THE RISE OF THE
AND THE NEW THERAPEUTIC SOCIETY
Chapter 8 from CIVILITY: A CULTURAL HISTORY
Ó2005 Al rights reserved
And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I
thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out the green
light at the end of Daisy's dock. He had come a long way to
this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that
he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was
already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity
beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic
rolled on under the night.
---F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925)
Our desire becomes an oracle we consult. It is now the last word,
while in the past it was the questionable and dangerous part of us.
---Harold Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind (1987)
Today everyone is in the know, and no one has the faintest clue.
---Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Love (2003)
In Part I of this book an attempt has been made to present a comparative study of civility standards prior to the 20th century. Changes in political and economic organization, advances in technology, and expansions in human awareness did have salient influences on civility standards prior to the 20th century. Although the restraint of the body was increasing in tandem with the complexity of social organization and the new divisions of labor necessitated by industrialization, a parallel process was in effect: accelerated social and technical changes were facilitating a critical awareness providing individuals with the capability of eventually causing a reversal of some of the restraints previously considered hallmarks of civilized behavior.
Just at the time when individuals were being exhorted to restrain their natural desires in the service of 'social propriety' these same individuals were being given an opportunity to develop varied ways of relating to their social environments. While, prior to the 20th century, the restraint of primary emotions was on a steady rise in tandem with increasing rationality, such restraint seems to have diminished steadily during the 20th century even though social institutions have not abandoned their rational foundations. Diversity has facilitated a considerable amount of emotional expression and legitimized many practices previously forbidden. Accompanying this liberalization has been a more informal interaction style. This has been especially noticeable in America. Because of this paradoxical occurrence we question in part Norbert Elias' view of the civilizing process as a process of increasing restraint.
Anticipating important reversals in the 20th century, we have reserved a theoretical and topological discussion of civility for a later section. Good manners and emotional restraint no longer suffice (if they ever did) as indicators of a well-integrated civil society. We have retrospectively observed the injustices committed in the name of civility in the past and are hesitant to suggest that there is a direct correlation between civility and social equity. In fact, debates over civility and the ideal civil society during the 20th century and the beginning of this century have not been as much related to issue of manners as they have been to a series of questions addressing the possibilities and limits of self-interest and individual and group identity. What are to be the limits if any? Can there be a rational selfishness? Is civil behavior to simply consist of polite interaction with others, or is it to be normative and energized by a desire to contribute to the betterment of society? To what extent can a person pursue his or her own interests without adversely affecting the lives of others? What roles do stress and anger play in the maintenance or loss of social civility? And how are we to remain civil with one another when we live in a society in which a variety of lifestyles and claims weaken the consensus that comes with homogeneity…is a surface civility ethic enough to respond to these social challenges, or do we need a complete redefinition of civility in context of the complex interconnected world in which we live? Furthermore, is rudeness a transitional stage leading to a higher level of cultural emancipation or is it a sign of a degenerating society?
The sum of all the changes that have happened in the past ten decades is that we now have a society in which the delicate balance between personal choice and communal solidarity is sorely tested. At stake in America (and increasingly in other countries) is a difficult question that might have to eventually be faced as we experience rapid changes in demography, family organization, economics, immigration and social philosophy: can morality, diversity, and the personal psychological and sexual freedom promised by a technologically fueled conception of consumer-oriented capitalism co-exist without creating alienating contradictions? (Bell, 1976). Most importantly, how can a society that has always championed human rights retain its cohesion when faced with competitive interests that frame their requirements within a dialogue of competing claims? Can there be an ideal ethics of discourse in a field of raging emotions and unsettled historical claims? (Habermas, 1987, , 1997); Taylor, 1994).
And, very importantly, can all countries be expected to respond to capitalism and consumption as are the Americans and Europeans? In posing this last question, we are faced with two further questions, answers to which considerably affect our understanding of social change at the national and global level. Is America on an inevitable path of 'development' through which all cultures will pass? Or, is the early and contemporary American experience a culturally and geographically specific reaction to modernity and not necessarily a template for universal civil society?
Although, at the turn of the century, America, England and France all shared similar ideas regarding how much of human sexuality and hedonism should be repressed in the favor of social cohesion and the preservation of the family, America was on the verge of developing a particularly individualistic approach to social relations. American constitutional ideals, together with increasing diversity in America, predisposed Americans to be very critical of their own society---it was this self-critique that weakened generational continuity and facilitated the expression of impulses and emotions that might have previously been kept silent. This cultural transformation now provides us with a departure point for a more contemporary understanding of the mechanisms that are at play in civil and uncivil behavior. It allows us to go beyond Elias' theory of state formation and address issues directly connected to the formation of culture and interpersonal relationships.
The story of the 20th century has not simply been the story of a gratuitous collapse in formal civility, but, also, a rise in emotional expressiveness. Changes in civility and emotional freedom have not only been observed in the degree to which pain and anger are restrained or expressed, but also in the manner in which citizens relate to duty, identity, guilt, shame, embarrassment and pride…major factors that affect civil and uncivil acts and sentiments. All these factors need be considered in the formation of a contemporary civility theory.
And, indeed, the 20th century has been a time of considerable criticism and nihilism. A review of developments in 20th century America reveals a series of 'mini-eras' each given to questioning the values of the precedent era. There is a through-line of social critique linking these periods, beginning with the tentative sensual experimentation of the 1920's, then proceeding to the optimism of the 1950's and the rebellion of the 1960's, then the 'therapeutic culture' of the 1970's to late 1980's, and, more recently, to what some popular writers have termed 'a culture of entitlement' and 'a culture of irony and cynicism.'
According to our study, the history of the late 19th century and the 20th-21st centuries is one of paradox. Along with increasing social doubt has come increasing personal confidence and personal choice, causing contingency at the collective and private levels. What has distinguished the 20th century and these first few years of the 21st century is a considerable amount of self-reflection and social reappraisal.
Such massive moral and intellectual questioning of existing habituations began just before World War I. A great deal of uncertainty was suddenly unleashed in Europe and America at the turn of the century. Although the Enlightenment had questioned the fixity of a divinely managed universe, it had made the comforting promise that humankind could progress steadily by virtue of the sovereignty of reason and human sentiment. It was thought that human intervention would successfully correct the exaggerations and abuses of a free market. For its part, the late 19th century industrial project and the scientific rationalization of man's place in nature had provided industrializing societies with a taste of what they were capable of accomplishing by harnessing the power of nature.
Whether one felt doubtful or hopeful depended very much on one's opinion of industrialism and the expansions of capitalism. If there was anything distinguishing the 'conservative' from the 'liberal' viewpoint it was the degree to which one was ready to accept the physical and moral dislocations of an accelerating capitalism. The poet Rudyard Kipling sensed the uncertainties of his time when he wrote his poem-hymn Recessional ( 1898). He warned that humankind would be lost if it abandoned its faith in the transcendental---neither empire, nor power, nor the steel and miracles of industry could repair loss of faith and heart.
