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Adams gave up the attempt to begin at the beginning, and tried starting
at the end -- himself.

Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams



Introduction 9


Laissez Faire Individualism
Self Reliance
Narcissism, Achievement, Conformity and Alienation
Isolationism and Internationalism

Retentive Epistemology

Philanthropy, Prodigality and Wastefulness

Procrastination, Concentration and Feverish Activity

Moral Purification and Restoration

The Romantic, Conservation and Green Movements

The Apocalyptic Tradition

Reason versus Nature
The Metaphor of the Machine
The Obsession with Speed, the Cult of Efficiency and the
Movement for Scientific Management



The Oral Dimension of Anal Eroticism
The Genital Dimension of Anal Eroticism
Independence Training
Anal Sadism
The Mastery of Nature
The Oedipal Triangle in America
The Flight from Death
The Culture of Contradictions
Conspiracy, Paranoia and Anal Eroticism

According to Sigmund Freud, 1 anal training, which is derived from the

need to regulate the time and place of defecation, presents a child with a
situation in which it must choose, often for the first time in its life, whether
to "postpone or renounce a direct instinctual gratification out of
consideration for the environment:" 2 “The process of defaecation affords
the first occasion on which the child must decide between a narcissistic and
an object-loving attitude. He either parts obediently with his faeces, „offers
them up‟ to his love, or else retains them for purposes of auto-erotic
gratification and later as a means of asserting his own will.” 3

The contents of the bowels . . . . are clearly treated as a part of the

infant’s own body and represent his first “gift”: by producing them he
can express his active compliance with his environment and, by
withholding them, his disobedience. 4

Sigmund Freud, Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905), in The
Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud,
ed. and trans. James Strachey (London: The Hogarth Press and the Institute
of Psychoanalysis, 1953-1966), VII, 186.

Otto Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (New York: W.
W. Norton, 1945), 278.

Freud, "On the Transformation of Instincts with Special Reference to
Anal Eroticism" (1917), in Works, XVII, 130.

Freud, Works, VII, 186.


It was from the conjunction of these two intersecting forces -- the

cultural need and the biological urge -- that Freud derived his series of
three character-traits which are based on the transformation of the "libidinal
cathexis which originally attached to the contents of the bowel": namely,
orderliness, parsimony, and obstinacy. 5
As further defined and elaborated by Freud' s students and colleagues,
notably Lou Andreas-Salomé, Sandor Ferenczi, Karl Abraham, Ernest Jones
and Otto Fenichel, 6 these three character-traits are formations which emerge
in various degrees from the three choices open the child as it responds to the
culturally-imposed imperative to regulate the time and place of defecation.
The trait of Orderliness, in the first instance, reflects the decision to
comply and conform to the demands made by the environment. Rebellion
and resistance to the cultural imperative is a second response, from which is
derived the character-trait of Obstinacy. Parsimony represents a
compromise-formation between the two conflicting demands, since retention
allows a child to retain individual control over its own bodily contents while,
at the same time, by not producing them, allows the child to express a
measure of "active compliance" with the environment' s need for order and

Freud, Works, XVII, 130.

Lou Andreas-Salomé, "' Anal' and ' Sexual' ," Imago, VI (1916 ), 249-
73. Sandor Ferenczi, "The Ontogenesis of the Interest in Money" (1914), in
Contributions to Psycho-Analysis (Boston: R. J. Badger, 1916), chap. xiii.
Karl Abraham, "Contributions to the Theory of the Anal Character" (1921),
in Selected Papers of Karl Abraham (London: Hogarth Press, 1927), 370-
92. Ernest Jones, "Anal-Erotic Character Traits" (1918), in Papers on
Psycho-Analysis (London: Bailliere, Tindall and Cox, 1913), 680-704.
Fenichel, "The Drive to Amass Wealth," Psychoanalytic Quarterly, VII
(1938), 69-95.

Although his earlier works reflect a strong bias in favor of biological (or
"dispositional") forces, Freud, especially in his later writings, 7
acknowledges the significance of cultural factors in shaping character and
seems to imply that bowel training is the causal agent in the transformation
and transmission, if not the origin, of anal characterology. If so, resistance
to the cultural imperative (presumably, because it is too harshly or
prematurely imposed) would appear to be doubly important. As a later
student of Freud observed:

It appears that the child who has been trained in continence of

urine and faeces slowly and without pressure or punishment will
yield control over his eliminations without anxiety or resentment,
learning to release without conflict; but a precocious or harshly
coercive training that forces the child, before physiologically ready,
to release to the outside demands, will set up resistance, accentuate
retention as a defensive response and focus the child' s behaviour
upon acquisitive or compensatory outlets for the denial of
possession of his own eliminations. 8

Thus, excessively early or rigorous bowel training may not only

precipitate the character-trait of Obstinacy, but may also fixate the child at
the anal stage of development, transforming and inverting the whole
constitution of traits: "Obstinacy may become so extreme that the person in
question is compelled always to do the exact opposite of what is required of

See, for example, Civilization and Its Discontents (1930).

Lawrence K. Frank, "Cultural Coercion and Individual Distortion,"
Psychiatry, II (February, 1939), 22. The etiological significance of anal
training is further suggested by the fact that, as Freud reminds us, "painful
stimuli to the skin of the buttocks . . . are an instrument in the education of
the child designed to break his self-will and make him submissive.”
“Character and Anal Eroticism" (1908), in Works, IV, 171.

him." 9 By producing (or not producing) his bodily contents on demand, the
child expresses, not his active compliance, but his subconscious hostility to
his environment.

As we have seen, in Freudian theory, the products of defecation occupy

a role equal in importance to that of the act itself, since “the contents of the
bowels . . . are clearly treated as a part of the infant‟s own body and
represent his first gift”:

It would appear that in the products of the unconscious --

spontaneous ideas, phantasies, symptoms -- the conceptions faeces
(money, gift), child and penis are seldom distinguished and are
easily interchangeable. 10

Thus, the relationship between money/gift, self and feces is, clearly, a
symbolic one:

"Possession" means "things that do not actually belong to the ego, but
that ought to; things that are actually outside but symbolically inside." 11

Because the contents of the bowel occupy such an ambiguous

relationship between the internal and external world, this symbolization
process can be viewed as paralleling the child' s historical development, in
which it gradually learns to differentiate between Self and Non-Self. Sandor
Ferenczi, for example, has traced the process whereby feces are
subconsciously abstracted by the child into mud-pies, pebbles, shells,

Fenichel, Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis, 279.

Freud, Works, XVII, 127-30.

Fenichel, Ibid., 281.

marbles, coins, jewelry and money. 12 Karl Abraham and Ernest Jones
extend this copro-symbology to include books, words, stamps, statistics,
time and, even, last wills and testaments. 13

The cultural imperative to regulate the time and place of defecation, of

course, is a universal, if unspoken, precondition of all permanent human
settlements, and one student of Freud, Geza Roheim, has stated that all
urban cultures, to varying degrees, are “based on sublimations or reaction-
formations of anal trends." 14 As we shall see, the complex of character
traits and cultural values described by Freud and his colleagues has been
modified and transformed by the unique circumstances of America‟s
historical development and cultural context. It should be noted that this
complex of personality traits is but one among many others in the Freudian
constellation; that there is no single, all-inclusive “anal personality type”;
that these character traits exist in varying and contradictory degrees among
individuals, and, most importantly, that this phenotype is but one among
many other modal personality types represented in American culture.
Throughout Crown’s Children, 15 I have assumed the Freudian paradigm

Sandor Ferenczi, "The Ontogenesis of the Interest in Money," in
Contributions to Psycho-Analysis (Boston: R. J. Badger, 1916).

Abraham, Selected Papers, 383-87. Ernest Jones, "Anal-Erotic
Character Traits (1918), in Papers on Psycho-Analysis, 692-97.

Geza Roheim, "The Evolution of Culture," International Journal of
Pyscho-Analysis, XV (October, 1934), 387-418. "The Study of Character
Development and the Ontological Theory of Culture," in E. E. Evans-
Pritchard, et al. (eds.), Essays Presented to C. G. Seligman (London, 1934),

The title is derived from Benjamin Franklin‟s "Money can beget


money, and its off spring can beget more, and so on . . . He that murders a
crown, destroys all that it might have produced, even scores of pounds."

as "given," but offer it not as a definitive interpretation but rather as a

means of resolving a series of paradoxes unique to American experience and
as suggestive of further research. Admittedly, I have followed an interlinear
pattern of juxtaposing Freudian with cultural and historiographical texts,
seeking the first to demonstrate the anality of the second, and the second to
validate the historical applicability of the first. In advance, I apologize for
the fact that the narrative often degenerates into a “long and arid survey --
partaking of the nature of catalogue --” and, more importantly, for its lax,
eclectic, even promiscuous, methodology. In its defense, I can only quote
Daniel Boorstin: "How can one believe that a „descriptive' approach to
knowledge confines the imagination?" If "the Goddess of Miscellany
reigned even in such early New England promotional tracts as . . . . William
Wood‟s New England Prospect (1630),” She has certainly reigned in mine.

Daniel J. Boorstin, The Americans: The Colonial Experience (New
York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1958), 166.

We are all Republicans -- we are all Federalists.

Thomas Jefferson, 1801

A fundamental trait -- the third in Freud' s triad -- of the anal-erotic

character is Obstinacy, or Self-Willedness -- the defiant resistance to any
form of external interference:

There is an inordinate, and often extreme sensitiveness about

interference. Such people take advice badly, resent any pressure
being put on them, stand on their rights and on their dignity, rebel
against any authority, and insist on going their own way; they are
never to be driven and can only be led. As children they are
extremely disobedient, there being, indeed, a constant association
between defiant disobedience and unmastered anal eroticism. Later
a reaction-formation against this may develop, leading to unusual
docility, but it can generally be observed that the docility is only
partial and conditional. . . . Such people in later life are very
sensitive on the matter of exact justice being done, even to a
pedantic extent, and on all kinds of fair dealing. They get
particularly agitated at the idea of something being taken from them
against their will, and especially if this is something that symbolizes
faeces in the unconscious, as, for instance, money does; they
cannot tolerate being cheated of the smallest amount. . . . The
concept of time is, because of the sense of value attaching to it, an
unconscious equivalent of excretory product, and the reaction just
mentioned is also shown in regard to it. 17

Ernest Jones, "Anal-Erotic Character Traits," Papers on Psycho-
Analysis (London: Bailliere, Tindall and Cox, 1923), 686-87.


Perhaps, no other single description in psychoanalytic literature goes as

far in providing a basis for interpreting and unifying such a wide range of
American cultural values as does this statement by Ernest Jones. If we may
assume that extrapolation from individual case studies to broad cultural
phenomena is a valid and legitimate historiographical tool, resistance to
outside interference, as defined here by Ernest Jones, can be seen as the
common denominator underlying such fundamental American values as
individualism and self-reliance, egalitarianism, perfectionism, skepticism,
isolationism, internationalism, megalomania and, even, litigious paranoia.


Laissez-faire individualism has been described as a "major tenet of the

American faith," 18 and, to James Bryce, writing in the late nineteenth
century, it was "the orthodox and accepted doctrine in the sphere both of
Federal and State legislation." 19 Until the twentieth century, when new
forms of property produced a new middle-class ethic, Americans
traditionally associated liberty with property, and property, in turn, with
virtue, specifically, the anally-sanctioned virtues of industry and frugality.
John Locke' s Social Contract, in which "sufficient evidence of permanent
common interest with and attachment to the community" 20 was defined in
terms of the ownership of real property -- the so-called Stake-in-Society
theory -- was a natural corollary of this association, as was Adam Smith' s

Sidney Fine, Laissez Faire and the General Welfare State (Ann Arbor:
University of Michigan Press, 1956), 3.

James Bryce, The American Commonwealth (New York: Macmillan
Co., 1893). Quoted in Fine, ibid.

The Virginia Bill of Rights.

Labor Theory of Value, in which the value of a commodity was determined

by the amount of labor invested in that commodity.
Thus, throughout American history, it was natural that the laissez-faire
impulse should be expressed in the form of opposition to governmental
interference -- particularly as represented by the tax collector -- and to all
forms of concentrated power and monopoly which threatened to preempt this
sacred relationship between labor and property:

The tendency is anti-social. It produces antipathy to control, and

particularly to any direct control. The tax gatherer is viewed as a
representative of oppression. 21

The American Revolution, of course, represents in archetypal form the

trait of resistance to outside interference. Edmund S. Morgan has shown
that the threat of Parliamentary taxation was viewed by the colonists as "an
attack not merely on property but on industry and frugality." 22
Historians of both the Ideological and Economic schools of
interpretation (that is, those who view the precipitating cause of the War for
Independence as the colonial defense of the principle of "no taxation without
representation" and those who trace the source of the conflict to the material
self-interests of the participants) have shown that the psychological response
following the imposition of a stamp tax on legal documents, newspapers,

Frederick Jackson Turner, "The Significance of the Frontier in
American History," in The Frontier in American History (New York: Henry
Holt and Co., 1920), 30

Edmund S. Morgan, "The Puritan Ethic and the Coming of the
American Revolution," The William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd. ser., XXIV
(January, 1967), 13. To Sam Adams, for example, "the industrious man is
intitled to the fruits of his industry" (Boston Gazette, December 19, 1768).

almanacs and pamphlets was so disproportionate to the actual economic

burden imposed as to leave the question of colonial motivation open to two
and a half centuries of historiographical speculation.
If Ernest Jones' s formula is accepted, however, the colonists' sincerity,
on one level, is restored, since the magnitude of the stamp tax was not in
question, as the anal personality "cannot tolerate being cheated of the
smallest amount." Furthermore, that the colonists, behind the constitutional
issues raised to oppose Parliamentary intrusion, displayed "an inordinate,
and often extreme, sensitiveness about interference" can be used to show
that devotion to principle and devotion to self-interest are not mutually
exclusive, that ideological issues and economic issues are both
rationalizations that spring from a common, but deeper, impulse. In this
case, the anal denominator resolves the contradiction between the Economic
and Ideological schools of interpretation: resistance to increased taxation is a
rather straightforward expression of materiality; resistance to unfair
taxation, precisely because Parliamentary taxes were not oppressive, is
equally an expression of anality, and the "intense feeling against any form of
injustice" is elevated to the status of what has been termed "litigious

Suspicion that an active conspiracy of power against liberty existed

and involved the colonies directly was deeply rooted in the
consciousness of a large segment of the American population. . . .
The Stamp Act was not merely an impolitic and unjust law that
threatened the priceless right of the individual to retain possession
of his property until he or his chosen representative voluntarily
gave it up to another; it was to many, also, a danger signal
indicating that a more general threat existed. 23

Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967), 95. Litigious paranoia
(paranoia querulans) was identified as a mental disorder at the end of the
nineteenth century and may be etymologically linked to James Bryce‟s

Bernard Bailyn quotes John Adams' s belief that "there seems to be a

direct and formal design on foot to enslave all America," 24 and Thomas
Jefferson expresses the fear that although
single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of
a day, . . . a series of oppressions begun at a distinguished period
and pursued unalterably through every change of ministers too
plainly prove a deliberate and systematical plan of reducing us to
slavery. 25

Colonial resistance to Parliamentary interference was often expressed in

anal metaphors. Jefferson, for example, stated his determination that "we
do not mean that our people shall be burdened with oppressive taxes to
provide sinecures for the idle or the wicked." 26 The Writs of Assistance
evoked the fear that "our houses, even our bedchambers, are exposed to be
ransacked, our boxes, trunks, and chests broke open, ravaged and plundered
by wretches whom no prudent man would venture to employ as menial
servants." The British Empire was portrayed, variously, as "ripe for ruin"
and infected by a "proud, arbitrary, selfish, and venal spirit of corruption."
The English government was "arbitrary and despotic"; it had sought to
reduce the colonies to slavery by stealing what Trenchard termed "that

“vexatious litigation” (The American Commonwealth, 628). See also Karl

Abraham‟s letter to Freud, dated May 19, 1908.

The Works of John Adams . . . , ed. Charles Francis Adams (Boston,
1850-56), III, 464, as quoted in Bailyn, Origins of the American Revolution,

A Summary View (1774), in The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian
Boyd (18 vols.; Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1950-71), I, 125.

July 31, 1775, Papers, I, 232.

precious jewel liberty." It had erected a bureaucracy of "idle drones,"

"parasitic officeholders" and "lazy, proud, worthless pensioners and
Placemen," who would extort "SUBMISSIVE behavior, " "live lazily upon
the labor of others" and "distinguish themselves by their sordid zeal." In
order to "support these shocking enormities and corruptions, the subjects in
all quarters must be hard squeezed with the iron arms of oppression," for
"we shall be taxed so long as we have a penny to pay." 27

Thus was established a pattern of resistance to "outside" interference

which, throughout American history, was to justify both radical reform
movements and rigid defenses of the status quo. In such doctrines as strict
construction, states' rights and due process, in Andrew Jackson' s Veto
Message on the Second Bank, Henry David Thoreau' s “Civil Disobedience”
and Frederick Jackson Turner' s theory of frontier democracy, in anti-trust
legislation of the Progressive Era and resistance to the New Deal in the
1930‟s, in right-wing anti-communism of the 1950‟s, New Left radicalism
of the 1960' s and the Tea Party Movement of the 2000‟s, runs the common
theme of opposition to concentrated power and monopoly, which is viewed,
uniformly, as unfair, external and conspiratorial. 28


Another attribute of Obstinacy -- the obverse of the resentment against

Quoted in Bailyn, Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, 117,
130, 113, 103.

The subtext of paranoia in American culture and the explicit
relationship between “Conspiracy, Paranoia and Anal Eroticism” is
discussed in more detail in that section of this book.

external interference -- is the introspective ideal of self-sufficiency, which

originates in the child' s desire to retain individual control over its sphincter
muscles and bodily contents, and results in the premature internalization of
parental controls, the so-called Invisible Hand. 29
The role of self-sufficiency as an American cultural ideal is almost too
self-evident to require further comment here other than to mention that it,
too, was frequently expressed in anal metaphors. To Jefferson, for
example, the cornerstone of the young Republic was the virtuous, self-
sufficient yeoman, whose economic independence and self-reliance
safeguarded the nation from Old World-style corruption and intrigue and in
whom God "has made His peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine
virtue": "Corruption of morals in the mass of cultivators is a phenomenon
of which no age nor nation has furnished an example." 30
In his Autobiography, Benjamin Franklin warns that debt "exposes" one
to confinement and seeks to demonstrate "on how small an income life and
health may be supported." 31 The same assumption is also evident in
Thoreau' s Walden, which, on one level, can be viewed as an instruction
manual in the exact costs of economic independence necessary for spiritual

See “Independence Training” in chapter 4.

