AGGRESSION IN MAN by Charles Burke


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Like Joan Marble Cook in her recent In Defense of Homo Sapiens (p. 1180), Burke finds the Lorenz-Ardrey-Morris thesis of inborn, instinctual human aggression both repugnant and unconvincing. In a famous correspondence with Einstein, Freud once lamented that he, alas, knew nothing of ""races whose lives go gently by."" But unlike Freud, modern anthropology has shown that such peoples do exist. The work of psychoanalysts Abram Kardiner and Irvin Child and anthropologist John Whiting demonstrates that the amount of hostility in any society is directly related to its style of child-rearing. Burke is extremely impressed with these findings and explicates them at length. Among the cultures which are most indulgent toward children's oral demands, toilet training and sexual experimentation, the aggression level is low and the adult society tends to be open-handed, amiable and pacific. The Siriono of Bolivia, the Eskimo and the Lepachas of the Himalayas are among the least warlike peoples on earth. The socialization of their children is easy, relaxed, never severe. By contrast the Dobu off the coast of New Guinea, the Chagga of East Africa and the Southwest Comanche Indians axe harsh and punitive -- their kids are often neglected, beaten for soiling themselves and rigidly repressed by tribal custom. Suspicion, jealousy and violence is endemic to them. Granted that Burke's data is rather exotic and difficult to interpret (can Freudian analysis really be applied to Neolithic societies?), he nonetheless succeeds in showing how flawed and relative supposedly ""universal"" and ""immutable"" instincts are. And you shouldn't be surprised to learn that according to the very complicated rating system here used, Americans turn out to be virtually the least permissive and indulgent parents in the world -- no wonder we're such a hostile, gun-loving, bomb-building people.

Pub Date: Feb. 18th, 1975
Publisher: Lyle Stuart