Similar warnings came from American thinkers trying to make sense of the formidable changes that were occurring in family organization and work at the beginning of the 20th century. The Victorian father, who had ruled his household with considerable authority, no longer possessed the status that he had once enjoyed. Most late-Victorian men worked over 10 hours a day, six days a week. Much of the household's governance, including its daily moral supervision, was transferred to the lady of the house. While the father could (and often did) assert his authority to settle disputes, much of this authority was exercised due to ritual male privilege rather than all-around involvement in the round-the-clock governance of the family. One very important change that occurred as a consequence of the increased distance between workplace and dwelling was that the mothers became more intimate with their sons and daughters. By the 20th century, the budgeting of expenses and payment of bills of a great portion of America households were being handled by the woman of the household. Many men were even given to being edgy when at home, not quite able to separate their work from their leisure (Rose, 1994: 162-177).
The growing unease with rapid social change and new divisions in labor might have dissipated had it not been for the aggravating effect of World War I, an event that caused widespread demoralization in Europe (Eksteins, 1989). Just as Europeans and Americans were beginning to feel that 'reason' and 'civilization' might triumph, they were faced with an event that left millions dead and survivors feeling that little had been accomplished (Mackaman and Mays, 2000). Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front (1929) was a profound novel of the period; it demonstrated the futility and powerlessness of individuals who are faced with the massive and anonymous destructive force of modern weaponry. The hero in Remarque's story tries to save a comrade who is shot but not mortally wounded. He carries him through miles of enemy territory only to have his friend die from a flying piece of shrapnel seemingly come from nowhere. Remarque was commenting on the futility of war and even the futility of heroic action---he did not allow the hero to live to tell his story but had him collapse at the end of the novel. Remarque's ability to capture the youthful sadness of his characters exemplified the rising melancholic nihilism of the new generation. It also questioned the idea that virtuous behavior could triumph over that which was base. A new idealism and moral outrage began chipping away at reassuring certainties.
In 1920, Warren G. Harding, President-to-be of the United States, tried to sum up in an election speech what he thought were the desires of Americans in a post-war era: ‘America’s present need is not heroics but healing; not nostrum but normalcy; not revolution but restoration; not surgery but serenity’ (Longley, Silverstein and Tower, 1961: 196). He was partially right; America needed a period of political stability. Yet, the 1920’s unleashed a new uninhibited social spirit in certain social circles, a spirit that questioned many turn of the century customs and behavioral codes. Not only did some Americans rebel, many sought new heroes to heal the wounds of the past. And those heroes were not only political leaders, but artists, writers, actors and musicians.
When the American expatriate writer Gertrude Stein coined the term 'the lost generation' she was thinking of the young anonymous jobless men coming back from a war in which one out of five soldiers had died. Civilization was a counterfeit for these disillusioned men. Many of them blamed their elders for having allowed the war to disrupt their career prospects and took to questioning the traditional idea that age and competence were related. Their disillusionment was captured in John dos Passos' Three Soldiers  1932) and Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises (1926) and Farewell to Arms (1929). The response to this trauma was a carpe diem mentality; F. Scott Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise (1920) showed the frenzied lifestyles of the disillusioned and disaffected. The social anomy of the 1920's troubled the famous American conduct writer, Emily Post, who delivered the following warning to American parents in 1920:
No child will ever accept a maxim that is preached but not followed by the preacher. It is a waste of breath for the father to order his sons to keep their temper, to behave like gentlemen, or to be good sportsmen, if he does or is himself none of these things....In the present day of rush and hurry, there is little time for 'home' example....Any number of busy men scarcely know their children at all, and have not even stopped to realize that they seldom or never talk to them, never exert themselves to be sympathetic with them, or in the slightest degree to influence them. To growl 'mornin,' or 'Don't, Johnny,' or 'Be quiet, Alice!' is very, very far from being 'an influence' on your children's morals, minds or manners (1920, intro.).
Aggravating the growing skepticism towards historical justice and the legitimacy of a long civilizing process was the rise of a movement in America that was a reaction against rural conservatism and 19th-century propriety. Wild parties, promiscuity, speakeasies that operated despite alcohol prohibition laws, and a popular music industry given to idealizing 'romantic' and 'passionate' love struck at the core of American Victorianism. T. S. Eliot added to the glum mood with a major poem entitled The Waste Land (1922) in which he eulogized the passing of a wasted generation. Novelists and playwrights now took up the theme of the tragedies that befell people who lived in dreams not supported by reality. Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby (1925) tore into the American ideal of the self-made man---Jay Gatsby, the protagonist of the novel, learns the crushing cost of success when he realizes that he has lost love and inner contentment and that all his wealth cannot help him find inner peace. Sinclair Lewis added insult to injury with Main Street (1920), a work that demeaned the moral values of the 'staid majority' by describing little-town Americans as thoughtless, mean-spirited, uninspired and inordinately impressed with their own civilization. This anti-American literature emanated from the shores of America long before the build-up of an off-shore anti-Americanism.
We notice in this critique of American bourgeois society a deep disillusionment that contains the same elements of Romanticism that appeared in England during the industrial revolution. Robin Campbell goes far enough to locate the rise of a distinct modern personality in the intersection of 18th century sensibility and 19th century Romanticism. The act of willing emotion according to preference rather than externally-determined propriety standards gave individuals a fairly rudimentary 'autonomous control of emotional expression' ( 1993: 75). Romantics contributed to the growth of a separation between personal preference and social institutions by assigning special moral worth to a 'belief dependent emotionality' quite different from a moral sensibility conforming to external moral standards. Passion, especially when connected to indignation over social conditions, became legitimized in this growing movement towards individualism, and became considered part of the reformation of social conscience rather than a purely self-interested egoism. Whether the Romantic was passionately working to improve social conditions, or withdrawing from the world in order to preserve his creative and moral character, he could consider his social role as one of heightened commitment to long-term civilizational progress.
Ernest Bernbaum has astutely located the logic underlying the character of the Romantic, a character given to viewing the private and public worlds as separate (and often irreconcilable) realms:
…One was the world of ideal truth, good news and beauty: this was eternal, infinite, and also absolutely real. The other was the world of actual appearance, which to common sense was the only world, and which to the idealist was so obviously full of untruth, ignorance, evil, ugliness and wretchedness, as to compel him to dejection and indignation (1962: 91).
Lionel Trilling has similarly described the Romantic personality as harboring an 'intense and adverse imagination of the culture in which it had its being' (1971: ix). J. Gaudefroy-Demombynes also describes turn of the century Romanticism as an oppositional passion:
A way of feeling, a state of mind in which sensibility and imagination predominate over reason; it tends towards individualism, revolt, escape, melancholy and fantasy (1966: 138).