Notes on the State of Virginia, in The Life and Selected Writings of
Thomas Jefferson, ed. Adrienne Koch and William Peden (New York:
Random House, 1944), 280. Ironically, the same arguments for economic
self-sufficiency and independence from foreign control were cited by
proponents of the American System to justify federal support for
manufacturing, banking and “internal improvements.”

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, ed. Max Farrand (Berkeley
and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1949).

emancipation. 32 Emerson' s The American Scholar has been called an

intellectual and cultural declaration of independence from the "courtly
muses" of Europe, yet his subliminal injunction "obey thyself" is as much a
celebration of the underlying unity of mankind as it is a rejection of
conformity and tradition. In the same way, Thoreau could conceive of
property as a burden and express contempt for the businessman who would
hoard stones, yet, at the same time, exalt solitude and contemplation and
associate self-reliance ("explore thyself") with an inward form of Manifest
Destiny (there are "whole new continents and worlds within you"). 33


The anal trait of Obstinacy is also manifested in such contradictory

American values as narcissism, achievement, conformity, alienation and
nihilism. Karl Abraham, for example, traces the psychoanalytic origin of
achievement to "the special pleasure in the act of excretion," which

comprises besides physical sensations a psychical gratification

which is based on the achievement of the act. Now in that child' s
training demands strict regularity in its excretions as well as
cleanliness it exposes the child' s narcissism to a first severe test.
The majority of children adapt themselves sooner or later to these
demands. In favourable cases the child succeeds in making a virtue
out of necessity, as it were; in other words, in identifying itself with
the requirements of its educators and being proud of its attainment.
The primary injury to its narcissism is thus compensated, and its

Albert F. McLean, "Thoreau' s True Meridian: Natural Fact and
Metaphor," American Quarterly, XX (Fall, 1968), 567-79.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden, in The Writings of Henry David
Thoreau (20 vols.; Riverside Edition; Boston: Houghton, Mifflin Co.,
1906), II, 353-54.

original feeling of self-satisfaction is replaced by gratification in its

achievement, in "being good," in its parents' praise. 34

Thus, the relationship between "the child' s high self-esteem and [its]
excretory acts," between its "primitive feeling of power" and its "pride in
evacuation" is immediate and direct.
Ernest Jones also notes this association and describes the "contribution
made by anal erotism to infantile narcissism" in the following terms:

Persons of the type under consideration are apt to have a strongly

marked individuality [characterized by] self-willed independence [and
an] exalted belief in personal perfection. 35

In extreme cases, this complex of associations leads to a form of

megalomania, which is described by Abraham as follows:

According to my experience this conviction [of pride] is often

exaggerated until the patient believes that he is a unique person. He
will become pretentious and arrogant and will tend to underestimate
everyone else. One patient expressed this as follows: "Everything that is
not me is dirt." 36

Since “coercive” bowel training places a “very high love premium on

perfect performance,” it can also lead, paradoxically, not only to over-
compensating narcissism and megalomania, but also to feelings of
insufficiency, alienation and nihilism:

Karl Abraham, "Contributions to the Theory of the Anal Character,"
Selected Papers (London: Hogarth Press, 1927), 373.

Jones, 684-89.

Abraham, 376.

It is a frustrating experience; it too often fosters anxiety and guilt about

excretory substances and owing to the fact that too much is expected of
the child he may develop feelings of inadequacy because of his lack of
skill. 37

According to Abraham:

The child' s idea of the omnipotence of its wishes and thoughts can
proceed from a stage in which it ascribed an omnipotence of this kind to
its excretions. Further experience has since convinced me that this is a
regular and typical process. The patient about whose childhood I have
spoken had doubtless been disturbed in the enjoyment of a narcissistic
pleasure of this sort. The severe and painful feeling of insufficiency
with which she was later afflicted very probably went back in the last
instance to this premature destruction of her infantile "megalomania." 38

Abraham continues his original description linking achievement to the

“special pleasure in the act of excretion”:

All children are not equally successful in this respect. Particular

attention should be drawn here to the fact that there are certain
over-compensations behind which is hidden that obstinate holding
fast to the primitive right of self-determination, which occasionally
breaks out violently later. I have in mind those children (and of
course adults too) who are remarkable for their "goodness," polite
manners, and obedience, but who base their underlying rebellious
impulses on the grounds that they have been forced into submission
since infancy.

Alexis de Tocqueville observed a fundamental paradox in American

society (which Marvin Meyers termed the "double potentiality") of radical,
anarchic individualism39 coexisting within a mass culture dominated by

Mabel Hushka, "The Child' s Response to Coercive Bowel
Training," Psychosomatic Medicine IV (January, 1942), 305.

Abraham, Selected Papers, 375-76.

Which can veer into exceptionalism, antinomianism and solipsism.

Lockean conformity and, often, absolutistic majoritarianism. 40 This paradox

can be resolved by citing Ernest Jones' s original description of Obstinacy:
"Later a reaction-formation against this may develop, leading to unusual
docility, but it can generally be observed that the docility is only partial and
conditional." Thus, docility and conformity are reaction-formations which
conceal underlying feelings of hostility and rebelliousness which are derived
from "the premature destruction of . . . infantile ' megalomania.' " 41

The paradoxical mixture of individualism and conformity, perfectionism

and skepticism, arrogance and self-abasement, is common in the literature of
American history and, perhaps, is also related to the child' s subconscious
identification of self with feces, which would account for its sense of
uniqueness as well as its feelings of worthlessness:

It would appear that in the products of the unconscious -- spontaneous

ideas, phantasies, symptoms -- the conceptions faeces (money, gift)
child and penis are seldom distinguished and are easily
interchangeable. . . . The child is regarded as "lumf" (Lumpf), i.e., as
something which becomes detached from the body by passing through
the bowel. A certain amount of libidinal cathexis which originally
attached to the contents of the bowel can thus be extended to the child
born through it. 42

Marvin Meyers, The Jacksonian Persuasion: Politics and Belief
(Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1957), 28.

Abraham, 380, 373-75.

Freud, Works, XVIII, 127-30. This ambivalent mixture of pride and
shame, narcissism and self doubt can also be traced to the acculturation
process itself:

Children are proud, as it were, of their own excretions and make

use of them to help in asserting themselves against adults. Under

The Puritans, of course, elevated self-abasement to an art form, and a

passage from the diary of Cotton Mather, to use an extreme, almost
pathological example, conveys the arrogant sense of worthlessness derived
from this identification:

I was once emptying the Cistern of Nature, and making Water at

the Wall. At the same Time, there came a dog, who did so too,
before me. Thought I, "What mean, and vile Things are the
Children of Men, in this mortal State! How much do our natural
Necessities abase us, and place us in some regard, on the same
level with the very Dogs!" . . . Accordingly, I resolved, that it
should be my ordinary Practice, whenever I stop to answer the one
or other Necessity of Nature, to make it an Opportunity of Shaping
in my Mind, some holy, noble, divine Thought. . . . And I have
done according to this Resolution! Be sure, the loathsome and
filthy Nature of SIN, and the Method of Deliverance from it, must
make an Article, in some Thousands of Thoughts, on these
Occasions. 43

The concept of original sin as a stain or blemish which human reason

and good works cannot overcome is a theme which is common in American
literature and is reflected, for example, in the works of Nathaniel

the influence of education the coprophilic instinct and inclinations

of children give way to repression; they learn to keep them secret,
to be ashamed of them and to feel disgust at the objects themselves.
Strictly speaking, the disgust never goes so far as to apply to a
child' s own excretions, but is content with repudiating them when
they are the products of other people.

"The Excretory Functions in Psychoanalysis and Folklore" (1913), which

served as the preface to the German translation of John Bourke' s Scatalogic
Rites of All Nations (Washington, 1891).

Diary of Cotton Mather, ed. Worthington Chauncey Ford (2 vols.:
New York: Frederick Unger Publishing Co., n.d.) I, 357.

Hawthorne, particularly in his use of the birthmark as a metaphor for the

human condition and in his restatement of Bunyan' s "awful truth" that "from
the very gate of heaven there is a by-way to the pit!" 44
Franklin describes himself as the "tithe" of his father' s children and, in
his Table of Examinations, relates that "I mark' d my faults with a black-lead
pencil, which marks I could easily wipe out with a wet sponge . . . I was
surpris' d to find myself so much fuller of faults than I had imagined." 45
In his Journals, Emerson proposes that "good motives are at the bottom
of [many] bad actions" and elsewhere states: "I spend myself prudently; I
economize; I cheapen; whereof nothing grand ever grew . . . I should hate
myself less." 46 Similarly, Thoreau advises, "If you would avoid
uncleanness, and all the sins, work earnestly, though it be at cleaning a
stable"; "There is no odor so bad as that which arises from goodness tainted.
It is human, it is divine, carrion." 47
At times, the alienation passes into nihilism. To Henry Adams, for
example, "a fourth child has the strength of his weakness. Being of no great
value, he may throw himself away if he likes, and never be missed." An
atom "vibrating in a void," he survives the "harsh brutality of chance," the
"chaos of anarchic and purposeless forces," by means of his own self-
deprecating humor, comparing himself, for example, to a "coin" who "knew

Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Blithedale Romance, in The Complete Works
of Nathaniel Hawthorne, ed. George Parsons Lathrop (13 vols.; Riverside
Edition; Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, and Co., 1889-1897), V, 595.

Autobiography, 10, 107.

The Heart of Emerson' s Journals, ed. Bliss Perry (Boston and New
York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1926), 55, 151.

Thoreau, Walden, 82.

himself to be worthless and not current." "He was for sale. He wanted to
be bought. His price was excessively cheap." 48

On the level of social theory, the subconscious identification of self with

feces is evident in the lumpen conceptualizations of mass culture and grass-
roots democracy. Tocqueville, for example, describes the condition
inherent in an egalitarian society in which the individual is "overwhelmed by
the sense of his own insignificance and weakness":

In democratic communities, each citizen is habitually engaged in

the contemplation of a very puny object: namely himself. If he ever
raises his looks higher, he perceives only the immense form of
society at large or the still more imposing aspect of mankind. . . .
What lies between is a void. 49

Although this would seem to directly contradict Tocqueville‟s

observation that the majority of Americans “lives in a state of perpetual
self-adoration,” 50 the paradox can be resolved by reminding ourselves

The Education of Henry Adams (Boston and New York: Houghton
Mifflin Company, 1918), 70, 279-87, 139, 267.

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. Phillips Bradley,
trans. Henry Reeve, re-trans. Frances Bowen (New York: Alfred A.
Knopf, 1945), Vol. II, 82.

Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. J.P. Mayer, trans. George
Lawrence (New York: Perennial Classics, 2000), 256. The full quotation is
worth noting:

In the proudest nations of the Old World works were published which
faithfully portrayed the vices and absurdities of contemporaries. . . But
the power which dominates in the United States does not understand
being mocked like that. The least reproach offends it, and the slightest
sting of truth turns it fierce; and one must praise everything, from the
turn of its phrases to its most robust virtues. No writer, no matter how

that both arrogance and self-abasement are derived from the “premature
destruction of . . . infantile ' megalomania.” The examples noted above
of professed modesty, alienation and sense of insignificance are more
than counterbalanced by the underlying cultural narcissism. 51 Compare,
for example, Franklin‟s observation quoted earlier that “I was surpris' d
to find myself so much fuller of faults than I had imagined” with this
admission in the conclusion of the first section of his Autobiography:

In reality, there is, perhaps, no one of our national passions so

hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down,
stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will
every now then peep out and show itself; you will see it, perhaps,
often in this history; for, even if I could conceive that I had
compleatly overcome it, I should probably be proud of my
humility. 52

In this context, Thoreau' s "critique of alienated labor," 53 as well as

Veblen' s "instinct of workmanship," reflect not so much the alienation, as
the identification, of the laborer with the product of his labor, and, under the
terms of "surplus repression" imposed by modern civilization, mass

famous, can escape from this obligation to sprinkle incense over his
fellow citizens. Hence the majority lives in a state of perpetual self-
adoration; only strangers or experience may be able to bring certain
truths to the Americans’ attention.

See, for example, Christopher Lasch‟s The Culture of Narcissism:


American Life in An Age of Diminishing Expectations (New York: W.W.

Norton, 1979).

Autobiography, 113.

Staughton Lynd, Intellectual Origins of American Radicalism (New
York: Random House, 1968), 92.

production has, in the words of Herbert Marcuse, reached the cul de sac of
"production for waste." 54


The principles of resistance to outside interference and the "obstinate

holding fast to the primitive right of self-determination" have exercised a
profound influence over American foreign policy and are explicitly stated in
Washington' s Farewell Address, the Monroe Doctrine, the Open Door
Notes, Wilson' s Fourteen Points, the Truman Doctrine and, more recently
American intervention in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. 55
One student of foreign relations, Felix Gilbert, has traced the origin of
this basic, symbolic dichotomy in American foreign policy (that is, between
isolationism and internationalism) to the tension between idealism and
realism inherent in the two contradictory motives for immigration to the
New World:

Each motive implied one of two distinct and contrary attitudes to

the Old World. The economic motive necessitates close ties with
Europe. Great profits could result only from . . . business contacts
with the London merchants and personal connections with members
of the ruling aristocracy. . . . The utopian motive favored
separation from European affairs. The hope of leading a more
perfect life on the new continent formed a resistance to
involvements with Europe. . . . In all regions of the British
settlements in North America, one could have found a strong feeling
of material realism and a pervasive air of utopian idealism and,

Herbert Marcuse, Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into
Freud (Boston: Beacon Press, 1955), 32.

Citing the right of self-determination as justification for American
military intervention is, of course, a contradiction which has characterized
American foreign policy since its beginning.

consequently, two different attitudes regarding the Old World:

attraction and rejection. 56

As we have seen, the Freudian interpretation tends to resolve such

contradictions, since the principles of separation and resistance to outside
interference are as much derived from an anal source as is the countervailing
commercial impulse seeking material interchange.

Felix Gilbert, To the Farewell Address: Ideas of Early American
Foreign Policy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961), 4-6.

Life is our dictionary.

Ralph Waldo Emerson,
The American Scholar

Directly related to Obstinacy is the second in Freud' s triad --

Parsimony, or Retentiveness:

The contents of the bowels . . . are clearly treated as a part of the

infant' s own body and represent his first "gift": by producing them
he can express his active compliance with his environment and, by
withholding them, his disobedience. 57

Thus, Parsimony is derived from Obstinacy and is, in fact, a function of

it, since, as we have seen, early or rigid bowel training will, in the words of
one psychiatrist, "set up resistance, . . . accentuate retention as a defensive
response, and focus the child' s behavior upon acquisitive or compensatory
outlets for the denial of possession of his own eliminations." 58
If it is accepted that "pleasure in having a mass of material stored up
entirely corresponds to the pleasure of the retention of faeces," 59 Parsimony,

Freud, Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905), Works, VII,

L. K. Frank, Psychiatry, II, 22.

Abraham, 385.


as defined here, will be discussed in its broader significance as the retentive

mode in general. Derived from the Latin potis sedere (“powerful” + “to
sit”), the "libidinal over-emphasis on possession" 60 finds its
characterological manifestation in the impulse to collect and hoard such
objective correlatives as money, books, words, stamps, coins, facts and
statistics. "All collectors are anal-erotics, and the objects collected are
nearly always typical copro-symbols." 61
Gold, of course, is the primary copro-symbol, and the "unconscious
equivalence of faeces and money" is too well documented to elaborate
here. 62 Equally as obvious is the paramount role played by monetary issues
in American history:

Since the seventeenth century, financial questions have often been

the distinctive form social conflict has taken in America.
Periodically, from the earliest colonial difficulties in finding a
sufficient circulating medium to the most recent dispute over a
balanced budget, differences over currency and the related subject
of banking have expressed basic American social and political
antagonism. 63

In the Freudian model, land is also a copro-symbol. Writing in the

1830' s, Harriet Martineau observed that "the possession of land is the aim

Otto Fenichel, "The Drive to Amass Wealth, The Pyscho-Analytic
Quarterly, VII (January, 1938), 79.

Jones, 697.

Abraham, 371.

Irwin Unger, The Greenback Era: A Social and Political History of
American Finance, 1865-1879 (Princeton: Princeton University Press,

of all action, generally speaking, and the cure for all social ills, among men
in the United States," and Frederick Jackson Turner, in his classic
formulation, demonstrated that the pull of "free land" -- the "agrarian
cupidity" and "insatiable land hunger" -- exercised a profound influence
over the development of American character traits and social institutions. 64
The relationship between anal retention, capital accumulation and the
rise of industrialism is equally self-evident:

It does not seem altogether fanciful to correlate the enormous

extension of interest in industrialism that took place a century or so
ago with the wave of increased repression of anal eroticism that can
be shown historically to have accompanied it. 65

Similarly, in popular conception, progress has been associated with

accumulation. Nathaniel Hawthorne, for example, although pejoratively,
articulates this relationship:

It is the iron rule in our day to require an object and a purpose in

life. It makes us all parts of a complicated scheme of progress,
which can only result in our arrival at a colder and drearier region
than we were born in. It insists upon everybody' s adding somewhat
-- a mite, perhaps, but earned by incessant effort -- to an
accumulated pile of usefulness, of which the only use will be, to
burden our posterity with even heavier thoughts and more
inordinate labor than our own. 66

Harriet Martineau, Society in America, ed. Seymour Lipset (Garden
City: Doubleday, 1962), 168.

Jones, Papers, 701. Max Weber, of course, was the first to link
capitalism to Protestant psychology, although he failed to identify the
underlying mechanism which links the acquisitive mentality to the
"rationalization" process of industrialism. Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic
and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Talcott Parsons (New York: Charles
Scribner' s Sons, 1958).
The Marble Faun, in Works, VI, 276. In his Notebooks, Hawthorne

This negative identification of progress with accumulation is carried

forward by Henry Adams, who, in the late nineteenth century, deplores an
industrialized society which measures "its progress by the coal-output," and
describes not only history ("like everything else . . . a field of scraps, like
the refuse heap about a Stafford iron-furnace"), but also evolution, in the
apocalyptic language of anal retention:

[The evolutionist] labored only to heap up evidences of evolution; to

cumulate them till the mass became irresistible. . . A few thousand
feet, more or less, of limestone were the liveliest amusement to the
ganoid, but they buried the uniformitarian alive under the weight of
his own uniformitarianism. . . Coal power alone asserted
evolution. 67


In the anal-retentive model, knowledge itself is associated with

accumulation (of words, books, facts, sensations); experience is cumulative -
- in much the same way that, in the "displacement of the libido from the

The fact is the world is accumulating too many materials for

knowledge. We do not recognize for rubbish what is really
rubbish; and under this head might be reckoned almost
everything one sees in the British Museum, and as each
generation leaves its fragments and potsherds behind it, such
will finally be the desperate conclusion of the learned. The
English Notebooks, ed. Randall Steward (New York: Russell
and Russell, 1941), 242.

