Facilitate the power of love - confront the love of power

Sun, 16 Jan 2005


One of my lines of inquiry recently has been to revisit the Psychohistory take on world events, which has shaped my approach to politics in the twenty years or so since I read Lloyd deMause's History of Childhood and Foundations of Psychohistory.

The key psychohistory notion is that the varieties and agendas of politics and wars are the transgenerational outcomes of different and especially improving styles of child-rearing. As deMause has shown, I believe very convincingly, read his History of Childood, there has been a continuing evolution in the quality of childcare that has accelerated in the last hundred years, so that, less traumatized by 'normal' childhood, there is a corresponding shift in the politics that people see as appropriate to their experience. And as is only too apparent the actual politics we have dates from a previous generation and doesn't interest significant numbers of the population. Psychohistory has greatly nourished my optimism, I have taken from it sense that even though history seems to be cyclical, it may have a benign direction, that is rooted in gradual but perceptible improvements in the quality and empathy of parenting.

I do find myself tripping over the psychoanalytical 'regimes of truth' in deMause's writing but his congruence with other people who have enquired deeply into the relations between upbringing and politics, such as George Lakoff is considerable. Lakoff's contrasts 'strict father' parenting with 'nurturant parenting' while deMause sees the mothering style as having the biggest childhood influence. Read it for yourself, several chapters from Lloyd deMause's recent book The Emotional History of Nations are available online here.

Does childcare evolve in a benign direction? Two pieces of evidence emerged recently that, however haphazardly and incrementally slowly, this is so. Following Scottish law earlier this year, and as so often, Scandinavian laws a decade or more ago, today marks the introduction of a law in the UK that bans the smacking of children. Smacking children is illegal IF it leaves marks. Well yes, lots have people have commented that this is a flawed masterpiece of legislation but to me its very existence seems a miracle. For more on this here is a BBC report and a site that will keep you up to date on opinions and progress with the day-to-day application of the law.

Alongside this towards the end of 2004 there an anti-bullying week in the UK, and anti-bullying 'strategies' are mandatory for all UK schools, which on the ground means teaching mediation skills. The government even has an anti-bullying web-site. Is all this the result of an increase in bullying? Or, as with child abuse generally, an increased awareness of how 'normal' bullying has been? The latter I guess matches my experience.