Denis, Robert, Ted, Ken, and all,
Denis, thanks for this important article on the methodology of fantasy analysis (http://www.geocities.ws/kidhistory/ja/onfa.htm). It seems that within the psychohistory community itself, this methodology was acknowledged to be very much a work in progress. I thought Howard in his commentary made some excellent suggestions about how it could be developed further and I wonder if anyone followed through on these suggestions.
Robert, were your comments referring to Ted’s post or the link to the cold fusion article that followed? It is not clear to me how this article connects to our discussion.
What Ted said about “the context of discovery” vs. “the context of verification” is extremely important and gets at something that Ken and I have been talking about quite a bit on this list. I have argued that theoretical (as opposed to empirical) work has a legitimate place in psychohistory. It is legitimate to ask what evidence supports a theory, but the person who creates the theory should not necessarily be required to answer this question. That is the task of empirical researchers. Sometimes the same person creates a theory and works to verify it. More commonly, these tasks are done by different groups of people.
In fact this division of labor is often institutionalized in different subfields of the same discipline, such as theoretical and experimental physics or economic theory (e.g. Keynes) and econometrics. In psychohistory, DeMause is a theorist and it remains for others to test his theories. This is exactly what Ted has done. The data set he has assembled is a good one for testing the theory. If proponents of Lloyd’s theory think that Ted has misinterpreted the data, then it is incumbent on them to ask for the complete set of cartoons and make the case that an alternative interpretation of that data does, in fact, confirm Lloyd’s theory. If that can’t be done, then the theory stands disconfirmed. I am not interested in doing this further research myself because I don’t believe in Lloyd’s theory that changes in mass psychology cause wars.
I also agree with Ted’s point that social phenomena are far too chaotic, like the weather, to be modelled mathematically with a high degree of precision. A good illustration of this is the random variability governing the leadership element in politics. If Hitler or someone like him had not been born, or if he had been assassinated early on, the entire history of the 20th century might have turned out very differently. If you factor in this kind of randomness in the case of all the other great powers, strict historical determinism breaks down altogether.
That said, a great scientific genius is someone who can sift through the chaos of history and identify a fundamental process that is predictable. I would argue that Marx was just such a genius. While his theory was inadequate in many respects and some of his predictions were wrong, the major insight in his work—the mechanism of capital accumulation that drives the increasing concentration of wealth under capitalism—has arguably been confirmed recently by a massive project of data collection and analysis, reported in Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century.
We are not at that point yet in psychohistory, but I have argued that research on authoritarianism and deMause’s psychogenic theory of history may provide building blocks for such a testable grand theory. Unlike the case of Marx and Picketty, I don’t see a way to test such a theory using quantitative research entirely, but I think that survey research and interviews with people alive today can make a contribution to this larger project of verification. Before turning to this, I need to respond to Ken’s comments about The Authoritarian Personality. But I have already said enough for one post, and will address these additional topics in another post later today or tomorrow.
Brian D’Agostino, Ph.D.
International Psychohistorical Association