Theoretical Building Blocks:
The Psychological Basis of Development and Revolution in the Third World
The theoretical work of psychologists after World War II, especially in the areas of Third World development and revolution, complemented the institutional factors that were strengthening psychological research within the military and helped bring psychological perspectives to the attention of policy-makers. The notion, for example, that the roots of war were to be found in the psychological particulars of national character and the universal truth of frustration and aggression did not evaporate at the end of World War II. During the period between 1945 and 1960, psychological experts pursued questions about how to derail the development of militaristic aggressiveness, and, more ambitiously, how to construct an alternative psychology, oriented toward peaceful economic development and political stability. The fundamentals of the national character approach, although they sometimes
came in for sharp methodological criticisms, gained wide currency among foreign and military policy-makers in the period following the war
Formulated as an explicit alternative to the inadequate (because they were not primarily psychological) explanations of economists and other social scientists who stressed material factors and large-scale social forces transcending the individual person, some psychologists singled out personality as the ultimate key to manipulating economic and political developments in the newly emerging states of the Third World. As early as 1946, psychologist Carl Hovland offered the following general advice to the officers of the Rockefeller Foundation, who were exploring the possibility of funding projects on the "Psychological Principles Underlying Economic Behavior": "Now it is not anticipated that it will be possible within the near future to explain all economic phenomena on the basis of psychological laws now known. But it is the writer's opinion that it is high time that a start be made." Between World War II and the mid-1960s, psychologists tackled this area of theory. and research. Many eventually concluded that there was little point in assisting abstractions like "developing societies" by pouring vast public sums into a process whose economic mechanisms were baffling.
Personalities, on the other hand, were concrete entities. Not only did they "develop," but they were assumed to be reachable through conscious intervention into the family's childrearing practices. Mothers, because they functioned as personality factories, became favorite subjects of expert attention and logical objects of public policy. The inner landscape, that familiar geography on which so much military conflict transpired, also turned out to be the key to unlocking peaceful economic change in far-flung corners of the world.
Leonard Doob, an important figure in World War II psychology and one of the authors of Frustration and Aggression, spent a number of the postwar years conducting psychological studies in African and Caribbean societies and developing a theoretical argument that posited "civilization" (by which he meant Western-style industrial and cultural development) as an outgrowth of personality change. Civilization's presence or absence, in other words, had more to do with the conditions of psychological development and with the state of affairs "within people" than with such external, material realities as economic infrastructure, raw materials, population growth, or the character and extent of political institutions. "People acquire the central goal of seeking to be-
come more civilized," Doob argued, "when their traditional values no longer bring them satisfaction and/or when some experience gives them a favorable view of civilization."
Although Doob held tightly to the vision of an objective and non-judgmental behavioral science, insisting, for example, that "the process of becoming more civilized is neither praised nor condemned," his conclusions told a different story. His data characterized the people of "uncivilized" societies as rigid and lacking in empathy, whereas the psychological profile of civilized people included tolerance, reason, self-reflection, and a refreshing absence of dogma. Doob still endorsed the psychoanalytic premise that civilization required repression, but the resulting misery seemed to fall squarely on the shoulders of those individuals who were in the process of acculturation, striving for an urbanized, industrialized society. The psychological conflicts involved in "becoming more civilized" could, according to this way of thinking, function as the basis for nationalist or revolutionary ideologies since these ideologies offered psychologically necessary safety valves for the accumulation of hostile emotions by directing those emotions toward outsiders, frequently Westerners. If residents of the Third World could be systematically aided in navigating this treacherous route toward civilized personalities, Doob suggested, they would likely find that state psychologically satisfying when they finally arrived.
His research methods, which relied heavily on projective tests like the Rorschach, were indicative of general trends in the direction of postwar social scientific research. Personality measures were more and more frequently used by anthropologists, sociologists, and political scientists engaged in fieldwork in the Third World because getting illiterate or semiliterate people to draw or respond to ink blots was a practical possibility. For the many who were influenced by varieties of psychoanalytic theory, of course, exploring the levels below consciousness was also a theoretical necessity. A whole generation of postwar social scientists was routinely schooled in the use of tests like the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), F Scale, Rorschach, and the Goodenough Drawing Test, in addition to more conventional intelligence-measuring techniques like the Stanford-Binet scale. One survey of cross-cultural research in the early 1960s concluded that "students of culture have looked to the psychologist—or at least to psychological concepts and methods—for the key to their revised scientific interest."
