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The Baby Mao

In response to:

Unmasking the Monster from the November 17, 1994 issue

To the Editors:

I am deeply appreciative of Jonathan Mirsky’s generous and most flattering references to my study of Mao Zedong [NYR, November 17, 1994], but unfortunately in the transmission from Hong Kong to New York of his review of Mao’s doctor’s book there was, should we say, a Freudian slip.

Mirsky skillfully summarized my interpretation of Mao’s revealing statement about how in human affairs there is always “the desire to be worshipped and the desire to worship,” which I had analyzed according to theories of narcissism which focus on the infant’s experiences of omnipotence and dependency during that blissful stage before differentiation of the self from others. That is, when a baby’s cries can magically command a supportive universe where he is the adored center of attention, but also when there is the vulnerability of being ignored and helpless.

Unfortunately in the printing, “omnipotence” came out as “impotence.” I hasten to make this correction before some psycho-theorists entangle themselves into acrimonious debate, such as that reported in the same issue over the existence or nonexistence of “repressed memories,” but which this time would be over the question of whether there is or is not a condition of “infant impotency.”

Lucian W. Pye
Department of Political Science
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, Massachusetts

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