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October 09 , 2007

American Problems from the Point of View of a Psychologist


American problems have tempted me to enter into public discussion ever since I became a guest in this hospitable land. But naturally the point of view has shifted somewhat. The first instinctive impulse was to compare the new impressions with those to which I was accustomed, and thus to measure American institutions by German standards. It was the newcomer's point of view from which I wrote my "American Traits."But while the aim of that book was to bring German ideals nearer to the American public, my deepest interest in American problems soon led to the opposite eifort. I tried to show American work and American ideals to the Germans. This time my purpose was to give a systematic view of the American people. The book was written in German and later was translated into English under the title "The Americans." But in the meantime I have become one of them. While I have remained a German citizen, I naturally have accepted the American point of view more and more. Impressions which at first struck me as strange slowly have become a matter of course. My interest in American problems has not decreased on this account, but the angle from which I see them has become a new one. It is no longer the national difference but more my professional lifework which has influenced my attitude toward the pubh'c questions. Not as a German but as a psychologist I have begun to take sides as to problems which stir the nation. In this spirit the following essays are written. Of course this psychological interest determines somewhat the selection of the subjects which I discuss. Problems like those of scholarship and education, of temperance and customs, of superstition and nervousness, stand nearer to the psychologist than those of trusts and tax legislation. Some may even think that this tends to exclude the real problems before the American mind and to give attention only to the by-problems. And yet in certain respects may not the less important problems be the most important ones?
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