Change and Stability: A Cross-National Analysis of Social Structure and Personality

This book presents an intensive cross-national analysis of social structure and personality, testing the generality of the thesis that position in the larger social structure affects (and is affected by) personality largely because of the linkages between social-structural position with proximate conditions of life, and of proximate conditions of life with personality. Kohn and his collaborators have focused their research on two basic dimensions of social structure (class and stratification), the proximate conditions of life most directly related to class and stratification (job conditions), and three fundamental aspects of personality (intellectual flexibility, self-directedness of orientation, and feelings of well-being or distress). Their findings for the United States, then-socialist Poland, and Japan demonstrate remarkable cross-national similarities across cultures and economic systems, along with an intriguing cross-national difference between socialist Poland and the capitalist U.S. and Japan, in the relationships of class and stratification with job conditions and thus with personality during times of apparent social stability. Kohn then asks whether the cross-nationally consistent relationships could possibly survive the conditions of radical social change entailed in the transition of Poland and Ukraine from socialism to nascent capitalism, and whether the one major difference between socialist Poland and the capitalist countries would persist when Poland and Ukraine were no longer socialist. The cross-national similarities endure, despite social instability and, in Ukraine, even despite personality itself becoming astonishingly unstable; and the cross-national difference has disappeared with the transition from socialism to nascent capitalism.