was important because, in its westward progress it advanced with unique virgin physiographic areas and thus generated the beginning of still other sections” [337].  The achievement of (classically educated) Turner’s The Rise of the New West: “The grand topics of Congressional debate and legislation were considered in the light of sectional influences impinging on Congress in the persons of sectional champions, political figures in national life.  Federal policy was thus shown to be a resultant of compromise and conciliation which reduced the originally extreme claims of rival sections to a decent moderation.  Natural history, as studied in Congressional action and presidential policy, came thus to have coordinate interest and importance with the internal history of the sections.  And underneath all, the strong tide of nascent democracy was shown silently on the upsweep, moving toward the political victory of Andrew Jackson in 1828.” [Mood, Development of Frederick Jackson Turner as a Historical Thinker, 1943, 346].

[John Maurice Clark delivers a series of lectures at Columbia University, 1946] …when the world was ‘in the grip of a mighty struggle.  On one side are forces driving toward chaos and anarchy, political, social, economic, and moral.  On the other side are forces of centralized control.  Between them stand the forces and men who are trying desperately to salvage a workable basis for a humane and ordered community, in which some effective degree of freedom and democracy may be kept alive without wrecking society by their undisciplined exercise and disruptive excesses.’  [quoted in Schriftgiesser, Business and Social Policy: The Role of the Committee for Economic Development, 1967, 15-16.]

[Willard Thorp, “Herman Melville,” Literary History of the United States, 468. Fourth edition, revised.] The faith which Melville longed for while he was writing Clarel, and finally achieved in when he wrote Billy Budd was not the faith of his fathers.  He did not receive it in a moment of conversion to any inherited system of belief.  He had to construct it for himself. But it was complete and it was sufficient to satisfy him at last.  That he had to make the faith by which he could live–and that he succeeded in his long effort to do so–suggests why he has been so appealing a figure to many later writers whose struggles resemble his own.  War and economic chaos and the new fears aroused by atomic power have been as unsettling to men of sensibility as were the issues of Melville’s day to men of his kind.  Writers like Yeats and Auden, unable to rest in any traditional faith, had–even as Melville did–to construct their own.  Modern man must believe or he is lost.  That is the meaning of Clarel. “If Luther’s day expands to Darwin’s year,/Shall that exclude the hope–foreclose the fear?  The running battle of the star and clod/ Shall run for ever–if there be no God.” [7]

[William Gilman, Melville’s Early Life and Redburn, 1951, 216]…Like Taji and Ishmael, [Redburn] is another of the “isolatoes” whose social and spiritual predicaments became more and more the subject of American works, from Walden and Huckleberry Finn to “Gerontion,” “Prufrock,” and Look Homeward Angel.  Although Redburn does not realize it, it is the failure of the American dream that produces the sense of being an outcast with which he leaves home.  The emotional brutality of the sailors leaves him “a kind of Ishmael” on the ship.  And his isolation in Liverpool and the monstrous poverty of the place furnish glimpses of the growing conflict in the nineteenth century between man and the modern city.  In his love of historical tradition, Redburn is the civilized Westerner who seeks to assimilate and be assimilated by his own culture.  But in Liverpool Redburn finds a commercial and relatively new metropolis, blind to the past and interested only in profit, inhuman in itself and dehumanizing its swarming populace.  It allows widows and children to starve, and except for its churches it thrusts Redburn out of doors.  In Redburn’s awareness of the way a large city crushes both body and spirit in man, Melville makes one of the earliest statements of the cleavage between the individual and his environment in the modern world.

[H.M. Tomlinson, 1949, epigraph to Introduction, Eleanor Melville Metcalf’s Herman Melville: Cycle and Epicycle, 1953]  Our peering curiosity is the measure of his mastership. His contribution to the fun of life, and his deepening of its mystery, only quicken interest in his person, and desire to examine his relics for traces of his secrets.

[Lewis Mumford prefers the moderate middle distance:]  As far as my general approach goes, I stand by my original treatment of Melville in those very features that least comport with the present style of academic biography and criticism.  Just because every aspect of Melville has by now been subjected to microscopic magnification and ex-ray [sic] analysis, there remains perhaps a special place for works that regard him with the naked eye, at a reasonable distance, bringing out the main features and deliberately suppressing the pores and the pockmarks.  Not the least use of careful documentation is the freedom it gives to abandon the methods that produce it, once the results are taken into account.  Otherwise the scholarly virtues of patience, scrupulousness, exactitude, exhaustiveness would come at too high a price.  Without sufficient will to generalize and select, present-day American scholars are perhaps too often tempted to bury by an overload of minute analysis, meant chiefly to impress other scholars working in the same territory, works that were once in danger of being smothered by indifference.

…Like high-fidelity zealots in sound reproduction, many scholars in this generation make no distinction of value between music and noise; and even cheerfully sacrifice music to noise if the latter can be more accurately recorded and reproduced.  Against such minds my revised study may volunteer, as a scarred veteran, to join an open counter-attack.

…Let the reader treat this book as a guidepost, or rather, a partly effaced milestone, on the original narrow country lane of Melville scholarship.  That road has now turned into a six-lane motorway, busy with traffic: dashing private cars, ponderous trucks, bus-loads of tourists on guided tours.  Those who like to linger on an old shadow-dappled lane will not go so fast or get so far: but they will have the freedom to collect their own thoughts, inhale fresh air, take in the landscape, and pluck a few roadside flowers for themselves.  Since I have drawn freely from Melville’s own words whenever they were available, frequently without quotation marks, the voice that will accompany them on this solitary stroll will often be that of Herman Melville.  My task as a critic will have been well done, according to my own lights, if henceforward they ask for no better guide than Herman Melville.  [Lewis Mumford takes on the supposedly fact-fetishizing Stanley Williams faction of Melville scholarship: “Preface to the New Edition,” Herman Melville: A Study of His Life and Vision (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1962): xiii,xiv.  See my book on the Melville Revival for his suppression of pores and pockmarks in the 1920s.)

[U. of Pennsylvania Professor Hennig Cohen, “Why Melville Isn’t For the Masses,” 1969:]  Herman Melville is no doubt the most famous but least celebrated writer in the history of American literature and the evidence received up to now does not indicate that the 150th anniversary of his birth…was an occasion for popular commemoration.  The reasons are almost Melvillean in their ambiguities.  First, Melville is a writer who arouses intense but private responses.  It is not easy to share him because this means sharing one’s privacy, and the sum total of many intensely personal responses does not equal mass popularity.  Though he identified with the outcasts and wanderers, the Ishmaels, Melville himself was no escapist fleeing the drudgery and frustrations of civilization for high drama aboard whaling ships and exotic adventures on the South Sea islands.  He was deeply committed to the world in which he lived and in his fashion, a sociable man.  Moreover, he was involved in significant manifestations of American destiny as both sailor and writer–to such an extent that the subject matter, even the style of his life and books exemplify the national character, and the metaphysical themes that engrossed his thinking are expressions of the national mind….”

[This is the first of two blogs on the antics of the moderate men who tamed Herman Melville. For Part two see https://clarespark.com/2010/06/18/whaleness-2/. You will find yourself at the end of a journey smack in the middle of the Democratic Party and with progressive Republicans too.]

