Jerome Kagan

Every society, or large cohesive group within a society, recognizes that in order to maintain stability a small group must possess some power over the much larger citizenry. The power is sometimes inherited, sometimes awarded, sometimes attained, and sometimes seized. In actual practice, this lean and rather raw description is usually disguised by a clever strategy—much like a magician's wrist movement—that makes select psychological traits symbolic of highly valued, status-conferring attributes— hence, they become the vessels from which power is inevitably drawn.

Tenth-century Europe awarded power to those who were assumed to be more religious than their brothers. The presumption of a capacity for more intense religiosity provided a rationale that allowed the larger society to accept the fact that a privileged few were permitted entry into marble halls. Pericles' Athens and Lee's Virginia both rationalized the subjugation of their slaves on various psychological grounds. At other times and in other

From The Saturday Review, 4 September 1971, pp. 92-93. Reprinted by permission of Jerome Kagan and The Saturday Review.

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