Probably the best-known example of postwar psychological theory pushed to the limits of its explanatory power in relation to international
economic development was the work of David McClelland. A personality psychologist originally interested in theories of motivation, McClelland's The Achieving Society (1961) aimed to illustrate that psychological determinism could be empirically sound and quantitatively rigorous when it came to explaining and predicting patterns of national economic development. McClelland, committed to methodological advance in psychology, also had in mind the practical translation of psychological theory into public policy. "The shortest way to achieve economic objectives," he wrote, "might turn out to be through changing people first. . . . The precise problem of most underdeveloped countries is that they do not have the character structure, especially the motivational structure, which would lead them to act in the ways required. The model is like a combustion engine without the gas to make it go."
Individual psychology, as it turned out, was "the gas," the precious fuel of economic progress. Much as Doob had focused on the individual personality as the entity that either moved or failed to move toward a state of civilization, McClelland theorized that the personal psychological resources of a given country largely determined whether or not it would be an "achieving society." Economic development was a product of a competitive, achievement-oriented type of personality whose main sources were internal and psychological. This achieving personality (or any other kind, for that matter) was manufactured within the family. Relationships between mothers and children (in the case of McClelland's research, it was exclusively mothers and sons ) were therefore directly implicated as likely obstacles to national economic growth and reforming motherhood emerged as possibly the clearest solution to national economic failure.
McClelland's grand theory began modestly in the early 1950s with an effort to quantitatively isolate and measure individual motives, including the one that became a central factor in his later work on economic development: the need for achievement, or what he called "n Achievement." Firmly committed to the most exacting experimental methods as well as to the pursuit of psychoanalytic insights, McClelland developed ingenious techniques for taking "psychic X-rays" of a given society's unconscious inclinations. These included methodical content analyses of folk stories and children's stories from around the world (in order to discern patterns of cultural fantasy and aspiration—a kind of projective test for the entire society), direct tests for n Achievement (via studies of mothers and sons in Germany, Japan, India, and Brazil), and
observation of the actual behavior of business entrepreneurs—who were assumed to embody the achieving ideal—in the United States, Turkey, Italy, and Poland.
McClelland assumed a straightforward cause-and-effect relationship between mothers' early expectations of sons, the development of a (male) entrepreneurial class, and levels of national economic development. Although he claimed that his model was not bound to any particular economic philosophy, and would predict growth rates equally well in capitalist and socialist economies, his concept of achievement certainly assumed a fundamentally competitive and acquisitive economic drive.
His assumptions about gender merited no such self-conscious commentary. Basically, if mothers' inculcated enough n Achievement, the country would prosper; if they did not, it would remain impoverished or even slip backwards into underdevelopment. The fact that girls and women were central economic actors, especially in subsistence-based, agrarian societies, was entirely invisible in this model of development. Women were considered important, but for the values they instilled, as mothers, in their young sons. According to McClelland, the childrearing style that produced the highest levels of n Achievement balanced warmth against high expectations and exhibited just the right amount of pressure to achieve: not too much and not too little. To the extent that political or economic forces were relevant in producing national achievement levels, they operated largely on mothers and their child-rearing practices. "The family as the nucleus of the social structure is a little like the nucleus of the atom; it is harder to influence by external events than one might expect."
After comparing various national economic growth rates with measures of n Achievement in 1925 and 1950, as well as examining historical cases as divergent as Spain in the Middle Ages, the Protestant Reformation, pre-Inca Peru, and the nineteenth-century United States, McClelland found that surges in n Achievement levels were consistently followed by spurts of productive economic activity, confirming his theory that psychological change was the motor of economic history. "What people want," he concluded, "they somehow manage to get. . . . These results serve to direct our attention as social scientists away from an exclusive concern with the external events in history to the 'internal' psychological concerns that in the long run determine what happens in history." At last, patterns of economic development could
be reliably predicted on the basis of measurable psychological factors: "The psychologist has now developed tools for finding out what a generation wants, better than it knows itself, and before it has had a chance of showing by its actions what it is after."