NOTES. [1] Cf. Vivia, the hero of Pierre’s failed attempt at a masterpiece, in Pierre (1852).

[2] This is clearly a reference to Senator William Allen of Ohio, 1803-1879, a Jacksonian expansionist and supporter of Lewis Cass, the latter implemented Indian removal for Jackson: both were advocates of “Popular Sovereignty,” which in practice would have allowed individual states to determine the legality of slavery.

[3] Quoted in A Voice From The Nile, 1886, marked by Melville (Walker Cowen, II, 699). Thomson, then secretary to an English company formed to operate an American silver mine, had just “discovered that the shareholders had been deluded into purchasing an utterly unsound concern, so that his mission and his situation as secretary came to an end together.” (Dobell, Thomson’s biographer.)

[4] William F. Allen, 1885, writing in The Nation, quoted in Fulmer Flood, “The Development of Frederick Jackson Turner as a Historical Thinker,” 1943.  Allen, Turner’s teacher, brought order to the field by producing the first Syllabus of American History, 1883.

[5] The Review was a new journal welcomed by The Nation, May 3, 1919, p.675, as another voice to brake the rapid drift toward the extreme left, joining them, New Republic,and Dial. Mather refers to the “parable” in which Ishmael, after nearly capsizing the ship, turns his gaze away from the hypnotic try-works that represent the primitive emotions unleashed in violent revolution, and that will sink the Pequod: this turning away (apparently) saves Ishmael.  It is conceivable that the Epilogue to Moby-Dick establishing Ishmael’s survival may have been tacked on after British critics complained that the narrator could not be dead; or, the change may have reflected a typically Melvillean oscillation, or a calculated move to please audiences with different politics.  The Whale, in its original Bentley English edition, clearly establishes the whale as amoral authority, the object of the artist as conquering hero, and locates the work in the tradition of the Miltonic Sublime.  On the title page, there is an epigraph from Paradise Lost omitted from the American first edition: “…There Leviathan,/ Hugest of living creatures, in the deep/ Stretch’d like a promontory sleeps or swims,/ And seems a moving land; and at his gills/ Draws in, and at his breath spouts out a sea.” The Extracts (the montage of quotes from other authors concerning whales) does not begin the book, but ends it; the last verse is a “Whale Song”: “Oh the rare old Whale, mid storm and gale/ In his ocean home will be/ A giant in might, where might is right,/ And King of the boundless sea.” Thus the reader is left, not with an image of the pathetic orphaned Ishmael, transmitting the anti-pride message of Job, but a sea shanty glorifying the force and militarism that was deeply offensive to Christian pacifists; the grabbiness that Melville had repudiated in the chapter on Loose Fish and Fast Fish.  Here the key word is “boundless.” (Cf. Taji’s quest at the end of Mardi.)  He could be referring to the boundlessness of scientific inquiry that conservatives claimed was leading to unprecedented forms of tyranny, and for which Ahab had been punished with blindness.  The point is that no Melville scholar has proven that Melville’s original intention was to save Ishmael, and the issue has been neglected, given the weight accorded to Ishmael’s sudden illumination in teaching guides and other material directed at students.

[6] Turner Ms. in Wilson papers since 1918, published in American Historical Review, April 1942, 545-551; William Diamond of Johns Hopkins explained that Turner’s ms. was taken to Paris by Wilson in 1918, along with “a great staff of technical experts, several dossiers of material which he thought might be of use to him.”  Here was an example of the manner in which historians could put their knowledge to work for society, and one which suggested answers to questions that were current again in 1942.  Italics were added to the ms. by an unknown hand.

[7]Thorp distanced himself from Christian sectarianism and radical Protestantism throughout.  He seems to adhere to Christian Socialism (like Matthiessen); Margaret Farrand Thorp wrote a biography of Charles Kingsley, reviewed in London Mercury.  Thorp was a collaborator of Donald Drew Egbert in his survey of American socialism.

September 21, 2009

Managerial Psychoanalysis: Jung, Henry A. Murray, and sadomasochism (1)

 

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progressive psychiatry in SURVEY GRAPHIC, 1947

This is the first of a three part essay on Jung and some of his followers, whose influence in America is probably underestimated; for instance he thrives in “New Age” thinking. The criticisms I lodge against Jung and the Jungians apply to “adjustment”-oriented ego psychology  and describe the eroticism favored by middle-managers I have studied. Since Dr. Henry A. Murray was one of the chief Melville Revivers, and identified personally with Melville, I have added materials taken from Murray’s essays on personology, as edited and collected by the late Edwin S. Shneidman, but also poems and sketches by other practitioners of sadomasochism. (These will appear in the blogs that follow this one.) The picture that finally emerges is fiercely anti-Freudian, misogynistic, and antisemitic.  Teachers and mental health professionals are asked to read these disturbed and disturbing materials, especially as Murray’s sadomasochism has been described in books by Forrest Robinson and Claire Douglas.

SONS AND MOTHERS

     ” Marxism lies in ruins on the ground. It had to die in order that German labor might find its way to freedom, that our nation might again be a nation. Where formerly Marxist songs of hate resounded, there shall we proclaim brotherhood to the workers. Where once the machine guns of the Reds scattered bullets, there we will make a breach for class freedom; where once a spirit of materialism triumphed there we, resting on the eternal right of our nation to freedom, labor and bread, will proclaim the union of all classes, races and callings in a new glowing idealism before our own nation and before all the world.” [Goebbels, quoted Survey Graphic, Nov. 1933, 549, 550]

     “Another dimension of Lasswell’s achievement, and one largely missed by his readers and commentators, is its radical and even revolutionary commitment to democratic goals. Because Lasswell has always used a special vocabulary that most of his political science colleagues have never bothered to understand, and because, further, this vocabulary is notably free of emotive, polemical, and ideological expressions, Lasswell has been frequently misperceived to be an antidemocratic élitist and a reactionary who would do for and to society what B.F. Skinner has done for and to the pigeons….

     “The Lasswellian conception of democracy has always stressed the widest possible shaping and sharing of those values that promote or exemplify human dignity… To be sure, Lasswell has not identified the particular institutional transformations that would promote such values, but neither did Rousseau indicate the political system required for the operation of the “general will,” nor Marx produce a blueprint for the political economy that would follow the revolution. The fact is, we are so habituated by sloganizing about political and social change that we fail to recognize advocacy of such change unless it is accompanied by a certain barricade rhetoric. Hence the full import has been generally missed of what Lasswell means by political psychiatry and integrative politics. [Arnold A. Rogow, “A Psychiatry of Politics,” (University of Chicago Press: 1969), 141,142]

      “May Day came, with its processions of boys and girls, men and women, singing as they marched to Tempelhof, where they gathered, the largest single audience ever assembled in Germany, to hear the labor speech of the Leader. We listened to it over the radio with a little group of countrymen, all full of eagerness to know what the Nazi labor program would be, how they would deal with unemployment and with the great trades-unions. We got nothing but what we disrespectful Americans call ballyhoo. It was the sort of speech that would be made before a Civic Federation audience or a Manufacturer’s Association: flowery sentiments about the brotherhood of workers with brawn and workers with brain, about commonweal instead of individual profit, about a united country where employer and employe[e] march hand in hand for the Fatherland. There was nothing that could be called a program, a definite plan, and our little group of Americans marvelled that Hitler would dare to so disappoint his waiting followers.

