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NONTHEMATIC / Vol. 40, No. 2 (Summer 1973)

Arien Mack, Editor

Any crisis that paves the way for or accompanies a profound change in society forces us to come to grips with the basic problem in all collective life: the problem of power. In recent years protests have focused on the problem of authority rather than on the problem of power. But if authority--traditional or legal authority--were to be weakened, or even if it were to collapse, it does not necessarily follow that human relations would suddenly become free and transparent. The moment an old legitimacy, in which even its possessors have lost faith, is seriously challenged, new power phenomena begin to emerge that cannot be ignored without creating irresistible pressure for a return to old forms.

Talk of a summary kind about Freud has for its byword the claim that unconscious items and processes dominate psychic life. Such talk is of course likely to go further: due to the unconscious we are creatures curiously heedless of time, creatures fixed in our early if not earliest ways. The unconscious, to put it dramatically, first maddens us then keeps it mad. Among its achievements are these: we try to gratify wishes that our opposed to each other, indeed wishes whose descriptions may be paradoxical; we mistake as meaningless what is intelligible, and as trivial even the important and even portentous; we confuse the scope and character of our acts and our intentions; our denials can often be better understood as affirmations.

This article discusses identity problems in adolescence and post adolescence -topics about which I have little expert knowledge. Quite the contrary: My particular expertise has to do with the psychology of aging, at the other end of the life cycle. For the past eight years I have been carrying out cross-cultural research in traditional and usually preliterate societies in an attempt to develop some basis for comparative psychology of aging.

The view that wealth is important to human welfare is a fundamental premise of modern economics. An expansion of income, commonly, has not been considered of significance only to the poor. Concerned as he is with a general and continuing expansion of output, the economist has also typically supposed that the welfare of the individual would be enhanced by an open-ended growth of affluence. Within the discipline of economics, this view is characteristically seen as a postulate rather than as a position to be explicitly defended.

A generation ago, when human genetics was still a young science, there was considerable emotional resistance to incorporating the newly emerging facts and principles into medicine. The aim of medicine is not only to understand the human condition and its ills, but also to cure, and therefore, it was felt, one should concentrate on those aspects of the problem that are accessible to manipulation, seeming over to offer the best chances for a cure.

One of the more improbable partnerships to have emerged in recent literary history is that which joins aestheticism with radical social thought. By aestheticism I mean the conception of art as an autonomous, self-sufficient universe unto itself and not an imitation of the real world, a universe impervious to extra aesthetic criteria of judgement. Logically, aestheticism entails the disengagement of art from social and political concerns, a posture at times vulgarity caricatured as escapism.

Anthropologists and sociologists have long considered race and ethnicity in terms of social process. However, while such a perspective has avoided the static and overly structural bias that characterized earlier biological theories, it nevertheless failed to grasp the full implications of a truly dynamic conception of these phenomena. By emphasizing acculturation and assimilation, by conceiving these processes to be evolutionary and, with rare exception, unidirectional, the sciences of man have eschewed the strategic and tactical employment of racial and ethnic identities by which groups and individuals work through situations and careers.

Review of book by Rudolf Arnheim. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1969. 345 pp.

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