thumbnail of Man is not a thing; Freud, authority and the American consumer
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
Will in this process which tended to diminish the role over 30. And why. Perhaps First of all because he has shown that the child isn't really bad that that which was contributed to badness is his nature. And there is no reason to scald it to punish it for things which are part of nature in which they simply exist. Secondly Freud has emphasized a great deal the responsibility of parents for their character development of the children. This goes back of course to his basic idea that the character of the child develops very early and that therefore it is the parents who are largely responsible. Now that has made parents much more conscious of their own role and of the many ways in which they might damage or in danger. There is the development of a child's character. Well this would tend to inhibit considerably the exercise of authority during these early
years. Yes it would but it has said this idea is to some extent based on a certain misunderstanding and popularisation of Freud because one easily forgets that in Freud's theory was another factor that it has another aspect which On the contrary emphasizes authority. This aspect is expressed News's theory of the super ego. What Freud meant by the super ego was essentially what we call conscience. He taught that the child internalizes their father's commands in the father's probations at an early age later said around the age of four or five. And that this super ego this internalized authority of the father becomes the most important element in the character structure of any person which makes him resist temptations which makes him act according to his
conscience. And as Freud saw it the super ego aside from a certain sense of reality is indeed the most important controlling factor in a person's life. In this respect therefore Freud was not really against authority but on the contrary he thought that a Saudi authority was terribly important. Except that he also demanded it should not be used in a wrong way and it shouldn't be should not be used to curb certain elements in human personality which were simply his nature. And the curbing of which is damaging the earth or of itself. You feel and here you are with Roy It is not necessarily a good or a bad thing. But is it. Let's examine this one half of the time is it. Or where and when is it a bad thing. The exercise of authority will miss out I think this depends again what we mean by authority. And I would suggest that there are two
entirely different kinds of authority although in reality they are often overlapping. Let me suggest the differentiation between rational and irrational authority. What do I mean by irrational authority. I mean the domination of one person by the other. On the basis of threats and the possibility to punish and usually with out respect for the independence and integrity of the person which is subject of his authority. This is indeed what is called authorities for large periods of history. But there is another kind of authority that is your authority which I call rational authority. That is not authority which does not function by threats and power. The power to punish but which functions essentially by competence by example by the ability to perform what it promises by the ability to guide by the ability to lay down principles.
This kind of authority. You might even compare a little bit to that of motherly love. Namely it once to guide the child and at the same time not to force it. Not to force it into Mool which is not the child but the fathers and this kind of authority is also difficult to achieve because it combines two elements. One that I have a conviction of what is right and at the same time that I have no wish to force the child into a pattern which happens to be my own. There is especially under the influence of progressive education a widespread belief that any kind of authority is in contrast to spontaneity and individuality. I would claim that the country's true that there is no individuality nor spontaneity without rational authority. If a child is taught to just to express himself without principle without
accepting certain rules it will be just nonsense. If we just express nonsense and I think our aim is to arrive at a new concept of authority. Namely that which is based on convictions and knowledge and at the same time which does not have force and power and threat as its means and which has complete respect for the integrity of the reality of another person. That of course I should like to add has one premise. It is easy to be an authority if one has power but it is very difficult to be a rational authority because that requires competence. That requires conviction that requires principals and that requires a capacity to give an example. And if we expect this kind of rational authority to arise then indeed we must have men and we must have fathers who are not afraid of having convictions. And two goals in themselves the struggle
of acquiring it in a security which is based on their own conviction and on their own experience. You mention progressive education. I'm wondering if we could explore this aspect of our discussion here a little more. How would you see this Russian with authority operating for example in a classroom. For instance I am not a believer in the less a fair and free discussion for its own sake. I don't believe that anything comes of it. If the student has to tell the teacher what he wants to learn and how he wants to learn it. I think the teacher should have the authority of knowing that certain things are right and certain things are wrong. And of imbuing the child was a sense of respect for knowledge and I would even say with a sense of respect for age. You have heard Dr. Eric from psychoanalyst and author as recorded in his study in Cuernavaca Mexico. Now to continue our discussion of Freud and authority we'll