The policy implications of such awesome knowledge were very clear to Doob and McClelland. First, U.S. foreign aid geared to economic development really ought to target psychological development since the latter was both a fundamental and a measurable cause of economic growth. This simplified the policy-making process by turning it away from such elusive factors as agricultural efficiency and turning it toward those indicators with a demonstrable, empirical relationship to n Achievement. Second, the goal of aid should be to nurture and produce emotionally mature entrepreneurial elites who would then lead their countries toward economic growth and success. In this translation of psychology into public policy, old-fashioned development programs could still be useful, if considered in the new light of their psychological consequences. Birth control programs were, for McClelland, just one example. "One must obviously reduce the number of some kinds of people more than others, yet practically all birth-control policies ignore this problem entirely. No matter how few, the 'wrong' kind of people will not produce rapid economic development, nor will the 'right' people, no matter how many, block economic development. 'Right' and 'wrong' mean here, of course, more or less suited in motives and values to the task of economic development." McClelland was more than willing to testify before Congress about the deficiencies of the country's development assistance policies, many of which, in his view, suffered from reliance on the erroneous motivational assumptions of economists. "Behavioral science knowledge about human motivation," in contrast, "could have very concrete practical implications for U.S. aid policy. . . ." He recommended that all government programs of foreign assistance be carefully scrutinized for evidence of their "psychological multiplier effect" and U.S. investments restructured in favor of those which had demonstrated the biggest payoff in developing the "right" kinds of personalities and discouraging the "wrong" ones.
For its part, Congress seriously explored the psychological aspects of international relationships on several occasions in the mid- and late 1960s, facilitated by J. William Fulbright (D-Ark.), chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Fulbright, who had been one of the youngest university presidents in the country (appointed to head
the University of Arkansas at age thirty-four) before his entrance into electoral politics, was known for founding the program of international scholarly exchange that bears his name and also for sponsoring high-profile hearings on Vietnam, beginning in 1966, which were considered instrumental in turning public opinion against the war. He opened a 1969 hearing on "Psychological Aspects of Foreign Policy" by stating, "It is believed by many that wars begin in the minds of men. As a politician, I am inclined to view it that the mysteries of political behavior have their origin in the mysteries of the human mind, and yet an examination of the human mind in order to understand our own political behavior has not heretofore appealed to either the public or to political leaders. It may be we are frightened by the possibilities that might be revealed by some self-examination." Fulbright's hearings delved into topics ranging from communism's psychological appeal to the role of unconscious projection and need for love in U.S. foreign policy; they were designed to air "unorthodox approaches." Expert testimony was offered by Jerome Frank, Margaret Mead, Karl Menninger, and Charles Osgood, among others, who took advantage of the opportunities Fulbright offered to champion the usefulness of their insights but did not hesitate to scold Congress for its inadequate appreciation of mental and behavioral expertise. "Perhaps what psychiatrists have learned about establishing communication with a frightened, angry, and suspicious person may have some relevance," pointed out Jerome Frank about "Psychological Difficulties in Giving and Receiving Aid." Other testimony and written reports addressed "The Effect of Natural Drives on Communism and the Changes in Communism," the "Effect of 'Face' on Rigidity of Chinese Communism," and "Is the United States Acting Rationally?"
Social psychological perspectives also pervaded the study of political upheaval in the Third World in the period after World War II, in large part because the striking pattern of interdisciplinary teamwork during World War II had left as much of a mark on many sociologists, anthropologists, political scientists, and economists as it had on those with formal psychological training. The tendency toward the study of "total societies," for example, required a patchwork of methods and theories drawn from throughout the social sciences. The new
prominence of psychological research in fields conventionally associated with political science or sociology helped to push the center of gravity in research done by nonpsychologists toward the consideration of psychological variables. As early as 1939, Robert Lynd had offered the following comment and advice in his critical discussion of the direction of U.S. social science: "With its field thus fortunately concentrated on the central powerhouse of culture, individuals, [psychology] is in the strategic position of having the other social sciences turn increasingly to it for the solution to realistic problems—mental health, education and child development, labor problems, advertising and market research, public opinion and propaganda. It is a safe prescription to almost any young social-scientist-in-training to 'get more psychological underpinning.'"
By the early 1960s much of mainstream social science was committed to a behavioral science approach to the analysis of Third World revolution, an orientation that would significantly shape policy, as well as research, during the Vietnam era. Influential books like Walt Rostow's The Stages of Economic Growth (1960) made it obvious not only that societies needed to be jolted into modernization (typically by revolution), but that an appropriate psychological outlook—characterized by rationality, risk taking, and desire for growth and consumption—was a prerequisite to national "take-off." A Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist during the 1950s, Rostow became a Vietnam War policy-maker and controversial advocate of counterinsurgency in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations as chairman of the Department of State Policy Planning Council and deputy to National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy, another academic-turned-policy-maker. He testified before Congress about the advantages behavioral experts brought to "winning the Cold War" and singled out the psychologist for special mention as "a valued collaborator in penetrating the operation of the Communist mind and the attractions which communism offers certain kinds of people."