Adams, Education, 490, 221, 231, 399, 231.

genital to the anal zone," 68 capital formation is the material analogue of

cathexis (derived from the Greek word for "retention"), or "concentration of
energy," on defecation and the products of defecation.
The correspondence between the anal-retentive mode and Locke' s
sensational psychology should be readily apparent. Just as, in a child' s
"spontaneous phantasy, the abdomen is merely a bag of undifferentiated
contents into which food goes and out of which faeces come," 69 so the
Lockean mind, as paraphrased by Perry Miller, is an "inventory of
impressions," in which "ideas are the hard pellets of sensation, the
irreducible atoms of impression, out of which complex ideas are built." 70 "It
is the mind alone that collects them, and gives them the union of one idea." 71

The idea of solidity we receive by our touch: and it arises from the
resistance which we find in body to the entrance of any other body
into the place it possesses, till it has left it. There is no idea which
we receive more constantly from sensation than solidity. Whether
we move or rest, in what posture soever we are, we always feel
something under us that supports us, and hinders our further
sinking downwards. . . . This, of all other, seems the idea most
intimately connected with, and essential to body; so as nowhere
else to be found or imagined, but only in matter. And though our
senses take no notice of it, but in masses of matter, of a bulk
sufficient to cause a sensation in us: yet the mind, having once t this
idea from such grosser sensible bodies, traces it further, and
considers it, as well as figure, in the minutest particle of matter that

Abraham, 390.

Jones, 694.

Perry Miller, Errand into the Wilderness (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap
Press of Harvard University, 1956), 172-73.

John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, ed.
Alexander Campbell Fraser (2 vols.; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1894), II,

can exist; and finds it inseparably inherent in body, wherever or

however modified. 72

Louis Hartz and Lionel Trilling, one honorifically and the other
pejoratively, have identified the Lockean bias of American culture, in which
reality is perceived as "fixed and given": "There exists . . . a thing called
reality; it is one and immutable, it is wholly external, it is irreducible." 73
To Trilling, Vernon Louis Parrington' s Main Currents in American
Thought (and, to a lesser extent, Charles Beard' s The Rise of American
Civilization) are, especially, representative of this epistemology:

Yet Parrington still stands at the center of American thought about

Ibid., I, 151-52.

A radically different epistemology is offered by Jonathan Edwards.
Although Edwards relates that he had read Locke' s Essay with more
enjoyment "than the most greedy miser finds, when gathering up handfuls of
silver and gold, from some newly discovered treasure," his theory of
knowledge, as outlined in his "Notes on the Mind," which were written in
1720, is described by Perry Miller:

Edwards made the brilliant stroke of extending to primary qualities

the critique which Locke applied to the secondary. . . . He reduced
Locke' s solidity, number, figure to the single term "resistance," and
then was able to show how it, being no less a concept than color,
was no less mental. "And how is there any Resistance, except it be in
some mind, in idea?". . . . He is considered the one American who
saw through Locke' s halfway and half-hearted arguments, who
roundly concluded that if color is subjective, then so is mass. "Hence
it is manifest, there can be nothing like those things we call by the
name of Bodies, out of the mind, unless it be in some other mind or
minds." Perry Miller, Jonathan Edwards ("The American Man of
Letters Series," New York: William Sloane Associates, 1949), 52-

American culture because. . . he expresses the chronic American

belief that there exists an opposition between reality and mind and
that one must enlist oneself in the party of reality. 74

There is a great deal of cultural and historiographical evidence to

suggest that the acquisitive mode of perception has played a significant role
throughout American history. Daniel Boorstin, for example, describes the
quantitative orientation of colonial thought:

The difference between natural history and the physical sciences

suggests the difference between New World and Old World concepts
of knowledge in the colonial period. . . . The physical scientist must
come to his experience ready to organize it by a theory. In
contrast, men have often contributed to natural history merely by
keeping a notebook of miscellaneous items which have caught their
attention. . . . How can one believe that a "descriptive" approach
to knowledge confines the imagination? The Goddess of Miscellany
reigned even in such early promotional tracts as Francis
Higginson' s New-England Plantation (1630) . . . A century later,
variegated New World novelties filled William Byrd' s History of the
Dividing Line (1728), and Jefferson' s most important literary
product apart from the Declaration of Independence, his Notes on
Virginia (1784), was an omnium gatherum of information about
minerals, plants, animals, institutions, and men. This flood of
impressions pouring out of America to interest stay-at-home
Englishmen was the main stream of new knowledge. . . . They were
a warehouse of "facts" stored more or less at random, as the
discoverer had come upon them. There was no single or necessary
order of material; one did not need to progress from definitions and
premises through conclusions. 75

Hartz, The Liberal Tradition in America. Lionel Trilling, The Liberal
Imagination: Essays on Literature and Society (New York: The Macmillan
Company, 1950), 4-5, 10.

Daniel J. Boorstin, The Americans: The Colonial Experience (New
York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1958), 165-67.

Of a society which placed Scripture at the cornerstone of its theology

and which strongly encouraged popular literacy, Max Weber' s description
of Calvinism as a "bibliocracy" is not inappropriate. 76 Inventories of
colonial libraries were impressive for both their size and number, as Samuel
Eliot Morison and others have documented. 77 Cotton Mather' s, one of the
largest, contained approximately three thousand titles in the year 1700.
Again, we quote from his diary:

In these Visits, after my Discourse, I left Books in each of the

Families: and four Books had I thus given away this Afternoon. A
Thought came into my mind; Why should I putt myself to this
Expence? Perhaps I overdo: no other Minister in the Land would
so do: Perhaps it would not be amiss for me, to forbear this
expensive Way of serving my Flock! I check' d this Thought: And I
had immediately an Impulse upon my mind, that I should quickly
see something, to encourage my doing what I do, and to testify that
God accepts it. Well; passing along the Street, a sudden
Inclination took me, to step into an House of a Gentlewoman, who
had been a long time in a disconsolate Widowhood; I thought it
would be pure Religion to visit her. I did so; and she told mee, that
she had a Parcel of Books, which once belong' d unto the Library of
our famous old Mr. Chancey; and if I would please to take them,
she should count herself highly gratified, in their being so well
bestowed. I singled out, about forty Books, and some of them large
Ones, which were now added unto my Library, that has already
between two and three thousand in it, and several of them, will be
greatly useful to me, in my Design of writing Illustrations upon
divine Oracles. Behold how the Lord smiles upon me!78
Weber, Protestant Ethic, 123.

Samuel Eliot Morison, The Intellectual Life of Colonial New England
(New York: New York University Press, 1956), George Littlefield, Early
Boston Booksellers, 1642-1711 (Boston: The Club of Odd Volumes, 1900).
Thomas G. Wright, Literary Culture in Early New England, 1620-1730
(New York: Yale University Press, 1920).

Mather, Diary, I, 368.

Printing occupied an equally important role in colonial society:

Many cities of England and Scotland came after Cambridge, New

England, in establishing printing. Glasgow had no press until the
year after Cambridge; and Liverpool, not until about 1750.
Measured by the number (not the quality) of imprints, Boston in
1700 was the second publishing center of the English empire,
surpassing even Cambridge and Oxford. 79

The spirit of early American nationalism was often expressed in

quantitative terms and was channeled through such institutions as the
national bank, the postal system, a patent office, the census, the national
tariff and a monetary system based on the metric scheme devised by Thomas
Jefferson. Published in 1828, Noah Webster' s American Dictionary of the
English Language sought to "reduce the words to their original orthography"
and preserve their purity and uniformity; 80 it stands as a monument to
“American linguistic nationalism," 81 in particular, and the retentive mode of
knowledge, in general.
If "pleasure in indexing and classifying, in compiling lists and statistical
summaries, in drawing up programs and regulating work by time-sheets, is
well known to be an expression of anal-character," 82 Benjamin Franklin
would seem to be anal retentive par excellence:

I made a little book, in which I allotted a page for each of the

Morison, Intellectual Life, 113-14.

Quoted in Boorstin, 281.

Boorstin, Colonial Experience, 280.

Abraham, 388.

virtues. I rul' d each page with red ink, so as to have seven

columns, one for each day of the week, marking each column with
a letter for the day. I cross' d these columns with thirteen red lines,
marking the beginning of each line with the first letter of one of the
virtues, on which line, and in its proper column, I might mark, by a
little black spot, every fault I found upon examination to have been
committed respecting that virtue upon that day. 83

Franklin' s retentive epistemology is also reflected in his love of books

and words ("I wanted a stock of words"), his Poor Richard' s Almanack ("it
is hard for an empty sack to stand upright"), his occupations as printer and
postmaster, his projects for a subscription library and a paper currency, and
his demographical and time-and-motion studies on street-cleaning and
stockade-building. 84
Yet Franklin' s attitude is leavened with wit, and, in the end, he is able
to manufacture a measure of virtue out of his own endearing, if "ingenious,"
shortcomings and achieve a degree of self-transcendence: "I cannot boast of
much success in acquiring the reality of this virtue [Humility], but I had a
good deal with regard to the appearance of it." 85 Relating the parable of the

Franklin, Autobiography, 104.

Ibid., 19, 117.

Ibid., 112, 109, 110. Franklin‟s charming de-conflation of
“appearance” and “reality” illustrates the complex and ambiguous
relationship between these two concepts in American culture. As we shall
see in discussing Order, Franklin‟s assertion that "contrary habits must be
broken, and good ones acquired and established before we can have any
dependence on a steady, uniform rectitude of conduct” (Autobiography, 101)
is directly contradicted by his confession that, with respect to Order:

I had not been early accustomed to it, and, having an exceedingly good
memory, I was not so sensible of the inconvenience attending want of
method. This article, therefore, cost me so much painful attention, and
my faults in it vexed me so much, and I made so little progress in

amendment, and had such frequent relapses, that I was almost ready to
give up the attempt, and content myself with a faulty character in that
respect. . . . In truth, I found myself incorrigible with respect to Order;
and now I am grown old, and my memory bad, I feel very sensibly the
want of it.

The public profession of a normative standard coupled with the private

acknowledgement (or subsequent public confession) of its opposite -- which
D. H. Lawrence has characterized as “duplicity” -- has been a common and
enduring feature of American public discourse.
This dualism may be derived from the ambivalence which children feel
toward their own eliminations as a result of the acculturation process.
Recall Freud‟s statement quoted earlier (from "The Excretory Functions in
Psychoanalysis and Folklore"):

Children are proud, as it were, of their own excretions and make use
of them to help in asserting themselves against adults. Under the
influence of education the coprophilic instinct and inclinations of
children give way to repression; they learn to keep them secret, to be
ashamed of them and to feel disgust at the objects themselves.
Strictly speaking, the disgust never goes so far as to apply to a
child' s own excretions, but is content with repudiating them when
they are the products of other people.

The Lockean bias of American culture (in which “there exists . . . . a thing
called reality; it is one and immutable, it is wholly external”) and “the
chronic American belief that there exists an opposition between reality and
mind and that one must enlist oneself in the party of reality” may be derived
from this ontogenetic passage from pride to disgust and repression.
Franklin, in effect, reverses this cultural polarity, partially lifting the veil of
repression, recapturing the original feeling of pride and shifting the locus of
reality back to the internal, mental world, which, at their most profound
level, puts him on the same plane as Edwards and Emerson.
(Not incidentally, A. Bronson Feldman has categorized Franklin' s
experiments with electricity and certain other character traits as derived
from an apparently unrepressed flatus complex. "Ben Franklin -- Thunder
Master," Psychoanalysis, V, Summer, 1957, 33-54.)
One of the overriding ironies of American history, of course, was that
Franklin' s public persona was taken literally, the "substance" of his success
was objectified a posteriori. This ignis fatuus of middle-class
"respectability" was to be the motivating force behind a never ending series
of "status anxieties." What Tocqueville described as the "tyranny of

Speckled Ax ("but I think I liked a speckled ax best"), Franklin ascribes his

felicity and success in life to "the joint influence of the whole mass of
virtues, even in the imperfect state he was able to acquire them.”

The Kantian assault on Lockean epistemology took place across the

entire front of American Transcendentalism. In Herman Melville' s Moby
Dick, the Gold Doubloon ("the ship' s navel") is used to elicit and
demonstrate the multiplicitous nature of human perception, which is
summarized in Pip' s declension ("I look, you look, he looks, we look, ye
look, they look") and which, ironically, represents as much a critique of
Transcendental, as of Lockean, metaphysics. 86 In fact, it has been suggested
that American Transcendentalism was but a "higher and broader expression
of Protestant economy and moral ledgerism," that Emerson, for example,
was "very close to Franklin' s mode of thought," particularly in his
"pragmatic justification of virtue" and his conceptualization of God as "a
kind of sublime accountant." 87
James Russell Lowell characterized Emerson' s writings as "homespun
cloth of gold," and, certainly, Emerson' s works are interlarded with indirect
references to anality: Hawthorne and he are "both old collectors who had
never had opportunity before to show each other our cabinets"; Thoreau' s
verses are described as having "rude strength, and we do not come to the

opinion," and Veblen as "conspicuous consumption" flow exactly from this

distinction between subjective appearance and objective reality.

Melville, Moby Dick (New York: Hendricks House, 1952), 432.

Jessie Bier, "Weberism, Franklin, and the Transcendental Style," New
England Quarterly, XLIII, No. 2 (June, 1970), 179-82.

bottom of the mine. Their fault is that the gold does not flow pure, but is
drossy and crude." 88 In Emerson' s self-conscious effort to demonstrate the
divinity of the commonplace, to transmute the sordid into the sublime,
anality is etherealized, is displaced upwards: "In the folly of man glitters the
wisdom of God"; "What is there of the divine in a load of bricks? . . .
Much. All." 89
Emerson calls his Journals a "Blotting-Book" and describes them
variously as "the catalogue of my defects"; "this Book is my Savings Bank.
I grow richer because I have somewhere to deposit my earnings." 90 Stephen
Whicher has delineated the cyclical nature of Emerson' s recurrent despair
and sense of powerlessness, 91 and, in his Journals, this dysphoria is often
accompanied by "a goading sense of emptiness and wasted capacity": "I
have for a fortnight past writ nothing. My bosom' s lord sits somewhat
drowsily on his throne." 92

My own manner is sluggish, my speech sometimes flippant,

sometimes embarrassed and ragged. . . . I look ill-tempered;
against my will and against my interest. But all this imperfection,
as it appears to me, is a caput mortuum, is a ballast -- as things
go, is a defence. 93
The Heart of Emerson' s Journals, 185, 190.

Ibid., 192, 85.

Ibid., 1, 64, 82.

Stephen Whicher, Freedom and Fate: An Inner Life of Ralph Waldo
Emerson (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1953).

Heart of Emerson' s Journals, 10, 34. We will explore the cultural
manifestations of this common physical malady in “Procrastination,
Concentration and Feverish Activity.”

Ibid., 41.

At age 36, Emerson concludes that he has "not once transcended the
coldest self-possession"; yet, with almost exponential self-awareness ("I
have inverted my inquiries two or three times on myself"), 94 he, too, is able
to transcend his own categorical imperatives and attain a measure of "re-

When I was quite young, I fancied that by keeping a manuscript

Journal by me. . . . I should be able to complete a sort of
encyclopedia containing the net value of all the definitions at which
the world had yet arrived. But at the end of a couple of years, my
Cabinet Cyclopedia, though much enlarged, was no nearer to
completeness than on its first day. . . . At last I discovered that my
curve was a parabola whose arcs would never meet, and came to
acquiesce in the perception that, although no diligence can rebuild
the universe in a model by the best accumulation of disposition of
details, yet does the world reproduce itself in miniature in every
event that transpires, so that all laws of nature may be read in the
smallest fact. 95

The appearance of anality is also projected in the works of Henry David

Thoreau. Walden has been viewed as a satire on Franklin' s Autobiography,
in particular, and the philosophy of moral cost-accountancy, in general, and
"Economy" has been praised for "the sublime comic uses of an inside
cultural joke, for the spoofery of exquisitely literal statistics":

At last his triumph over Franklinism and Emersonianism also was a

triumph over his own pedantries, both mundane and spiritual -- a
triumph over himself. That victory is the most signal transcendence

Ibid., 28.

Ibid., 148-49.

he achieved. 96

Yet, although Thoreau appears to be liberated from pecuniary American

culture, his very liberation is cast in an explicitly anal idiom. This is
suggested by his resistance to the poll tax, his self-addressed pedantry, his
reductionism ("simplicity, simplicity, simplicity"), empiricism ("I was
determined to know beans"), self-reliance and asceticism. 97 Reacting to the
"desperate haste" of his countrymen, Thoreau devotes so much attention to
the means and exact costs of achieving freedom and leisure that the ends are,
if not nullified, at least too deliberately transcribed to convey a genuine
sense of release. The very energy expended in identifying the condition is
not enough to push Thoreau through the threshold of self-consciousness, and
his resistance remains firmly anchored in a quid pro quo framework:
"Absolutely speaking, the more money, the less virtue; for money comes
between a man and his objects." 98
Albert F. McLean reminds us that, in his role as a professional
surveyor, Thoreau' s Field Notes of Surveys portray him to be a "compulsive
perfectionist," and, in his own handbills, he advertises himself to be
"warranted accurate within almost any degree of exactness." 99 Thoreau' s
quintessential anality, thus, is betrayed by his careful and loving descriptions
-- recorded in meticulous detail -- of nature: of dates and degrees and
statistics; of the economy of a bean field, the progression of the seasons, the
battle between two races of ants, the finite depth and breadth of Walden

Bier, 188.

Thoreau, Walden, Writings, II, 101, 178.

Thoreau, "Civil Disobedience," in Writings, IV.

McLean, The American Quarterly, XX, No. 3, 567.

Pond. Thoreau' s "triumph" is conditional only in the sense that he

deliberately and consciously chooses it to be. Nature is not "bottomless,"
and for Thoreau, as for others, the appearance is, ultimately, the reality. In
his case, Thoreau is the willing and triumphant victim of his own satire, of
his own quantitative methodology.

With the advent of Literary Naturalism in the last quarter of the

nineteenth century, the descriptive, omnium gatherum technique was
elevated to the status of a literary genre in its own right. Motivated by what
Lars Ahnebrink termed the "desire to expose social conditions and social
evils," Literary Naturalists accumulated such "mountains" of documentation
that their novels frequently degenerated into "exhaustive" catalogues of
"sordid and grotesque details." 100 Seemingly indifferent to style and form,
the Literary Naturalist deliberately patterned his art after the methods and
objectives of his scientific counterpart. As described by Frank Norris, he
sought to explore "the unplumbed depths of the human heart, and the . . .
black, unsearched penetralia of the soul of man." 101
In part, an outgrowth of Naturalism, the Muckraking Era has been
described as

a period of brisk housecleaning that searched out old cobwebs. . .