switch to Studio C at San Bernardino Valley College where we're joined Dean Robert Nisbet of the University of California Riverside. Professor Floyd Ross of the Southern California School of Theology and Dr. Edward Rhoden chief psychiatry east of the riverside state mental hygiene clinic. Dean is but is our moderator. Well Doctor Roden I'm going to ask you if you will give your comments first on Dr. From the remarks on the subject of authority. I was most pleased to hear Dr. From tell us that the inhibition of parental authority. Which we are experiencing in our culture today may be a result of a popularized Freud rather than a result of a true interpretation of what Freud was saying. I think that in representing the internalized authority as the internalized authority of the father though that doctor from was overlooking the
contribution to the development of a personal conscience which comes from the internalization of the mothers and values as well as the father's values. Yes isn't it true that if a child is going to develop a sense of internal direction or what we might call a basis for rational authority. It must have developed for example a sense of real belonging and at home ness and this gained primarily through the relationship with the mother so that her values while more subtle perhaps than the father's must be internalized by the child if the child is going to develop and mature properly in the later years. Is it fair to ask whether there is less authority at the present time in the family so far as its influence upon the child is concerned or whether there has been instead a kind of transfer of the authority that was formerly exercised by either the father or the mother. A transfer of that personal authority into the very relationship
of the family itself. Now you are in the family as Dr. Frum has pointed out has found itself in the position of being overly concerned about those areas in which it might tend to exercise its own authority and set some examples for the child. Out of the anxiety that it is going to damage the character formation of the child and so forth the parent has found himself limited in his ability to really exercise a thought in I'm sure there are other reasons too for they parents not will being willing to exercise his own authority and he is then living in an age of specialization has delegated the responsibility for providing authority examples to public agencies generally to the public schools to the educational system in general to the community at large or perhaps to some extent to the church as well rather than to take the responsibility himself as a parent for the demonstrating. Setting an
example of authority to the child. I think that's a very important point. Authority never exists in a vacuum an anaconda of social structure whether it's the state of the church or the family. And it seems to me that much of the apparent decline of the authority of the family has been really a manifestation of what you have just referred to Dr Roden as the shift of certain functions and notably the educational function from the family to other institutions. BESSER also many of us as parents I think to have been overreacting to the kind of authority we experienced in our early years primarily in the home perhaps secondarily in the school. And where we are still overreacting to the way in which we were dealt with by too authoritarian or too permissive parents. I don't see how we can develop the basis for rational authority. We shall have tanned increasingly to hope that the public school will do the
job that we ourselves ought to be willing to accept as being primarily our own. And yet the public schools find themselves in the difficult position of feeling that there is something called wrong. Close quotes with authority. The public schools the educators are often not differentiating between this rational and irrational authority. Find themselves accepting concepts of. Let them grow let them discover themselves this concept that an individual can only be spontaneous when he is free from authority which I think Dr. from has rightly indicated is an erroneous concept. All the public schools also are and they are in a position that one can only sympathise with on the one hand they have the traditional responsibility of instructing pupils in such fields as mathematics and language where a high degree of authoritative instruction is inevitable. For example the teaching of the multiplication tables. But over the last half
century the public schools have taken on to themselves have been forced in many instances to take on to themselves another kind of education which is not instructing strictly speaking but is a part of the whole process of socialization. And here they are older techniques of authoritarian instruction are not as applicable. Hasn't the tale begun to wag the dog with the original idea or with the original awareness that a certain kind of social midyear a certain certain kind of atmosphere was required in order to allow a child to learn of the teacher. I began to try to create this kind of atmosphere in order to provide a better learning experience. And pretty soon it was not the better learning experience that was the target but the atmosphere itself that became the target. Now experience is of course the only teacher I suppose in the fundamental sense that we sometimes forget that the experiences particularly of the younger children must be guided.
