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Where Do We Stand Now? Some Cultural Considerations

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(Article changed on August 15, 2013 at 07:49)

Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) August 13, 2013: From time to time, it is a good idea to step back a bit from our engaging debates involving red-states versus blue-states and the 1% versus the 99% in American culture today, and consider instead where we in American culture today stand and where we may be headed.

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For example, from colonial times down to our present times, where has American culture come from, and where does our contemporary American culture appear to be heading? And if we do not like where it appears to be heading, where would we like to see it headed instead?

To establish a conceptual framework to discuss American culture, I will draw on the work of Sigmund Freud, David Riesman, Erich Fromm, Walter Ong, and others.


As is well known, Sigmund Freud discusses three stages of psycho-sexual development:

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(1) the oral stage;

(2) the anal stage;

(3) the genital stage.

In the widely read book THE LONELY CROWD: A STUDY OF THE CHANGING AMERICAN CHARACTER (1950), David Riesman discusses three character types:

(1) the outer-directed character type (also known as tradition-directed);

(2) the inner-directed character type;

(3) the other-directed character type.

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As Riesman shows, all three of these character types have been represented in American culture. In effect, this makes American culture a microcosm of world today, but not necessarily a microcosm of the percentages of each character type in various cultures around the world today.

For the sake of discussion, I would suggest that each of Riesman's character types builds on one of Freud's stages of psycho-sexual development:

(1) Riesman's outer-directed character type builds on Freud's oral stage of psycho-sexual development;

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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