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New Age "Asiatic" thought ... is establishing itself as the
hegemonic ideology of global capitalism. (Zizek)

Tuesday, August 16

the will to power

and if you say this life ain't good enough
I would give my world to lift you up
I could change my life to better suit your mood...

~ smooth / supernatural ~

The barbarian babies are wholly gratuitous. Weird, no? Just ignore them if you can. The book (actually titled Barbarian Virtues: The United States Encounters Foreign Peoples at Home and Abroad, 1876-1917) says, on page 156:
Scientific racism in the United States became largely 'a spectacle of immigrants of one decade condemning to everlasting inferiority the immigrants of a later decade.' What imperialism was to anthropology, in short, immigration was to American eugenics. The so-called new immigrants from places like Greece, Russia, Poland, and Italy captivated scholarly attention as scientists now set out to survey, quantify, and assess what one eugenicist referred to as 'the great strains of human protoplasm... coursing through the country.'

The book showed up today in my Amazon recommendations. Hmmm. On second thought, maybe the collaborative filtering technology that enables those recommendations has captured something that -- far from being "wholly gratuitous" -- is bang-on relevant to the current discussion. So-called "negative eugenics" was (and still is) the attempt to limit the procreation of the "unfit" -- there's that nefarious social-Darwinist idea again (see Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?). On the other hand, "positive eugenics" was (and is) the encouragement of procreation by the fittest. Only who decides what constitutes "fit"?

Abraham Maslow thought he was as good a judge as any. Did his hyper-awareness that he was a Jew play into this? I strongly suspect so. Maslow had good reason to be hyper-aware of how antisemitic discrimination was hampering his professional advancement. It did... until 1935, when he was given a plum post-doctoral post at Columbia under the aegis of Edward L. Thorndike, a prominent eugenicist of the day. This bit is from one of the best histories of eugenics available, hosted by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory -- a highly knowledgeable source, since it was once the focal point of eugenics "research" in the United States.

Eugenics also had the support of leaders in academia. E.L. Thorndike and Leta Hollingworth popularized eugenics to generations of prospective classroom teachers. Using flawed racial interpretations of the intelligence test data after the First World War, psychometricians such as Carl Brigham and Robert Yerkes added to eugenics' unjustified luster in the public eye.

At the same time, the popular authors Henry H. Goddard and Edward A. Wiggam recommended policies of controlled breeding for American citizens. Traveling across the country with lantern-slide presentations, they warned of a "rising tide of feeblemindedness" and demanded a "new decalogue of science" – a modern ten commandments based upon eugenic principles.

~ from Eugenics Popularization
Steve Selden, University of Maryland

It was within this historical context that Thornike invited Maslow to join in a research project called "Human Nature and the Social Order." (source: Future Visions: The Unpublished Papers of Abraham Maslow, E. Hoffman, ed., Sage, 1996, p. 4). Although nothing I can find in the published literature about Maslow talks about any connection with eugenics, consider the name of that project carefully. Precisely what aspects of "human nature" had it set out to define? Then consider the following clip from the same Cold Spring Harbor page that mentions Thorndike, above.

Eugenic ideology was deeply embedded in American popular culture during the 1920s and 1930s. For example, on Saturday night, high school students might go to the cinema to see "The Black Stork" – a film that supported eugenic sterilization. In church on Sunday, they might listen to a sermon selected for an award by the American Eugenics Society – learning that human improvement required marriages of society's "best" with the "best."

The notion of breeding the best to the best returns us to the concept of "positive eugenics" -- and ultimately, to the question of what it was that so deeply motivated Maslow's later pursuit of what he called "eupsychian society" -- the social context for encouraging, achieving and sustaining the top level of his hierarchy of needs: self-actualization.

As Maslow defines it, Eupsychia refers to "the culture that would be generated by one thousand self-actualizing people on some sheltered island where they would not be interfered with."

~ from The Third Force: The Psychology of Abraham Maslow
by Frank G. Goble. The Maslow quote is from
New Knowledge in Human Values
Harper & Row, New York, 1959

And as these would be very special people indeed, they would breed -- that being the main idea -- a very special race. One could almost say a master race.

But why master race? What did Maslow's utopian ideas about Eupsychia have to do with such a concept? The answer lies in his longstanding interest in dominance. Let's briefly review some of Maslow's publications...