The passionate belief in humankind's ability to transform social reality through the use of personal imagination and genius led to a high valuation of heroic action. It also rendered the Romantic very vulnerable to sudden disappointment. The revolution in manners and morals set in motion after the Great War was not simply a consequence of the desire for hedonistic experiences, but the manifestation of the high expectations of a generation raised on Romantic idealism. This tendency would resurface again in the 1960's.
A new woman appeared during the 1920's---her skirts were shorter (much to the consternation of the aging Victorian matrons), she sometimes smoked, and could be as boisterous as the males with whom she socialized. And she was not averse to discussing sex; Sigmund Freud's Three Contributions to a Theory of Sex had been translated, was in its fourth edition and the talk of American campuses (1930). So was Havelock Ellis' Studies in the Psychology of Sex (1919-28). Informed now that human libido had been repressed, some youth sought ways of liberating it. The titles of the songs of the 1920's show this growing pre-occupation with sexuality and romance. 'I need loving,' and 'Burning kisses' were some of the songs that represented the yearnings of an emerging youth culture that took the Victorian ideal of 'spiritual union' and added sensual passion to it. Just a decade or two ago, etiquette experts were advising women not to be in the presence of a man without a chaperone because it might appear 'sinful.' Now they were advising young unmarried women on how to 'appear' of good breeding despite their amorous adventures.
In the Hollywood of the 1930's-1950's, the well-behaved, sexually circumspect leading lady was supplemented by the vamp. A new image of sensual boldness was being promoted to American cinema audiences. The Victorian ideal of the sexually restrained gentleman was set aside in favor of a new man who, although he still seemed to have the answer to everything and treated the woman as a quasi-daughter ('Will you be my girl, darling?'), was also dashing and seductive. He was charming towards women (something calling his wife, 'the little woman'), yet able to be ruthlessly aggressive with other males. This obsession with romance and passion was quite a new experience for Americans, especially American men who were habituated to considering their heroes the tough loners of cowboy films or the 'Can do, sir!' corporate stereotypes appearing in Hollywood interpretations of company men in America.
As for England and France, they had enjoyed a long literary and artistic heritage based on the recognition of romance and sexuality. Anyone who doubts that needs only compare American and European art from the 16th to the 19th century: there are far more nudes and scenes of passionate love painted by the Europeans. They had passed through libertine as well as conservative periods and were not as free as the Americans were to build a grand narrative of human behavior based on sexual purity. European mores seemed to proceed in cycles. But for a nation that had gone from the Calvinistic asceticism of the early Puritans to the tough living conditions of a frontier and then suddenly to a highly industrial state without a long history of sexual maturation and frequent reversals of mores, this sudden appearance of literature and film on sexuality had an unsettling (and extremely titillating) effect.
A countermovement even appeared to protect Americans from the influences of the Continentals. Frightened by a series of murders and divorces that left the Hollywood industry's image tarnished, studio moguls hired Will H. Hayes, a former Republican National Chairman, to lay down a code of behavior for artists and studios. Hays began by trying to drive out of Hollywood those he considered of loose morals and then laid down a code of behavior that survived (on screen at least) well into the 1950's. Some of Hay's rules of comportment stipulated that directors should avoid:
…kissing that lasted for more than seven feet of film, clergy in comic or villain roles, the 'explicit,' 'the attractive,' or 'justified' treatment of adultery and fornication, nudity under any circumstance, sympathy for 'murder, safecracking, arson, smuggling etc in such detail as to tempt amateurs to try their hands,' and 'all low, disgusting, unpleasant though not necessarily evil subjects'…Hays went into considerable detail: if an actor or an actress were seated or lying on a bed, albeit fully clothed, one and preferably both should have one foot on the ground (Johnson, 1997: 711).
With this control of sexuality came a high valuation of pure romance. The stars were allowed to express sentiments of profound love for one another (some may remember the mid-century screen match-ups Lana Turner and Robert Taylor; Doris Day and Rock Hudson), provided they remained at the proper distance from one another and occasionally came together for a quick desperate kiss. French movie stars were kissing one another with full open mouths when these prohibitions were being laid down in Hollywood.
Yet, it was not the counter-movement of anti-sensualism that ended the American 'jazz generation' but the generation's own loss of heart; it did not find a satisfactory antidote to its own boredom and sense of futility. And before it had a chance to find a solution to its low morale, America went through the general demoralization of the Great Depression and, then, World War II.
The Depression had a marked effect on American intellectuals and writers. Describing the new literary generation in America, Edmund Wilson wrote with wonder: '…those years were not depressing but stimulating. One couldn't help being exhilarated at the sudden, unexpected collapse of the stupid gigantic fraud. It gave us a new sense of freedom; and it gave us a new sense of power' (1952: 498). Wilson noted that while American intellectuals had previously championed individualism, they now called for a planned economy (Johnson, 1997: 760).
The Great Depression and the War had a salient influence in moving America in the direction of a society of restraint and consensus. Both events dealt blows to faith in historical justice. World War II frightened many Americans and Europeans into believing that humanity was governed by irrational forces that could erupt at any given moment and unleash a wave of barbarism. The Europeans who initially faced the Third Reich's fury unaided learned the meaning of living with considerable restraints. Although America eventually joined the War, Americans living in America were not subjected to the civil disruption and fear that engulfed England and France. These two nations had an opportunity to test their traditional approaches to adversity and emerged even more stoic than before. In the post-war period, while Europe set about rebuilding its infrastructure, America managed to surge forward into a period of prosperity and political dominance that made it the most powerful and most influential nation in the world. Yet, it retained a continuing fear of what could happen to American democracy if forces such as those of Hitler or Stalin were to be let loose on America. As a protective measure, it adopted a corporate culture that restated the American narrative of freedom, but within communally-rationalized values.
The rise of corporate cultures built on narratives of solidarity did not silence the artistic critics. It even helped energize them and gave them new social purpose. Artistic style changed radically following the war, moving away from traditional forms and searching for 'originality.' Many of the novels were given to delivering nostalgic critiques of American culture. John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath (1939) mourned over the ruining of the land by corporations, banks and dubious commercial interests. While Steinbeck’s novel championed the fate of migrant workers in the vineyards of California, it sent an angry warning to Americans about American society in general and its penchant for unbridled development. Steinbeck's other works of fiction were equally skeptical about American capitalism.