By the early 1960s the analytical concept of "political culture" had also injected a new appreciation for psychology into the study of comparative politics. The very use of the term, according to its originator, Gabriel Almond, a Stanford University political scientist, indicated a "psychological orientation toward social objects." Directly descended from World War II analyses of national character, political culture illustrated just how central a psychological orientation had become for so-
cial scientists not formally identified with psychological training, in this case political scientists interested in Third World revolution and development. According to Lucian Pye,
The concept of political culture assumes that each individual must, in his own historical context, learn and incorporate into his own personality the knowledge and feelings about the politics of his people and his community. This means in turn that the political culture of a society is limited but given firm structure by the factors basic to dynamic psychology. . . . [Political culture combines] the revolutionary findings of modern depth psychology and recent advances in the sociological techniques for measuring attitudes in mass societies.
While they depended heavily on World War II—era national character studies, political culture advocates were also likely to criticize them for being biased toward the unconscious and insufficiently attentive to rational, adult motivation. They prided themselves on the theoretical flexibility with which political culture could encompass both conscious and unconscious psychological factors. This balanced emphasis, however, did not so much depart from the direction of psychological theory, as conform to it. In the years after World War II, interest in conscious motivation and ego development revived, including among psychoanalytic theorists such as Heinz Hartmann.
The definition of development—political and economic—that paralleled political culture made it clear too that the point was to delineate a national personality profile, but through more exhaustive and systematic comparisons than had been possible for World War II-era social psychologists. Political culture advocates included in their notion of political development precisely the kinds of findings just detailed in the work of psychologists Leonard Doob and David McClelland. They also harked back to the World War II discovery that individual subjectivity, could be the key to untangling social and political processes. "Political culture does not refer to the formal or informal structures of political interaction," one key advocate remarked. "Nor does it refer to the pattern of interaction among political actors. . . . It refers not to what is happening in the world of politics, but what people believe about those happenings."
The popularity of the political culture concept was fueled as much by policy-makers' immediate concerns as by the theoretical momentum of social science. Its multidisciplinary approach to the problem of nation building certainly seemed appropriate to the complicated analysis of whole political systems, a kind of bridge between the microanalysis
of life histories and the macroanalysis more typical of political sociologists and historians. But the concept also promised to "yield more understanding about the possibilities and limitations for consciously changing a political culture in order to facilitate national development." It was partly because of the blueprint it offered for engineering political change in the Third World—a prime concern of much U.S. foreign and military policy during the Cold War years—that the political culture perspective became a dominant one by the mid-1960s.
Its advocates were concentrated in the Social Science Research Council's Committee on Comparative Politics. That committee's chairman was Lucian Pye, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology political scientist and one of the DOD's many advisors on behavioral research. Pye argued that the main challenges Third World societies faced in becoming modem nation-states were psychological. "Fears of failure in the adventure of nation building create deep anxieties, which tend to inhibit effective action. . . . The dynamics of such psychological inhibitions to effective action, particularly in relation to the politics of modernization, can permeate and restrain the entire process of nation building."
Like McClelland on economic development, Pye pointed out that political development would go nowhere if Third World personalities were not emotionally suited to the requirements of such a national "adventure." Referring frequently to the writing of psychoanalyst Erik Erikson, who had published the widely read Childhood and Society and Young Man Luther since his wartime studies of Hitler's psychology and Nazi mentality, Pye suggested that modernizing the political structures of Third World states would require the inculcation of new forms of identity through a revamped socialization process. Also like McClelland, personalities stood, for Pye, at a critical juncture between individual psychology and a country's political institutions. They were the critical variable and, further, they were reformable. By supporting the development of a modernizing identity among emotional elites in the Third World, the United States could promote peaceful movement toward Western models of political organization and minimize the chances of bloody, Communist-inspired revolutions.