There was a vast amount of nosing about to discover bad smells,
and to sensitive noses the bad smells seemed to be everywhere.

Lars Ahnebrink, The Beginning of Naturalism in American Fiction:
1889-1903 (New York: Russell and Russell, Inc., 1961), 167, 182-84.
Charles C. Walcutt, American Literary Naturalism. A Divided Stream
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1956), 33.

Frank Norris, The Responsibilities of the Novelist, as quoted in
Ahnebrink, 210.

Evidently some hidden cesspool was fouling American life. 102

Responding to what S. S. McClure described as the "public lust for

information," Muckraking was characterized by an "obsession for facts" and
was directed, in part, toward exposing corruption and restoring honesty and
efficiency in government. 103 McClure spent a small fortune subsidizing the
research of his writers, and one, Ida Tarbell, devoted five years to gathering
material for her articles on Standard Oil. Her History of the Standard Oil
Company is regarded as a model of exhaustive research and impartial
Conservationism was a major landmark and an enduring legacy of the
Progressive Era, and has been characterized as both a movement for
rational, scientific social planning as well as a moral crusade. In its role as
the former, it sought to eliminate the waste and exploitation of the nation' s
natural resources. Since attaining this goal "required an exact knowledge
and careful classification of resources," the National Conservation
Commission was established in 1908 and thereafter completed "the most
extensive inventory of the nation' s natural resources then available. Each
section reported on the supply of resources, their rate of use, and the
probable date of their exhaustion." 104

Vernon Louis Parrington, Main Currents in American Thought, Vol.
III: The Beginnings of Critical Realism in America, 1860-1920 (New York:
Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc., 1930), 406.

Louis Filler, Crusaders for American Liberalism (New York:
Harcourt, 1939). C. C. Regier, Era of the Muckrakers (Gloucester, Mass.:
Peter Smith, 1957).

Samuel P. Mays, Conservation and the Gospel of Efficiency: The
Progressive Conservation Movement, 1890-1920 (Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 1959), 132.

What Progressivism attempted to do for America' s natural resources,

the New Deal sought to do for its cultural heritage, and, during its brief life
span, the Federal Writers' Project collected, inventoried and codified much
of American folk lore, producing

about a thousand publications, including fifty-one state and

territorial guides; some thirty city guides, twenty regional guides . .
. and such special studies as the imaginative picture book Who' s
Who in the Zoo. The 150 volumes in the "Life of America" series
ranged from the moving These Are Our Lives to Baseball in
Chicago and embraced a notable series of ethnic studies, including
The Negro in Virginia. The projects . . . reflected the fascination
of the thirties with the rediscovery of regional lore, the delighted
recapture of place names . . . and the retelling of long-forgotten
tales of Indian raids. 105

Among its many other contributions and innovations, the New Deal has
been described as a Statistical Revolution, and the enormously expanded
data-gathering functions of the federal government flowed from its increased
role and responsibility for directing the national economy and providing for
the general welfare. 106 Today, for example, the United States government

William E. Leuchtenburg, Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal,
1932-1940 ("The New American Nation Series," ed. Henry Steel
Commager and Richard B. Morris; New York: Harper and Row, 1963),

See, for example, the Federal Reports Act of 1942. Not
unexpectedly, right-wing opponents of the welfare state have also employed
the retentive mode. In The Paranoid Style in American Politics, Richard
Hofstadter describes their technique:

The very fantastic character of its conclusions leads to heroic

strivings for "evidence." . . . The typical procedure of the
higher paranoid scholarship is to state with such defensible
assumptions and with a careful accumulation of facts, or at

Printing Office is one of the largest printing houses in the world. A survey
made by the Hoover Commission in the mid 1950s found that the federal
government annually generated:

about 25 billion pieces of paper. . . . Placed end to end, this

paperwork would reach to the moon 13 times. Federal offices
turned out more than a billion individual letters each year. . . .
There were more than 24 million cubic feet of government records,
enough to fill 7 Pentagon[s]. 107


In discussing the various cultural manifestations of the acquisitive

mentality, we are confronted with, seemingly, an insurmountable paradox --

least of what appear to be facts, and to marshal these facts

toward an overwhelming "proof" of the particular conspiracy
that is to be established. . . . It is nothing if not "scholarly" in
technique. McCarthy' s 96-page pamphlet McCarthyism
contains no less than 313 footnotes references and Mr.
Welch' s fantastic assault on Eisenhower, The Politician, is
weighed down by a hundred pages of bibliography and notes.
The entire right-wing movement of our time is a parade of
experts, study groups, monographs, footnotes, and
bibliographies . . . the most careful, conscientious, and
seemingly coherent application to detail, the laborious
accumulation of what can be taken as convincing evidence.
(The Paranoid Style in American Politics. New York: Alfred
A. Knopf and Random House, 1965, 36-37.)

One Hundred GPO Years. 1861-1961: A History of United States
Public Printing, under the direction of James L. Harrison (Washington,
D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1961), 151-52. The Hoover
Commission of 1953-1955 was succeeded by the Paperwork Reduction Act
of 1980, the National Partnership for Reinventing Government of 1993, the
Government Performance Results Act of 1997 and the Government
Paperwork Elimination Act of 1998, which would require federal agencies
to adopt paper-less, web-based information systems.

namely, the equally significant countervailing American traits of generosity

and philanthropy and, indeed, even the very liberation from the "money

The American people . . . had neither serpents nor golden calves to

worship. They had lost the sense of worship; for the idea that they
worshipped money seemed a delusion. Worship of money was an
old-world trait. . . . The American wasted money more recklessly
than anyone ever did before; he spent more to less purpose than
any extravagant court aristocracy. . . . The American mind had
less respect for money than the European or Asiatic mind, and bore
its loss more easily. 108

Geoffrey Gorer has observed that "Americans talk far more about
money than Europeans and generally value it far less. . . . Americans rate
the possession, and above all the retention, of money very low." 109
In part, the contradiction can be resolved by stressing the role of "social
conditions in the channeling of libidinous forces." 110 Thus, although "anal
eroticism produces the desire to collect something, . . . what is collected is
determined by [social] reality." 111 As we have seen, Cotton Mather

Henry Adams, Education, 328. The classic Old World anal traits of
frugality and orderliness/cleanliness were rooted in a material culture of
scarcity and constraint, whereas the permutations which we have been
discussing may be cultural adaptations to the relative novelty and abundance
of the New World. In this regard, see David Potter‟s People of Plenty:
Economic Abundance and the American Character (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1954).

Geoffrey Gorer, The American People: A Study in National Character
(revised edition; New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1964), 175-76.

Harold Orlansky, "Infant Care and Personality," Psychological
Bulletin, Vol. 46, No. 1 (January, 1949).

Otto Fenichel, "The Drive to Amass Wealth," Psychoanalytic

presented an extreme example of the quid pro quo mentality, giving, in the
interest of "pure Religion," four books and receiving forty. His brother
Samuel, however, in describing Cotton' s son, mentions that, "he is infected
with the disease which is the blemish of the Family viz. to spend
inconsiderately and take no thought about providing against future
unavoidable occasions." 112
Similarly, Thomas Jefferson, the "Apostle of Americanism" 113 and a
"pioneer in collecting and preserving early American manuscripts and
printed laws," 114 was reduced to bankruptcy as a result of his generosity and
hospitality. One might also cite Franklin' s early retirement and his life-long
devotion to projects for public improvement. In fact, other than providing
for one' s children (the "Uses of Posterity" 115), the rationalizing force behind
the acquisitive impulse, "motivating such tremendous sacrifices," was the
"utilitarian doctrine of good works" 116 and the concept of stewardship.
According to Weber:

The idea of a man' s duty to his possessions, to which he

subordinates himself as an obedient steward, or even as an
acquisitive machine, bears with chilling weight on his life. The

Quarterly, VII, 89.

Samuel Mather to Cotton Mather, July 23, 1715, Diary, II, 323.

Gilbert Chinard, Thomas Jefferson: The Apostle of Americanism (Ann
Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1929).

Adrienne Koch and William Peden (eds.), The Life and Selected
Writings of Thomas Jefferson, 288.

Carl Becker, The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth Century
Philosophers (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1932).

Weber, Protestant Ethic, 126.

greater the possessions the heavier, if the ascetic attitude toward

life stands the test, the feeling of responsibility for them. 117

Related to the Puritan doctrine of good works, the concept of

stewardship was expressed most baldly by Andrew Carnegie:

The duty of the man of Wealth [is] . . . to consider all surplus

revenues which come to him simply as trust funds, which he is
called upon to administer and strictly bound as a matter of duty to
administer in the manner which, in his judgment, is best calculated
to produce the most beneficial results for the community -- the man
of wealth thus becoming the mere agent and trustee for his poorer
brethren, bringing to their service his superior wisdom, experience
and ability to administer, doing for them better than they would or
could do for themselves. 118

Yet the impulse to "do good" is more than merely a mental

bookkeeping procedure in which possessions are transferred to the category
of "good works," since this does not wholly account for the very genuine
sense of philanthropy, nor, of course, for the prodigality and wastefulness
which have traditionally been associated with the American character. 119 To
do so, one must postulate a new category, and, conveniently, this has been
done by Freudian psychology, which subdivides infantile sexual
development into two anal stages: an earlier eliminative or, expulsive, phase
and a later retentive one:

Ibid., 170.

Andrew Carnegie, "Wealth," North American Review, Vol. 148 (June,
1889), 661-62.

Again, see David Potter‟s People of Plenty: Economic Abundance and


the American Character (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1954).


There is a double pleasure, that of holding back the excreta, and

that of evacuating it. The essential difference between the two
forms of pleasure lies in the protracted nature of the process in one
case, and its rapid course in the other. 120

As we have seen, "the contents of the bowels . . . are clearly treated as

a part of the infant' s own body and represent his first ' gift' : by producing
them he can express his active compliance with his environment." 121 In the
dialectic of acquisition, then, the philanthropic impulse bears the same
analogous relationship to the eliminative mode as the acquisitive does to the
retentive. 122 Often designated "anal erotic," this character type is described
by Karl Abraham as follows:

They like to make presents of money or its equivalent, and tend to

become patrons of the arts or benefactors of some kind. . . . They
limit their parsimony or their avarice to certain kinds of
expenditure, while in other respects they spend money with
surprising liberality. . . . We can quite understand, from their
contradictory attitude towards defecation, the meanness many
neurotics show in saving small sums of money while they will spend
largely and generously from time to time. These persons postpone
emptying their bowels as long as possible . . . but every now and

Abraham, 381.

Freud, Three Essays, Works, VII, 186.

In 1869, Henry Villard observed that:

After the Civil War certain leaders in the American Social Science
Association agreed that philanthropy implies the impulse to relieve a
situation, in contrast with social science, which presumably
endeavors to prevent poverty and other social problems by probing
behind effect to cause. (As quoted in Merle Curti, "American
Philanthropy and the National Character," American Quarterly, X,
No. 4, Winter, 1948, 421.)

then they have an evacuation on a grand scale. 123


Before exploring the historical manifestations of the eliminative mode

and the purification impulse, we shall first discuss one of its corollaries,
namely, the ancillary traits of procrastination, on the one hand, and
"feverish and concentrated activity" and "thoroughness and dogged
persistence," on the other. 124
According to Ernest Jones:

Such people are given to procrastination; they delay and postpone

what they may have to do until the eleventh or even the twelfth
hour. Then they plunge into the work with a desperate and often
almost ferocious energy which nothing is allowed to thwart, any
interference being keenly resented. Undue sensitiveness to
interference is very characteristic of this type, especially when
combined with marked concentration out of proportion to the
importance of the occupation. A kindred trait is intense persistence
on an undertaking once engaged on, from which they allow nothing
to divert them. 125

Related to Obstinacy, this diphasic process of "inhibitory

procrastination" and "feverish concentration" is further delineated by Jones
as follows:

First there is a period of silent brooding, during which the plan is

Abraham, 380-87.

Jones, 683-84.

Ibid., 683.

being slowly, and often only half-consciously, elaborated. . . . Then

follows a spell of feverish and concentrated activity, when all
interference is resented and nothing is allowed to prevent the
programme laid down being carried through to the bitter end in all
its details . . . when the unconsciously accumulated energy bursts
forth in an orgy of . . . activity. These outbursts of activity are
commonly followed by a marked sense of relief and self-
satisfaction, to which succeeds another fallow period of apparent
inactivity. 126

These rhythms, as described here, constitute a major component of the

American success ethic and the gospel of work. A sampling of the literature
of the Gilded Age, for example, reveals that success is "nothing more or less
than doing thoroughly what others do indifferently." 127 A brilliant mind or a
college education "not only is not required but is not desirable"; to Andrew
Carnegie, it was "a simple matter of honest work, ability, and
concentration." 128 The persistent American belief in free will and the
identification of poverty with laziness also seem to be derived from this
biological pattern.


These rhythms also bear a striking correspondence to Puritan accounts

of the experience of regeneration. As summarized and paraphrased by
Perry Miller, this experience was perceived

Ibid., 683-86.

Benjamin Wood, The Successful Man of Business, 1889, 59, as quoted
in Sidney Fine, Laissez-Faire, 98.

Quoted in Irvin Wyllie, The Self-Made Man in America: The Myth of
Rags to Riches (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers Press, 1954), 36.
Andrew Carnegie, quoted in Sidney Fine, Laissez-Faire, 98.

not as a flash of supernal light that blinded the recipient, but as a

reinvigoration of slumbering capacities already existing in the
unregenerate soul. As in the ruins of a palace, so runs one of the
favorite metaphors, the materials still exist, but the "order" is taken
away; grace reestablishes the order by rebuilding with the same
materials. 129

Thomas Hooker describes the process of imperfect regeneration as a

continual purging out of impuritie, as it manifestgoeth it selfe. You

may conceive it by a similitude, if a pot be boyling upon the fire,
there will a scum arise, but yet they are good house-wives, and
cleanly, and neat, they watch it, and as the scum riseth up, they
take it off and throw it away, happily more scum will arise, but still
as it riseth they scum it off. 130

If, as in Freudian metaphysics, feces represent condensed guilt, the act

of defecation seems to represent the release, or purge, of that guilt. The
paradoxical coexistence within an American value system of cosmic
optimism and innate depravity, of prelapsarian innocence and exponential
blackness, can only be maintained by perceiving human evil as a stain or
blemish which must be continually cleansed or purged.
R. W. B. Lewis has labeled the constellation of ideas associated with
this view the "Fortunate Fall" and quotes Henry James, Sr.' s belief that life
"flowers and fructifies . . . out of the profoundest tragic depths." 131 The

Perry Miller, Errand, 79

Thomas Hooker, Saintes Dignitie, 4-5, quoted in Miller, Errand into
the Wilderness, 83.

R. W. B. Lewis, The American Adam: Innocence, Tragedy and
Tradition in the Nineteenth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
1955), 58.

cathartic impulse -- which William James called a "letting go" 132 -- is

manifested not only in the psycho-theological concept of conversion as a "re-
birth," but also in such institutions as the diary, the jeremiad and the revival,
or "Great Awakening," cycle. Ritual rebirth and purification is also a
common theme in the writings of Thoreau: bathing is a "religious exercise";
"moral reform is the effort to throw off sleep. . . . To be awake is to be
alive." 133

As Nonseparating Congregationalism sought to remain, at least

nominally, in the Church of England, purifying and restoring it from within,
so most reform movements in the United States followed a similar pattern of
exposure, purification and restoration of the virtues of a golden past -- but
within an anal framework. 134 To the American colonists in 1765, for
example, the British Empire was "ripe for ruin" with its "proud, arbitrary,
selfish, and venal spirit of corruption." This spirit of luxury and corruption
was transposed by their clergy to the colonists themselves and presented as
divine retribution for past communal sins:

We must return to that decent simplicity of manners, that sober

regard to ordinances, that strict morality of demeanor, which

William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in
Human Nature (New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1902). The moral
purification impulse, of course, is a fundamental, motivational factor
underlying nearly all religions.

Walden, Writings, II, 98-100.

To Tocqueville:

They are forever varying, altering, and restoring secondary

matters, but they carefully abstain from touching what is
fundamental. They love change, but they dread revolution.

characterized our plain forefathers; and for the decay of which,

their sons are but poorly compensated by all the superfluities of
commerce. We must . . . discourage those luxurious customs and
fashions, which serve but to enervate the mind and bodies of our
children. 135

The moral purification-restoration theme is also implicit in Jacksonian

Democracy. Although Jacksonian Democrats tended to be strict
constructionist and opposed paper money as "artificial wealth," the
essentially expansivistic nature of their philosophy is suggested by their
support for such reforms as preemption ("squatter' s rights"), rotation in
office, 136 general incorporation laws and abolition of imprisonment for debt,
and their opposition to internal improvements at federal expense and, in
general, to all forms of concentrated power and monopoly, particularly, as
symbolized by the Second Bank of the United States.
Precisely because it had so little basis as a historical fact, the idea of the
frontier as a "safety valve" for social discontent can be shown to have
exercised a profound, even subliminal, influence on the American mind.
Based on the Census of 1890, Fredrick Jackson Turner' s essay "The
Significance of the Frontier in American History" celebrated the frontier as
a process of "perennial rebirth," a "tabula rasa," a historical "palimpsest."
Yet, as much as Turner admired the frontiersman' s "coarseness and strength
combined with acuteness and inquisitiveness; that practical, inventive turn of

Thomas Coombe, A Sermon, Philadelphia, 1775, 11-12. Quoted in
Perry Miller, "The Moral and Psychological Roots of American
Resistance," in Jack P. Greene (ed.), The Reinterpretation of the American
Revolution, 1763-1789 (New York: Harper and Row, 1968), 257.

Ironically, both rotation-in-office and civil service reform flowed from
the same impulse to purge -- of tenured office-holders in the first instance
and "spoils" in the second.

mind, quick to find expedients; that masterful grasp of material things," he

also expressed his reservations about the "fluidity" and "expansive
character" of the frontier for having allowed a

laxity in regard to government affairs which has rendered possible

the spoils system and all the manifest evils that follow from the lack
of a highly developed civic spirit. In this connection may be noted
also the influence of frontier conditions in permitting lax business
honor, inflated paper currency and wild-cat banking. 137

The Progressive Movement has been described by Elmer Davis as a

"carnival of purity," and the purification impulse was manifested in such
Progressive reforms as electoral reform, pure food and drug legislation,
conservation and, of course, "trust-busting." In fact, philosophical
pragmatism, which underpinned every twentieth-century reform
administration from the Square Deal to the New Deal, Fair Deal and Great
Society, 138 can be viewed as a response to the destruction of the "block
universe" of Newtonian physics and a celebration of such anti-retentive
values as novelty, flux, variety, spontaneity, open-endedness and continuity
with the environment.