In the South, Tennessee Williams, in nine full-length plays and over a dozen shorter ones, catalogued a suffering Southern aristocracy that was dangerously close to savagism were it not for the veneer of civilized decorum (Longley, Silverstein and Tower, 1961: 212). And Margaret Mitchell explored the psyche of a vanishing Southern aristocracy in Gone With the Wind . In the novel, the heroine Scarlett O’Hara seemed to be lacking in virtue but was an exciting portrayal of the potential energy of a woman not dominated by turn of the century Victorian Puritanism. New York Times reviewer J. Donald Adams described the novel's heroine as ‘a heroine lacking in many virtues---in nearly all one might say but courage…alive in every inch of her, selfish, unprincipled, ruthless, greedy and dominating, but with a backbone of supple springing steel’ (July 5, 1936, cited in Longley, Silverstein and Tower, 1961: 249). America was searching for heroes and heroines that counter-balanced a culture of standardization, and it was willing to admire personages who had qualities very contrary to what centuries of conduct books had preached to be the ideal virtues.
The combined effect of this literature of reappraisal was to disconnect avant-garde Americans from many of the reassurances of their former ideologies. The moment was now seen as a unique experience, not requiring connection to historical precedent. This severance from the authority of customs also entailed a change in established standards of public civility; that which was 'old fashioned' was beginning to be considered suspect, as not 'modern' enough (Davis, 1972). In America, this penchant for the modern became accelerated and validated by the proliferation of a new manufacturing sector that provided Americans with convenience and luxury products that still remained out of the reach of many working class Europeans. While Europe also admired modernity and welcomed its products, it continued to look to America as the affluent society, economically and psychologically less inhibited than the Old World. On one hand Europeans yearned for the political freedom enjoyed by Americans, while, on the other hand, they rested secure in knowing that they possessed a very long history that included long stretches of economic and political hardship. They had survived numerous tyrannies and were, therefore, less given to the type of uncompromising idealism that leads to crashing disappointment.
By 1950, America contained 6 percent of the world’s population while producing and consuming more than one-third of the world’s goods and services. An exploding consumer demand that had been suppressed during the Great Depression and World War II, plus the build-up of a military complex determined to keep the threat of Soviet supremacy at bay, assured Americans of employment. The arrival of personal credit further facilitated the buying of goods and services. In 1946 there were less than 17,000 television sets in America. Two years later, a quarter of a million sets were being installed every month. By 1953, two-thirds of families in America owned a TV set (Harris, 1992: 135). The enthusiasm of on-camera announcers introducing new products was remarkable; listening to their upbeat deliveries, one has the impression that Americans were certain that they were on the verge of entering a golden age. The advertising industry was ensuring that the engine of consumerism would remain continuously turned on. 'Ownership,' 'consumption' and 'contentment' became mutually associated, setting the stage for considerable later disappointment in the 1960's.
Now what must be considered in comparisons of American, English and French industrial and corporate cultures is the differences in the size of the countries. England and France are smaller countries and able to maintain administrative cores that act as unifying forces for their populations. The high mobility of Americans across spans stretching 4,000 miles and more did not afford them with the unifying conditions enjoyed by countries such as England and France. Undoubtedly, a series of civility traditions came to be practiced in America…one in the south, another in the West, and still others in the Mid-West and the North where migrants were doing their best to develop a common interaction ritual that would cause minimal ethnic conflict.
The one unifying value that transcended regional differences was the ethic of consumption, a carefully engineered social practice. One of the leading architects of the new American consumer society was a public relations expert, Edward Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud. During the 1920's he became the master builder of the American public relations machine. He was the innovator of a psychological public attitude control system that stimulated the 'desires' of people and then offered to satisfy them through the purchase of products. The American department store was one of Bernays' important inventions; it surrounded the buyer with multiple temptations. Using what was known of crowd psychology, Bernays succeeded in adding to the democratic citizen the character of the 'consumer.' Calling this 'the engineering of consent,' this magician of the new consumer society proceeded according to the premise that most people possessed destructive irrational and aggressive drives which had to be distracted with the fulfillment of artificially-created 'wants' and 'needs.' The influence of Freud's writings regarding a 'death instinct' (1950) are noticeable in Bernays' philosophy (Tye, 2001; Bernays, 1936). 'Born to shop,' 'shop till you drop,' and 'when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping' became American catch-phrases, the consequences of Bernays' astute use of psychological manipulation in the services of pleasurable consumption.
Ernest Dichter extended Bernays' work by creating the 'focus group,' a tool of market research designed to uncover the hidden motivations of the female consumer and her resistance to the new convenience products ( 1985). His success brought a slew of psychoanalysts into the corporate world...men and women entrusted with using 'depth market research' to investigate the hidden roots of human behavior. Like Bernays, Dichter believed that masses were fundamentally irrational and that a marketing elite should be entrusted with controlling such irrationality in the interests of a prosperous, democratic culture. While England and France continued believing that civility standards were the prime determinants of social order, America turned to organized business and the retail sector for cultural assurance. American civility took on a 'managerial' tone, efficient, clipped, bravely optimistic, and economical.
In fact, one notices a distinct difference in the advertising of the period in England, France and America, even though the three countries were sharing similar industrial projects. Americans were approached by advertisers with a particularly 'hard sell' that exhorted them to save 'time and money' through the purchase of products. The English and French advertisements, although they sometimes presented similar arguments, were quite different in tone and softened the sell through humor or by appearing as if they were serving the public with information. These differences are observable even today.
Although public relations and advertising agencies tried to control emotion by channeling it in the direction of material desire, the conditions were set for an actual rise in emotionalism in the American population. Despite the sobering effects of the Great Depression, Americans had succeeded by the 1950's in creating a new American family in which 'teenagers' occupied a central place and took on the identity of consumers just as their parents had done. A few factors contributed to this emergence of a vocal youth culture distinctly set off as a culture with its own rituals and codes: prosperous parents who took to giving their children 'pocket-money,' thereby increasing their ability to socialize amongst themselves in shopping districts, restaurants and amusement places; an expansion in the economy which permitted teenagers to get jobs while in school and acquire their own cars and circulate far from the surveillance of parents and relatives; and a steady decline in the extended family and decreased contact between teenagers and members of their family outside their own households.
While the extended family had motivated children to want to become adults as early as possible (for adults seemed to have more freedom than children and were frequently criticizing children), the emergence of a 'teen culture' now gave children a far more attractive goal to aim for…'teenhood,' a state which accorded freedom to youngsters to enjoy activities separate from those of the family while sparing them the sobering demands made on adults. Teen culture became a rehearsal ground for adulthood and a profitable marketing ground for corporations. European youth watched American films and marveled at the freedom and affluence of American youth. American youth experts tried to explain the 'wildness' of some youth by stating that teenhood was a time of metabolic turbulence. Yet, as early as 1928, Margaret Mead had warned in Coming of Age in Samoa that the American hypothesis that puberty and adolescence were very stressful and straining due to hormonal changes was, in her opinion, without foundation. She attributed the problems of youth culture to the imperative of 'free choice':
A society which is clamouring for choice, which is filled with many articulate groups, each urging its own brand of salvation, its own variety of economic philosophy, will give each new generation no peace until all have, chosen or gone under, unable to bear the conditions of choice' ( 1961: 235).
