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Alfred Adler – Power and Social Feeling

In Being a World Citizen, Human Development, Human Rights, Social Rights, Solidarity on February 7, 2016 at 3:01 PM


By René Wadlow

Alfred Adler, whose birth anniversary we mark on February 7, believed that there were two decisive forces at work in world history and in the life of each individual: a striving for power and a social feeling. Both forces stemmed from man’s upward striving from inferiority to perfection.

Alfred Adler (1870-1937), a Vienna psychotherapist and medical doctor, was part of the early circle of Sigmund Freud. However, the two men disagreed on what each felt to be fundamental positions. In 1911, Adler left the Freud circle and founded his own approach which he called “individual psychology”.

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For Adler, there are similarities between the evolution of man within history and the evolution of each individual. In history, man, a physical dwarf in comparison with the animals around him and the forces of Nature, must compensate for this weakness by developing a pattern of cooperation with other humans around him. Likewise, each child is born, a dwarf in comparison to the adults around him. Thus each child must develop a sense of self-esteem. If this development is hindered in some way, as the result of brutal parents or a hostile milieu, the search for self-esteem can become neurotic. There can be over-compensation as well as a closing in on oneself.

Over-compensation can result in a quest for power. Striving for self-esteem and power is a natural process, but with over-compensation, the search for power can become the dominant aspect of the personality. Adler had read and been influenced by the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche who glorified the will-to-power. For Adler, an over-development of the will-to-power can become a deep seated neurosis. Only a health balance between the forces of cooperation and the individual will -to-power can make for a harmonious individual and a harmonious society.

In 1897, he married Raissa Epstein, a Russian who was also a student at the University of Vienna. She was part of Russian Marxist circles living in Austria and a friend of Leon Trotsky and his milieu. Through her, Adler joined socialist circles and became convinced that society helped to create the personality of the individual. Therefore, for a health personality, there needs to be a healthy society, free from domination. Adler also saw the need for a society based on equality between men and women, so that the personality of both men and women could develop fully. He was an early feminist and champion of the equality of women and men.

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His work as a psychotherapist and writer was halted by the start of the 1914-1918 World War. As a medical doctor, he was incorporated into the Austro-Hungarian Army where he was able to contemplate man’s neurotic striving for power. At the end of the war, both by his observations and the Marxist analysis of his wife, he felt that the will-to-power dominated the sense of social-feeling and cooperation. In fact, power-hungry leaders and groups debased mass social feeling by using it as a thirst for dominance. The social feeling of soldiers during the war was used for battlefield goals with efforts to exclude any social feeling for the enemy. He wrote that when violence is to be committed, it is frequently done by “appealing to justice, custom, freedom, the welfare of the oppressed and in the name of culture.” Power-seekers transform social feeling “from an end into a means, and it is pressed into the service of nationalism and imperialism.”

The only way to counter this neurotic sense of power-seeking is to develop preventive methods by developing social feeling and cooperation. During the 1920s, Adler stressed the need for the development of social feeling by developing new, cooperative forms of childhood education within the family and schools. Adler stressed the profound experience of togetherness, an intense connection extending across the largest reaches of history and societies.

However, by 1934, he saw that the sense of togetherness in Germany and Austria was going to be used again to create togetherness among a small circle and subverting the use of social feeling by making it a facade for nationalism, racism and imperialism. Adler was considered a Jew by the Nazis because his parents were Hungarian Jews although Judaism as a religion played little role in his intellectual life. He left to teach in New York City and died in 1937 on a lecture tour in Scotland. He did not see the events of the Second World War, but there would have been little to make him alter his views on how the power principle can be utilized by antisocial leaders.

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For an overview of Adler’s views of psychology see: Henry L. Ansbacher and Rowena R. Amsbacher (eds), The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler (New York: Harper and Row, 1964)

For the late views of Adler on the need for a society based on social feeling see his book published shortly after his death: Alfred Adler, Social Interest: A Challenge to Mankind (London, Faber and Faber, 1938)


Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

World Interfaith Harmony Week: Steps Toward A Harmony Renaissance

In Human Rights, Solidarity, Conflict Resolution, The Search for Peace, Religious Freedom, United Nations, World Law, Cultural Bridges, Being a World Citizen on February 1, 2016 at 10:44 PM


By René Wadlow


February 1, 2016


The Association of World Citizens, a nongovernmental organization in consultative status with the United Nations (UN), cooperates fully with the World Interfaith Harmony Week, which takes place February 1-7. The UN General Assembly designates the first week of every February as a time for cooperation for a common purpose among all religions, faiths and beliefs.

The General Assembly, building on its efforts for a culture of peace and non-violence in which World Citizens have played an active part, wishes to highlight the importance of mutual understanding and inter-religious dialogue in developing a creative culture of peace and non-violence. The General Assembly recognizes “the imperative need for dialogue among different faiths and religions in enhancing mutual understanding, harmony and cooperation among people.” The week has a potential to promote the healing of religion-based tensions in the world.

As Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote,

At a time when the world is faced with many simultaneous problems—security, environmental, humanitarian, and economic—enhanced tolerance and understanding are fundamental for a resilient and vibrant international society. There is an imperative need, therefore, to further reaffirm and develop harmonious cooperation between the world’s different faiths and religions.


Global citizens have stressed that peace comes from cooperation beyond the boundaries of ethnicity, religion and nationality, and have called for a cultural renaissance based on the concept of harmony. Rather than concentrating primarily on conflicts, struggles, and suffering, they have suggested focusing on cooperation, coexistence, and visions of a better future. Harmony includes tolerance, acceptance, equality, and forgiveness of past pains and conflicts. Harmony leads to gentleness, patience, kindness, and thus to inner peace and outward relations based on respect.

World Citizens maintain that harmony is a universal common value. In harmony, we can find true values that transcend all cultures and religions. The meaning of life is to seek harmony within our inner self. Humans are born with a spiritual soul that develops to seek self-fulfillment. Our soul has a conscience that elevates us. As our soul grows to maturity, we achieve our own harmony.

However, harmony is not only a personal goal of inner peace, but a guideline for political, social and world affairs. Citizens of the World believe that our actions should enhance peace, reduce conflict, and activate a culture of harmony. The 21st century is the beginning of a Harmony Renaissance. Our world mission is to be ready for humanity’s next creative wave to lead us to a higher level of common accomplishment. The World Harmony Renaissance will bring the whole world into action for this new millennium of peace and prosperity with unfettered collective energy.

“Religion without joy – It is no religion.”

Theodore Parker.

World Citizens have underlined the strong contribution that Chinese culture could play in the creation of this harmonious culture. In an earlier period of Chinese thought during the Song Dynasty, there was an important conscious effort to create a Harmony Renaissance.  This was a period of interest in science — “the extension of knowledge through the investigation of things.” It was a time when there was a conscious effort to bring together into a harmonious framework what often existed as separate and sometimes hostile schools of thought: Confucianism, Buddhism, philosophical Daoism and religious Daoism. These efforts were called Tao hsuch, the Study of the Tao, an effort Western scholars later termed “Neo-Confucianism.”

Zhou Dunyi, often better known as the Master of Lien-his, was a leading figure in this effort. He developed a philosophy based on the alternation of the Yin and Yang, each becoming the source of the other.

Today, after decades of conflict when the emphasis of nations both in policy and practice was upon competition, conflict, and individual enrichment, we need to emphasize harmony, cooperation, mutual respect, and working for the welfare of the community with a respect for nature.  When one aspect, either Yin or Yang, becomes too dominant, equilibrium needs to be restored.

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Zhou Dunyi

Obviously it takes time to put into place a harmonious society at home and a harmonious world abroad. The cultivation of harmony must become the operational goal for many. As Mencius, a follower of Confucius said,

A trail through the mountains, if used, becomes a path in a short time, but, if unused, becomes blocked by grass in an equally short time.



The World Interfaith Harmony Week is an opportunity to open new paths. As global citizens, we must find a new guiding image for our culture, one that unifies the aspirations of humanity with the needs of the planet and the individual. We hold that peace can be achieved through opening our hearts and minds to a broader perspective. We are one human race, and we inhabit one world. Therefore, we must see the world with global eyes, understand the world with a global mind, and love the world with a global heart.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Robert M. Hutchins: Building on Earlier Foundations

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Democracy, Human Development, Human Rights, Social Rights, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on January 17, 2016 at 5:16 PM

By René Wadlow

Much of our current work for a more just and peaceful world builds on the thinking and efforts of earlier foundations. An important foundation is the leading role of Robert M. Hutchins, long-time President of the University of Chicago (1929-1951) whose birth anniversary we mark on January 17.

Hutchins’ father, William, was President of Berea, a small but important liberal arts college, so Robert Hutchins (1899-1977) was set to follow the family pattern. He went to Yale Law School and stayed on to teach. He quickly became the Dean of the Law School and was spotted as a rising star of United States (US) education. When he was 30 years old, he was asked to become President of the University of Chicago, a leading institution. Hutchins was then the youngest president of a US university.

In the first decade of his tenure, the 1930s, his ideas concerning undergraduate education − compulsory survey courses, early admission after two years of secondary school for bright and motivated students, a concentration on “Great Books” – an examination of seminal works of philosophy in particular Plato and Aristotle − divided the University of Chicago faculty. There were strong and outspoken pro- and anti-Hutchins faculty groups. Moreover, Hutchins’ abolition of varsity football and ending the University’s participation in the “Big Ten” university football league distressed some alumni whose link to the university was largely limited to attending football games. For Hutchins, a university was for learning and discussion, not for playing sports. As he famously said, “When I feel like exercising, I sit down until the feeling goes away.”