Since these children have not had enough experiences of their own to appreciate that nature at many points is not strictly speaking permissive. If the child steps out of the third floor window no permissive attitude on the part of the child or the mother will change the fact that the so-called law of gravity will take over and I think perhaps we have sometimes expected too much from the teachers in the school. Even as the teachers in the school have sometimes expected too much either of the parents are of their own methods. At certain points I think a teacher can be authoritative. So far as the materials are concerned in the guided experience and she wants the children to have without being authoritarian so can parents but it's a difficult task I suppose. Well there are so many different kinds of authority the authority of personality that sometimes flows almost naturally from a teacher that is as irresistible as the authority let's say of a good meal. There is the kind of authority that hears in a subject
matter to the highly motivated student eager to become a scientist or an engineer. There is the authority that is just built in to the scientific materials that he's taking. And there is also the kind of authority that we more usually think of under this word namely coordinating managing directing. And this is where I think the public schools have had to take on an almost. Intolerable burden frequently. Well isn't this though the matter of the kind of authority such as stems from a well organized system of study for example or the statement of some very meaningful fact isn't this the kind of authority that arises from conviction and that if this conviction exists also about organizational organizational or administrative matters that it is just as healthy and just as satisfying an authority as is the authority of a body of knowledge for example or a good meal when there is some
conviction about what is being put forth and then this in itself is authoritative. And if these convictions seem to be related to the actual experiences or the things that are being learned then the learner himself. Senses this and begins to apply it for himself. And isn't this the way in which we avoid the internalizing of an irrational conscience or of an irrational super ego. Yes and it seems to me that the irrational conscience or the irrational authority person is the individual who is not really convinced of the position which he is taking I think this is the kind of distortion that we do see in the strongly prejudiced person in the biased person who assumes a certain irrational conscience when he hasn't real conviction about the stand that he's on but dissatisfy certain other needs of his. In other words prejudice is often taught as a refuge by which a personality reassures itself of its own identity. Is that how you
would describe it. And it it's unreasonable it's unrealistic it's irrational it has no real conviction behind it. I think the word dogmatism has an interesting history here too. The dogmatic person is the one who seems to know exactly what he's talking about. But when we look at this person more closely in terms of his unconscious motivations we discover that we have here a very insecure person in reality who is taking refuge in this particular form of compensation. I wonder if you two gentlemen would mind dealing with for a few moments with a very concrete and even urgent problem in our society at the present time. One that seems to me to be an aspect of the problem of authority and I think the problem of delinquency. The delinquent child particularly. We have it said almost every hand that at the present time there is more of a problem of delinquency. Probably then there has been at any time in the past and it is
frequently said that this reflects a breakdown in the family or in the school or in the church. Would it seem possible to you that delinquency is literally a result of a breakdown in family authority or is it on the other hand frequently a reaction to over authority in the family doctrine would you care as a psychologist to. Discuss that from oh yes I'd be happy to. I think that the over exercise of an irrational authority or the absence of exercise of authority are the same. They both represent a lack of conviction about the authority role. They both represent an incapacity on the part of the individual to set the example from his own conscience from his own system of values and whether he meets this lack of conviction by simply abdicating his authority role or whether he meets this threat by over exercising his authority
role and developing this irrational authority. It's both. They both are the same problem and the end result is in fact some type of delinquent behavior some kind of opposition to society's norms values or standards. I think it is important though for us to recognize that just because we are more aware of delinquency when it appears in adolescence does not mean that the delinquency originated in adolescence. Since as Dr. from has indicated. The development of conscience the development of this super ego the development of this system of values occurs in the early character formation of the child before he's five or six years of age. Perhaps some adornments later on but the chief structure of values is set that early so that we're talking about the link when say over a considerable period of time but it's only becoming a serious social problem in adolescence in a sense
we parents have been dealing with and I suppose we have been drawing upon they funded investment traditional value schemes from our past both here on the continent and in Europe. And yet in recent decades these traditional schemes both theological and Mara have tended to break down with the result that many adults do not seem to know what values are really rooted in the nature of things and the nature of the organism. And I think the result is then this uncertainty at a deep level tends to be communicated one to the other and is also caught by our children and by our adolescent children. Also quite right and there is also it seems to me the kind of authority that supplies recognition at the same time that it is authority. And there are other types of authority that are impersonal aloof and don't seem to grant the subject the sort of recognition that every human being and