Corporations contributed to the breaking up of the family circle by regularly transferring their employees to where they needed them. The majority of corporate employment application forms more often than not included the question: 'Are you willing to relocate?' The question seemed to be a test of loyalty to the corporation. Tindall and Shi explain that the women's clubs and association of the period were intended to serve as hospitality units for families arriving in new communities. Proverbial American communal hospitality has always been based on this recognition of mobility and the need to integrate new arrivals in order to strengthen the community. The 'settler' is recognized as a sort of kin as long as he or she is willing to fit into the circle and live by its codes ( 1999: 1443). 'Fitting-in' became the mantra of the mobile. Frequent relocations created this need for anchoring in unknown towns and cities and contributed to a rise in conformity and standardization.
The emerging 'nuclear family,' consisting of two parents and two children, became a venerated institution, promoted as the highest good. The parents conformed to the image of agreeable corporate workers while their children, waiting to take on their own corporate careers, amused themselves in a culture increasingly separate from those of their parents, a culture complete with its own slang and music. Government officials, including J. Edgar Hoover of the F.B.I., were baffled by the subsequent rise in juvenile delinquency. Hoover believed that lack of religious education was causing the car thefts, the incidents of rape, and larceny. He based his opinion on the premise that morality could be internalized and prove effective even in the absence of close supervision. It was an idea also argued in Elias' theory of internalized restraints ( 1978: 140). Yet, as Tindall and Shi have suggested, it was the increasing mobility of youth and the use of the automobile that facilitated such a sudden lifting of restraints; the delinquents were often of middle-class, religious backgrounds; they got away with what they did because their cars allowed them to leave the immediate vicinity of their towns and free themselves from the surveillance of parents and kin (1984] 1999: 1432). The motive for the delinquency was more complex than lack of moral or religious instruction. These were youngsters who had sufficiently internalized restraints against aggression and crime. What facilitated the reversal was anonymity.
Increasingly, films of youth culture featured scenes of discontent and violence. The hallways of the American high school became corridors of emotion where a few misused words could trigger considerable conflict. This portrayal of an agitated youth culture sat parallel to a romanticized image of male-female teenage relationships. While Victorian youth had contended themselves with infrequent contact with members of the opposite sex, American youth sought the companionship of one another in co-educational facilities that legitimized and encouraged 'dating.' Dances held in schools contributed to this formation of a distinct teen culture. This was a particularly American development. A comparison of films produced in America, England and France during that period demonstrates that American youth were a distinct social group, testing the limits of youth freedom and self-affirmative emotional expression. Hollywood took great care to colonize and saturate the youth market with special films replaying life in high schools.
Pop icons appeared to formalize and support adolescents' belief that they were part of a unique group with behavioral qualities that needed not always conform to the standards and mores of the adult population. Having one's 'own space' became a symbol of this separate and distinct identity. Behind their own closed doors, teens fabricated their own identity and moved further and further away from parental authority. The walls of a teenager's room became emblems of the self. And, as the decades progressed, the entry of parents into those rooms became more restricted and contested. Parents worried over this sudden desire of independence on the part of youth, forgetting that improved education and media were causing children to age faster and to demand rights of initiation that included increased privacy from parental interference and surveillance.
Although the social-political rebelliousness of the youth of the 1960's was not remarkably observable in any majority sense in these earlier youth, they were, nevertheless, establishing their place in a society that was becoming increasingly youth-centered and less given to insisting on vertical authority relationships. 'Father' became 'dad' and 'mother' became 'mom.' 'Sir' and 'maam' were lost somewhere at the beginning of the 1960's. Intimacy between parents and their children in the absence of kin led to further informalization and a consequent increase in permissiveness. Teen culture became considered a practice-ground for social relations and social competence. What had previously been learned in the extended kin group now became learned in the domain of school grounds and public places. 'Hanging-out' became a way of leaving the house and being with one's own peers. And media became a part of the new extended peer network, helping form new attitudes and facilitating the reformation of old ones.
And the status-quo was the one thing that worried those American youth who wanted to test the limits of experience. Submission to precedent meant loss of new freedoms and pleasures, certainly a decrease in the prestige of their new 'unique' identity. Margaret Mead has written extensively on the 'ghettoization' of the American teenager ( 1961) without enumerating the benefits of that differentiation; what an adult may find regrettable about a teenage subculture may be considered a liberation and blessing by the teenagers themselves; the human personality does not happily welcome restraints.
While the delinquent might have frightened the straight American teen he also appeared as a quasi-hero because he was charting additional new space for youth. Even though a given teenager may not have wanted to occupy the risky and frequently violent epicenter of this new space, he remained aware that its outer fringes would be original as well as relatively safe. The delinquent had the 'guts' to go against the system. Gradually, the image of the 'noble criminal' emerged in American society as a counter-point to the uninspiring promises of the establishment. An individual who was helpless to change the system had a way out: he could turn against it and break its rules. Cool became what was novel. The Wild One, West Side Story, the Blackboard Jungle were some of the films that showed the sensational benefits and risks of being an emotionally-expressive non-conformist fighting for the normalization of a new style of behavior.
Although in the previous century the truant was subject to shunning and ridicule, American media in the 1950's and 1960's began denigrating the straight-living teenager as a bore who was devoid of passionate commitments. This sudden reversal must have put considerable pressure on youth, forcing teens to evaluate the social opportunity costs of conformity and rebellion. As late as 1939, Elias himself had observed that the behavior of children was controlled through references to abnormality and normality:
...the censorship and pressure of social life forming their habits are so strong, that young people have only two alternatives: to submit to the pattern of behaviour demanded by society, or to be excluded from life in 'decent society.' A child that does not attain the level of control of emotions demanded by society is regarded in varying gradations as 'ill,' 'abnormal,' 'criminal'' or just 'impossible' from the point of view of a particular caste or class, and is accordingly excluded from the life of that class ( 1978: 141).
The standards of 'normalcy,' however, were already beginning to shift in the 1950's. While adults continued to consider the 'impossible' child as a social aberration, the deviant child began developing his own interpretation for his non-conformity. It might have hurt emotionally to be considered inferior to other 'well-adjusted' youth but those at the avant-garde of the new youth culture accepted their own behavior as rational and even made moral judgments of those youth who continued to uncomplainingly submit to parental controls and standards. The 'nerd' became the studious one wearing eye-glasses following the 'cool people' around, hoping for their social approval. The retrospective TV series Happy Days has shown this shift very effectively---the idol is now the 'Fonz,' an academic under-achiever who is a socially brilliant and iconoclastic individual. His brainy friends remain in continuous awe of him. His street-wise competence overshadows their academic accomplishments even though he is always warning them not to drop out. He relates to the parents of his 'straight' friends with considerable chivalry, but addresses them as people rather than authority figures. He is his own authority and quite pleased with it. He is the antidote to bureaucratized life and he manages his identity by being a proficient problem-solver who knows how to cut unnecessary corners.