  • 1936
    • The role of dominance in the social and sexual behavior of infra-human primates 1. Observations at Vilas Park Zoo. Jour. Genetic Psychol., 48: 261-277.
    • (With Sydney Flanzbaum) II. An experimental determination of the dominance behavior syndrome. Jour. Genetic Psychol., 48: 278-309. Reprinted in Dennis, W. (Ed.), Readings in General Psychology (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1949).

  • 1937
    • Dominance-feeling, behavior and status. Psychological Review, 44: 404-29.

  • 1939
    • Dominance-feeling, personality and social behavior in women. Jour. Social Psychol., 10: 3-39.

  • 1940
    • Dominance-quality and social behavior in infra-human primates. Jour. Social Psychol., 11: 313-24.
    • A test for dominance-feeling (self-esteem) in college women. Jour. Social Psychol., 12:255-70.

  • 1942
    • Self-esteem (dominance-feeling) and sexuality in women. Jour. Social Psychol. 16, 259-94. Reprinted in M. DeMartino (Ed.), Sexual Behavior and Personality Characteristics (New York: Citadel Press, 1963).

  • 1960
    • (With H. Rand and S. Newman.) Some parallels between the dominance and sexual behavior of monkeys and the fantasies of patients in psychotherapy. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 1960, 131, 202-212. Reprinted in M. DeMartino (Ed.), Sexual Behavior and Personality Characteristics (New York: Citadel Press, 1963).
Note that all but the last of these eight papers were published during the period when the Third Reich was, in fact, attempting to build a master race through positive eugenics -- encouraging "pure" Germanic/Nordic human breeding, and thus Aryan dominance; and through negative eugenics -- eliminating Jews.

Given his background with Thorndike, and the deeply eugenic tenor of the zeitgeist, how could Maslow have been unaware of the ironic parallels between a "eupsychian" model of society and the Aryan "utopia" that was, at the same moment, under construction? It's a leading question, to be sure, but let's see where it might lead.

Here's Frank Goble again in his Third Force biography:

...Abraham Maslow was the only Jewish boy in a non-Jewish Brooklyn suburb. He has said it was a little like being the first Negro in an all-white school.
The "third force" is a reference to how Maslow's psychology was often characterized: an alternative to both behaviorism and psychoanalysis. Behaviorism we can dispense with. Harlow's work had already delivered the coup de grace -- and recall that Maslow was Harlow's first grad student. Psychoanalysis isn't quite so easy. There were certainly aspects of Freud's ever-evolving work that ranged from the questionable to the absurd. Instinctual drives, the Oedipus complex, penis envy -- all have since been jettisoned from many (and there are many many) flavors of current psychoanalytic theory. Maslow's take way back when, however, was that psychoanalysis was too negative. Why dwell on the dark side of human existence? Why not look instead to human potential -- which became the name of a popular movement he was instrumental in kicking off.

This brings us back around to the main theme of Mystic Bourgeoisie: how a world from which the shadows have been banished quickly becomes a breeding ground for all the skeletons in the historical closet. Why look at hidden motives and the darker aspects of the human mind? The simple answer lies in the evidence of what the human mind is capable of dreaming -- and turning into horrific realities, from the Inquisition to the Holocaust. Both of which involved, very specifically, the Jews.

In The Third Force, Goble writes: "Freud believed that man was in constant conflict with himself and society." Is it possible that Maslow fit the bill in this respect? Could Abe perhaps have used a bit of psychoanalysis himself? Is it possible that he suffered from a form of closet antisemitism? Before asking whether such a thing exists, consider the following from Identity and Freedom: Mapping Nationalism and Social Criticism in Twentieth-Century Lithuania by Leonidas Donskis. The clip is from page 114...