     “But the next day his real plan was carried out without warning. The trades-unions were dissolved, a leader of labor was appointed (the Ley whom the labor representatives in Geneva refused to recognize), the “principle of leadership” was substituted for democratic majority rule, the funds and properties of the trades unions were taken over….

     ” I did my best to discover what the policy of the Nazis with regard to labor really was. The whole world has known for years that Hitler’s movement was financed by the great industrialists on his promise to drive out Communism and break up the trades-unions, but on the other hand we were told that many workers had been won to his cause by his promise to make Germany truly Socialistic, a country of equal opportunity, where there should be neither rich nor poor.” [Alice Hamilton, Survey Graphic, 1933, 550. Hamilton, a progressive, worked in industrial medicine. Her analysis of Nazism remains the view of Marxist-Leninists blaming monopoly capitalism, and ignores Hitler’s “Third Way” between communism and capitalism, resonant with American progressivism.]   

      “The era of campus violence seems to have passed. Students are no longer locking up administrators, burning buildings, or engaging in strikes. But the crisis in higher education is not over. Many colleges and universities are in financial trouble. Many students are still dissatisfied with some aspects of higher education. Professional pride is not keeping faculty members from joining unions.” [The Management and Financing of Colleges (The Committee for Economic Development: 1973) p.7]

      Throughout my study of the Melville Revival, I have dwelled upon postwar psychological warfare and preventive politics to suggest the relevant context for “the Melville boom” of the 1940s.  Although Ahab’s usefulness to Cold War ideologues has been noted,[1] the iconography of Ahab has not been linked to a particular Tory diagnosis of “romantic” fascism as an excrescence of democracy, of autodidacticism run amok, as the inevitable outcome of forces unleashed in the American and French Revolutions.  Nor has the Melville Revival been viewed as one episode in the perennial struggle within universities and the media to define and circumscribe radicalism in America, to set limits to the wandering Protestant imagination, to the mobility and penetration ascribed to the Romantic Wandering Jew.  Nativist radicals (Randolph Bourne, Van Wyck Brooks, Lewis Mumford, Henry A. Murray, all admirers of Carlyle and Jung) have rejected “Marx” and “Freud”[2] as alien, dogmatic, deterministic, and divisive; the “class hatred” jacobinical Marxism spawns is held to be the product of heartless ratiocination.  Murray, Lasswell, and their circle (Mumford, Walter Langer, et al) have reproduced Melville’s most antimodern attitudes while claiming a vanguard, emancipating identity for themselves.  Murray, for instance, was offended by Melville’s sympathy with Melville’s character Pierre, in my opinion, not because Melville so nakedly attacked his parents, but because he exposed the family double bind: the structural conflict between truth and order suggesting that pluralist remedies could not harmonize classes and other antagonistic groups; that “virtuous expediency” was not an acceptable option for moralists torn up by the contradiction between Christian theory and practice.

     Although “pluralism” was once our official ideology, an exclusionary organicism called “multiculturalism” is enforced by corporatists who define and enforce “mental health”: the repressed alternative is free-thinking liberalism made efficacious through self-knowledge and social knowledge, through the retrieval of an accurate history.  Therefore, in practice, “pluralism” is hegemonic: gender, ethnic, and “racial” (or other “interest-group”) politics are legitimate, while class politics are Jewish and toxic unless populist, in which case the enemy is the International Jewish Mother grinding the face of the poor.  Unmanageable conflicts (today called “stress”) originate within individuals (no longer “victims”), who then are the major locus of reform.  The mind-managers have exploited the findings of depth psychology, co-opting it to diagnose and control potential dissidents.  They replicate Melville’s consciousness at its most defended and paranoid, that is, where he projects forbidden rage onto class enemies who must then be controlled.  These alluring villains are 1. the insatiably demanding and perfectionistic moral mother (usually masked by the scientific Jew: together they represent the Market) and 2. the mob generated or aroused by the hot brain and cold body of the Jewish scientist/moral mother/demagogue.  But this defense (projective identification as termed by object-relations theorists) cannot be acknowledged as such; Melville, a “great American writer,” like American élites should be manly, i.e., finally rational and in control, even as he drowns.  His obvious problems (both artistic and personal) are either delimited and suppressed or attributed to the aggressions and deficiencies of irrational women (who control the family) and other philistines (who control the market).

     However, Melville’s achievement may have been limited and distorted by his class position; his confusing switches may express the sado-masochistic social relations of middle-managers, of the professionals and intellectuals whose (partial) freedom of expression is contingent upon their willingness to dominate “the lower orders” on behalf of their superiors in the caste/class system; who “excel” by switching off the connection between idea and emotion, art and life, theory and practice, diagnosing Icarus instead.  Such ethereality leads to promotions: the reformed over-reacher enters a higher class as a molten disembodiment, a skylark.  Rescuing the confusing Lover/ Mother/Jew of the Home he has angered and worried, another celebrated poet (Sir John Collings Squire) privately recounted the submission and impassibility that suggests metamorphosis:[3]

 “Beloved, do not fret or knit your brow,/  Never be feared for me,/  You have forced my heart to red eruption now: I am full of fire and free.

 It hurt me in that shaded room, you were/ So logical and blind,/  It hurt me in the autumn woods, you were/ So lovely and so kind.

 Whatever I see of you hurts me, visions come/ Of you, chameleon-wise,/ Surprising, expected, voluble and dumb-/ Oh, enigmatic eyes!

 Go on as you’ve begun/ With voice and form and face,/ Do what you will with me, for at their height,/ Great joy, great pain embrace.

 Hurt me, oh, hurt me, press the ichor out,/ Torture the thing that’s I,/ Let me but bear my destined fruit, I’ll shout/ With joy, and happy die.

 There was a time when you, with eyes averse,/ Said that I was a fool:/ I was hurt and glad: you’ll never hear me curse,/ Flogged in Apollo’s school!

 I cannot any longer separate/ One prompting from another,/ Or yet distinguish mate from inspiring mate,/ Joy sister, and pain brother.

 Everything pains, and everything exalts,/ The world’s ablaze with light,/ I do not think of merits or of faults,/ Even of wrong or right–

 Only I live for Poetry, only I long/ To fructify; only I cling/ To this conviction, now so sure and strong,/ That I was born to sing. ” [4]  

     For the ultra-conservative poet and critic, J.C. Squire (a British supporter of Italian Fascism), the incestuous intermingling of pain and pleasure produced numbness, then enlightenment: an object (“thing”) became subject (“I”) under “torture”; Squire was uplifted to a realm beyond good and evil, beyond pain, perhaps beyond the scrutiny of the hypercritical and constantly changing parent.  At the poem’s climax he is freed from competitors, blissfully confident of his identity as sole legitimate creator (or is he? there is more than a touch of irony in the strange ending).  Perhaps other fascist sympathizers have felt the same longing to “press the ichor out” to achieve a similar transcendence, but then are equally uneasy with their victories.

