MAO TSE-TUNG: The Man in the Leader by Lucian W. Pye

MAO TSE-TUNG: The Man in the Leader

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There's some question in our mind whether Pye, as political scientist and China-watcher, is qualified in any case to pursue the new psychohistory, and in Mao Tse-tung, he has chosen a particularly difficult subject. Mao is not just guarded about his personal life--he is inaccessible. Since Mao has made a profession of inscrutability and self-contradiction, mapping his psyche has got to run to amateurish guesswork and speculation. Pye attributes the Chairman's ideological ambivalences to the loss of his mother's undivided attention at the age of two, when she gave birth to Mao's first brother. This ""abandonment"" is supposed to have initiated Mao's canniness and restraint; it also accounts for his own later abandonments, including four wives, seven or ten children and numerous comrades-in-arms and designated successors. Mao has been candid about his hatred of his authoritarian father. This is supposed to be at the root of his revolutionary spirit and his consistently opting for high-risk decisions. (Pye argues that he has an infantile faith in his own omnipotence.) To explain Man's sweeping utopian vision of social reform, Pye points to his reliance on ""idealization as a defense mechanism."" But why Mao? Why not, out of some 800 million Chinese, some other alienated first son with a nice mother and mean father? Erikson's studies of identity formation are astonishing in their insight, but Pye hangs his oedipal conclusions on sketchy biographical documentation and a superficial understanding of psychoanalysis. The greatness of Mao--isn't that the real issue?--never emerges.

Pub Date: March 5th, 1976
Publisher: Basic Books