Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings

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which he early becomes attentive. In these respects the other-directed person resembles the tradition-directed person: both live in a group milieu and lack the inner-directed person's capacity to go it alone. The nature of this group milieu, however, differs radically in the two cases. The other-directed person is cosmopolitan. For him the border between the familiar and the strange--a border dearly marked in the societies depending on tradition-direction--has broken down. As the family continuously absorbs the strange and reshapes itself, so the strange becomes familiar. While the inner-directed person could be "at home abroad" by virtue of his relative insensitivity to others, the other-directed person is, in a sense, at home everywhere and nowhere, capable of a rapid if sometimes superficial intimacy with and response to everyone.

The tradition-directed person takes his signals from others, but they come in a cultural monotone; he needs no complex receiving equipment to pick them up. The other-directed person must be able to receive signals from far and near; the sources are many, the changes rapid. What can be internalized, then, is not a code of behavior but the elaborate equipment needed to attend to such messages and occasionally to participate in their circulation. As against guilt-and-shame controls, though of course these survive, one prime psychological lever of the other-directed person is a diffuse anxiety. This control equipment, instead of being like a gyroscope, is like a radar.❖

Erik H. Erikson ( 1902-1994) was born of Danish parents in Germany. After completing school in 1927, Erikson lived in Vienna, where he taught school and began analytic training. He was analyzed by Anna Freud and finished his training in 1933. He later fled Europe for Boston, becoming that city's first child analyst. He was associated with Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard, where he began (but never completed) doctoral studies. In 1936, Erikson taught at Yale; three years later, he moved to San Francisco, where he held a research position at the University of California at Berkeley. In 1950, he refused to sign a loyalty oath and left Berkeley. Erikson taught at Harvard for many years, retiring in 1970. He was recognized as a pioneer psychoanalyst for his clinical work, his research, and his writing. His studies of children were the basis for his contributions to the psychology of emotional development. Erikson was generally considered the founder of psychohistorical studies and one of the few ever able to use psychology to interpret history in a way that balances the different demands of the two fields. In addition to Childhood and Society, published in 1950 (the same year as The Lonely Crowd), his many writings include Gandhi's Truth ( 1969) and Young Man Luther ( 1958).

Youth and American Identity

Erik H. Erikson ( 1950)


With the establishment of a good initial relationship to the world of skills and tools, and with the advent of puberty, childhood proper comes to an end. Youth begins.

Excerpt from Childhood and Society ( New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1963 [ 1950]), pp. 261-263, 285-287. Copyright 1950, 1963 by W. W. Norton and Company, Inc. Reprinted by permission of W. W. Norton and Co. and Hogarth Press, Ltd.


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Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings
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