Turner, "Significance of the Frontier in American History," The
Frontier in American History, 37, 32.

Compare Ernest Jones' s observation that

many infants feel it as an injustice that what they have so

interestedly produced should at once be taken away from them.
. . . Such people in later life are very sensitive on the matter of
exact justice being done, even to a pedantic extent, and on all
kinds of fair dealing. (Jones, Papers, 687.)

with Henry Steele Commager and Richard Brandon Morris' s comment that

the New Deal was . . . not a new game with new rules, but a


Ernest Jones describes the anal character‟s "exaggerated disgust and

aversion sometimes displayed in regard to any idea of contaminating or

Such people are abjectly miserable at the thought of anything,

especially objects, being injured, spoiled, ruined, and their life
in an industrial age is one long protest against the intrusion of
man, with all his squalor and ugliness, into the previously
untouched spots of Nature. 139

The Romantic, Conservation and Green (Ecology/Recycling)

movements can be viewed as a cultural expression of this “fear of
contamination” and “extreme intolerance for waste and disorder,” as well as
a response to the exploitation of the natural environment. Romanticism,
especially, idealizes the freedom, variety and primitive disorder of nature
and celebrates the anti-retentive, open-ended, prelapsarian, child-like
qualities of pre-urban life, which, as we have seen, predate, ontogenically,
the imposition of the cultural imperative necessary in all permanent human


reshuffle of cards that had too long been stacked against the
workingman and the farmer and the small shopkeeper. Henry
Steele Commager and Richard Brandon Morris (eds.), "The
New American Nation Series," Franklin D. Roosevelt and the
New Deal by William Leuchtenburg, x.

Jones, 702.

If, as we have seen, progress can be defined as an "accumulated pile of

usefulness" and evolution measured by its coal output, the final culmination
of human history, similarly, can be compared to an apocalyptic "evacuation
on a grand scale." Perry Miller has documented the millennial tradition in
American history, from Michael Wigglesworth' s The Day of Doom and
Jonathan Edwards' s Enfield Sermon through Millerism to the Manhattan
Project. 140 In his Education, Henry Adams compares himself to his "idol"
Edward Gibbon ("substitute the word America for the word Rome, and the
question became personal" 141); to him, the discovery of radium is a
"metaphysical bomb," after which there remained "no hole to hide in," and
his vision of the apocalypse is that of ethereal disintegration, of a vast
"supersensual chaos," the anarchic unity of the endlessly perfect gas. 142
Finally, in a beautiful inversion of the procrastination-perseverance-
feverish-energy theme, Adams celebrates drift ("inevitably an effort leads to
an ambition" 143) and reduces the human will to a unit of energy propelled
along the lines of least resistance:

Miller, Errand into the Wilderness, 217-39. Although “the American
nineteenth century proclaimed that the meaning of America' s errand into the
wilderness had disclosed itself as an errand without an end," the deferral of
meaning extended into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, as well,
during which global warfare, the specter of thermonuclear annihilation, the
threat of population and environmental calamities, the discovery of mass
extinctions and the resurgence of religious fundamentalisms all supported a
continuing code of radical contingency and insured the enduring vitality of
the apocalyptic tradition, “The End of History,” by Francis Fukuyama, not

Adams, Education, 82.

Ibid., 452.

Ibid., 66.

Like his masters, since thought began, he was handicapped by the

eternal mystery of Force -- the sink of all science. For thousands of
years in history, he found that Force had been felt as occult
attraction -- love of God and lust for power in a future life. After
1500, when this attraction began to decline, philosophers fell back
on some vis a tergo -- instinct of danger from behind, like Darwin' s
survival of the fittest; and one of the greatest minds, between
Descartes and Newton -- Pascal -- saw the master-motor of man in
ennui, which was also scientific: "I have often said that all the
troubles of man come from his not knowing how to sit still. . . . We
combat obstacles in order to get repose, and, when got, the repose
is insupportable.". . . Ennui, like Natural Selection, accounted for
change, but failed to account for direction of change. For that, an
attractive force . . . Adams had gone straight to the Virgin at
Chartres. 144

Ibid., 427.

The first trait in Freud' s triad is Orderliness, of which Cleanliness is a

major component. The former proceeds from the need to regulate the time
and place of defecation, while the latter is regarded as a reaction-formation
against dirt ("dirt is matter in the wrong place").
Since "the child' s training demands strict regularity in its excretions as
well as cleanliness, it exposes the child' s narcissism to a first severe test." 145
In the words of Benjamin Franklin, "contrary habits must be broken, and
good ones acquired and established, before we can have any dependence on
a steady, uniform rectitude of conduct." 146 As a result, "early injuries to
infantile narcissism, . . . if these injuries are of a persistent and systematic
nature, . . . force a habit prematurely upon the child before it is ready for
it." 147 Characteristics derived from this trait include an "obsession for
order," a "passion for thoroughness and efficiency," a fear of contamination
and an extreme intolerance for waste and disorder. 148
As we have seen, Max Weber, in his classic formulation, linked the
Protestant Ethic to the acquisitive instinct through the medium of economic
rationalization, although he failed to identify the underlying psychological

Abraham, Selected Papers, 373.

Franklin, Autobiography, 101. See Franklin‟s counter comment and


confession in “Retentive Epistemology.”

Abraham, 374.

Abraham, 377. Jones, Papers, 699.


nexus. Historians Samuel Hays, Samuel Haber, Robert Wiebe and Gabriel
Kolko149 have applied Weber' s formula to American society of the late
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, describing the process of
industrialization as a "search for order," during which America was
transformed from a "society without a core" -- that is, a decentralized,
disordered, "distended" collection of "island communities" -- into an
integrated, rationalized, technocratic society governed by a bureaucratic elite
of specialists, administrators and professionals. 150 In fact, this concept -- the
"search for order" -- can be extended back to the very beginning of
American history.
Covenant, or Federal, Theology -- the "marrow of Puritan divinity" 151 -
- represents the first major formal expression in America of the impulse for
order and rationality. By means of an elaborate system of covenants, the
Calvinistic conception of God as a harsh, arbitrary, unpredictable and
inscrutable sovereign is reduced to that of a reasonable, predictable,
relatively permissive God who is bound by natural law and who works
through secondary causes. The covenant, as described by Perry Miller, is

Samuel Hays, The Response to Industrialism, 1885-1914 (Chicago:
University of Chicago, 1957), and "The Politics of Reform in Municipal
Government in the Progressive Era," Pacific Northwest Quarterly, LV
(October, 1964) 157-69. Samuel Haber, Efficiency and Uplife: Scientific
Management in the Progressive Era, 1890-1920 (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1964). Robert H. Wiebe, The Search for Order, 1877-1920
(New York: Hill and Wang, 1967). Gabriel Kolko, The Triumph of
Conservatism: A Reinterpretation of American History, 1900-1916 (New
York: The Free Press of Glencoe, a Division of the Macmillan Company,

Wiebe, Search for Order, 11-12, 44.

Miller, Errand, 48.

a bargain, a contract, a mutual agreement, a document binding

upon both signatories, drawn up in the presence of witnesses and
sealed by a notary public. . . . The union with God is not torturing
uncertainty, it is not a ravishing of the surprised soul by irresistible
grace, unexpected and undeserved; it is a definite legal status,
based on a quid pro quo. . . . The contract between God and man,
once entered into, signed by both parties, and sealed, as it were, in
the presence of witnesses, is ever afterwards binding. This
exceedingly legal basis furnished the guarantee, not only for the
assurance of the saints, but even for their perseverance. 152

Oscar Handlin, Daniel Boorstin, Sigmund Diamond and other historians

have characterized the social structure of seventeenth-century America as
fluid, unstable and disordered, primarily because of the abundance of land
and the novelty and hostility of the natural environment. 153 If Freud' s
Oedipal equations are correct, if, indeed, "God" is a projection of parental
authority, Federal Theology can be viewed as an indirect, tertiary adaptation
to the revolutionary transformation in the natural and social environment
which underlies the shift from an Old World, "authoritarian" father to the
"liberal," seemingly permissive New World father. 154 In Miller' s words,
"God prefer[s] to work through the prevailing rules," relinquishing miracles

Ibid., 60-72.

Oscar Handlin, "The Significance of the Seventeenth Century," in
James Morton Smith (ed.), Seventeenth-Century America: Essays in Colonial
History (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1959). Daniel
Boorstin, The Americans: the Colonial Experience (New York: Alfred A.
Knopf, 1958). Sigmund Diamond (ed.), The Creation of Society in the New
World ("The Berkeley Series in American History," Chicago: Rand
McNally and Company, 1963).

Louis Hartz, The Liberal Tradition in America. See also Herbert
Moller, "Sex Composition and Correlated Culture Patterns of Colonial
America," The William and Mary Quarterly, II (1945), 113-53.

and special acts of providence and leading by "persuasion and

demonstration" rather than by compulsion and coercion. 155 From a child' s
point of view, the "unfathomable election" of bowel training is, thus,
transformed into the order and regularity of a mutual contract, sanctification
becomes evidence of justification, good works the cause as much as the
consequence of salvation, and success the "natural sequence to


The libidinal imperative to impose order upon a disordered, even

chaotic, environment was carried over into the eighteenth-century
Enlightenment and is evident in such marker values as reason, order,
regularity, restraint, harmony, clarity and balance.
Ernest Jones describes the anal "intolerance for disorder" as

a restless and uncontrollable passion for constantly arranging the

various details . . . until everything is tidy, symmetrical, and in exactly
"its right place." . . . In the field of thought this tendency commonly
leads to undue pedantry with a fondness for definitions and exactitude
often merely verbal. An interesting and valuable variety occasionally
met with is a great dislike for muddled thinking, and a passion for
lucidity of thought; such a person delights in getting a matter quite
clear, has a fondness for classifying, and so on. 157

Miller, Errand, 66-67.

Henry Wood, Natural Law in the Business World, Boston, 1887, 6, as
quoted in Sidney Fine, Laissez Faire and the General Welfare State, 98.

Jones, Papers, 698-99; Gorer, The American People; Boorstin, The
Colonial Experience, 281.

This precise, formalistic mode of thought was implicit not only in

eighteenth-century Rationalism, but also in the earlier legalism of Puritan
theology. The “Precisianist” 158 emphasis on literacy, written scripture and
diaries can be viewed as a manifestation of this impulse for order and
rationality, as can the more generalized American "obsession with words"
and "passion for written constitutions." American legalism and
litigiousness, in general, and strict construction, states' rights and due
process, in particular, have also been informed by this mode of signification.


A further legacy of the Enlightenment was the identification of reason

as an instrument for the mastery of nature. Foreshadowed in John
Winthrop' s distinction between natural and civil, or federal, liberty ("this
liberty is the proper end and object of authority, and cannot subsist without
it"), the dialectical tension between reason and nature is evident in what
might loosely be termed the "counter-reaction-formation" of Romanticism
(which exalted the freedom, variety and primitive disorder of nature), as
well as in Evolutionary Naturalism (which sought to reduce the complexity
and random chaos of evolution to the mechanistic determinism of natural
selection and survival of the fittest) and philosophical pragmatism (which,
again, although it celebrated the open-ended, prelapsarian qualities of
novelty, flux, spontaneity and diversity, also sought to control and
manipulate the environment through social planning, to control the direction
of evolution by diverting the blind, wasteful flow of "genetic" evolution into
the purposeful, scientific channel of "social" evolution159 -- in short, to

As Puritans were also called.

Lester Ward, Glimpses of the Cosmos (New York: G. P. Putnam' s

replace "drift" with "mastery" 160). Albert Weinberg has suggested that,
throughout American history, from the dispossession of the Native
Americans to the Apollonian conquest of the moon, "Manifest Destiny" has
been but a series of rationalizations, or slogans, to justify the mastery and
conquest of the natural environment. 161


To Henry Adams, the American Civil War "helped to waste five or ten
thousand million dollars and a million lives, more or less, to enforce unity
and uniformity on a people who objected to it." 162 The War had followed a
thirty-year period of disorder, "social atomization" 163 and "intellectual
chaos." 164 Ironically, these same disruptive forces -- identified as
immigration, urbanization, industrialization and westward migration --

Sons, 1913-18), III, 45-47, as quoted in Richard Hofstadter, Social

Darwinism in American Thought (revised edition; Boston: Beacon Press,
1955), 74.

Walter Lippmann, Drift and Mastery (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.:
Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1961).

Albert Weinberg, Manifest Destiny: A Study of Nationalist
Expansionism in American History (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1935).

Adams, Education, 225-26. The “people” who objected to the Civil


War, obviously, did not include the four million enslaved African-
Americans who were liberated by it.

David Donald, Lincoln Reconsidered: Essays on the Civil War Era
(New York: Alfred A. Knopf and Random House, 1956), 223.

Roy Nichols, The Disruption of American Democracy (New York:
Macmillan Co., 1948), 7.

played an even greater role in the thirty years that followed the Civil War.
The difference, of course, was that the social disorder of the Gilded Age
was organized and given a measure of "intellectual" cohesion by the
machine, in whose image society was being transformed:

The dynamo itself was but an ingenious channel for conveying

somewhere the heat latent in a few tons of poor coal hidden in a
dirty engine-house carefully kept out of sight; but to Adams the
dynamo became a symbol of infinity. . . . Adams proclaimed that in
the last synthesis, order and anarchy were one, but that the unity
was chaos. As anarchist, conservative and Christian, he had no
motive or duty but to attain the end; and, to hasten it, he was
bound to accelerate progress; to concentrate energy; to accumulate
power; to multiply and intensify forces; to reduce friction, increase
velocity and magnify momentum, partly because this was the
mechanical law of the universe as science explained it. 165

The metaphor of the machine, then (although without, of course,

Adams' s extrapolations), came to dominate the social thought and structure
of twentieth-century America, imposing its own "unifying" values of
standardization, specialization, functionality and impersonality. In this
context, the movement toward industrial consolidation and corporate
collectivism has been viewed as a natural, inevitable product of the
bureaucratic process, which, thus, has not only "rationalized" itself in its
own terms -- that is, as increasing efficiency, eliminating waste and
imposing order on anarchic competition -- but also influenced the very
manner in which society has perceived itself. Concurrently, twentieth-
century reform movements have been viewed not so much as a "response"
or "adjustment" to the impact of these impersonal forces of industrialism as
extensions of them; the primal imperative "organize or perish" has been

Adams, Education, 380, 406.

applied equally to the "victims" as to the "agents" of the process. 166

In this light, the conflict within the Progressive Movement between
Woodrow Wilson‟s New Freedom (which sought to break up the trusts and
restore competition among smaller units) and Theodore Roosevelt‟s New
Nationalism (which accepted the reality of large combinations and sought to
closely regulate them) merely reflects the shift from resistance to "outside"
interference (Obstinacy) to the rationalization, internalization, and control of
those forces (Orderliness).



If, as we have seen, "pleasure in indexing and classifying, in compiling

lists and statistical summaries, in drawing up programs and regulating work
by time-sheets, is well known to be an expression of the anal character," 167
twentieth-century reform movements for social efficiency and scientific
management can also be viewed as manifestations of this impulse for
rationality. Derived from the Puritan conviction, first articulated in the
seventeenth century by William Perkins, that idleness is a sin, since it is a
waste of God' s precious time, 168 the obsession for order is prefigured in

Hays, Response to Industrialism, 24, 2, 48.

Abraham, Selected Papers, 388.

The Puritans' obsession with "improving the time" and "numbering
the days" is discussed in detail by David Hackett Fischer in his classic
Albion' s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1989), 160. Incidentally, R. W. Ketton-Cremer' s
description of the seventeenth-century East Anglican/Norfolk personality
type as "dour, stubborn, fond of argument and litigation" (as quoted in
Fischer, p. 49) re-raises the question posed in the Introduction as to whether

Franklin' s maxim “time is money,” 169 his Table of Virtues and his time-and-
motion studies on street-cleaning and stockade-building:

The next morning our fort was plann' d and mark' d out, the
circumference measuring four hundred and fifty-five feet, which
would require as many palisades to be made of trees, one with
another, of a foot diameter each. Our axes, of which we had
seventy, were immediately set to work to cut down trees, and, our
men being dexterous in the use of them, great despatch was made.
Seeing the trees fall so fast, I had the curiosity to look at my watch
when two men began to cut at a pine; in six minutes they had it
upon the ground, and I found it of fourteen inches diameter. Each
pine made three palisades of eighteen feet long, pointed at one
end.. 170

In almost exactly the same way, nearly a century and a half later,
Frederick W. Taylor using his stopwatch, sought to rationalize the factory
process by systematically breaking down industrial tasks into their individual
components in order to improve productivity, eliminate waste and optimize
input/output ratios:

It was in 1899 that Taylor achieved fame when he taught a Dutchman

anal character traits are biologically predetermined or culturally created. If

Norfolk/anal character types were predisposed or preselected to emigrate to
British North America (or at least to New England), this would not, in itself,
explain why only one, of at least eight rich and vibrant folkways which
made up colonial culture, came to dominate American cultural
historiography and define the very way in which the culture perceives itself.

Recall Ernest Jones‟ earlier statement on Obstinacy: “They get
particularly agitated at the idea of something being taken from them
against their will . . . The concept of time is, because of the sense of value
attaching to it, an unconscious equivalent of excretory product, and the
reaction just mentioned is also shown in regard to it.”.

