Dmitri N. Shalin

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"National character," "modal personality," "collective unconscious," "ethnic mentality," "cultural identity" -- these and similar notions are designed to capture psychological traits that distinguish one social group from another. Attempts to isolate such hypothetical qualities are not different in principle from efforts to describe religious, legal, or other social patterns found among people who have lived together for a length of time, except that psychological constructs tend to focus on subjective characteristics and are somewhat harder to identify. For the first time, the link between culture and psychology came under close scrutiny in the nineteen century. German linguists Steinthal and Lazarus and psychologist Wilhelm Wundt made an elaborate case for "Folkpsychology" -- a discipline that examined the interfaces between folklore, language, social institutions, and psychological traits. In this century, around the time of World War II, much attention was given to the so-called "modal personality" and "national character" that purported to describe the ways in which other people, often belonging to enemy nations, raised their children and behaved in their daily life. Margaret Mead, Clyde Kluckhohn, Geoffrey Gorer, Henry Dick, along with other social scientists, developed a concept of the Russian national character which sought to explain the contradictions in the overt behavior of America's arch-enemy in psychological terms. In the last few decades, scholars began to pay closer attention to the role that culture and psychology plays in nation-building. As economic differences between nations level off, less tangible cultural characteristics -- emotional, cognitive, aesthetic, axiological -- have come to the fore as key factors determining national peculiarities. E. Gellner put it most provocatively when he said that cultures produced nations, not the other way around.


Culture – Psychological aspects; National characteristics; Russia; Social change; Social psychology; Soviet Union


Asian History | Cultural History | European History | Other Languages, Societies, and Cultures | Political History | Slavic Languages and Societies | Social History | Social Psychology