Noteworthy is the fact that even Jewish self-hatred, that is, Jewish antisemitism, so aptly described by the German Jewish writer Theodor Lessing and then plausibly reinterpreted by Isaiah Berlin, appears to have been a Central European phenomenon, which stressed the failure of many talented Jews to liberate themselves from antisemitic stereotyping deeply embedded in gentile societies. Jewish self-hatred also sprang from their acceptance of the modes of discourse and the images of societal life full of modern antisemitic references, innuendoes, and cliches. Thus, the modernity of antisemitism has acquired its plane in the philosophy of history. It is especially true of a sinister tendency of nineteenth-century consciousness imposed by gentile societies on some emancipated European Jews, namely, the propensity to personify socio-political reality and its major processes -- such as scientific, technological, and religious "rationalisations" of the modern world -- and then project them onto the most familiar and recognisable idiom of otherness, that is, the Jews. Exactly the same might be said about the propensity to refer to the Jews as "rootless," "immoral," "profit-calculating," "insensitive," "incapable of patriotism," "alien and hostile to the modern intellectual and moral sensibilities," "devoid of aesthetic sense," and the like. At this point, suffice it to recall Karl Marx, Walther Rathenau, Arthur Trebitsch, Otto Weininger, and, in a way, even Ludwig Wittgenstein.(*24) We could also recall this strange phenomenon -- the very triumph of antisemitism and of the most inhumane and ugly facet of modernity -- as widespread in inter-war Poland, as depicted in the stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer.

*24 note (p. 119): For more on Wittgenstein's idea that Jews can only interpret the world, never producing anything original and creative, and on his comparisons of Mendelssohn and Brahms at this point, see Ludwig Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, ed. G. H. von Wright in collaboration with Heikki Nyman, trans. Peter Winch (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1984). For more on the phenomenon of Jewish self-hatred, see Sander L. Gilman, Jewish Self-Hatred: Anti-Semitism and the Hidden Language of the Jews (Baltimore, MD, & London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986).

Of the last, the famed novelist Chaim Potok wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer: "Jewish Self-Hatred has all the qualities of a master work by a seminal mind. It is a contribution of the first rank and should be regarded as one of the finest studies we are likely to see for a long time of a remarkable and sobering cultural phenomenon."


Changing gears for a moment, let's take a look at one of Maslow's formative influences: Alfred Adler. (We'll have cause to return to Adler's notion of the "guiding fiction" in a later unpacking of narcissistic personality disorder.)

Influenced by the German philosopher Hans Vaihinger, Adler held that individuals were not always guided in their actions by reality. They were also guided by fictions, or what they believe to be true, though these beliefs are largely unconscious (Vaihinger 1925). These ideas formed the basis of Adler's concept of the final goal. The final goal is a fictional creation of the individual -- an imagined ideal situation of perfection, completion, or overcoming. Movement toward the final goal is motivated by a striving to overcome the feelings of inferiority. Although the final goal represents a subjective, fictional view of the future, it is what guides the person in the present.

In an active, courageous individual possessing a strong feeling of community, the striving toward the final goal to overcome inferiority feelings may be expressed as a life-long movement toward optimal development -- with full realization that there is no end point to this striving. This is quite similar to Abraham Maslow's view of individuals striving toward self actualization -- toward the full realization of their potential (Maslow 1970).

~ from Classical Adlerian Theory and Practice
by Henry T. Stein, Ph.D. and Martha E. Edwards, Ph.D.

The following is Maslow's discussion of self-esteem from the 1943 paper that first introduced his notion of a hierarchy of needs: A Theory of Human Motivation (York University Classics in the History of Psychology, originally published in Psychological Review, 50, 370-396). This paper is also the source referenced in the Wikipedia article on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. The footnote links are to the York University site. Page number references are to the article in Psychological Review.

The esteem needs. -- All people in our society (with a few pathological exceptions) have a need or desire for a stable, firmly based, (usually) high evaluation of themselves, for self-respect, or self-esteem, and for the esteem of others. By firmly based self-esteem, we mean that which is soundly based upon real capacity, achievement and respect from others. These needs may be classified into two subsidiary sets. These are, first, the desire for strength, for achievement, for adequacy, for confidence in the face of the world, and for independence and freedom.[5] Secondly, we have what [p. 382] we may call the desire for reputation or prestige (defining it as respect or esteem from other people), recognition, attention, importance or appreciation.[6] These needs have been relatively stressed by Alfred Adler and his followers, and have been relatively neglected by Freud and the psychoanalysts. More and more today however there is appearing widespread appreciation of their central importance.

