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Basic instinct

To most parents possessiveness and aggression in young children are self-evident. But Richard Pipes, the historian of the Soviet Union, finds that modern social science has denied these facts or refused to investigate them

By Richard Pipes   March 1997

For the past century a furious polemic has raged between two schools of thought on human behaviour. On the one side are biologists and, more recently, sociobiologists who view it as determined by a combination of genetic factors and cultural influences, clues to which can be found in the study of animals. On the other side are sociologists and cultural anthropologists for whom human behaviour is wholly, or almost wholly, shaped by our social and cultural environment. Emotions run high because at stake are fundamentally different visions of state and society.

In the second half of the 19th century, psychology…

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