Franklin, Autobiography, 181.

named Schmidt to shovel forty-seven tons instead of twelve and a half

tons of pig iron a day. Every detail of the man' s job was specified: the
size of the shovel, the bite into the pile, the weight of the scoop, the
distance to walk, the arc of the swing, and the rest periods that Schmidt
should take. By systematically varying each factor, Taylor got the
optimum amount of barrow load. By exact calculation, he got the
correct response. 171

Taylor' s efforts to impose rationalization, efficiency and order on the

industrial process were paralleled by other proponents of scientific
management, notably Lester Ward, Herbert Croly and Walter Lippmann,
and, by the middle of the twentieth century, the technocratic principle was
firmly established as a conscious, operating force in American social thought
and structure, the pervasive reality of which can be observed today at any

Daniel Bell, "Work and Its Discontents: The Cult of Efficiency in
America," in The End of Ideology: On the Exhaustion of Political Ideas in
the Fifties (revised edition; New York: The Free Press, 1962), 232. Recent
scholarship suggests that Taylor‟s stopwatch, his precisionism and the
existence of “Schmidt” may have been a myth; see Matthew Stewart‟s The
Management Myth: Why Experts Keep Getting It Wrong (New York:
Norton, 2009).
Samuel Haber relates that, as a child, Taylor organized the games of his
playmates according to "strict and elaborate rules," and sought to develop a
"uniform synthetic soil to replace all natural earth for more dependable
putting greens." He once appealed to his doctor to "help him stop
thinking," and constructed a sleeping machine to aid in preventing

He was disturbed by oppressive dreams and decided that they were

related to sleeping on his back. Taylor therefore made a harness of
straps and wooden points which he wore to bed at night and which
would wake him when he turned. This was but one of his nightmare-
fighting machines. Throughout his life he used many devices to force
himself to sleep in a sitting position. (Efficiency and Uplift: Scientific
Management in the Progressive Era, Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1964, 4.)

fast food restaurant. 172

The obsession for speed173 and rationality appears to have approached
its apotheosis in the Information Age of computer technology and systems
analysis. Henry Adams' metaphor of the machine and his principle of
acceleration have been validated by the exponential growth of electronic-
based information systems, in which simple binary logic is used to process
information at nanosecond speeds. This has allowed small lap-top boxes and
hand-held devices to provide sophisticated data analysis, desktop publishing
and interactive, global communications, as well as sub-instantaneous access
to databases containing the subtotal of virtually all recorded human
experience (down to the genetic level) through a pervasive nexus embracing
virtually all aspects of human life and social structure. 174

Or any Wal Mart store. With its inexorable logic of ruthless
efficiency and ever lower costs, Wal Mart‟s corporate culture represents
American capitalism in extremis, the historic culmination and iconic
expression of a long cultural tradition. This tradition is manifested in Wal
Mart‟s extreme frugality and cost obsessiveness, its application of cutting-
edge technology to the rationalization of every aspect of the production,
distribution and marketing process, its obstinate resistance to governmental
regulation, taxation and unionization, and its familial philanthropy and
paternalism. F.W. Taylor‟s “oppressive dreams,” it seems, have been
transferred from the foundry floor to the humble hamburger flipper to the
mom-and-pop drug store on Main Street to the assembly line worker in the
most distant global sweatshop. See Nelson Lichentstein‟s The Retail
Revolution: How Wal Mart Created a Brave New World of Business (New
York: Metropolitan Books, 2009).

See James Gleick‟s Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything


(New York: Pantheon, 1999), particularly his “paradox of efficiency,” the

web of time and motion and the “bleeding-edge time sink.”

With the marriage of computer technology to the bureaucratic state,
the rationalization impulse appeared to have very nearly reached its supra-
rational limits in the Vietnam War, during which rational means were
applied to transparently irrational ends:

At least two fundamentally different bombing programs are now

being carried out in South Vietnam. There are fairly conventional
attacks against targets which consist of identified enemy troops,
fortifications, medical centers, vessels, and so forth. The other
program is quite different and . . . infinitely more important. With
some oversimplification it can be described as follows:
Intelligence data is gathered from all kinds of sources, of all
degrees of reliability, on all manner of subjects, and fed into a
computer complex located, I believe, at Bien Hoa. From this
data and using mathematical models developed for the purpose,
the computer then assigns probabilities to a range of potential
targets, probabilities which represent the likelihood that the
latter contain enemy forces or supplies. . . . Again using models
developed for the purpose, the computer divides pre-
programmed levels of bombardment among those potential
targets which have the highest probability of containing actual
targets. Following the raids, data provided by further
reconnaissance is fed into the computer and conclusions are
drawn (usually optimistic ones) on the effectiveness of the raids.
This estimate of effectiveness then becomes part of the data
governing current and future operations, and so on. . . . This is
the most rational bombing system to follow if American lives are
very expensive and American weapons and Vietnamese lives are
very cheap. Which, of course, is the case.

John McDermott, "Technology: The Opiate of the Intellectuals," The

New York Review of Books, XIII, No. 2 (July 31, 1969), 28.

That, once found out, and all the rest were plain.
Herman Melville, Moby Dick

The dominant role played by the mother in American family life is a

fact which is almost universally accepted among cultural anthropologists.
Geoffrey Gorer, for example, describes the American family as
"matricentric" and defines the role of the father as "vestigial," a position
which is derived from the rejection of the European father as a model and
source of authority. 175 Margaret Mead concurs: the American father is a
"milksop," his attitude toward his children is "autumnal"; the American
child has "little respect for the past," "rejects his father as authority and
exemplar, and expects his sons to reject him." 176
According to Gorer, the role of the American mother, on the other
hand, in shaping the child' s conscience and instilling cultural values is

Geoffrey Gorer, The American People, 54, 27. See also Louis Hartz,
The Liberal Tradition in America.

Margaret Mead, And Keep Your Powder Dry (New York: William
Morrow and Co., 1943), chap. iii. As we have discussed elsewhere, the
relative abundance of land, the absence of feudalism and the novelty and
fluidity of the natural and social environments may have contributed to the
partial displacement and relative decline in authority and status of the New
World father compared to that of the Old World, a process which begins
anew for each first generation family.


The idiosyncratic feature of the American conscience is that it is

predominantly feminine. Owing to the major role played by the
mother in disciplining the child, in rewarding and punishing it,
many more aspects of the mother than of the father become
incorporated. Duty and Right Conduct become feminine figures.
This makes the role of the daughter herself to become a mother,
particularly easy and straightforward, and helps account for the
perpetuation of the situation and the notable ease and assurance of
the American woman. But for the son, the American male, the
situation is far more complicated and confusing. He carries
around, as it were encapsulated inside him, an ethical, admonitory,
censorious mother. In all the spheres where moral considerations
are meant to operate -- and in America this means above all in
relations between people -- men act as though they were being
guided by (or rebelling against) rules and prohibitions enunciated
by a moral mother. 177

The maternal conscience and the identification of idealism as feminine,

then, are derived from the central role played by the mother in rewarding
and disciplining the child. Another consequence of this moral authority,
according to Gorer, is the "deep ambivalence which most American men
feel toward women, as an inevitable result of their upbringing. Women are
in childhood not only the main source of love and rewards; they are also the
main source of punishment and threats of punishment, so that with most
children love and hate, reliance and fear, become inextricably tangled." As
a result, the American male typically harbors "a deeply hidden doubt
concerning his own masculinity" and even the "panic fear of [his] own
potential homosexuality," which makes "passivity an ever-present and ever-
dangerous temptation." 178

Gorer, 56.

Ibid., 126. We will discuss the relationship between this “panic fear”

and paranoia in “Conspiracy, Paranoia and Anal Eroticism.”


More important, culturally, is the fact that "the mother' s love is

conditional on the child' s success in . . . competition with its peers; only if
it is successful can the mother give it her unconditional love, for it proves
she has been a success in her role as mother:" 179

Because the child is pushed to the very limits of its capacity,

because the conditions for its success are often so vague or so far
outside his control, the child becomes insatiable for the signs of
love, reassuring it that it is worthy of love, and therefore a
success. 180

Gorer‟s conclusions parallel those of Margaret Mead, who describes the

American child as a "half orphan" who must "earn his parents' love." This
attitude, typically, is carried over to school, where competition for the
teacher' s approval takes the form of competition for grades. 181
In his analysis of the "American Identity," Erik Erikson discusses the

Ibid., 84.

Ibid., 107. Gorer notes that one consequence of this "insatiable"
desire to be loved is the "fear of rejection" and "dread of isolation." The
popularity, throughout American history, of professional, fraternal and other
voluntary associations, which was observed by Tocqueville, may be a
cultural consequence of this fear and dread, since an "enormous amount of
time is wasted proving boisterously that [one is] just a regular fellow."
Gorer contrasts the American attitude toward things, which is
"untroubled by ambiguity, serene and confident, audacious and creative,"
with the attitude toward people, which is characterized by an "insatiable
need for reassurance," and "the overcompensation of brashness and

Mead, 88-98. Kenneth Keniston has identified the "intense [maternal]
pressures for academic achievement" as one factor common to the
childhoods of middle-class radicals of the New Left in the 1960' s. (Young
Radicals: Notes on Committed Youth. New York: Harcourt, Brace and
World, 1968, 54.)

role of the "rejecting mother" in the psychogenesis of the schizoid

personality and describes the "self-made ego" as a "motherless man," a
"man without roots," who is guided by a "deep-seated sense of having been
abandoned." 182
Mead, Erikson and Gorer concur that the thrust of child training in
America is toward early independence and self-reliance. Erikson,
especially, notes that "worry and haste" in bowel training and the
prematurely-imposed imperative to regulate oneself lead the child to
internalize such machine-like values as "automatic compliance," "clock-like
punctuality" and "maximum efficiency" and results in the "machine ideal of
functioning without friction." 183
These interpretations are substantiated by a number of cross-cultural
studies on child training. Child Training and Personality by J. W. M.
Whiting and Irvin Child, for example, ranks the American middle-class
relatively high in the severity of its "socialization" process (that is, in
weaning, thumb-sucking, toilet-training and independence training).
According to the Whiting-Child study, toilet training in America is relatively
early, beginning, even in the era following publication of Benjamin Spock' s
The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care in 1946, at an average age
of six months, compared to two years for the rest of the sample. 184
These findings are also corroborated by an earlier study done
exclusively with anally-fixated children by Mabel Hushka. Hushka notes

Erik Erikson. Childhood and Society (second edition; New York: W.
W. Norton, 1963), 285-325.

Ibid. This complex of traits and values is also discussed in
“Independence Training” and “The Culture of Contradictions.”

J. W. M. Whiting and Irvin Child, Child Training and Personality
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1964).

that, since the pyramidal tract is not fully myelinated until the eighteenth
month, bowel training begun before the eighth month of age is defined as
"coercive." This is contrasted with the official policy of the U.S. Children' s
Bureau which, as late as 1935, recommended that toilet training be started
by the end of the third month and completed, with "absolute regularity" and
not varying by more than five minutes, by the eighth month. 185
In the same way, several other studies also provide evidence which
confirms that, at least since the early nineteenth century, Americans
encouraged relatively early bowel training and habits of cleanliness and
regularity. 186


Before proceeding to delineate the Oedipal dimensions of anal

eroticism, we will first examine the two other major Freudian stages of
infantile psycho-sexual development, the earlier oral phase and the later
genital phase, and their interdependent relationship. As we will see, the
three phases are not mutually exclusive; rather, the traits associated with the
anal phase are often derived from, and later imposed on, respectively, the

Mabel Hushka, "The Child' s Response to Coercive Bowel Training,"
Psychosomatic Medicine IV (January, 1942), 301-08.

Ann Hulbert, Raising America: Experts, Parents and a Century of
Advice about Children (New York: Random House, 2003). Robert Sunley,
"Early Nineteenth-Century American Literature on Child Rearing," in
Margaret Mead and Martha Wolfenstein (eds.), Childhood in Contemporary
Culture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955), 150-67. Celia
Stendler, "Sixty Years of Child Training Practices," The Journal of
Pediatrics, 36 (January, 1950), 122-34. Daniel R. Miller and Guy E.
Swanson, The Changing American Parent: A Study in the Detroit Area (New
York: John Wiley and Sons, 1958).

oral and the genital stages of development, and anal eroticism is frequently
expressed through these two modes.
Karl Abraham observed that "the origin of the anal character is very
closely connected with the history of oral eroticism, and cannot be
completely understood without reference to it," and, indeed, "the anal
character [is] built on the ruins of an oral eroticism whose development has
miscarried." 187 The physical trauma associated with teething is
psychologically reinforced by the fact that biting destroys what Erikson
terms the symbiosis with the "maternal matrix." 188 Weaning and the
commencement of toilet training often occur simultaneously, and the oral
imperative to incorporate the lost love-object into the body serves as the
model for the later anal goal of possession and retention.
Mabel Hushka and Harold Orlansky have suggested a possible
physiological correlation between inadequate breast-feeding in mothers and
their "pathological preoccupation with bowel function." 189 It is known that,
in laboratory experiments with animals, food deprivation precipitates
hoarding. The Yurok Indians of Northern California, a tribe which, in
many ways, exhibits anal traits of the classic, Old World pattern, also
displays severe oral prohibitions: new-born babies are not breastfed until
they are ten days old and are weaned at the age of six months:

During meals, a strict order of placement was maintained and the

child was taught to eat in prescribed ways . . . and above all, to

Karl Abraham, "The Influence of Oral Erotism on Character-
Formation" (1924), in Selected Papers, 395.

Erikson, Childhood and Society, 79.

Hushka, Psychosomatic Medicine, IV, No. 1. Harold Orlansky,
"Infant Care and Personality," Psychological Bulletin, 46 (January, 1949).

think of becoming rich during the whole process. There was

supposed to be silence during meals so that everybody could keep
his thoughts concentrated on money and salmon. 190

The Yuroks' "morbid fear of starvation," despite the "unusual

abundance of food," seems to parallel the quintessential American paradox
of the continued existence of a scarcity psychology in a land of
unprecedented material abundance. 191
Gorer traces American oral anxieties to the compulsive feeding
schedules of second- (and succeeding) generation mothers. Rejecting her
own mother' s advice on child care as "tainted with backwardness and
superstition and unsanitariness of the old world," the American mother
turns, instead, to "experts" for advice on child rearing, to "scientific"
methods and, thus, to feeding schedules regulated by the clock. 192

Whatever system she may be following, she can never have the
easy, almost unconscious, self-assurance of the mother of more
patterned societies, who is following ways she knows
unquestioningly to be right. The American mother is always more
or less anxious, anxious lest she make mistakes or forget part of the
prescribed routine, anxious lest the baby should not respond
properly, often anxious lest she should after all have chosen the
wrong method. . . . The rules which have been accepted for the
upbringing of the particular child tend to acquire an almost

Erikson, 177.

S. H. Posinsky, "The Problem of Yurok Anality," American Imago
XIV (Spring, 1957), 3. In the cultural context we have been discussing,
scarcity and hoarding are also driven by economic and class constraints and
may follow, generationally, the ebb and flow of economic cycles. See also
David Potter‟s People of Plenty.

Gorer, The American People, 72. See also Hulbert‟s Raising America:
Experts, Parents and a Century of Advice about Children, which was cited

magical force, so that a lapse or alteration becomes a sin, and not

merely a mistake. . . . And so most American babies learn to
experience hunger, and the fear of hunger. When they grow up this
fear remains with them, though disguised and taking irrational
forms. . . . It can be seen in the frequently expressed fears that
America will be reduced to want, perhaps to actual starvation, if it
lets its food or resources or money outside the country, by the quite
excessive anxiety induced by an unbalanced national budget, by the
fear of depletion in any of its possible aspects. 193

A further consequence of oral anxiety is that food is often regarded as a

"sign of love and approval and, as such, take[s] on an added symbolic
importance." The magical properties associated with certain foods (such as
milk, ice cream, breakfast cereals, organic foods and vitamin supplements),
as well as the "very great erotic fetishist value given to women' s breasts,"
may also be manifestations of this association. 194
In American history, the oral dimension of anality was expressed, for
example, in the Stamp Act crisis, during which colonial resistance to outside
interference took the form not only of purification rites but also of boycotts,
fasting and non-importation agreements:

By consuming less of what we are not really in want of, and by

industriously cultivating and improving the natural advantages of
our own country, we might save our substance, even our lands,
from becoming the property of others, and we might effectually
preserve our virtue and our liberty, to the latest posterity. 195

In Franklin' s Autobiography, references to food are frequently

Ibid., 74-77

Ibid., 77.

Boston Evening Post, November 16, 1767, as quoted in Edmund
Morgan, William and Mary Quarterly, XXIV (January, 1967), 11.

juxtaposed to those of money; as a young man, Franklin' s vegetarian diet is

justified on the grounds that it permitted "an additional fund for buying
books." 196 That "I was determined to know beans" is cited by Thoreau as
one reason for his Walden experiment; animal food is associated with
"filth," "uncleanliness" and "repugnance," while vegetable food is linked to
the poetic and spiritual faculties. 197


Freud noted the "analogy of money to sexuality," 198 and Otto Fenichel
observed that money is associated with potency and its loss with castration:
"possessions are an expanded portion of the ego," an expression of "bodily
narcissism." 199
To Karl Abraham, the "displacement of libido to the anal zone" results
in the

unconscious tendency to regard the anal function as the productive

activity, and to make it appear as if the genital activity were
unessential and the anal one far more important. The social
behavior of these people is accordingly strongly bound up with
money. They like to make presents of money or its equivalent, and
tend to become patrons of the arts or benefactors of some kind. 200
Franklin, Autobiography, 20.

Thoreau, Writings, II, 237.

Freud to James J. Putnam, December 5, 1909, in Nathan G. Hale, Jr.
(ed.), James Jackson Putnam and Psychoanalysis (Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 1971), 90.

Otto Fenichel, "The Drive to Amass Wealth," Psychoanalytic
Quarterly, VII, 80.

Abraham, Selected Papers, 379-80.

The genital nature of anal eroticism is further suggested by the fact that
gold is not only a subconscious copro-symbol but also a symbol of fertility.
Max Weber demonstrated that, in contrast to Scholasticism which stressed
the sterility of money, Protestantism regarded money as creative and
prolific, as is evident in Franklin' s assertion that "money can beget money,
and its offspring can beget more, and so on." 201
As we have seen, an important, although bizarre, corollary to the
genital dimension of anal eroticism is the so-called Cloacal Theory of Birth -
- that is, that, in the unconscious, feces also symbolize babies:

It would appear that in the products of the unconscious -- spontaneous

ideas, phantasies, symptoms -- the conceptions faeces (money, gift)
child and penis are seldom distinguished and are easily
interchangeable. . . . The child is regarded as "lumf" (Lumpf), i.e., as
something which becomes detached from the body by passing through
the bowel. A certain amount of libidinal cathexis which originally
attached to the contents of the bowel can thus be extended to the child
born through it. 202

According to Jones:

The association between children and faeces comes about in the

following way: In the young child' s spontaneous phantasy the
abdomen is merely a bag of undifferentiated contents into which
food goes and out of which faeces come. The knowledge that the
foetus grows in the mother' s abdomen -- a fact easily observed by
children without its being realized by grown-ups, and later
forgotten -- leads to the natural inference that it grows out of food,
which is perfectly correct except for the initial pair of cells; and
then, since the child has no knowledge of the vagina, he can only

Weber, Protestant Ethic, 49.