Pye and others considered the question of national identity—whether and to what extent people developed a self-confident psychological affiliation with and sense of belonging to a nation-state—especially delicate. Instilling a clear national identity was understood to be the source of legitimacy for political institutions and elites. Patriotic
service to the state during war had, after all, been the origin of their own power, and they assumed it was equally essential to stabilizing shaky Third World political systems. Analysts suggested that providing new states with assistance in building national self-identity was a task of political socialization equivalent to the family's manufacture of personal self-identity. True, it occurred on the level of international relations rather than interpersonal relations, but the difference was more one of location than of kind.
Even with these new and important intellectual developments, many of the old themes of crowd psychology, which had informed psychologists' policy-oriented work during World War II and before, remained sturdy and largely unchanged, appearing at the center of behavioral schemes to understand and manipulate Third World revolution, including Camelot. In fact, Rex Hopper, the Brooklyn College sociologist who was eventually chosen to direct Project Camelot, took the crowd psychology tradition so seriously that he summarized its contributions to the literature on revolution in a 1950 article rifled "The Revolutionary Process: A Frame of Reference for the Study of Revolutionary Movements."
Working squarely in the tradition of Le Bon and McDougall, as well as the more recent World War II-era analysts of race rioting, Hopper laid out a series of stages through which revolutionary movements passed: "the Preliminary Stage of Mass (Individual) Excitement, the Popular Stage of Crowd (Collective) Excitement and Unrest, the Formal Stage of Formulation of Issues and Formulation of Publics, and the Institutional Stage of Legalization and Societal Organization." Each stage corresponded to a particular psychological mood, to which revolutionary elements (leaders, organizations, and ideologies) had to conform. As individuals were transformed into a "psychological crowd," and as that crowd eventually became a revolutionary public and the basis for a new society, people experienced the typically painful consequences of dramatic psychological change: wish repression, oppression psychoses, motivation disturbances, and general psychological exhaustion.
Although he was a Latin America specialist himself, Hopper's summary of the literature was purely theoretical and did not single out any particular national case, or even region of the world, for examination. Nor did Hopper give any indication that the effort to predict, guide, or prevent revolution might raise ethical questions for behavioral scientists. In all likelihood, his straightforward endorsement of the notion
that "a generalized description is a necessary prerequisite to any attempt to control" indicated that "the revolutionary process" he was describing was located safely on territory outside the industrialized west. Years later, when he directed his attention toward dramatic shifts in the domestic social structure of the United States, his attitudes were far less neutral. With waves of cultural alienation and technologically induced unemployment becoming more frequent, "the probabilities are great that revolutionary changes will occur," he noted in dismay. "My own guess is that we shall move toward a militarized and cybernatized totalitarianism of the right."
In the early 1960s, mainstream social and behavioral scientists were fully engaged with developing the kind of predictive indices that grew organically out of theoretical chronologies like Hopper's. Systematically identifying the constellation of factors that caused "internal war" was, at the time, a major effort. For example, the Princeton Symposium on Internal War, hosted in September 1961 by the Princeton Center for International Studies and funded by the Carnegie Corporation, brought together a small group of prominent social and behavioral scientists, including Gabriel Almond, Daniel Bell, Kenneth Boulding, Harold Lasswell, Seymour Martin Lipset, Talcott Parsons, Lucian Pye, and Sidney Verba. For several days, they discussed the general pre-conditions of internal war and topics such as "The Commencement of Rebellions and the Art of Controlling Rebels." Although a purely theoretical effort on its face, the organizer of the symposium, Harry Eckstein of Princeton, presented his paper (titled "Introduction to the Study of Internal Wars: The Problem of Anticipation") to the Smithsonian Institution's Research Group in Psychology and the Social Sciences, charged with advising the DOD on the direction of military behavioral science, just a few months later. Eventually, Eckstein became one of Camelot's consultants.
Edward Tiryakian, a sociologist from Duke University and another one of the participants in the Princeton symposium, later contributed his work on the prediction of Third World upheaval to a conference directly associated with the Camelot effort. Tiryakian's predictive model assumed that revolutionary upheaval was necessarily destructive and endorsed political stability as the ideal state. (His hypothetical society, distinguished primarily by the absence of conflict, was called "utopia.") His "Model of Societal Change and Its Lead Indicators" developed an "index of revolutionary potential" complete with "advance warning signals" that measured increases in social pathology and insta-
bility via such indicators as the spread of sexual promiscuity and cults. Because these factors were located in the social unconscious (he called it the "social underground"), far removed from the superficial political and economic targets of revolutionary movements, they were, according to Tiryakian, by far the most reliable predictors of war's psychological preconditions.