Applying Freudian theories to the analysis of Spanish American history in a recent article (“The Search for the Lost Father-Figure in Spanish American History,” The Americas, 34 ), Marvin Goldwert produced impressive insights. In the present booklet he spreads himself, and Freud, too far.
Among his contentions is that a “metaphysical bisexuality,” firmly embedded in the cultural psyche of Spanish America, “serves as an integrating concept in the analysis of historic relationships between conqueror and conquered, macho and mariana, caudillo and follower, patrón and client, and army officer and civilian” (p. 38). Neuroses result from the tensions between proclivities toward fawning dependence on a patron and the opposing drive toward aggressive machismo, aimed at breaking bonds of authority so as to prove masculinity. Throughout this essay, Goldwert succumbs to psychologism: the attempt to explain social-cultural phenomena virtually exclusively in terms of psychic pressures and needs.
When felicitously wedded to sound and probing historical research, the insights of psychiatry can occasionally produce fascinating results that may even be true—though it remains impossible rationally to verify their accuracy for the results rest in part on the probing of what is extrarational, i. e., the subconscious. When selective Freudianism is blended with a series of highly questionable historical generalizations and then used to explain the whole gamut of stereotypes commonly associated with a complex culture, however, the resulting brew must be sampled with caution. Unfortunately, this sort of essay lends credibility to the diatribe against psychohistory that David E. Stannard launched in Shrinking History (1980).