It is Hutchins’ creation and leadership of the Committee to Frame a World Constitution in 1945 which makes him one of the intellectual founders of the movement for world federation and world citizenship. After the coming to power of Hitler in Germany in 1933 and his quick decision to ban Jewish professors from teaching in German universities, many Jewish scientists and professors left Germany and came to the USA. Some of the leading natural scientists joined the University of Chicago. Thus began the “Metallurgy Project” as the work on atomic research was officially called. The University of Chicago team did much of the theoretical research which led to the Atom Bomb. While Hutchins was not directly involved in the atomic project, he understood quickly the nature of atomic energy and its military uses. He saw that the world would never return to a “pre-atomic” condition and that new forms of world organization were needed.



Robert M. Hutchins

“The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment.”

-Robert Maynard Hutchins.


On August 12, 1945, a few days after the use of the atom bombs, Hutchins made a radio address “Atomic Force: Its Meaning for Mankind” in which he outlined the need for strong world institutions, stronger than the United Nations (UN) Charter, whose drafters earlier in the year did not know of the destructive power of atomic energy.

Several professors of the University of Chicago were already active in peace work such as Mortimer Adler, G. A. Borgese, and Richard McKeon, Dean of the undergraduate college. The three approached Hutchins saying that as the University of Chicago had taken a lead in the development of atomic research, so likewise, the university should take the lead in research on adequate world institutions. By November 1945, a 12-person Committee to Frame a World Constitution was created under Hutchins’ chairmanship. The Committee drew largely on existing faculty of the University of Chicago − Wilber Katz, Dean of the Law School and Rexford Tugwell who taught political science but who had been a leading administrator of the Roosevelt New Deal and Governor of Puerto Rico. Two retired professors from outside Chicago were added − Charles McIlwain of Harvard, a specialist on constitutions, and Albert Guerard of Stanford, a French refugee who was concerned about the structure of post-war Europe.

From 1947 to 1951, the Committee published a monthly journal Common Cause many of whose articles still merit reading today as fundamental questions concerning the philosophical basis of government, human rights, distribution of power, and the role of regions are discussed. The Preliminary Draft of a World Constitution was published in 1948 and reprinted in the Saturday Review of Literature edited by Norman Cousins and in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists some of whom were in the original “Metallurgy Project”. The Preliminary Draft raised a good deal of discussion, reflected in the issues of Common Cause. There was no second draft. The Preliminary Draft was as G.A. Borgese said, quoting Dante “…of the True City at least the Tower.”




In 1951, Hutchins retired from the presidency of the University of Chicago for the Ford Foundation and then created the Ford Foundation-funded Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions where he gathered together some of his co-workers from the University of Chicago.

Two ideas from The Preliminary Draft are still part of intellectual and political life for those concerned with a stronger UN. The first is the strong role of regional organizations. When The Preliminary Draft was written the European Union was still just an idea and most of the States now part of the African Union were European colonies. The Preliminary Draft saw that regional groups were institutions of the future and should be integrated as such in the world institution. Today, the representatives of States belonging to regional groupings meet together at the UN to try to reach a common position, but regional groups are not part of the official UN structure. However, they may be in the future.

The other lasting aspect of The Preliminary Draft is the crucial role that nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) should play. The then recently drafted UN Charter had created a “consultative status” for NGOs, but few of the UN Charter drafters foresaw the important role that NGOs would play as the UN developed. The Preliminary Draft had envisaged a Syndical Senate to represent occupational associations on the lines of the International Labor Organization where trade unions and employer associations have equal standing with government delegates. In 1946, few people saw the important role that the NGOs would later play in UN activities. While there is no “Syndical Senate”, today NGOs represent an important part of the UN process.

Hutchins, however, was also a reflection of his time. There were no women as members of the Committee to Frame a World Constitution, and when he created the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions with a large number of “fellows”, consultants, and staff, women were also largely absent.

The effort to envisage the structures and processes among the different structures was an innovative contribution to global institution building at the time, and many of the debates and reflections are still crucial for today.

For an understanding of the thinking of those involved in writing The Preliminary Draft see:
Mortimor Adler, How to think about War and Peace (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1944)
Rexford Tugwell, Chronicle of Jeopardy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955)
G. A. Borgese, Foundations of the World Republic (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,1953)
Scott Buchanan, Essay in Politics (New York: Philosophical Library, 1953)
For a life of Hutchins written by a co-worker in the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions:
Harry Ashmore, Unreasonable Truths: The Life of Robert Maynard Hutchins (Boston: Little, Brown and Co, 1989)

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.


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