Group Mind: A Sketch of the Principles of Collective Psychology, with Some Attempt to Apply Them to the Interpretation of National Life and Character:

By William McDougall | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
The Mind of a Nation

WE have prepared ourselves for the study of the national mind by our preliminary examination of the two extreme types of collective mental life, that of the quite unorganised group, the simple crowd, on the one hand, that of a very highly organised group, the army, on the other hand. We have seen that in the former type the collective actions imply a collective mental life much inferior, both intellectually and morally, to that of the average component individuals; and that in the other type they imply a collective mental life and capacities much superior to those of the average individual.

The mind of any nation occupies some intermediate position in the scale of which these are the extreme types; and it differs from both in being immensely more complex, and also in that the influence of the past dominates and determines to a much greater extent the mental life of the present.

The study we have already made of collective mental life will enable us to understand what we mean, or ought to mean, when we speak of national character. There are two senses in which this phrase is used, and they are often confused. On the one hand, the phrase may be used to denote the character of individuals who are taken to be typical representatives or average specimens of their nations. On the other hand, it may be taken to mean the character of the nation as a collective whole or mind

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