Freud, Works, XVIII, 127-30.

conclude that the baby leaves the body through the only opening
through which he has ever known solid material leave it -- namely,
the anus. 203

As we discussed earlier, this subconscious identification of self,

babies and feces, however difficult to accept, is firmly established,
albeit on an abstracted level, in the literature of American history. Carl
Becker, for example, has shown that the concept of posterity was used
by the eighteen-century philosophes as a substitute for immortality, and
Max Weber noted that, other than the utilitarian doctrine of good
works, the major justification for the acquisition of wealth was the need
"to provide for my children and grandchildren." 204 In Franklin' s
"money can beget money, and its offspring can beget more, and so on,"
the Oedipal dimension is added to the self-as-feces when the self is
interpolated between parent and posterity. Thus, "he that murders a
crown, destroys all that it might have produced, even scores of

Another aspect of this subconscious association between self, babies and

feces is the extreme indulgence many anal-erotics exhibit toward children:

One of the most impressive traits in the whole gamut of the anal
character is the extraordinary and quite exquisite tenderness that
some members of the type are capable of, especially with children;
this is no doubt strengthened both by the association with innocence
and purity . . . and by the reaction-formation against the repressed
sadism that so commonly goes with marked anal erotism. . . . It is
quite characteristic even of misers to be passionately fond of their

Jones, Papers, 694-95.

Becker, The Heavenly City of Eighteen-Century Philosophers, 119.
Weber, Protestant Ethic, 70.

children -- e.g., Shylock. Balzac' s Eugenie Grandet, etc.; with the

former of these, Shakespeare clearly illustrates the equivalency and
unconscious identity of the daughter and the ducats. 205


In "The American Child as Seen by British Travelers, 1845-1935,"

Richard Rapson relates that foreign visitors to this country, by and large,
detested American children, describing them as precocious, impertinent,
arrogant and disrespectful. To these visitors, American children seemed to
have been indulged by parents who "let them go their own way." 206
This view is also evident in William Bridges' "Family Patterns and
Social Values in American, 1825-1875," in which an English visitor is
quoted as saying that the American child is "too early his own master."
Another nineteenth-century observer stated that "the authority of the parents
is no restraint at all," for American children are "absolute masters of their
fate." James Fenimore Cooper perceived "insubordination in children and a
general want of respect for age" as endemic to American democracy, and, to
Tocqueville, individualism was a natural consequence of the lack of parental
supervision and the early inculcation of self-reliance. 207
Although this seems to contradict our earlier definition of American
toilet training as "coercive,” the paradox can be resolved by pointing out
that permissiveness is founded on and, indeed, is a proclamation of, early
independence training and the successful internalization of such parental

Jones, Papers, 698.

Richard Rapson, "The American Child as Seen by British Travelers,
1845-1935," American Quarterly XVII (Fall, 1965), 520-34.

William Bridges, "Family Patterns and Social Values in America,
1825-1875," American Quarterly, XVII (Spring 1965), 3-11.

values as independence and self reliance, as Mead, Erikson and Gorer have
shown. To "function without friction" does not entail "breaking the child' s
will"; in America, the "socialization" process requires, as a condition of its
success, the continual "rejection" of the socialization process, for the
"liberal" American parent must, above all, in the words of Geoffrey Gorer,
avoid the "appearance of authority."


Among orthodox Freudians, it is widely accepted that anality and

sadism share a common etiology. Karl Abraham, for example, observed
that "the sadistic impulses exhibit a special affinity precisely for anal
eroticism," 209 and Ernest Jones noted that "repressed sadism . . . commonly
goes with marked anal erotism." 210

We have recognized the presence of two different pleasurable

tendencies in the anal-sadistic phase; a more primitive one of
expelling the object (evacuation) and destroying it, and a later one
of retaining and controlling it. 211

The bowel and bladder, then, serve as instruments of aggression, as

"vehicles of hostile impulses," and, as such, are endowed with "great and

This paradox also suggests what may be the critical difference between
"shame" and "guilt" cultures. See, for example, David Reisman' s The
Lonely Crowd (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1950).

Abraham, "A Short Study of the Development of the Libido," Selected
Papers, 425.

Jones, 698.

Abraham, Ibid., 481.

unlimited power to create or destroy every object" (Abraham, for example,

describes a patient who "dreamed he expelled the universe from his anus").
According to Abraham:

The child' s idea of the omnipotence of its wishes and thoughts can
proceed from a stage in which it ascribed an omnipotence of this
kind to its excretions. Further experience has since convinced me
that this is a regular and typical process. 212

As we have seen, in the Freudian model, money is associated with

potency and its loss with castration: possessions are "an expanded portion
of the ego," an expression of "bodily narcissism," and the "drive to amass
wealth" -- "to accumulate a substance endowed with ego quality" and the
"fear of having to lose such a substance against one' s will" -- is derived
from the need to "maintain a high level of self regard" and to "recover lost
infantile feelings of omnipotence." 213
Pedantry, of course, is one of the most common expressions of the
impulse for domination and control, for, in the words of Erich Fromm,
orderliness "signifies mastering the world outside by putting it, and keeping
it, in its proper place in order to avoid the danger of intrusion." 214
Recall Ernest Jones‟s earlier description of the anal "intolerance for
disorder" as

a restless and uncontrollable passion for constantly arranging the

various details . . . until everything is tidy, symmetrical, and in exactly

Abraham, Selected Papers, 375.

Fenichel, "The Drive to Amass Wealth," Psychoanalytic Quarterly
VII (January, 1938), 69-95.

Erich Fromm, Man for Himself: An Inquiry into the Psychology of
Ethics (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1947), 74.

"its right place." . . . In the field of thought this tendency commonly

leads to undue pedantry with a fondness for definitions and exactitude
often merely verbal. An interesting and valuable variety occasionally
met with is a great dislike for muddled thinking, and a passion for
lucidity of thought; such a person delights in getting a matter quite
clear, has a fondness for classifying, and so on. 215

In historical terms, the anal-sadistic component underlies the Federalist

assumption that power follows property, and is evident in a wide range of
American cultural values and historical evidence, including the stake-in-
society theory, preemption rights, and William Jennings Bryan' s Cross of
Gold speech; it is expressed in Franklin' s fear that debt "exposes" 216 one to
confinement; in Emerson' s "things are in the saddle / and ride mankind"; 217
in Thoreau' s "we do not ride on the railroad; it rides upon us"; 218 in Henry
Adams' s "all one' s friends . . . had joined the banks to force submission to
capitalism, a submission long foreseen by the mere law of mass" 219 and,
more recently, in Richard Nixon' s "It is time to get big government off your
back and out of your pocket."
The impulse for domination and control is also evident in the concept of
stewardship and the practice of paternalism. Compare, for example,
Carnegie' s statement that it is the duty of the man of "surplus wealth" to
serve as the "agent and trustee for his poorer brethren, bringing to their
service his superior wisdom, experience, and ability to administer, doing for

Jones, Papers, 698-99; Gorer, The American People; Boorstin, The
Colonial Experience, 281.
Franklin, Autobiography, 116.

Emerson, "Ode Inscribed to W. H. Channing," Complete Works.

Thoreau, Walden, Writings, II, 102.

Adams, Education, 344.

them better than they would or could do for themselves" 220 with these
observations by Ernest Jones and Karl Abraham:

A curious accompaniment of this tenderness is a very pronounced

tendency to domineer the loved and possessed object; such people
are often very dictatorial or even tyrannical, and are extremely
intolerant of any display of independence on the part of the loved
object. 221

The surrender of excrement is the earliest form in which the child

"gives" or "presents" a thing; and the neurotic often shows the self-
will we have described in the matter of giving. Accordingly in
many cases he will refuse a demand or request made to him, but
will of his own free choice make a person a handsome present. The
important thing to him is to preserve his right of decision. We
frequently find in our psycho-analyses that a husband opposes any
expenditure proposed by his wife, while he afterwards hands her of
his "own free will" more than what she first asked for. These men
delight in keeping their wives permanently dependent on them
financially. Assigning money in portions which they themselves
determine is a source of pleasure for them. 222

Related to Obstinacy, or Self-Willedness, this contradictory attitude

is both illustrated and explained by the extraordinary generosity and
liberality with which Americans have contributed to private charity
(since the acts are voluntary and confer power as well as prestige to the
conferrer) as contrasted with the extreme resistance and illiberality with
which many Americans have regarded matters of taxation, public
assistance and social welfare (since these transfers are involuntary).

Carnegie, North American Review, V. 148, 662.

Jones, Papers, 698.

Abraham, Selected Papers, 377.


Given (1) the dominant role played by the mother in the American
family, (2) the relative severity of American bowel training, (3) the
Cloacal Theory of Birth and the identification of babies as feces, and (4)
the fact that anal training "contradicts [the child' s] natural Oedipal
harmony with [its] mother," 223 it might be expected that the sadism
(repressed aggression) of the anally-fixated child would be focused on
the mother' s anus, the "vehicle of hostile impulses," and that the child' s
ambivalent Oedipal phantasies would be directed at mastering and
possessing the mother through this organ. As difficult as it may be to
accept, this hypothesis has been advanced by several psychiatrists and
anthropologists, including Marie Bonaparte, Helen Deutsch, Melanie
Klein and Geza Roheim. Melanie Klein, for example, has documented
a significant degree of pre-Oedipal aggression directed by the child
against the mother, and, from her research, Marie Bonaparte concluded
that "what the small boy yearns to accomplish is an anal, cloacal,
intestinal penetration of the mother, a bloody disemboweling even." 224
Throughout human history, the primary cultural manifestation of this

Ernest Jones, "Hate and Anal Eroticism in the Obsessional Neurosis,"
in Papers on Psycho-Analysis, 553-61.

Marie Bonaparte, "Passivity, Masochism, and Femininity,"
International Journal of Psychoanalysis, XVI (1935), 325-33, Female
Sexuality (New York: Grove, 1965). Helene Deutsch, Neuroses and
Character Types: Clinical Psychoanalytic Studies (New York: International
University Press, 1965), The Psychology of Women (New York: Grune and
Stratton, 1945). Melanie Klein, Contributions to Psycho-Analysis, 1921-
1945 (London: Hogarth Press, 1948). Geza Roheim, Origin and Function
of Culture (New York: Nervous and Mental Diseases Monograph, 1943),
Psychoanalysis and Anthropology (New York: International University
Press, 1950).

impulse has been agriculture. According to anthropologist Geza Roheim,

the earth represents the Earth Mother and the act of tilling, or ploughing,
coitus: "Much as the child imagines himself pulling the "good body
contents" out of the nursing or weaning mother, so the farmer-gardener
aggressively uproots the nourishing products from mother Earth." 225
Ernest Jones describes certain wish-fulfilling phantasies involving the
discovery of hidden treasure in the following terms:

The treasure-trove is usually buried underground, which connects

with the interest mentioned above in concealed passages, caves,
and the like; the interest is also evidently strengthened by other
sexual components, Schaulust (visual sexual curiosity), incestuous
exploration in the body of Mother Earth, etc. . . . In "Paradise
Lost" (Book VIII) we read how men, taught by Mammon, ` . . . with
impious hands
Rifl' d the bowels of their mother Earth
For Treasure better hid. Soon had his crew

As paraphrased by Roy Calogeras, "Geza Roheim: Psychoanalytic
Anthropologist or Radical Freudian?" American Imago, 28 (Summer, 1971),
A passage from The Octopus by Frank Norris illustrates the manifestly
erotic nature of this association:

The great brown earth turned a huge flank to it, exhaling the
moisture of the early dew. . . . The rain had done its work; not
a clod that was not swollen with fertility, not a fissure that did
not exhale the sense of fecundity. . . . The land was alive;
aroused at last from its deep sleep, palpitating with the desire
of reproduction. Deep down there in the recesses of the soil,
the great heart throbbed once more, thrilling with passion,
vibrating with desire, offering itself to the caress of the plough,
insistent, eager, imperious. Dimly one felt the deep-seated
trouble of the earth, the uneasy agitation of its members, the
hidden tumult of its womb, demanding to be made fruitful, to
reproduce, to disengage the eternal renascent germ of Life that
stirred and struggled in its loins. Frank Norris, The Octopus
(New York: Doubleday, 1901), 121-22.

Op' n' d into the Hill a spacious wound

And Dig' d out ribs of Gold.' 226

Anal-sadism has played a significant role in American agriculture and

resource development, which have been characterized as extensive,
extractive ("mine the soil" 227) and exploitative (the “exploitation of virgin
soil" and “drill, baby, drill” 228). Henry Nash Smith, Richard Hofstadter and
others have pointed out that the Edenic myth and the yeoman ideal concealed
another, darker side of American agriculture' s "dual identity," 229 in which
the American farmer was, preeminently, an agrarian capitalist. Although
the machine-in-the-garden was a common, albeit deeply ambivalent, theme
in nineteenth-century American literature, as Leo Marx has shown, 230

Jones, Papers, 697.

Schlesinger, American Historical Review, XLVIII (January, 1943),

Turner, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History," in
The Frontier in American History, 18. Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah
Palin, of course, represents the last American frontier of Alaska.

Henry Nash Smith, Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and
Myth (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1950). Richard Hofstadter,
The Age of Reform: From Bryan to F.D.R. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf
and Random House, 1955), 59.

Lee Marx, The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral
Ideal in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964), 205. The
enduring role played in the national consciousness by such cultural symbols
as the Kentucky rifle, steamboat, locomotive, Colt revolver, skyscraper,
automobile, and ICBM would seem to justify hyphenating our
characterization of American civilization to "anal-phallic." See John A.
Kouwenhoven, Made in America: The Arts in Modern Civilization (Garden
City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1948). As we have seen, the
Romantic, Conservation and Green movements represent a reaction against
this mode of thought and, “in an industrial age, . . . one long protest
against the intrusion of man, with all his squalor and ugliness, into the

industrialism was generally welcomed by Americans as permitting not only

economic self-sufficiency and independence, but also the mastery and
conquest of the natural environment.


If our extrapolations from the works of Mead, Gorer and Erikson and
Bonaparte, Deutsch, Klein and Roheim are correct, the Oedipal triangle in
American culture appears to have been inverted: the Father is slain, in
absentia, by the Mother, who, in turn, is mastered, possessed, and
conquered by the Son. 231

previously untouched spots of Nature” (Jones, 702).

According to Henry Adams:
The American woman at her best -- like most other women -- exerted
great charm on the man, but not the charm of a primitive type. She
appeared as a result of a long series of discards, and her chief interest
lay in what she had discarded. When closely watched, she seemed [to
be] making a violent effort to follow the man, who had turned his mind
and hand to mechanics. The typical American male had his hand on a
lever and his eye on a curve in his road; his living depended on keeping
up an average speed of forty miles an hour, tending always to become
sixty, eighty, or a hundred, and he could not admit emotions or anxieties
or subconscious distractions, more than he could admit whiskey or
drugs, without breaking his neck. He could not run his machine and a
woman too; he must leave her, even though his wife, to find her own
way, and all the world saw her trying to find her way by imitating him. .
. . She must, like the man, marry machinery. Adams, Education, 445-

The feminist revolutions of the twentieth century, the large-scale

integration of middle-class women into the workplace on a permanent
basis and the model of the single-parent household have radically
redefined the gender roles and the division of labor in American society
and have, at once, both radically altered and radically reinforced Adams'
insight, which was written in 1907.

As Louis Hartz has shown, America was "born free" in the sense that the
absence of a strong, overtly-authoritarian father on the European scale
precluded the development of a feudal tradition and, thus, conventional
"class conflict." 232 However, the inverted triangle throws into relief the
horizontal nature of social conflict in America and the fratricidal nature of
the competition for the mother' s love and approval, which, as we have seen,
is finite and conditional on the child' s "achievement" and "success" in
competition with his peers.
Margaret Mead discusses the role of "sibling rivalry" in relation to the
cultural imperative that the child earn his parents' love, in the following

One of the great difficulties for the older child is seen in that the
baby is not scolded for the things for which the older child is
scolded. To win his mother ' s approval, the two-and-a-half-year-
old must be dry, must feed himself, must go to sleep quietly with no
one there; otherwise, the loving approval vanishes from his
mother' s voice. Very well, he has learned, sometimes sorrowfully,
sometimes eagerly, to do all of these things, to take steps upward
and outward towards greater independence of his mother' s
delicious care. And then, along comes this small insignificant
interloper, who can' t do any of the hard things for which he has
been denied his mother' s love -- and the creature is petted and
loved and not expected to do them at all. Undoubtedly this is a
central drama in the life of many American children. The betrayal,
for so it seems, in which mother gives her love in one case and
withholds it in another, is a seed out of which grows the bitterness
towards all those who "have it soft," "get by," "get away with

Louis Hartz, The Liberal Tradition in America. Herbert Moller, "Sex
Composition and Correlated Culture Patterns of Colonial America," The
William and Mary Quarterly, II (1945), 113-53.

murder," a bitterness combined with envy. 233

In historiographical terms, the "democracy of fraternity" is supplanted

by the "democracy of cupidity," 234 and, if the Industrial Revolution was a
child of the "cruel necessity" of the Puritan Revolution, which the American
Revolution served to "formalize, systematize, and symbolize," 235 the
American Civil War represents, in blood, the liberation and sanctification of
these Oedipal forces of fratricidal struggle. In this sense, the California
Gold Rush is emblematic of the latent destiny of American history, which is
oriented toward the death-goal of the mastery, possession and re-union with
the mother.


In psychoanalytic theory, the primal separation of the child from the

mother, particularly the birth trauma and the separation from the mother' s
breast, is the prototype of all subsequent anxiety, repression and neurosis. 236
The fear of separation is closely linked to the fear of death, and the

Mead, And Keep Your Powder Dry, 107-08.

Richard Hofstadter, The American Political Tradition and the Men
Who Made It (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1948), viii.

Bernard Bailyn, "Political Experience and Enlightenment Ideas in
Eighteenth-Century America," American Historical Review, XLVII
(January, 1962), 339-51.

Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920), in Works,
XVIII, and The Ego and the Id, in Works, XIX. See also Sandor Ferenczi,
Thalassa: A Theory of Genitality (New York: The Psychoanalytic Quarterly,
Inc., 1938), Otto Rank, The Trauma of Birth (New York: Robert Brunner,
1952), and Norman O. Brown, Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytical
Meaning of History (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1959).

incapacity to accept separation, in fact, "erotizes" 237 death, generating not

only a "flight from death" but also the "death instinct," the desire to return
to the womb ("the aim of all life is death" 238). Aggression, "the drive to
master nature as well as the drive to master man," in turn, is derived from
the "extroversion of the death instinct," and the "desire to die [is]
transformed into the desire to kill, destroy or dominate." 239 Castration
anxiety is also associated with separation anxiety, since it involves the
child' s fear of losing the means of reuniting with the mother and is related to
the Oedipal project of becoming "father of oneself." 240

As we have seen, "coercive" bowel training contradicts the natural

Oedipal harmony with the mother, and, although it is not the prototype, it
does reinforce the destruction of the "maternal matrix." In the words of Lou
Andreas-Salome', it is the child' s "first repression," his first "glimpse of an
environment hostile to his instinctual impulses," and forever after, "` anal'
remains the symbol of everything that is to be repudiated and excluded from
life." 241
As we have also seen, the American male has been described as a "self-
made ego," a "motherless man," who is motivated by "a deep-seated sense
of having been abandoned," and, throughout American history, the cultural
consequences of this "separation anxiety" have been far-reaching.