'You're so so crazy!' was no longer a negative judgment but a compliment affirming the originality of the other. As this steady affirmation of liberty (and independence from small-town communal ties) occurred, social competence became as important as academic excellence. The degree to which someone could be 'wild and young' seemed to bring with it the social approval of peers. Being 'popular' became the religion of this new youth movement. This was an instance in which long-standing values of American moral propriety became reversed: the body and its presentation became a source of power; reputation based on communally known acts became supplemented by 'look' and 'image.' A teenager could gaze with admiration at a passing peer without knowing the least bit about his character. The pressures put on the American teenager were enormous. Success no longer counted on the learning of lessons or fixed rules of behavior; popularity consisted not only of imitation but the self-generation of trendy speech and action. Ironically, the old aristocratic requirement of 'wit' became a prime vaunted quality of democratic youth culture. Media programs became the new conduct manuals and took on a socializing function.
Adult culture was under similar pressures. Examining the newsreels, television programs and magazines of the period, one has the impression that public commentators were little concerned with people living outside the comfort-zone of the middle-class. There was a homogenization of behavior and it was actively promoted in all media, despite the cinematic appearance of the youth rebel. The 50's were a period of consensus and conformity. It was expectable, considering that America had emerged from two World Wars and needed time to grow economically and establish some social stability. The deviant was considered as much a danger to mainstream Americans as he or she had been to the English Victorians.
Yet, there was an undercurrent of spiritual doubt and social anxiety despite this up-beat tempo and the sunny smiles of Americans shown close-up in television commercials. Frequent relocation and suburban architectural uniformity were robbing middle-class Americans of their individuality. A family that moved away from its kin was that much less a part of a supportive kin network and that much more vulnerable to having its identity transformed. Tindall and Shi confirm this unexpected consequence of American industrial mobilization:
The traditional notion of the hardworking, strong-minded individual advancing by dint of competitive ability and creative initiative gave way to the concept of a new managerial personality and an ethic of corporate cooperation and achievement ( 1999: 1440).
It was expectable that there would eventually be a backlash against such conformity in a culture that had always prided itself in being original. This resistance emerged in artistic and literary circles. In their search for new values to counteract the leveling effect of middle-class conformity, the writers and artists of the 1950's established experimental genres that often used shock methods to awaken their audience to new possibilities. Art took on a spontaneous and organic form, sometimes being minimalist to counter the overstatements of traditional forms. 'Beat' poetry, for example, attempted to return to the original promises made to Americans: a coherent culture that respected the individual. Beat poets used incoherence as a mirror of how things had become in a consumption-driven society. The beat of the poem was the beat of the human heart in relentless protest. Whether the protest was coherent or not was less of an issue than the fact that the heart was still alive. Allen Ginsberg's poem, Howl ( 2001), was a cry of pain and rage against the manner in which America had, through unbridled development, abused its human and natural resources:
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness,
starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking
for an angry fix.
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection
to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night...
A successful corporate executive might have found Ginsberg's poem incomprehensible, but young intellectuals responded to its cry of pain. Writers were reacting to (and dramatizing) a growing alienation in the 1950's culture of plenty. Men who worked in the corporate world now had the opportunity of enjoying the benefits of a secure life, but on condition that they demonstrated a quasi-spiritual devotion to corporate objectives. As for women, they were required to be 'optimistic' guardians of the household, cheerfully administering to the needs of their husbands and their children, enjoying the time they spent in their kitchens surrounded by their 'ultra-convenient' 'time-saving' appliances. Not all men and women succeeded in this Herculean task, as poignantly dramatized in Arthur Miller's theatrical masterpiece, Death of a Salesman ( 1998). Miller succeeded in eliciting sympathy for the American common man caught in a world not of his making.
Protest against the new corporate homogeneity was embedded in many works of the period. Personal alienation was the predominant theme. Some sociologists have explained that industrialization is in itself an alienating experience. That was the point also made earlier in Charlie Chaplin's widely-acclaimed film, Modern Time…the hero in the film is so occupied trying to keep up with the machinery he is operating that he becomes pathetically frazzled and depersonalized. Yet, the literature of the period suggests that what was alienating was not industry itself but the manner in which industry had been elevated to the most important human activity and owners of industry posited as models of society. The problem was that this elevation of technology and salesmanship to a quasi-divine status had not resolved issues of moral laxity, corruption and injustice. Nor had the emotional needs of citizens been addressed. A slew of skeptical works appeared questioned this incongruence: Sloan Wilson's The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1955), David Riesman's The Other Directed-Man (1958), William Whyte's The Organization Man (1956), Vance Packard's The Hidden Persuaders (1957) and The Status Seekers (1959). In the social sciences, C. Wright Mills investigated the new wealth-owners with works such as White Collar (1951) and The Power Elite (1956), and economist J. K. Galbraith offered up The Affluent Society (1958), an uncompromising critique of short-term economic thinking.
These writers were addressing the consequences of the 'mass conformity' that had arisen as a by-product of America's accelerated development. The frontier individualism that had originally energized the American experiment was modified in this journey towards affluence, prestige and security. This need for 'security' was a quasi-obsession during the McCarthyism of the 1950's; on the surface it was rationalized as vigilance against the threat of communism; on a deeper level it was motivated by the need to preserve the American capitalist system and minimize the influence of socialist ideologies.
It did not take long for 'Making money' to become equated with 'making friends.' The original industrialists had measured their performance based on action and results. There is little biographical literature demonstrating their desire to be popular with their employees. They managed their staff by promoting duty, conscientious performance and loyalty, and then rewarded them with job security and retirement funds. Many of them were fervently patriotic and considered their role as industrialists a calling. But a different corporate leader emerged within this new culture of 'corporate personality.'
Rev. Norman Vincent Peale embodied this new social philosophy of personality-presentation by putting a seal of religious approval on commercial optimism and sociability. In The Power of Positive Thinking Peale explained that all that was required for unlimited success in life was a positive attitude and the ability to win friends and influence people (cited in George: 1993). A link was established between belief in God, the surrender of the self to Christian faith and the act of optimistic salesmanship. Influencing others gave authority to the individual to construct his own personal social image. What had previously been dependent on the good or bad reputation that follows from specific deeds now came under the influence of successful 'impression-management.' Certainly, Rev. Peale held to a moral life, but the idea of turning public opinion in one's favor through personality-management did not go unnoticed by business people who cared more about making a dollar than entering heaven. God and the dollar entered a mutual alliance, permitting the continuation of the Evangelic movement in America within a capitalist system.
