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Volume 1

Expanded Contents


1: Introduction [and Summary]
2: Physical Field Theories
3: Psychological Field Theories
4: Social Field Theories
5: The Field of Power
6: Field Theories in Summary
7: Perception and Reality
8: Actuality versus Potentiality
9: Manifests versus Latents
10: Latent Functions
11: Perception, Space, and Field
12: Cognitive Dissonance
13:Behavior, Personality, Situation, and Expectations
14: The Behavioral Equation: Behavior, Situation, and Expectations
15: Situation, Expectations, and Triggers
16: Person-Perception and Distance
17: The Behavioral Occasion
18: Social Behavior
19: Motivational Explanation
20: Energy and Attitudes in the Psychological Field
21: Motivation and the Superordinate Goal
22: What About Other Motivations ?
23: The Dynamic Field and Social Behavior
24: The Sociocultural Spaces
25: The Biophysical Spaces
26: Intentions and The Intentional Field
27: A Point of View
28: The Self As a Power
29: The Will As a Power
30: Determinism and Free Will
31: Alternative Perspectives on Freedom of the Will
32: A Humanism Between Materialism and Idealism
33: Atomism-Mechanism versus Organicism
34: Between Absolutism and Relationism
35: Humanity and Nature

Other Volumes

Vol. 2: The Conflict Helix
Vol. 3: Conflict In Perspective
Vol. 4: War, Power, Peace
Vol. 5: The Just Peace 

Other Related Work

The Conflict Helix: Principles and Practices...


Chapter 26

The Intentional Field*

By R.J. Rummel

Yet I doubt not thro' the eyes one
increasing purpose runs,
And the thoughts of men are widen'd
with the process of the suns
----Tennyson, Locksley Hall


 In total, the whole that is the space of humankind consists of our biological and psychological, social and cultural spaces, and the spaces of our environment and vehicles. By way of summary and also to show the unity of these spaces, let me now pull them together as shown in Figure 26.1.

First, we have the psychologicaI space considered previously. This consists of our personality components and our will, of our behavioral potentials and expectations, and of our perceived situations. It is united with those aspects of our biology that influence our personality and shades into our cultural space through the cultural matrix that transforms all stimuli reaching our psychological field. The meaning-values components of cultural space are thus also components of our psychological space, in the sense that all stimuli that become percepts are loaded with meaning, values, and orientation on the components. They are the components of meaning our cultural-matrix assigns to the outer world. Not inappropriately, therefore, Figure 26.1 shows the innermost realm as our psychological space with the cultural space next in order.

The psychological space gradually becomes the cultural as the space increasingly involves the socially shared world of meanings-values, the external culture into which each of us is individually fitted from birth. Unified with this space is social reality, insofar as it shares the same components of meanings. Social space, however, also extends beyond to encompass the status components of wealth, power, and prestige.

And finally, there is the outer space of our environment, the four dimensions of our everyday world. These span our nonpsychological, biophysical nature, our sociocultural vehicles, and our geophysical environment. In short, this is our four-dimensional ecology extending beyond the psychosociocultural domain that is purely our sovereign subjective space. This is the outer world that we share with other living creatures; it is here that the diverse biospheres of all living creatures intersect.

Up to this point, I have emphasized the separate spaces, their distinct essences, and Figure 26.1 shows this in the lines dividing the concentric spaces. Their separateness, the lines between spaces, has been an analytic device, a means to analysis. But as we know, these spaces combine; their separate elements fuse; there are no clear distinctions, but only shadings, mixtures, regions of relative importance. There is, in fact, one space, the space of humankind and its intentions in their manifold dimensionality.

Intentional space, or what could be called very awkwardly, eco-psychosociocultural-space, is a multidimensional space within which we are simultaneously located physically, psychologically, and socioculturally as a sociocultural agent,1 as an actor with purposes.

At the center of this space are our dynamic motives, attitudes, and sentiments; our superordinate striving for self-esteem and self-actualization; our phenomenal dependency and practical freedom. This dynamic space shades into that defining our meanings and values, and our organized and semiorganized groups, such as universities, governments, and states; that is, into the space defining our cultural and supercultural systems.

Finally, this space itself blends into that delineating our vehicles and geophysical environment. In short, the intentional space is humankind in its componential structure, in its latent functions.

We are now in a position to list simply the components of this space. Moving from our inner world to our outer one, we have the components defining our motivations,2 temperaments, abilities, and moods and states. In addition, we have the meanings components of religion-philosophy, science, language, ethics-law, and fine arts. Then there are the status components of wealth, power, and prestige. Finally, we have the four ecological components (dimensions) of our physical space.


 The intentional space which defines our organic union with nature also bounds our intentional field. This is the field encompassing as regions our individual dynamic psychological fields and our meanings-values, social, biophysical, and ecological relationship. This is in total the field generated by our fundamental motives, sentiments and goals as they substance and direction through culture and society and confront each other in an ever moving configuration of opposing interests, attitudes, and capabilities.

Now, the word intentional used to describe this field is meant in two senses. First, I have intentionally selected a field perspective on humankind that places it at the center of reality, gives it an active, creative role, emphasizes its subjective meanings and values, and above all, gives prominence to its goals. This perspective will not only unify within a common framework considerable sociocultural and psychological theoretical-empirical research, but will also throw light on the nature of conflict and war. More important, however, this perspective brings together our social scientific and psychological knowledge and a belief in our freedom and creative ability, in our potential to make our future. It is thus that the intentional field not only tells us what we are, but also allows for what we can be if we so intend.

And second, besides serving as a framework intentionally chosen, this field perspective has as its keystone our intentional nature. As Adler observed, Jung recognized, and existentialists have emphasized, our law of movement is toward the actualization of our goals. Specifically, we strive to enhance and develop our self-esteem. We are future directed, and around this orientation we integrate our perception, motives, expectations, and behavior. Thus, the intentional field is just that, a field spanning society, culture, and environment, and whose potential forces are generated by our intentions.

There is much to discuss in detail about this intentional field. In this book, The Dynamic Psychological Field, I have been concerned with the dynamic psychological field, with its tetradic structure, and especially with the manner in which intentions result in social behavior. This has been fundamentally a psychological and philosophical task. With a shift in focus to the intentional field which encompasses sociocultural behavior and relations, a number of questions emerge. How do we move from subjective dynamic fields--from the psychological field of each individual--to a society of individuals? What is the relation between the intentional field encompassing society and culture and the separate dynamic fields comprising its individual members? How does the intentional field encompass social institutions, social conflict and cooperation, social and historical forces, politics and political power? Indeed, how does international relations with all its rich variety fit into the intentional field? And how does this field help us to understand war?

These questions must be left for Volume 2: The Conflict Helix. My purpose here has been only to describe the spatial framework of the intentional field and to suggest that the dynamic psychological field is only a localized field within a larger whole. 


* Scanned from Chapter 26 in R.J. Rummel, The Dynamic Psychological Field, 1975. For full reference to the book and the list of its contents in hypertext, click book. Typographical errors have been corrected, clarifications added, and style updated.

1. "There is . . . , much confusion in opposing 'character' to 'culture' and seeking to assess the effect of one upon the other. The obvious fact is that terms like character and culture are attempts to refer to recurring features of the same process, namely, the interpersonal relationships of man" (Harold Lasswell, "Democratic Character," in The Political Writings of Harold D, Lasswell, Glencoe: Free Press, 195 1: 487).

2. Be it remembered that these include social roles.

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