     To the extent that middle management refuses to know itself and evolve, it perforce must be either protofascist or ineffectual when faced with authoritarian challenges from the Right.  Refusing painful and embarrassing (because delegitimating) self-explorations, the social thought of the Melville Revivers is situated among Terror-Gothic responses to mass politics; as political Symbolists they may not analyze fascism except as irrational: their anti-intellectualism, revealed in a root-and-branch rejection of “science” is defined as entirely rational.  For the remainder of this section, we will examine the failure of Murray and other authoritarian psychologists (either Jungians or “ego psychologists”) to assess the enemy, protect life, and advance cultural freedom.

     Like Picasso, Murray resorted to primitivist escape, apparently from “civilized” women, but more likely from the rationalism, perseverance, and indignation associated with the working class brain.  Such irrationalism in high places has had consequences for public policy today.  One example was spelled out in my exegesis of the Langer report psychoanalyzing Hitler for the OSS in 1943, and made public in its “original” form in 1972 as a response to the “hippie-fascists” of the 1960s and 1970s, and as a demonstration that psychohistory could prevent errors in managing relations with other recent and future dictators.  The mostly favorable newspaper reviews suggest that antifascist intellectuals will not read a code they should have mastered, for instance that Langer’s portrait of Hitler resembled that of the German agent, George Sylvester Viereck, who, in 1923, imagined the explosive Hitler as Pierrot: androgynous, decadent and a Jew; that is, a mask for the New Woman (or woman with book), breeder of the new Hun (Eve/Cain: Ahab/working class).  The treason of the intellectuals reflects an ideological imperative to explain Nazism as the revolt of the masses, invidiously contrasted to the American people’s community managed by corporatist liberals, for instance, in the Committee for Economic Development.  A comparative structural analysis would have taken the heat off psychopathic Germany, making fascism one common response to economic crisis, and not simply identical with “monopoly capitalism” (the latter a populist or Stalinist formulation). 

    As I have been using the word, fascism is a cultural revolution seeking to reinstate authoritarian social relations and predictable outcomes in open-ended liberal, rationalist, democratic societies moving forward by educating its populace in the ways of critical thought and universalist ethics.  New Leftist critiques of mass culture should be compared to the nativist radicalism of Murray and his circle; there is an intertwined anti-Semitism and misogyny in recent radical scholarship that has not been identified, and which cripples attempts to diagnose structural determinants of cultural pathology.  This study should be contrasted with other analyses of censorship that see cultural pluralism as the norm, repression as aberrant, and invariably produced by extremists of the right and left; extremists whose type is Melville the frontiersman, the desperado defined against impartial liberal élites.

     Bartleby’s mysticism, immobility, and self-exile may express the remorse that followed Melville’s wicked, contaminating identification with the atheistic, materialistic, revolutionary bourgeoisie and their incendiary offspring, the combination whose deadly ambition has caused the absolutist Good Father to disappear: “All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses, his real conditions in life, and his relations with his kind,” observed Marx and Engels in a provocation of 1848.  “Where dat old man?” Melville asked in the voice of his infant son Malcolm, throughout his European travels of 1849.  But this parent never existed: he was always a phantom, perhaps what the child/apostate fears he demolished, the victim of his little (short Margothian) “gibes.”  Melville presented the type in his portrait of the Indian-hater, Colonel Moredock, an Ahab (or a Pierre, later a Nathan) of the backwoods: self-reliant, instructed by the unmediated contact with nature, and obsessed with avenging the massacre of his family, but unsated, finally killing Indians for the art and craft of it.  The frontiersman Moredock and his disease (monomania) were the predictable outcome of a world deprived of good kings: that is, patriarchs who obeyed God by fulfilling their paternal obligations toward their dependents, in this case enforcing an orderly western, i.e., Whiggish, expansion that would not arm and inflame the people.

      Only a mask can represent the non-existent “moderate man”; Picasso’s seated Pierrot, like Nietzsche’s wanderer, empty, a spectator and a nihilist, drops the mask to beg for “another mask.”  For Dr. Henry A. Murray (1893-1988), a “moderate conservative” strategically masked as a “left-wing democrat,” the longing for a tolerant father to protect him from the perfectionism of his mother represents a broader, equally hopeless, social yearning for a unifying myth to reconcile groups or forces that seem increasingly intent on annihilating one another; it is the imminent disaster that some of Melville’s characters thought they recognized in the class polarizations of the Civil War and the Gilded Age that followed.  For the merchant and proto-Christian Socialist Rolfe in Clarel (1876, and held by many Melvilleans to be Melville’s mouthpiece), the antagonists in one corner were all-too-liberal protestant pluralists who had abandoned the sane children of the vital center and who, like Derwent (a Matthew Arnold type), were fellow-travelling with the irreverent “Hegelised” German-Jewish geologist Margoth (“such a Jew!”); and in the other corner, their opposition: the deceptively reformist but ever tyrannical Catholic Church.  Where was the good father of the Center who would restrain the predatory side of capitalism that was driving workers into suicidal opposition?[5]


     [1] Donald Pease in Ideology in Classic American Literature, ed. Bercovich  and Jehlen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986).

    [2] The errors and weaknesses of either figure are pounced upon to discredit institutional analysis, historical memory, and introspection, while what is valuable and original may be annexed to projects at odds with their goals.

     [3] Here is a montage J. C. Squire preserved in his scrapbook: The headline reads “We Nominate for the Hall of Fame”:  Underneath the romantic photo of the black-haired, suited, pipe-smoking, calmly gazing young Squire, the caption reads: “Because his parodies have been as critical and amusing as any of our generation; because he is one of the best known of the Georgian poets; because as a critic he is the most able young man in England, devoted to upholding conservative standards; because he is the  editor of the London Mercury, which under his direction has become the most successful literary magazine in England: and finally because he is now, happily, on a lecture tour of the United States.” Below, Squire pasted two cartoons: one apparently of G. K. Chesterton heading toward the Statue of Liberty on a miniature ocean liner; the other purporting to be “a study by an American girl of eleven” entitled “Do You Recognize Her?” The woman is a frightening figure whose attributes are literally present: “Raven hair, star-like eyes, arched eyebrows, seashell ears, rosy cheeks, pearly teeth, cherry lips, swan-like neck, and lily-white hands go to make the picture.”  (The eyes are actually represented by stars of David: are they the eyes that detect frauds?) I am certain that Squire did not recognize himself in the laudatory remarks quoted above. His letters and notes, his alcoholism, reveal the same self-loathing and sense of inauthenticity that I have found in all the Symbolists under examination.

            [4] Ms. “They Learn in Suffering,” J.C. Squire.  The last four verses were crossed-out.

           [5] See George Mosse on nationalization of the masses, Lasswell’s technocratic military élites; Murray’s call for an eclectic sacred text to replace the Bible; Reinhold Niebuhr in the 1940s.