The social ethic of the time was the 'mastery of passion' and the cultivation of a well-rounded personality. 'Adjustment' to 'reality' was supposed to be the consequence of such mastery. Regrettably, not enough consideration was given to the legitimacy of the reality itself and its consequent effect on personal happiness. The great salesman became the idol of American corporate society. And he was a new breed of American, combining business acumen, unabashed enthusiasm and a down-to-earth friendliness. If Americans have a feeling that certain of their civility rituals are simply extensions of the American penchant for 'deal-promotion,' they are not far from the truth, for managerial efficiency somehow managed to invade relationships within and outside the family. We have listened to hundred of hours of audio and television soundtracks of conversations in documentaries and in encounters between family members, and then compared the tones of voices to those of managers discussing projects. We find very similar cadences of speech. This similarity is less apparent in English and French comparisons of family and corporate conversations.
The futility of individual action in a collective other-oriented culture insisting on cheerful commercialized agreeability was masterfully captured by J. D. Salinger in Catcher in the Rye (1951), which rapidly became a cult classic on college campuses. Its hero, Holden Caulfield, realizes that his life is becoming a dead-end, but, nevertheless, submits to his fate: he accepts to get along with others even when he has no desire to do so. There seems to be no exit. Had Salinger written his book in the 1960's he might have had his hero drop right out.
The American actor, James Dean, although he lived to only make three films, managed to become the idol of a generation seeking the heroic in itself. The fact that Dean was a 'rebel without a cause' made no difference; the exciting thing was that he was rebelling against the rules of conventional society.
Works by psychologically concerned writers were equally unforgiving of the prevalent ethic of the 1950's. Commenting in 1961, Philip Roth, author of the best-selling Goodbye Columbus (1959), said:
The American writer in the middle of the twentieth century has his hands full in trying to understand and then describe, and then make credible much of American reality. It stupefies, it sickens, it infuriates, and finally it is even a kind of embarrassment to one's own meagre imagination (cited in Tindall and Shi,  1999: 1451).
Thus, many of the novels of the period presented a prototype of an intelligent innovative mind driven to despair in a culture of superficiality, conformity and exploitation. The values of 19th-century Romanticism are very much apparent in this new era of supposed in-your-face realism. Novelists wrote of 'restless, tormented, and often socially impotent individuals who can find neither contentment nor respect in an overpowering and uninterested world' (1452). Saul Bellow's Seize the Day (1956) was a poignant comment on Americans' fear of failure and the compensatory cock-sure behavior used to cover up that fear. Jack Kerouac's On the Road (1957) mythologized a group of 'beatniks' touring America in search of some integrity and beauty and a communal life liberated from the restrictions of commercialism. What counted more than meaning was 'movement,' anything to counter-balance the hypnotic effects of standardization. In The Wild One, starring Marlon Brando, a waitress asks Brando what it is exactly that he is rebelling against. He responds provocatively, 'Whaddaya got?'
An American public previously exposed to optimistic films singing the praises of progress and suburban bliss was now exposed to films showing disordered mental states. Women who had been presented as paragons of family virtue were featured in films showing the disturbed side of their lives (Barbara Stanwick's and Elizabeth Taylor's films stood out as prime movers of this new cinematography of discontent). These films used a minimalist method that did not overtly reveal the director's intention; the 'oblique' method of cinematography allowed directors to subtly introduce new ideas to their audiences without triggering their resistance. What might have not passed in the declarative statements required for print communication now passed in the visual medium through the telling of stories. Action filled in for dialogue that might have been rejected; facial expressions represented changed inner states whereas an outright confession of the inner state might have elicited objection and shock. Hollywood was not only entertaining its audiences but beginning to play an important role in directly and indirectly reflecting and forming the needs, ideals and dreams of Americans (Walker, 1970). Especially in the 1970's and 1980's stars acquired the power to compensate for the decline in local culture to build a virtual culture in which they occupied positions of privilege and influence; this had an important effect on the behaviors people adopted and transformations in the shame threshold (Jarvie, 1970).
This new culture of 'disappointment' and 'disagreement' was an unexpected development in a society that had maintained that 'being agreeable' was proof of good citizenship. The enthusiasm and conformity of the 'yes-man' was demeaned because of the nature of those things to which he had been agreeing. The American philosopher-novelist, Ayn Rand, founder of the American 'objectivist' movement, in her philosophical novels, The Fountainhead (1945) and Atlas Shrugged (1957), made uncompromising criticisms of American collectivism and the moral corruption of citizens who pretended to be altruistic while being morally and philosophically unworthy due to mindless conformity. Her heroes restate the original American democratic promise: integrity is defined as an uncompromising loyalty to a lofty ideal regardless of consequences. Rand's Promethean philosophy was objecting to a bottom-line mentality and its willingness to sacrifice quality and excellence in the interests of quick profit. She wrote that it is the creator, 'the true lover of humanity,' who 'stands alone' and 'disagrees with the crowd.' Rand's philosophy presented a conundrum in courtesy: was it moral to 'handle others' in order to secure their social approval? Or did true morality require uncompromising self-affirmation? Certainly, the heroes in her books were very direct, to the point of what some might consider unapologetic bluntness.
Rand was promoting a rational selfishness intended to protect the individual from assimilation by collectivist values. She held that 'rational individualism' would protect the collective from the apathy that overwhelms it when it is left bereft of the regenerative powers of creative opposition. Atlas Shrugged was her tribute to a purified capitalism freed of the supposedly corruptive influence of what she considered 'parasitic' socialism. On a political level, Rand was fiercely opposed to Dewey's action-oriented progressivism and felt that it had encouraged moral irresponsibility. Her mistrust of instrumentalist action was shared by Hannah Arendt who held Dewey responsible for making American students feel 'that you can know and understand only what you have done yourself' ( 1972: 182).
Meanwhile, the American media, heavily influenced by the financial interests of corporations, continued to broadcast films and sit-coms promoting the American dream of affluence: the dream house, the dream car, the dream wife and the dream husband. The placement of the sponsors' products within the programs was a key method used in the indoctrination of the population to consume as much as possible. Products were the cause of increased social and physical mobility and their celebration and consumption was the ultimate thanksgiving. It is interesting to note the amount of cigarettes and alcohol consumed by movie stars on screen between 1930 and 1960. So often, whenever a stressful situation occurred, the actor poured a drink and lit a cigarette.
Yet, during this entire time, a transformation was occurring in the same media that were promoting corporatism. Governed by the need to make profits and retain their viewers, they became obliged to represent dissenting factions. Media moguls belatedly awoke in the 1960's to the realization that the mood of the population was changing---they decided to move ahead with the times, giving the emerging counter-culture a powerful tool for mass propaganda. Over the ensuing decades, American media became important forums for the discussion of social issues. It is hard to imagine that a broadcast media replaying the ideals and vertical hierarchies of American society in the 1950's would one day be broadcasting shows hosted by globally influential commentators on personal development, self-realization and ideal conduct and that these personages would be commanding millions of viewers around the globe (Opray Winfrey and Dr. Phil being not the least of them). This was a seminal development in American civilization, for media took on descriptive as well as transformative functions. The self-help movement of the Victorians found a new voice in America, this time paralleled by considerable criticism of the 'system' and the innocence of its 'victims.'
