Differences Which We May Expect Between National Groups

The above examination of "straw men" in the case against "national character" has very stringently limited the scope of this concept. But the conclusions from this examination are by no means simply negative. To limit the scope of a concept is almost synonymous with defining it.

We have added one very important tool to our equipment —the technique of describing the common character (or the "highest common factor" of character) of individuals in a human community in terms of bipolar adjectives. Instead of despairing in face of the fact that nations are highly differentiated, we shall take the dimensions of that differentiation as our clues to the national character. No longer content to say, "Germans are submissive," or "Englishmen are aloof," we shall use such phrases as "dominant-submissive" when relationships of this sort can be shown to occur. Similarly, we shall not refer to "the paranoidal element in German character," unless we can show that by "paranoidal" we mean some bipolar characteristic of German-German or German-foreign relationships. We shall not describe varieties of character by defining a given character in terms of its position on a continuum between extreme dominance and extreme submissiveness, but we shall, instead, try to use for our descriptions some such continua as "degree of interest in, or orientation toward, dominance-submission."

So far, we have mentioned only a very short list of bipolar characteristics: dominance-submission, succoring-dependence, and exhibitionism-spectatorship. One criticism will certainly be uppermost in the reader's mind, that, in short, all three of these characteristics are clearly present in all West-ern cultures. Before our method becomes useful, therefore, we must try to expand it to give us sufficient scope and discriminatory power to differentiate one Western culture from another.

As this conceptual frame develops, no doubt, many further expansions and discriminations will be introduced. The present paper will deal with only three such types of expansion.

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