August 25, 2009

Preventive Politics and socially responsible capitalists, 1930s-40s

Talcott Parsons still hot

The following excerpt from my book on the Melville Revival logically follows on the heels of the recent blog on negative images of “the People” and should be read together. It contains some of the most damning material that I found in my research, for “preventive medicine” and “preventive politics” are hellishly and unscientifically intertwined, and have been funded by the most liberal foundations and other sources of support.

[From Hunting Captain Ahab, chapter 9:] The pursuit of Melville in elite eastern universities during the late 1930s was coterminous with the excising of “radical” will through antifascist liberal surgery. As world war loomed, Marxists and many others from Center to Left were predicting fascism in America. New Deal policies, they argued, could not avert or repair the periodic structural crises of capitalism; only a corporate state could suppress the class warfare that would flare anew in the depression that was expected to follow demobilization. Irrationalist moderate conservatives viewed moralistic self-righteousness (on the Left) and selfishness (on the Right) as the source of social violence.

In 1939 or 1940, three moderate men, Robert Hutchins, Paul Hoffman, and William Benton, invited University of Chicago faculty and “personal friends” from big business to join a study group, The American Policy Commission. Hutchins was President of the University of Chicago and defender of Great Books; he and his former partner Chester Bowles would be members of America First; Hoffman was President of Studebaker, later chief administrator for the Marshall Plan and first president of the Ford Foundation; Benton was Vice-President of the University of Chicago, promoter of modern radio advertising, Amos ‘n Andy, and Muzak, later publisher of Encyclopedia Britannica and other educational media, Assistant Secretary of State, then originator of “The Voice of America,” U.S. Senator from Connecticut, and backer of UNESCO enabling legislation. The American Policy Commission evolved into The Committee For Economic Development, institutionalized in 1942; its purpose to meet the anticipated postwar depression with Keynesian economics. The CED distinguished its “socially responsible” policies from those of the laissez-faire National Association of Manufacturers; it brought scholarly specialists together with liberal businessmen to steer America clear of the mad extremes of Fascism and Communism, later McCarthyism, inflated arms budgets, and commercial broadcasting.

The omnipresent political scientist Harold Lasswell was central to their project of preventive politics: the Jung-inspired Lasswell discovered the psychopathology of communism and fascism. Benton’s biographer unambiguously placed Lasswell’s probe in the democratic tradition:

“[Lasswell] looked hard and long at these worldwide disorders of the political mind, hoping to find in them the terms for a program of preventive medicine and that could help maintain America as a free society with equal opportunity for human dignity open to all.”

With the examples of Plato and other classicists at hand, Lasswell and other psychopathologists could protect the old master narrative. Nazis sighted on the horizon (like the jingoistic followers of Father Coughlin and other American fascists) must be the People: sneaky, bloody, perverse, selfish and paranoid. Without good father navigation the hysterical People would be driven by shadows in Plato’s Cave, go berserk and drown “business.” Lasswell was worried about the possible transition from fascism to communism; while attempting to overcome Marxian socialism, (rational) European businessmen had been captured by the “romantic Fascists” of the squeezed “lower middle-class” who might go on to liquidate their former patrons.

Interestingly, for Lasswell in 1936, the scenario in America seemed different. Here the middle class was so identified with “big business” and “big finance” that it was likely to fall for the propaganda against “reds” and smash labor. To avoid “piecemeal fascism” and to enhance “peaceful development,” Lasswell (and other ego psychologists) prescribed class-consciousness (but integration) through pluralist bargaining in “interest groups” to achieve emotional and intellectual independence from monopolistic big business. In 1941, Lasswell urged vigilant sighting and sympathetic treatment of bad seeds:

[Lasswell:] “Public opinion is profoundly distorted when there are deference crises in society; and these appear when the level of deference is suddenly interfered with, and when destructive personalities exercise a directive effect upon public opinion. Some persons are at odds with themselves, carrying heavy loads of anxiety, and from these anxiety types extremism may be expected. We need to become aware of which social practices in the home, school, factory, office–contribute to anxiety and which to security. We may be able to lower the level of the explosive reserves when human development is subject to gross distortion.”

Lasswell could have been describing Herman Melville’s anxious disillusion with paternal authority; perhaps explosions would be obviated by enhanced civilian morale with methods advocated by Harvard social psychologists Murray and Allport, also disseminated in 1941. By 1942, these social scientists were certain: the Head Self was sturdy guardian of “the public interest,” whereas overly egalitarian motions inside the Western Body levelled walls, erected barricades, then tossed up lonesome corpses. In his article “Propaganda and Social Control,” Talcott Parsons, Murray’s Harvard associate and mentor, addressed mental health practitioners, proposing that the government practice “social psychotherapy” to stabilize the national consensus. He advocated subliminal “reinforcement type” propaganda to calm the “revolutionary” and “disruptive” types that were inducing structural change or undermining “confidence in authority and leadership.”

For Parsons, maladjusted neurotics were fomenting conflict and fragmentation, not adaptation and interdependence. But froward rebels could be cured in the socially responsible psychiatrist’s office through “steady discipline to which the patient is subjected in the course of his treatment. While the fact that he is required and allowed to express himself freely may provide some immediate satisfactions, he is not really allowed to ‘get away’ with their implications for the permanent patterning of his life and social relations, but is made, on progressively deeper levels, conscious of the fact that he cannot ‘get away’ with them. The physician places him in a kind of ‘experimental situation’ where this is demonstrated over and over again (561).”

Compare the Parsons protocol with the sermon of a German theologian in 1933 switching “secular Jews,” the most dangerous type of atheist:
“Everywhere where something can disintegrate decomposed, can be destroyed, maybe marriage and family, patriotism or the Christian church, discipline and order, chastity and decency; everywhere there is something to gain, he is involved there. He is mocking with his ingenious joking, with his smart and skillful talent, with his persistent subversive energy. An atheist always acts destructively; but nowhere is the destructive force of this attitude as devastating as in the case of a Jewish person who wasted his rich heritage from the Old Testament and joined the swine.”

Pragmatic Harvard social psychologists had appropriated Madisonian pluralist politics, ignoring the libertarian, anti-corporatist aspect of their theoretical underpinnings. For the new moderates, social stability was achieved when triumphalist factions (instigated by religious enthusiasm or other forms of zealotry such as an inordinate love of gain), were replaced by amoral interest groups; relieved of (Hume’s) plundering or leveling extremists, bargains could be struck, reconciling private interest with public good: the moderates would have clambered onto solidly “mobile-middle ground.” Reading Madison in Federalist #10, they could infer that free speech was a safety valve, circumscribed spatially and irrelevant to political processes with realistic goals. Having banished irrationality from their own procedures, the Harvard clique could see themselves as resolutely antifascist, for it was the mob-driven Nazi movement (likened by Parsons to romantic puritans in other writing of 1942) that was pathological.

