Science in Christian Perspective

Book Reviews


Book Review for March 1968        MARLIN KREIDER, editor

MULTIVALENT MAN by Alfred McClung Lee. George Braziller, New York, 1966. xiii + 447 pp., $7.95.

Reading Multivalent Man reminded me of the plaintive cry of the Apostle Paul which at times is echoed by all of us: "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. . . . I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! . . ." (Romans 7:15, 22-24, RSV).

This book is an excellent resource for anyone who has wondered about the "inconsistencies" in his own or others' behavior, for all men are multivalent. As Lee indicates in the Preface, "Society has a multiplicity of conflicting moral values. It is multivalent, and thus its members who mature within it and become more or less normal parts of it are also multivalent. . . . In a many-valued society, we become many-minded."

Multivalent Man is discussed in 23 chapters grouped into four parts: "I. Many Values, Many Minds;" "II. Group Man;" "III. Values;" and "IV. The Individual Intriguing chapter titles include "On Society's Fabric of Confronts Society." Conforming and on Being One's Self," "Morality in Society and in Groups," "Bridges from Self to Community," "Four Melting Pots Within One," and "Cultures and Personalities in the Human Struggle." All in all, they add up to a survey of social psychology couched in the increasingly important framework of symbolic interactionism and reference group theory.

Topics dear to the hearts of educators, like academic freedom, are included, as are such subjects as guilt feelings, the tremendous variations in internalized patterns of interpretation and belief among people who outwardly seem to have the same religious faith, and the cultural facades and masks behind which we all live. References to religion and various aspects of church life and activities are sprinkled for illustrative purposes throughout the book. (Many are not indexed.)

Various practical implications emerge from the clear discussion of the text. For instance, "there is a cumulative hazard in not changing," for if gradual change is not permitted, sweeping changes or destruction eventually become likely (p. 103). "To define and prescribe freedom and responsibility narrowly would destroy them. Only in the acceptance of a manyvalued understanding of freedom and responsibility, with tolerance and safeguards for the broadest range of conceptions, is a healthy, stimulating, and constructive academic community possible." (p. 326....the unanticipated and verifiable datum . . ., most often the product of serendipity, provides the cutting edge of any science." (p. 336). "Man and society are caught up and enveloped in an interrelated and continuing social process . . . [They] are not and cannot well be rational, as rationality is ordinarily understood..." (p. 22).

Footnote references at the end of the book and an index make this a very useful book for reference work and further study of selected topics. The down-to-earth illustrative materials help to make clear the relevance of the discussion to the lives of ordinary as well as extraordinary people. The anti-positivistic stance of the author will appeal to most members of the American Scientific Affiliation.

Some of the references to religious groups, especially in the opening chapter, may seem like a caricature; perhaps the author was stereotyping on the basis of unfortunate childhood experiences that gave him a relatively negativistic view of traditionalist churches. Yet I challenge the reader to substitute in Lee's discussion appropriate modifications to fit his own church. When this is done, I suspect that the basic message of the author will ring surprisingtly true!

Questions can be raised about some details. For instance, is it factually established through research or is it only personal opinion that "people attempt to reduce their social landscape to the five manageable categories of equal, above, below, different, and strange, however they might actually label such categories" (p. 215) ? Are all ten of the factors used for the classification of groups in Chapter 10 really continua, or ought some of them to be parts of triangular, rectangular, or cubical models? Was it necessary for the author to use such neologisms as "moretic" and "sociatry"? Why weren't his figures and accompanying textual discussions made more clear?

Reading this book will be an enlightening experience for all except those who are already deeply versed in contemporary social psychology, but even they can profit from Lee's theory of personality, self, and the nature of man. Even though its initial semipopular style soon becomes textbookish, somewhat repetitive, boring, and dull, its contents are such that one can learn a great deal about himself as well as about others from its pages.

Reviewed by David 0. Moberg, Professor of Sociology, Bethel College, St. Paul, Minnesota.