Social Character in a Mexican Village

Beginning in the late 1950s and extending hito the mid-1960s, Fromm and a group of psychologists, psychoanalysts, anthropologists, physicians, and statisticians studied social character in Chiconcuac, a Mexican village about 50 miles south of Mexico City. The team interviewed every adult and half the children hi this isolated farming village of 162 households and about 800 inhabitants. The people of the village

202 Part II Psychodynamic Theories were mostly farmers, earning a living from small plots of fertile land. As Fromm and Michael Maccoby (1970) described them:

They are selfish, suspicious of each others' motives, pessimistic about the future, and fatalistic. Many appear submissive and self-deprecatory, although they have the potential for rebelliousness and revolution. They feel inferior to city people, more stupid, and less cultured. There is an overwhelming feeling of powerlessness to influence either nature or the industrial machine that bears down on them. (p. 37)

Could one expect to find Fromm's character orientations hi such a society? After living among the villagers and gaining then acceptance, the research team employed an assortment of techniques designed to answer this and other questions. Included among the research tools were extensive interviews, dream reports, detailed questionnaires, and two projective techniques—the Rorschach inkblot test and the Thematic Apperception Test.

Fromm believed that the marketing character was a product of modem commerce and that it is most likely to exist in societies where trade is no longer personal and where people regard themselves as commodities. Not surprisingly, the research team found that the marketing orientation did not exist among these peasant villagers.

However, the researchers did find evidence for several other character types, the most common of which was the nonproductive-receptive type. People of this orientation tended to look up to others and devoted much energy hi trying to please those whom they regarded as superiors. On paydays, workhig men who belonged to this type would accept their pay in servile fashion, as if somehow they had not earned it.

The second most frequently found personality type was the productive-hoarding character. People of this type were hard working, productive, and independent. They usually fanned their own plot of land and relied on saving part of each crop for seed and for food in the event of a future crop failure. Hoarding, rather than consuming, was essential to their lives.

The nonproductive-exploitative personality was identified as a third character orientation. Men of this type were most likely to get into knife or pistol fights, whereas the women tended to be malicious gossipmongers (Fromm & Maccoby, 1970). Only about 10% of the population were predominantly exploitative, a surprisingly small percentage considering the extreme poverty of the village.

An even smaller number of inhabitants were described as productive-exploitative—no more than 15 individuals hi the whole village. Among them were the richest and most powerful men in the village—men who had accumulated capital by taking advantage of new agricultural technology as well as a recent increase hi tourism. They had also taken advantage of the nonproductive-receptive villagers by keeping them economically dependent.

In general, Fromm and Maccoby (1970) reported a remarkable similarity between character orientations in this Mexican village and the theoretical orientations Fromm had suggested some years earlier. This anthropological study, of course, cannot be considered a confirmation of Fromm's theory. As one of the study's principal hivestigators, Fromm may simply have found what he had expected to find.

Chapter 7 Fromm: Humanistic Psychoanalysis 203

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