Ritual rebellions could be safely confined within psychiatrists’ offices or the pages of Typee (or in the bed Ishmael shared with Queequeg). Parsons’ contribution appeared in Psychiatry along with a germinal article “Hitler’s Imagery and German Youth,” by Erik Homburger Erikson, another colleague of Murray’s at Harvard. Erikson presented Hitler as a “great adventurer” possessed of “borderline traits”; he was the perennial adolescent, a big brother to other unyielding gangsters. Erikson held that broken-spirited German fathers lacking inner integration and authority were responsible for the (hysterical) romantic revolt of the sons. Erikson’s identity politics owed more to Murray and the romantic conservative Jung, a theorist of racial character, than to the cosmopolitan and bourgeois Freud. Soon the Jungian analyst Murray (who admired the Wandering Jew Freud’s eyes that penetrated walled-up areas of the psyche) would be advising President Roosevelt that Hitler, the autodidact Id-man, the Dionysiac Man of the Crowd who had overcome big Capital, was an “arch-Romantic,” a composite of Lord Byron and Al Capone, a paranoid schizophrenic, a homosexual, and probably a carrier of Jewish blood through his father; ergo Hitler’s “uncanny knowledge of the average man”should “be appropriated to good advantage.” Disillusion with the Führer was perilous; Murray argued for “a profound conversion of Germany’s attitude” after the Allied victory:

[Murray:] “Disorganization and confusion will be general, creating breeding ground for cults of extreme individualism. A considerable part of the population will be weighted down with a heavy sense of guilt, which should lead to a revival of religion. The soil will be laid [sic] for a spiritual regeneration; and perhaps the Germans, not we, will inherit the future.”

Lasswell and Murray, both progressives, thought as one. In his Power and Personality (1948), Lasswell contemplated the continuing plausibility of Marxist analysis, worried about “paranoids” with their fingers on nuclear buttons, and urged “genuine democrats to expose the dubious and dangerous expectation of democracy through mass revolution.” The world revolution of the twentieth century would probably culminate in mutually annihilating technocratic garrison states unless “the scientists of democracy” intervened to create the “sociocapitalist” “free man’s commonwealth.” Murray’s personality tests (developed in the mid-1930s and during his stint with the OSS during the war) fertilized Lasswell’s febrile, holistic imagination. While deploying the concepts of accountability and openness that for Locke had been indispensable to the functioning of popular sovereignty, Lasswell, with Murray’s personnel assessment tests in tow, had turned Locke upside down:

[Lasswell:] “One of the practical means by which tensions arising from provocativeness can be reduced is by the selection of leaders from among non-destructive, genuinely democratic characters…. This has already gone far in appointive jobs. Several businesses are accustomed to promote executives not only on the basis of the general administrative record but according to scientific methods of personality appraisal. The aim is to discern whether factors in the personality structure counterindicate the placing of heavier responsibilities on the person.
” To a limited extent selection procedures in army, navy and civil administration have been directed to the same end. But the procedure is not yet applied to elective office. What is needed is a National Personnel Assessment Board set up by citizens of unimpeachable integrity which will select and supervise the work of competent experts in the description of democratic and antidemocratic personality. The Assessment Board can maintain continuing inquiry into the most useful tests and provide direct services of certifications of testers. When this institution has been developed it will slowly gather prestige and acceptance. Sooner or later candidates for elective office will have enough sense of responsibility to submit voluntarily to an investigation by the board, which would say only that the candidate has, or has not, met certain defined minimum standards. Gradually, the practice of basic personality disclosure can spread throughout all spheres of life, including not only local, state, national or inter-nation government personnel, but political parties, trade unions, trade associations, churches and other volunteer associations.
[Lasswell, cont.]”It is an axiom of democratic polity that rational opinion depends upon access to pertinent facts and interpretations. Surely no facts are more pertinent than those pertaining to character structure of candidates for leadership. Progressive democratization calls for the development of such new institutions as the Assessment Board for the purpose of modernizing our methods of self-government.” [end Lasswell quote]

The National Personnel Assessment Board set up by citizens of unimpeachable integrity,” “gradually” penetrating every institution, would control definitions of acceptable rational opinion. And yet Lasswell was no friend to totalitarian regimes; as member of the Research Advisory Board and spokesman for CED, he condemned loyalty investigations. Instead of imitating sleazy witch-hunters on the Right or the “negative” tactics of the ACLU on the Left, he called for an overhaul of leaders and the led (the latter ultimately responsible for protecting First Amendment freedoms). A balance would be struck between national security and individual freedom through formation of community discussion groups, to be fed by appropriately cautious government experts supplying an interactive (but “expert”-controlled) free press and public broadcasting system. In the 1950s, Lasswell’s study of political symbols helped social scientists refine their tools in the surveillance of blooming political dissidents. Murray’s OSS recruitment test of 1943 could weed potentially disloyal government employees, while his Thematic Apperception Test (1935) could enhance content-analysis of mass communications. Lasswell frankly explained the purposes that infused the new discipline of communications studies, said to be relevant to literary scholars and historians; indeed he decoded authoritarian styles of discourse throughout.

Modern preventive politics did not begin with the machinations of Lasswell & Co. but with Humean or Burkean autopsies of the regicidal English and French Revolutions. According to the reform-or-ruin school of preventive hygiene, foul winds and cancers appear when aristocrats allow vices to ferment in the bowels; the social bond is broken, virtue and vice trade places. Through alert planning (like education and sports for the masses and psychoanalysis for their betters), elites would become more flexible while containing their passion for libertine excess and luxurious display; meanwhile the People would have healthy outlets for their discontent and desirousness–like libertine excess and luxurious display especially in the mass media.

Thus Reason, Conscience, and the State would be brought into congruence. The reform-or-ruin strategy of social hygiene and preventive politics would dominate the political science and social psychology created by moderate conservatives. Understrapping their dreams of thoroughgoing surveillance, the watchbird watched everybody, leaders and the led. [end excerpt from and Hunting Captain Ahab: Psychological Warfare and the Melville Revival, footnotes not included]

August 22, 2009

Left-liberal social psychologists and “civilian morale” at Harvard

pop culture paradise

pop culture paradise

[This blog should be read along with another book excerpt, https://clarespark.com/2009/08/25/preventive-politics-and-socially-responsible-capitalists-1930s-40s/ for equally determined elite initiatives to improve “social cohesion” at the expense of critical thought.]

One internet journal pitched to educators, Inside Higher Ed (see Scott McLemee, August 19, 2009),  has resuscitated the fascinating book by Leo Lowenthal and Norbert Guterman, Prophets of Deceit, a guide to the tricks of  right-wing agitators. I suppose that political scientists of the center-Left admire this book, and I enjoyed it too when I read it years ago, twice. But it is hailed by McLemee (though it was published in 1949) as an attack avant la lettre on the tactics of conservative spokespeople in the media (with Glenn Beck as chief example), alleging that racist demagogues of the Father Coughlin stripe are at large and duping the electorate in order to massacre “health care reform.”

   To pin “sykewar” on “the Right” as if “progressives” had not been practicing their own style of mind-management is to ignore the historical record. While I was studying the social psychologists and propagandists who had played leading roles in the Melville revival between the wars, I found materials in the Harvard University Archives that were so startling that even my jaded dissertation committee at UCLA was shocked. So I am putting an excerpt from the second chapter of Hunting Captain Ahab on the blog to warn the Sparkists not to trust politicians and their academic supporters without the most scrupulous and detailed investigations of their rhetoric, claims, and sources. The sociologists, psychologists, and political scientists I studied included Talcott Parsons, Henry A. Murray, Gordon Allport, and Harold Lasswell. A slightly revised excerpt from my second chapter follows, and this is only a tiny sample of the horrors I found in my research. (Footnotes not included).

