From: Scott Chase (email@example.com)
Date: Mon 31 Mar 2003 - 02:21:24 GMT
>From: "Bruce Howlett" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>Subject: Re: Other roots of memetics
>Date: Mon, 31 Mar 2003 07:33:33 +1000
>I hate being the "nay" sayer, but predictive is out of reach, almost by
>definition. I say "almost" because I do accept the "egg already falling"
>short term possibility, but still with some reservations. The one good
>predictive tool we have is demographical statistics. But psychohistory is
>still science fiction. If I have time over the next few days I will expand
>my comments, as I think that the sooner we stop trying to turn memetics
>into some sort of magical social engineering tool, and concentrate on the
>benefits it delivers to ethnographic and cultural anthropology work, the
The psychohistory I've been reading about recently is more like a hybrid of history and psychoanalysis than science fiction. I'm not familiar with Asimov's spin in the Foundation series.
Peter Loewenberg's book _Decoding the Past: the Psychohistorical Approach_
(1983. Alfred A. Knopf. New York) is strongly in the psychoanalytic tradition. There's a piece on the psychobiography of Theodor Herzl (the ur-Zionist) in that book which is quite interesting, but I must say I came away from that essay knowing more about Herzl's penis than I thought I'd ever care to. That's psychoanalytical spin for you.
Another book _Varieties of Psychohistory_ (1976. Springer Publishing
Company. New York) has essays by all sorts of people, Loewenberg included.
There's also pieces by Irving Janis (on groupthink) and by Carl Jung. I
haven't gotten to Jung's essay yet. Would that make Jung a psychohistorical
There's a section of this latter book devoted to the history of childhood,
and though I take it with a grain of salt, there's stuff discussed which
I've never really thought about which was prompted by this section, like how
childhood itself has evolved over the years. I never knew what swaddling was
and I'm pretty sure my parents never subjected me to that, thank goodness.
There's also some discussion of infanticide (yipes!) that's disturbing.
I don't see much of anything predictive in this hybridization of traditional
Freudian psychoanalysis and history. It sems to me that *these*
psychohistorians are just trying to use psychological tools (primitive ones
in being Freudian in direction) to dig a little deeper into historical
events. I still have my reservations about this sort of psychohistory, but
I'd agree that historians should know a bit about psychology and vice versa.
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