Satisfaction of the self-esteem need leads to feelings of self-confidence, worth, strength, capability and adequacy of being useful and necessary in the world. But thwarting of these needs produces feelings of inferiority, of weakness and of helplessness. These feelings in turn give rise to either basic discouragement or else compensatory or neurotic trends. An appreciation of the necessity of basic self-confidence and an understanding of how helpless people are without it, can be easily gained from a study of severe traumatic neurosis (8).[7]

Note that the reference to Adler is anything but en passant. In the opening paragraph of the Acknowledgments to The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler, author Heinz Ansbacher writes:

Professor A. H. Maslow gave the first and most sustained stimulation by concurring with us in the need for a comprehensive book on the psychology of Alfred Adler, by urging us to embark upon such an enterprise, and by supporting us throughout the years with his continued interest.
Maslow was strongly influenced by Alfred Adler's work, which remains largely unknown or incompletely understood to this day -- not least because it was so poorly organized and conveyed by old AA himself.

what's

it all

about...


Alfie?


The Drive for Self: Alfred Adler and the Founding of Individual Psychology


The Believer: Confronting Jewish Self-Hatred

"In 1965, a young man named Daniel Burros was arrested at a Ku Klux Klan demonstration in Brooklyn, N.Y. He was a skinhead, a KKK Grand Dragon, a high-ranking member of the Nazi Party and a Jew. When the New York Times exposed his Jewish identity in a front-page article, Burros put a bullet through his head." ~Publishers Weekly


winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival

But understanding where Adler was coming from is crucial to any deep critique of Maslow.

p. 111: "Much of our view of the enhancement of the self-esteem as the guiding fiction is included in Nietzsche's "will to power" and "will to seem." ... We wish to point out the absolute primacy of the will to power, a guiding fiction which asserts itself the more forcibly and is developed the earlier, often precipitously, the stronger the inferiority feeling of the organically inferior child comes to the foreground."

p. 244: "The actual form of expression and the deepening of this guiding thought could also be designated as will to power (Nietzsche)."

from The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler
by Heinz Ansbacher

The expressionist painter Edvard Munch (1864-1944) is reputed to have said (I still need to suss out where; send mail if you know; must've been toward the end of his life -- I wouldn't have guessed he was contemporaneous with Maslow):

Alfred Adler translated Nietzsche's philosophical idea of "will to power" into the psychological concept of self-actualization. Thus, Nietzschean thought forms the foundation for and permeates Alfred Adler's Individual Psychology, Abraham Maslow's Humanistic Biology [sic], Carl Rogers's Person-Centered Psychology, and has influenced many other psychological ideas and systems. ... Alfred Adler was the first psychologist to borrow directly from Nietzsche, making numerous references to the philosopher throughout his works. Adler took Nietzsche's idea of "will to power" and transformed it into the psychological concept of self-actualization, in which an individual strives to realize his potential.
Nietzsche claimed (somewhere; to his sister, I believe; I need to track this one down too) that he was pained by charges that he was antisemitic. But judge for yourself from this passage of The Antichrist...
Must I add that, in the whole New Testament, there appears but a solitary figure worthy of honour? Pilate, the Roman viceroy. To regard a Jewish imbroglio seriously -- that was quite beyond him. One Jew more or less -- what did it matter?

In The Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice Among the Literary Intelligentsia, 1880-1939, John Carey, Merton Professor of English Literature at Oxford, writes of the modernist literary elite's withering contempt for humanity at large (p. 12)...

The old, the sick and the suffering suggest themselves as particularly ripe for extermination. Nietzsche affirms that 'the great majority of men have no right to existence, but are a misfortune to higher men.' He blames the corruption of the European races on the preservation of sick and suffering specimens. The breeding of the future master race will entail, he warns, the 'annihilation of millions of failures.'
This leads Carey into a discussion of the eugenics movement....
As in so much else, Nietzsche was the trendsetter in this area of early twentieth-century progressive thought. In The Will to Power he contemplates the establishment of 'international racial unions' whose task will be to rear a master race -- a new 'tremendous aristocracy' in which 'the will of philosophical men of power and artist tyrants will be made to endure for millennia.' Meanwhile, there are certain people, such as chronic invalids and neurasthenics, for whom begetting a child should be made a crime. In numerous cases society ought to prevent procreation by the most rigorous means, including, if necessary, sterilization. The prohibition of life to decadents is, Nietzsche urges, vital.

"Part of the process here is an experiential-educational one in which we help the patient become aware of what he has been experiencing without having been aware of it."

~ from Religions, Values, and Peak-Experiences
Abraham H. Maslow



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