[From Hunting Captain Ahab:] According to the Kleinian psychoanalytic theory of “projective identification” the self projects forbidden aggression into an external object which must be controlled. In the case of the upwardly mobile middle class, their (contemptible) will to power is supposedly projected upon the Jews. Stubborn adherence to non-dualisms was identified with scapegoating, obviously a bad thing for mental health. Social psychologist Gordon Allport denounced group prejudice in his frequently reprinted Freedom Pamphlet of 1948, The ABC’s of Scapegoating. Allport advised Americans to adjust to pluralism by looking inside to check their “moral cancer” (7). Whites should stop scapegoating blacks, Christians should stop scapegoating Jews, “labor” should stop scapegoating “the spokesmen for ‘business’ ” (like Allport?), and conservatives should stop confusing liberals with communists by scapegoating FDR (26). Allport’s pamphlet is illuminated by comparison with the worksheets he earlier devised with Dr. Henry A. Murray for the Harvard seminar Psychological Problems in Morale (1941), meant to be disseminated to “private organizations” throughout the nation. As part of the Harvard Defense Council, the seminar was to be “an important component in a general program of coordinated research.” The materials for the course consisted of one short red-bound typescript, and numerous stapled worksheets, each methodically dealing with some aspect of propaganda, including a summary of Hitler’s personality and psychodynamics that would inform counter-propaganda. Hitler’s duplicity, irrationality and contempt for the masses was constantly compared with American rationality, which oddly enough, was derived from the protofascist and irrationalist social theorist, Vilfredo Pareto.

     In worksheet #4, “Determinants of Good and Bad Morale,” the authors outlined “aggressive needs in group coherence.” First, there must be “outlets for grievances”: “Provision for the free expression of opinion improves morale.” Second, “scapegoat outlets” were another aid to good morale:
     “The direction of aggression against a subversive minority group may reduce tensions, and will be least disruptive if the scapegoat group is one which is in conflict with the total group in respect of major immediate aims. Aggression had better be directed against the external enemy, but if this is frustrated, or the group becomes apathetic, the subversive minority group may improve morale by either (1) reducing frustrated tensions of aggression or (2) reawakening aggression, or (3) displacing aggression away from intra-group aggression, or (4) displacing aggression away from the leaders of the group, if and when reversed [sic] are suffered (p.8).” [The worksheets are vague about what “subversive minority group” is meant. Could it be “the Jews”? For instance, Keynes once wrote in a letter complaining about the terms of the postwar loan from the U.S. to Britain, and referring to Truman’s “Jewish economic advisers (who, like many Jews, are either Nazi or Communist at heart and have no notion of how the British commonwealth was founded or is sustained)….” (Skidelsky bio of Keynes, Vol. 3, p.445) In other words, despite Allport’s pamphlet skewering “scapegoating in  1948,” only a few years earlier, expediency virtuously demanded that such techniques were appropriate in the interest of a national consensus. Given the widespread impression that Jews were always subversive, no matter what their social class, my conjecture is not unwarranted. Added, 8-22-09]

   I am suggesting that the ahistoric, irrationalist concept of “scapegoating” or “negative identity” cannot explain “prejudice”; rather, the pluralists are admitting there is no basis for unity in class societies whose politics are organized around national or ethnic “peaceful competition.” If the only unity is found in differing groups worshipping one “ideal self” (or artwork, which will, in practice, be designated by at least one segment of the elite), then the bad individualist like Melville will be attacked. Thou shalt not question the good parent’s benevolence or the possibility of “group adjustment” by reconfiguring the social structure along materialist, i.e., “Jacobin” lines. As Sartre noted in his wartime essay Anti-Semite and Jew, German unity was forged solely in the common project to remove the social irritant that prevented natural harmony. This “prejudice” against the Jewish intellect and its sulking reverence, so corrosive to “natural” family bonds, was specific to a pluralist society whose objective divisions could not be overcome without some measure of institutional transformation. The rooted cosmopolitanism of the moderate men, by definition masking class and gender conflicts with the bizarre notion of competing, yet peacefully co-existing, mutually adapting ethnic groups, is thus deceptive and discredits all science: its “pluralism” and “tolerance” attack the moral individual seeking common ground by straying outside the boundaries set by elites. In the case of the Murray-Allport worksheets, those limits were scientistically delineated; the Jeffersonian tradition was co-opted and redefined in the indispensable “Values of the Past”:

      “The more awareness there is of the group’s heroic past the better the morale. (Freedom from Old World Oppression, Jeffersonian Democracy, etc.) The more awareness of a national tradition of which the group is ashamed or guilty, the worse the morale…The slogan “Make The World Safe For Democracy” was anchored neither in the historical past or future. A durable morale must be historically anchored in the past and in the future, as well as in the present (Worksheet #4, 4, 5).”

     So much for the messianic republican mission and Wilsonian Progressivism. The ever-questioning, self-critical temper of the Enlightenment, the very Head and Heart of the libertarian eighteenth century, could only lead to bad morale. Although the authors had discarded the Wilsonian project, they went on to say that racial or economic discrimination were bad for morale, that there could be no doubt about the prospects for a better postwar world. A hodge-podge of factors: “communism, fascism, economic chaos, depression, or uncertainty,” all would impair morale (6). Peace aims were suggested: an International Police Force would ensure that “There will be a better distribution of the goods of the earth; all classes will be benefited” (Red-bound typescript, 13). But war aims must remain vague, for we were a “pluralist society,” not a “unified society”; there were different strokes for different folks: “Disparities of statements shouldn’t be too obvious or made visible (#4, 7).”

[compare with this excerpt from another essay of mine, describing the Bunche-Myrdal dispute: “…wise progressive planning and foresight, included the sighting of threats to order, and was reiterated in a Q. and A. booklet from the Office of War Information, “What Do Students Do In The War and After” (numbered M-3227,  slipped into the Ideologies volume in the Bunche Papers at UCLA, though not bound). On page 8 the Committee for Economic Development [business leaders adopting Keynesian economic policies, created in 1942, C.S.] is mentioned as promising “maximum employment and high productivity” after the war. Page 9 quotes Ambassador Winant in a speech to English miners: “Anti-Fascism is not a short term military job. It was bred in poverty and unemployment. To crush Fascism at its roots we must crush depression. We must solemnly resolve that in the future we will not tolerate the economic evils which breed poverty and war. This is not something that we solve for the duration. It is part of the war.”  Page 10 announces “There is a growing sense of social responsibility among business leaders and a wide-spread acceptance of the inescapable duty of business to maintain full production and continuous employment to maintain the purchasing power upon which prosperity depends.” Page 11 ff., states that the curricula for history, the social sciences and the liberal arts will be revised and adjusted accordingly: Education must stress science, interpersonal human relations, and international affairs, the “larger world of other peoples and other cultures with whom we must collaborate in establishing world order.” [end, excerpt from my essay on Bunche-Myrdal interactions]

    Properly guided we would be historically anchored in promises of abundance and an illusion of unity, yet we were not fascists. The section “General Attitudes Toward Leaders” anticipated the criticism that American propaganda duplicated Nazi methods. First the authors warned “the less the faith in sources of information, the worse the morale.” The next item suggested “Linking of Present Leader to the Idealized Leaders of the Past”:

     “The more the present leader is seen as continuing in the footsteps of the great idealized leaders of the past, the better the morale. (Picture of Roosevelt between Washington and Lincoln would encourage this identification.) The more the present leader is seen as falling short of the stature of the great idealized leaders of the past, the worse the identification (11).”

