National Character: A Psycho-Social Perspective

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The concept of national character is contentious in the social sciences. It has been strongly rejected in the hereditarian or racist forms in which it was couched by earlier writers. Seen in modern perspective, it poses fundamental problems for social-scientific theory and research: To what extent do conditions of life in a particular society give rise to certain patterns in the personalities of members? To what extent, that is, does the sociocultural system produce distinctive forms of social character, basic ...

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Overview

The concept of national character is contentious in the social sciences. It has been strongly rejected in the hereditarian or racist forms in which it was couched by earlier writers. Seen in modern perspective, it poses fundamental problems for social-scientific theory and research: To what extent do conditions of life in a particular society give rise to certain patterns in the personalities of members? To what extent, that is, does the sociocultural system produce distinctive forms of social character, basic personality structure, or modal personality? What are the consequences, if any, of this patterning in personality for stability or change in the social order? Until now, there have been relatively few formal definitions of national character or discussions of the proper scope and limits of this field of study.

Inkeles surveys various explicit and implicit definitions of national character, tracing developments through the twentieth century. The term national character can be defined as a way of looking at culture and the culturally patterned behavior of individuals, or as a particular way of examining the coherence of culturally defined values or behavior patterns. Inkeles's approach is to examine the regularity of certain personality patterns among individual members of a society. He asserts that modal personality may be extremely important in determining which new cultural elements are accepted in a particular culture, which institutional forms persist in a society, and changes in the character of such institutions.

Inkeles reviews previous studies done on the subject of national character. He canvasses attitudes, values systems, and psychological states of different nations, and seeks to discover a set of values in the complex, regionally diverse, and educationally stratified United States. He concludes that, despite many recent advances in the field, there is much to be done before we have a clear picture of the degree of differentiation in the personality structure of modern nations. National Character will be of great interest to psychologists, sociologists, philosophers, and political theorists.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This seminal volume of vast comparative scope and high erudition will prove indispensable for all interested in this theme."
--Political Studies
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781560002604
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/1/1997
  • Pages: 392
  • Product dimensions: 6.08 (w) x 9.16 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Alex Inkeles is professor of sociology at Stanford University, and a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace. He is the editor of On Measuring Democracy (also published by Transaction), and the author of Exploring Individual Modernity, Becoming Modern, and What is Sociology?

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Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
1 National Character: The Study of Modal Personality and Sociocultural Systems 3
2 On the German "Mind" 127
3 Modal Personality and Adjustment to the Soviet Sociopolitical System 135
4 Continuity and Change in the American National Character 161
5 The Interaction of the Personal and the Sociocultural Systems 195
6 National Character and Modern Political Systems 213
7 Rising Expectations: Revolution, Evolution, or Devolution? 253
8 National Differences in Individual Modernity 269
9 Personal Development and National Development: A Cross-National Perspective 297
10 Industrialization, Modernization, and The Quality of Life 331
11 National Character Revisited 359
Index 385
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