particularly children are striving for I've been quite struck by some of the case histories that I have read of delinquency of the ease with which children will slip out of a rather permissive family background and take up membership in a gang which oftentimes surprisingly enough is very rigidly organized weather tight system of discipline but a system of discipline that seems evil though it may be to give the member a kind of recognition that answers the need for recognition in his system. You know Freud described civilization as the process by which individuals attempt to organize nature and control nature or and the system by which individuals try to organize and control themselves in their relationships with each other. And he pointed out that one of the penalties perhaps of
increased civilization of more civilizing is a giving up of certain kinds of personal freedoms. Now in our contemporary urbanization where we come into greater and greater contact with other individuals it seems to me that we are in a position of having to civilize ourselves even more of having to establish definite modes of relationship between ourselves and others which implies then that we have to give up more of our personal freedoms since certainly the freest state of the individual is that state in which he is not civilized. In which he is not attempting to coordinate his own actions with the actions of others. Isn't there freedom of a higher order which we need to consider more seriously than sometimes we have in American life. A musician who wants to play the piano very well has to discipline his fingers tremendously and he will play finger exercises to the consternation of everybody else in the family very
probably. But when he has disciplined his fingers properly then he has the freedom to interpret a great piece of music somewhat as the creator we assume wanted it to be interpreted. And I'm wondering if we haven't sometimes forgotten that in giving up certain kinds of freedom at the more or less childish level and accepting the disciplines of a higher order of freedom we really move on and become more mature persons and more self realized persons. But so long as we are still adolescent or pre-adolescent. You know our concern with the freedoms of childhood. How can either parents or teachers or their children understand the processes involved here too many of us adults think that education ended when we got a diploma. Quite right. And they mistakes or the crimes at least that were committed by so-called progressive education in its earliest phases and by so-called progressive families
under the influence of certain early 20th century popularizers Freud. These mistakes and crimes I think would be those of failing to recognize the relationship between discipline and freedom that you Professor Ross just advanced that in order to be free you have to have an instrument or you have to have a being you have to have something that is capable of experiencing freedom. And this is discipline at bottom. And this of course is what the adolescent certainly does not realize and looks to his society to teach him. And if society is unsure of itself it certainly is in a poor position to teach this to the adolescent one question I'd like to ask Dr. Rhoden again as a psychologist is there however something in the human system natively that is likely to make him rebel against the imposition of any kind of discipline. There is something in the individual which promotes free expression without regard to the needs of the society.
But it is the function of the character of the individual which is evolving over the course of the first five years which tempers these basic drives for free and uninhibited expression that brings rationality to these drives so that what is expressed then is a sublimated version of the desire for freedom and for personal expression so that the means of sublimation or creative utilize ation of energies are the same means which if Mr. Acton are they escapes from authority in any form or they outright resentments of control. However it may be Express actually does not work in education give us a clue do what we seek to do if we know what we're about namely we want to lead out of the person. Those basic potentialities which are there and which can go either in a social or an antisocial direction or in the direction of the affirmation of selfhood or the need
of any self worth having. And here the progressive educators were right is not our function to pour anything in or as Dr. from is pointed out to coerce the child. This of course is irrational authority. We need to bring out each growing child in a dog those potentialities which we can reasonably assume are there and then guide them to a larger fulfillment in other words a proper system of authority. Is it one of the same taught him a system of education. I think on that point gentlemen we may conclude once again and our thanks to you Dr Edward Roden chief psychiatrist of the riverside state mental hygiene clinic and to you Dr Floyd Ross professor of world religions at the Southern California School of Theology. You have been listening to Freud authority and the American conscience. One in a series of transcribed programs concerned with the discoveries and errors of Sigmund Freud. A series titled Man is not a thing. First you heard Dr. Eric from
Man is not a thing
Freud, authority and the American consumer
Producing Organization
San Bernardino Valley College
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-1j97b600).
This program, "Freud, Authority and the American Consumer," looks at how Freud's theories relate to aspects of American life.
This series presents a discussion of the discoveries and errors of Sigmund Freud and his impact on the American family, politics and religion.
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Editor: Harding, Bob
Interviewer: Walker, Fred
Producer: Harter, John
Producing Organization: San Bernardino Valley College
Speaker: Fromm, Erich, 1900-1980
Speaker: Nisbet, Robert A.
Speaker: Ross, Floyd Hiatt
Speaker: Rudin, Edward
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 58-22-5 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:12
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Man is not a thing; Freud, authority and the American consumer,” 1958-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed January 20, 2021,
MLA: “Man is not a thing; Freud, authority and the American consumer.” 1958-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. January 20, 2021. <>.
APA: Man is not a thing; Freud, authority and the American consumer. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from