Brown, Life Against Death, 115.

Brown, 102.

Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, XVIII, 38.

Freud, New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, Works, XXII.

Lou Andreas-Salome', "' Anal' and ' Sexual,' " Imago, IV (1916), 249-

Students of family patterns in America generally agree that Americans

have lacked a traditional sense of "home." 242 The family environment
"lacked atmosphere, comfort, love, play and warmth. It never became the
cozy, friendly hearth which imparted to a family a sense of kinship, identity
or oneness." 243 In the words of one observer, it was "too neat;" to another,
there were "no real child-like children here." 244 Instead, the American
family fostered a "heightened . . . sense of separateness," an "insulation of
consciousness," which provided a "training in detachment" and "emotional
disengagement from others." 245 To William Bridges, the idealized

Arthur W. Calhoun, A Social History of the American Family from
Colonial Times to the Present (3 vols.; Cleveland: Arthur H. Clark Co.,
1917-19). Bernard Bailyn, Education in the Forming of American Society
(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1960). William Bridges,
"Family Patterns and Social Values in America, 1825-1875," American
Quarterly, XVII (Spring, 1965), 3-11. Richard Rapson, "The American
Child as Seen by British Travelers, 1845-1935," American Quarterly, XVII
(Fall, 1965), 520-34.

Sometimes, at dinner, one might wait till talk flagged, and

then, as mildly as possible, ask one' s liveliest neighbor
whether she could explain why the American woman was a
failure. Without an instant' s hesitation, she was sure to
answer: "Because the American man is a failure!" She meant
it. . . . Gay or serious, the question never failed to stir feeling.
The cleverer the woman, the less she denied the failure. She
was bitter at heart about it. She had failed to even hold her
family together, and her children ran away like chickens with
their first feathers; the family was extinct like chivalry. (Henry
Adams, The Education of Henry Adams, 442-43).

Rapson, 523.

Walter L. George, Hail Columbia! (New York, 1921), 199, and Stuart
Wortley, Travels in the United States (Paris, 1951), 67. Quoted in Rapson,
523, 521.

Bailyn, Education, 25-26. Bridges, 8.

stereotypes of "home-as-retreat" from the impersonality of the market place

(as depicted, for example, in Whittier' s "Snow-Bound" or Currier and Ives'
lithographs) are attempts to overcome this sense of isolation and separation.

On another level, parallel to the Edenic myth and the pastoral ideal of
America as Garden of the World, is the counter-myth of the Great American
Desert -- of America as "this vast, savage, howling mother of ours," 246 of
nature as a "hideous and desolate wilderness." This theme runs as a minor
variation throughout American literature and is expressed, for example, in
Parkman' s France and England in North America, 247 Cooper' s The Prairie,
Melville' s Typee, Crane' s "The Open Boat" and Hemingway' s "Big Two-
Hearted River."
Konrad Lorenz has suggested that locomotion is increased by a bad
environment, 248 and one important consequence of "separation anxiety" was
that, according to Erik Erikson, "there was no use regressing, because there
was nobody to regress to. . . . What remained was action and motion right
up to the breaking point." 249 If Lorenz' s hypothesis is correct, one would
expect that the malignity of the environment could be indicated by the
magnitude of the mobility, and in America, mobility -- the so-called M-
Factor 250 -- reached a scale that is unprecedented in human history.

Thoreau, "Walking," Writings, IX, 291.

See William R. Taylor, "A Journey into the Human Mind: Motivation
in Francis Parkman' s La Salle," William and Mary Quarterly, XIX (April,
1962), 220-37.

Konrad Lorenz, Studies in Animal and Human Behaviour (Cambridge:
Harvard University Press, 1970).

Erikson, 296.

George W. Pierson, "The M-Factor in American History," American

Americans have been "permanently transitory," 251 and what Turner

described as "that restless, nervous energy" 252 has been expressed,
historically, in immigration, Westward expansion, urban migration, and the
economic "penetration" 253 of foreign markets and culminated in the conquest
(which W. H. Auden termed the "phallic triumph") of the Moon.

The death component -- which D. H. Lawrence described as the "inner

diabolism" of American culture254 -- is apparent in the genocidal nature of
America' s latent destiny and is evident in the dispossession of the Native
Americans, the extermination of the bison and other forms of wildlife, the
“exploitation of the virgin soil,” the monumental waste and destruction of
nation‟s natural resources, and the despoliation and pollution of the global
The "flight from death" also takes place along a vertical or social axis.
Achievement, success, the work ethic and the will-to-power are, as we have

Quarterly, XIV (Summer, 1962), 275-89.

Van Wyck Brooks, Opinions of Oliver Allston (New York, 1941), 84.
Quoted in Schlesinger, American Historical Review, XLVIII (January,
1943), 236.

Turner, Frontier in American History, 18.

William Appleman Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy
(New York: World Publishing Co., 1959).

D. H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature (Thomas
Seltzer, 1923), 83.

Philip Slater, The Pursuit of Loneliness: American Culture at the
Breaking Point (Boston: Beacon Press, 1970). See William Cronon' s
Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England
(New York: Hill and Wang, 1983) for the starting point of this process in
North America.

seen, derived from a child' s pride and gratification in the act of excretion,
which serves as compensation for the primary injury to the child' s
narcissism. Social mobility represents not only a drive away from parental
control and toward economic independence and self-sufficiency, but also a
yearning in the opposite direction for parental love and approval and
signifies, in Freudian terms, the Oedipal wish of re-uniting with the
mother. 256 Norman Holland, for example, from his analysis of the novels of
Horatio Alger, Jr., concludes that the rags-to-riches theme, common in the
success literature of the nineteenth century, represents the Oedipal attempt at
becoming father-of-oneself and reflects the wish-fulfilling phantasies of
young boys to displace a weak father and become "the sole support of an
adoring mother." 257
Another consequence of premature "independence training" is the
monomaniacal "insistence on pursuing one' s own path regardless of the
influence brought to bear by other people." 258 In the words of Karen
Horney, the anal character "tends toward one goal -- to hold on to what he
has and never give away anything." 259 To Geoffrey Gorer, the "object is

The deep ambivalence which often attends personal achievement and
the struggle for maternal approval is illustrated by the personification of
success as a Bitch Goddess and the prevalence of witchcraft and spider
themes in American culture (which, in Freudian symbology, represent the
orally-castrating mother) and the relative absence, even among
fundamentalist sects, of male devil-figures (the Pope, for example, is
depicted as the Whore of Babylon).

Norman N. Holland, "Hobbling with Horatio," The Hudson Review,
XII (Winter, 1959-60), 557.

Jones, Papers, 689.

Karen Horney, The Neurotic Personality of Our Times (New York:
W. W. Norton, 1937).

pursued with a fervor and a sense of dedication . . . without external

interference." 260
As we have seen, "coercive" bowel training places a "very high love
premium on perfect performance," which, at times, can lead to alienation
and nihilism. Margaret Mead relates that, ironically, one consequence of
siblings' competition for the mother' s approval is the "fear that their
personal achievement has made them unworthy of love." 261 The "deep-
seated sense of having been abandoned" and the "striving for prestige as
overcoming emptiness" 262 also contribute to feelings of worthlessness and
indicate the irrevocable separation of Self and Other.


America has been described as "a culture of contradictions," 263 and we

Gorer, The American People, 158.

Mead, And Keep Your Powder Dry, 91.

Horney, Ibid. The affinity between nihilism and anality, which we
discussed earlier in “Narcissism, Achievement, Conformity and
Alienation,” is further suggested by the fact that the "toilet trauma" is the
prototypical "limit situation," which is characterized by such existential
clichés as "grace under pressure," resistance, reductionism, repetition-
compulsiveness, stoicism, tight-lipped silence ("You' ll lose it if you talk
about it") and, of course, irony and absurdity ("He is the legitimate son of
President Wilson"). Witness Henry Adams ("Nihilism has no bottom") or
Ernest Hemingway ("He was in despair / About what? / Nothing / How do
you know it was nothing? / He has plenty of money"). Adams, Education,
431; Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises, 245; A Farewell to Arms, 58; "A
Clean, Well-Lighted Place," in The Hemingway Reader, ed. Charles Poore,

Richard Chase, The American Novel and Its Tradition (New York:
Doubleday, 1957).

have attempted here to resolve a series of those contradictions --

individualism and conformity, abundance and scarcity, idealism and
materialism, docility and aggression, perfectionism and skepticism, the
"habit of introspection" and the "longing for community" 264 -- by reducing
them to the primal contradiction of the premature destruction of the
"symbiosis" with the maternal matrix. Anal training, as we have seen,
contradicts the child' s "natural Oedipal harmony with [its] mother"; 265 it is
the child' s "first repression," its first "glimpse of an environment hostile to
[its] instinctual impulses," and, as a result, "` anal' remains the symbol of
everything that is to be repudiated and excluded from life." 266
In his Journal, John Winthrop relates the story of one Archibald
Tomson, who, while carrying dung in his canoe on the Lord' s Day,
capsized and "was never seen after. 267" Winthrop' s signification of the
event illustrates, in turn, what Geza Roheim has described as "sphincter
morality," i.e., the compensatory, quid pro quo mentality characteristic of
certain anal types. “The displacement of libido from the genital to the anal
zone" is the prototype of these "reversals," and, in a moral economy
dominated by the defense mechanism of reaction-formation, binary opposites
(above and below, front and behind, most valuable and least valuable)
appear to be interchangeable. 268

Norman Holmes Pearson, "The American Writer and the Feeling for
Community," American Studies Inaugural Lecture, University of Alabama,
March 20, 1962.

Jones, Papers, 553-61.

Lou Andreas-Salome', Imago, IV 249-73.

Journal, ed. James K. Hosmer, 1908, II, 44.

Abraham, Selected Papers, 390.

According to Erik Erikson:

The anal zone lends itself more than any other to the display of
stubborn adherence to contradictory impulses because, for one thing,
it is the modal zone for two conflicting modes of approach, which
must become alternating, namely retention and elimination. 269

Otto Fenichel describes this pattern as follows:

The child wishes to receive milk from its mother . . . but must in
return give up its excrement. That is the first exchange, the prototype
of commerce. . . . When something is lost from below, something
new must be introduced from above. The equilibrium between
receiving and giving must be preserved. 270

Ernest Jones notes the "tendency to be occupied with the reverse side of
various things and situations:"

This may manifest itself in many different ways; in marked curiosity

about the opposite or back side of objects and places -- e.g., in the
desire to live on the other side of a hill because it has its back turned
to a given place; in the proneness to make numerous mistakes about
right and left, east and west; to reverse words and letters in writing;
and so on. Another curious trait of the same origin is a great
fascination for all underground passages, canals, tunnels, etc., and I
have also known the same complex lead to an extreme interest in the
idea of centrality; one of my patients was always restlessly searching
to discover what was really the exact centre of any town he might be
in, and developed many philosophical ideas as to what constituted the
very "centre of life," the "centre of the universe," etc. 271

Henry Adams discusses the origin of dualism from the perspective of

Erickson, Childhood and Society, 81-82.

Fenichel, Psychoanalytic Quarterly, VII, 91.

Jones, Papers, 690-91.

his own childhood:

The chief charm of New England was harshness of contrasts and

extremes of sensibility -- a cold that froze the blood, and a heat that
boiled it -- so that the pleasure of hating -- one' s self if no better
victim offered -- was not its rarest amusement; but the charm was a
true and natural child of the soil, not a cultivated weed of the
ancients. The violence of the contrast was real and made the
strongest motive of education. The double exterior nature gave life
its relative values. Winter and summer, cold and heat, town and
country, force and freedom, marked two modes of life and thought,
balanced like lobes of the brain. Town was winter confinement,
school, rule, discipline; straight gloomy streets, piled with six feet
of snow in the middle . . . society of uncles, aunts, and cousins who
expected children to behave themselves, and who were not always
gratified; above all else, winter represented the desire to escape
and go free. Town was restraint, law, unity. Country, only seven
miles away, was liberty, diversity, outlawry, the endless delight of
mere sense impressions given by nature for nothing, and breathed
by boys without knowing it. . . . From earliest childhood the boy
was accustomed to feel that, for him, life was double . . . and the
man who pretended they were not, was in his eyes a schoolmaster -
- that is, a man employed to tell lies to little boys. Though Quincy
was but two hours' walk from Beacon Hill, it belonged to a
different world. 272

Dualism is also mentioned here in relation to the role of the "rejecting

mother" in the psychogenesis of the schizoid personality. 273 It has generally
been observed that schizophrenics share certain characteristics in common

The Education of Henry Adams, 7-9.

Bathrooms, water-supplies, lighting, heating, and the whole

array of domestic comforts, were unknown at Quincy. Boston
had already a bathroom, a water-supply, a furnace, and gas.
The superiority of Boston was evident, but a child liked it no
better for that.

Erikson, Childhood and Society, 288.

with the machine, including repetition, impersonality, stereotyping,

"functioning without friction," the absence of feeling and, of course, the
absence of personal identity. 274 In this context, Marshall McLuhan' s
Typographic Man can be viewed as the "legitimate son" of the union
between Adam' s Virgin and Dynamo. The American "obsession with
words" may be related to the solipsism inherent in Locke' s theory of
language, in which there is no "natural connexion . . . between particular
articulate sounds and certain ideas, for then there would be but one language
amongst all men; but . . . a voluntary imposition, whereby such a word is
made arbitrarily the mark of such an idea":

A child having taken notice of nothing in the metal he hears called

gold, but the bright shining yellow colour, he applies the word gold
only to his own idea of that colour, and nothing else; and therefore
calls the same colour in a peacock' s tail gold. Another that hath
better observed, adds to shining yellow great weight: and then the
sound gold, when he uses it, stands for a complex idea of a shining
yellow and a very weighty substance. . . . Each of these uses
equally the word gold, when they have occasion to express the idea
which they have applied it to: but it is evident that each can apply it
only to his own idea; nor can he make it stand as a sign of such a
complex idea as he has not. 275


Finally, "the great significance of anal erotism in the psychogenesis of

paranoia" 276 should be mentioned, and, further, that paranoia has been

Henry Harper Hart, "The Identification with the Machine," American
Imago X (Summer, 1953), 95.

Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, II, 8-10.

Abraham, Selected Papers, 391.

defined as a defense mechanism erected against repressed fears of passive,

homosexual submission: 277

In paranoia the "persecutor" can be traced back to the patient' s

unconscious image of the faeces in his intestines which he identifies
with the penis of the "persecutor," i.e., the person of his own sex
whom he originally loved. Thus, in paranoia the patient represents
his persecutor by a part of his body, and believes that he is
carrying it within himself. He would like to get rid of that foreign
body but cannot. 278

Freud once described, perhaps half-seriously, paranoia as a caricature

of philosophy. 279 Regardless of the sequence of his logic, it is true that
American Puritanism ("images or shadows of divine things"), Rationalism
(the "vast, orderly cosmos behind the visible mask of nature" 280),

Sandor Ferenczi, "On the Part Played by Homosexuality in the
Pathogenesis of Paranoia," in Contributions to Psycho-Analysis (Boston, R.
J. Badger, 1916).
On the other hand, Dwight W. Miles ("The Import for Clinical
Psychology of the Use of Tests Derived from Theories about Infantile
Sexuality and Adult Character," Genetic Psychology Monographs, Vol. 50,
No. 2, November, 1954, 235) notes that:

Homosexuals who are actively gratifying infantile anal

impulses by frankly anal-erotic practices show but little of the
` anal character' [defensive traits against gratification of anal
sexual impulses]. . . . Delight defends against guilt over
delight. Indulgence is a defense against repression.

Abraham, "Origins and Growth of Object-Love," in Selected Papers,

Totem and Taboo (1913).

Leo Marx, The Machine in the Garden, 96. See also Daniel Boorstin,
The Lost World of Thomas Jefferson (New York: Henry Holt and Co.,
1948), chap. 1.

Romanticism ("all visible objects, man, are but pasteboard masks" 281),
Literary Naturalism (the "black, unsearched penetralia of the soul of man"),
Progressivism ("reality now was rough and sordid. It was hidden,
neglected, and off-stage. It was conceived essentially as that stream of
external and material events which was most likely to be unpleasant." 282),
right-wing anti-communism283 and New-Left radicalism284 reflect a radical,
self-justifying disjunction between appearance and reality. 285
Behind Winthrop' s "the Eies of all people are uppon us" ("soe that if
wee shall deale falsely with our God in this worke wee have undertaken . . .
wee shall be made a story and a by-word through the world"), Jefferson' s
"enemy within our bowels," and Adams' s "inevitable effect of this lesson"
(which was "to make a victim of the scholar and to turn him into a harsh
judge of his masters. If they overlooked him, he could hardly overlook
them, since they stood with their whole weight on his body")286 lurks the

Herman Melville, Moby Dick, 161-62.

Richard Hofstadter, The Age of Reform, 201.

Hofstadter, The Paranoid Style, and Bell, The End of Ideology.

C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1956).

And, one might add, Freudianism:

Yet the connection does suggest itself; and at least we have

here the perception which is to be the common characteristic
of both Freud and Romanticism, the perception of the hidden
element of human nature and of the opposition between the
hidden and the visible. (Lionel Trilling, The Liberal
Imagination, 36).

For the epigraph of his Interpretation of Dreams, Freud chose a
quotation from Virgil: Flectere si nequeo Superos, Acheronta movebo.
Not incidentally, in his Introduction to "Character and Anal Erotism,"

very real fear that, as Ishmael discovered when the jaw-bone tiller smote his
side and he awoke with his back to the Try-Works, something is "fatally
Historically, this vis a tergo has been self-creating, springing from its
own Platonic conception of itself, and, if were ever needed, the final irony
of American history might well read as that of an endless inversion-without-
inversion, of a narcissistic love-object that lacked a "vital center," of a "last
heroism" that was forever doomed to the perpetual vibration, if not between
tyranny and anarchy, at least between self and other, unity and chaos,
without ever touching either.

Freud confesses:
I can no longer say on what precise occasions I first received the
impression that a systematic relationship exists between this type
of character and the activities of this organ, but I can assure the
reader that no theoretical anticipation of mine played any part in
its production. My belief in such a relationship has been so much
strengthened by accumulated experience that I venture to make it
the subject of a communication.