    “By effective leadership the group’s latent communality may emerge through identification with the leader. If this smacks of the Führer-Prinzip, we would insist that identification is a process common to all societies, and that what distinguishes the democratic leadership from the Nazi leadership is not the process of identification but the content of what is identified with. It is the function of the democratic leader to inspire confidence in the democratic way of life, in its value for the individual or the society and not mere identification with his person, or the mythical Volk (16).”

    For the tolerant materialists Murray and Allport, as with David Hume before them, there is no foreordained clash between individuals and institutions, no economic relationships to undermine altruism and benevolence: man is naturally communal and “society” as a coherent entity, a collective subject, actually exists. The good leader is neither autocratic nor corrupt, “does not waver, is not self-seeking, is impartial, accepts good criticism” (#4, 10). As we have seen, tolerance, i.e., criticism of leadership, had its limits. Jefferson’s legacy had to be reinterpreted because critical support of political institutions in the Lockean-Jeffersonian-Freudian mode is not identical with “identification,” an unconscious process whereby primitive emotions of early childhood are transferred to all authority, coloring our ‘rational’ choices and judgments. Only the most rigorous and ongoing demystification and precise structural analysis (with no government secrets) could maintain institutional legitimacy for political theorists in the libertarian tradition, but, for the moderates, such claims to accurate readings as a prelude to reform were the sticky residue of the regicides.
And where is the boundary between good and bad criticism? Alas, just as Martin Dies had suggested that the poor should tolerate the rich, Murray and Allport advised Americans to tolerate (or forget) “Failure in the Nation’s Past.” We must do better, of course.

    The worksheet continues, recommending that traditional American evangelicalism embrace the disaffected, for there may be moderate enthusiasts in the new dispensation:

   “The submerging of the individual in enthusiastic team work is not altogether foreign to the American temper. This means Jews, the “lower” classes, the draftees, labor unions, and so on. It cannot be done by fiat, but the inequalities might be mitigated if not removed, so that otherwise apathetic groups would feel a stake in the defense of the country, and the middle and upper classes more aware of the meaning of democracy (16).”

    These latter remarks were intended to answer the question Murray and Allport had posed at the beginning of their book: “Certain themes in Axis propaganda are continually stressed, notably the self-righteousness and hypocrisy of the democracies in general and of the U.S. (and President Roosevelt) in particular. What’s to be done about it?” (4). Virtually the entire postwar program of conservative reform was foreshadowed in these pages. As formulated in the mid-nineteenth century, abolitionist and working-class demands for universal education, equal rights, and enforcement of the Constitution would be redirected into the quotas of affirmative action or multiculturalism. In worksheet #17, “Long Term Aspects of Democratic Morale Building,” a program of integration and deferential politeness would rearrange the American people’s community:

   “…far from ignoring or suppressing diversities of intelligence, the objective of democratic morale-building should be their conscious integration into an improving collective opinion. The techniques of such integration exist. They are inherent in the democratic tradition of tolerance and the democratic custom of free discussion. They exist, however, in outline rather than in any ultimate or perhaps even very high state of development (4). [Quoting Gordon Allport:]…Our pressure groups are loud, their protests vehement and our method of electioneering bitter and sometimes vicious. In the process of becoming self-reliant Americans have lost respect, docility, and trust in relation to their leaders. Our habit of unbridled criticism, though defended as a basic right, brings only a scant sense of security to ourselves in an emergency, and actively benefits the enemies of the nation (5).”

    And one such source of insecurity (i.e., subversion) was anti-war education and pacifism: “insofar as the disapproval of war was based on a rejection of imperialist patriotism, it engendered war-cynicism” (Red-bound typescript, 4). In other words, Murray and Allport were admitting that involvement in the war could not be legitimated as an anti-imperialist intervention, nor could there be any other appeal to reason. Leaders, past and present, would have to be idealized; all criticism bridled in the interest of “integration.” The disaffected should moderate their demands, settling for mitigation, not relief. And if, despite the neo-Progressive prescriptions, the road to national unity remained rocky, scapegoating, properly guided by social scientific principles, would certainly deflect aggression away from ruling groups.

[Ernest Kalibala, graduate student in the Harvard Department of Sociology, to Ralph J. Bunche, 30 August 1943:] “Our University is now in the hands of reactionaries. ”

   The famous Harvard Report General Education in a Free Society (1945) addressed the “explosive growth” of high schools populated by the working-class. Fellow-feeling, common ground and common standards as conceived in traditional culture would bind potentially wayward youth, protecting them from the atomizing society made even more divisive and menacing by the baleful influence of mass media. Moreover the Murray-Allport (depoliticized, irrationalist) interpretation of mass politics informed their efforts: youth revolts were exacerbated by “extreme skepticism.” The Report asked “How far should we go in the direction of the open mind? Especially after the first World War, liberals were sometimes too distrustful of enthusiasm and were inclined to abstain from committing themselves as though there were something foolish, even shameful in belief. Yet especially with youth, which is ardent and enthusiastic, open-mindedness without belief is apt to lead to the opposite extreme of fanaticism. We can all perhaps recall young people of our acquaintance who from a position of extreme skepticism, and indeed because of that position, fell an easy prey to fanatical gospels. It seems that nature abhors an intellectual vacuum. A measure of belief is necessary in order to preserve the quality of the open mind. If toleration is not to become nihilism, if conviction is not to become dogmatism, if criticism is not to become cynicism, each must have something of the other.”

   Like the rest of the Report, this statement co-opts the language of enlightenment, but whenever it gets down to cases, actually mentioning writers and documents, those “landmarks” or critical methods of the Western heritage that point to possible irreconcilable structural conflicts are missing. The double bind operating at Columbia University in 1917 was in full force: there shall be no contradiction between “belief” and the open mind.

   Harvard has not gone out of its way to publicize the Allport-Murray contribution to “civilian morale.” In a 1995 exhibition of photographs celebrating Harvard’s participation in the war effort mounted near the entrance to Harvard University Archives, neither Murray nor Allport was represented. Similarly, the Fall 1995 issue of Harvard Magazine featured “Harvard in World War II,” but omitted their role in psychological warfare at home: Gordon Allport was mentioned once in connection with army propaganda and Murray was invisible, while rationales for American involvement described a fight for “liberty,” not democracy. [end, excerpt from chapter two, Hunting Captain Ahab: Psychological Warfare and the Melville Revival, Kent State UP, 2001, paperback rev.ed. 2006]

German poster WW1

German poster WW1

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