The Study of Man: Destiny in the Nursery
In recent years there has grown up a new theory of human behavior, based principally on certain aspects of psychoanalytic theory. The “oral-anal” view of personality and culture, as it may be called, holds that the infant’s early experiences in feeding and toilet training determine his adult character, and that this character, in turn, determines the nature of his culture, since most adults in any culture have received similar training during childhood. On the basis of this theory, an increasing number of pediatricians have been instructing mothers in methods of infant care, and some anthropologists have been conducting investigations of foreign cultures.
The tenor of these investigations may, perhaps, be suggested by an earlier study—Geoffrey Gorer’s analysis of Japanese culture. It attributes the “overwhelming brutality and sadism of the Japanese at war,” their type of ethics, their famous Tea Ceremony, and their landscape gardening to the early bowel training of Japanese infants. Gorer has also analyzed the “national character” of Andean Indians, Russians, Burmese, and Americans in terms of their mechanisms of infant rearing—how long and how often infants are breast-fed, when toilet training is instituted, and whether or not the infant is swaddled or cradled after birth. Some social scientists, following in his footsteps, seem engaged in the creation of a new science of history in which war, Nazism, Stalinism, free enterprise, and other manifestations of “national character” are explained by such infant disciplines.
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