25 March 2007

Women in tribes

Let us consider how the characteristics of human psychology may derive from the structure of tribal society.

There is no ‘drive to infinity’, or drive towards any goal outside the tribal group. There is no concerted attempt to increase control of the environment, nor is it possible for any individual to make wholehearted attempts to better his own lot. The object of everything is to reinforce belief in the importance of the tribal customs, so that the people in the tribe can live out their life-cycles according to these patterns, often with little change for centuries or millennia.

There is relatively more scope for the men to assert significance in forms of aggression towards something external to the tribe, since they have from time to time to defend the tribe from the encroachments of other tribes, and probably to kill animals for food. This kind of assertion of significance still takes the form of asserting that they are able to deprive another personality of its life, i.e. that on behalf of the tribal significance they are able to assert their superior potency by depriving of potency. Nevertheless this relatively externalised assertiveness gives male psychology its slight margin of generosity and flexibility.

The women, on the other hand, having no way of asserting themselves outside the tribe, and concerned with the bringing up of children, have no outlet for their drive but in the satisfaction they can obtain from subordinating the children, and no doubt everybody else as well, to the tribal customs. (One can hear the tribal echoes in many common expressions: ‘She must be helped to adapt to a non-academic life’, i.e. ‘She must be brought into subordination to the tribal customs’.)

from the forthcoming book The Corpse and the Kingdom