The Mark of Oppression: Explorations in the Personality of the American Negro

By William Goldfarb; Robert Gutman et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THIRTEEN
The Psychology of Oppression

THE PURPOSE of this book was to describe the relation of the individual to social processes within a fixed context. We did this by using the adaptation of the individual as a medium for getting information to help us interpret a vast array of sociological data. This technique needs some justification to start with, and a disinterested appraisal of its merits. Since it is an extremely arduous technique, it is important to decide whether the effort is sufficiently rewarding to warrant its use.

Until the twentieth century very little attempt was made to study societal function through the medium of the functioning individual. In order to do so we required some knowledge of the fixed inborn characteristics of man, his methods of adaptation with their defects and failures, and his educability to the demands of culture. All these were a part of the equipment necessary for such an undertaking. Without this knowledge we could only use a quantitative evaluation of fixed phenomena through the statistical study of incidence such as employment, income, delinquency, abandonment, and the like. We could then attempt to explain these phenomena on a rational basis of cause and effect. On a theoretical plane, efforts were made to draw conclusions from the descriptive interrelationship of institutions to each other. It is remarkable how much accurate and valuable work was done by these means alone. The study of the individual can, therefore, be used to supplement our knowledge from these other sources. It is not too much to expect, if this technique is at all accurate, that the indications for social engineering may be defined with more precision than by methods previously in use.

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