...the consequences of what happened in the sixties were long-lasting: the sixties cultural revolution in effect established the enduring cultural values and social behaviour for the rest of the century. This had not been a transient time of ecstasy and excess, fit only for nostalgia or contempt (1998: 806).
Marwick indicates that the greatest turmoil in the 1960's was experienced in America. And, certainly, a great many social changes occurred in America during that period: the Civil Rights Act (1964), Equal Opportunities Act (1964), Voting Rights Act (1965), Medicaid Act (1965), Older Americans Act (1965), Head Start Act (1965), Higher Education Act (1965). Allen J. Moore’s analysis of the period similarly identifies the American youth of the 1960’s as a very socially concerned generation. His analysis of this generation and the parents who fathered and mothered them is worth considering in the interests of understanding what followed later:
In previous generations young adult rebellion took the form of frivolous activities, such as swallowing goldfish, panty-raids, and sitting on flagpoles. The purpose of most youthful rebellion was to get attention or to playfully provoke adults. In fact, rebellion seldom became more serious than the expected every-generation crusade on behalf of free love....Although the present generation can be very fun-loving and playful, their rebellion tends to be deeply serious, and is directed not so much toward parents or authority figures as against the basic structures of society. For the most part they have selected those concerns which are already big issues for the larger society and have succeeded in turning some low-key social debates into explosive issues. In a society that has been in the habit of expecting playful pranks from its young people, it was a surprise when young adults took up the big causes of education, politics, and international affairs (1969: 49).
So, a distinction needs be made between the anti-traditional behavior of the youth of the 1920's and 1950's and those of the 1960's. During the 1950's, youth were struggling against restraints for the sake of their own identity and pleasure. There was no widespread movement of social criticism amongst the mainstream youth of the time. The appearance of Elvis Presley was the first instance when the entire persona of the middle class was put into question. Presley was a paradox. He came from an evangelic background and started as a singer of gospel music. Without speaking against religion and while always speaking lovingly of his mother, he managed to become a very sensual public sensation. Historians of America sexuality would make an error by minimizing Presley's great influence on 20th century American sexuality norms. He managed to get away with a defiant, self-satisfied smile and a gyrating pelvis that sent a clear message of sexual liberation to his audience. By reconciling the image of a dutiful youth with that of a romantic/sexual adventurer, Presley broke the link that had previously existed between sensuality and sin. The same person who sang Amazing Grace went on to become 'the king of rock and roll,' singing such suggestive songs as Love Me Tender, Surrender, Are You Lonesome Tonight? and It's Now or Never. An American congressional report responded to Presley's super-star status by stating that 'the gangster of tomorrow is the Elvis Presley of today' (cited in Tindall and Shi,  1999: 1434). The Congressmen who prepared that report grossly underestimated the singer's ability to appeal to conservative, law-abiding citizens---Presley was singing about something long-idealized in the American Romantic tradition: the idea of long-lasting romantic love based on mutual consensus and support.
Presley preached at precisely the time when American media was broadcasting specially-prepared television commercials showing that the proper and best way to see a young lady home after a date was to not try and kiss her in any way. The woman was still being presented as someone who did not welcome nor enjoy the advances of the male (History Channel TV, July 3, 2003). Presley made a very big contribution to the changing relationships between genders. While in his films he played the womanizer who was openly attracted to the bodies of women, he never appeared critical or insecure about the positive attentions he received from the women he pursued; this helped legitimatize a female sensuality free to respond to the male's advances without exaggerated protocols of demureness.
Early pop singers such as Presley facilitated the work of socially concerned musicians in the 1960's who addressed many topics previously considered taboo. Considerable social disobedience of traditional codes of restraints and a rising disrespect towards existing institutions was made possible by a burgeoning music industry specifically serving youth. The cutting of records as 'singles' permitted youth to buy music without considerable investment. Words that would have been censored in print or film managed to survive buried within the melodies of the songs. A marked change occurred in the lyrics of songs. While the theme of romantic love (requited or not) was still part of the overall sound mix, many of the pop groups concentrated on social issues and released controversial songs criticizing the American way of life as well as the government that stood behind it. Jimi Hendrix's technically brilliant and cynical 'machine-gun' guitar rendition of the national anthem of the United States was a telling example of the depth and severity of the critique. John Lennon's wistful song, Working Class Hero, struck at the heart of the Western ideal of equality by rejecting the claim that class differentiation was being eliminated by rising affluence. His song Imagine acted as a banner for the peace movement and reflected the idealism and optimism of a new generation willing to ask 'what if the system were to operate differently?' Of course, many were too stoned on drugs to think straight, but thinking straight had lost some of its reputation. With glee and pride, youth listened to stars such as Sly and the Family Stone promise to take them Higher and cheered at the implications of a society free from the constraints of exploitative capitalism. Nirvana seemed so within reach. It could be found as close as Woodstock, New York, where hundreds of thousands gathered to celebrate without any major incidents at the now legendary Woodstock Festival. Less destructive than their alcohol-consuming parental generation, members of the pot generation laughed at mainstream critics who tried to brand them as a danger to society.
The Vietnam War, highly unpopular with most of America's youth, drove an additional wedge between parents who continued to favor conservative American politics and those youth determined to get across to their elders that authentic American patriotism needed to be applied to daily living and that a war fought for nebulous reasons thousands of miles away was not proof of any real public moral integrity. We may suspect in retrospect that the Vietnam War served to weaken the rising influence of the totalitarian Soviet regime; but, at the time, many Americans, especially those being conscripted into the armed forces, had difficulty understanding why the war was being fought. Some sons who opted to avoid the draft were stunned to see their parents turning them in to the authorities. A.D. Horne's documentation of essays from survivors and analysts of the war, The Wounded Generation, recounts the deep scars left by the war on American patriotism and communalism (1981). Certainly, life for many Americans would have been different had America not become embroiled in a war so far from its shores.
Pop stars achieved legendary status and political power during the war because they became the mouthpieces of a generation in protest. On December 5, 1968, The Rolling Stones released their album Beggar's Banquet, perhaps one of the most influential music albums of the 20th century. One of the songs, Sympathy for the Devil, tore into an older generation that was becoming complacent. During six minutes and twenty seconds of lyrics, Mick Jagger confronted the one subject that had become forgotten in the culture of plenty: corruption. Taunting his audience to 'Guess my name,' Jagger reminded that the devil may very well have found his way into the new world.
One of the most telling works to appear in this period of protest was a novel by Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962). The film version directed by Nick Nichols (1967) became a cult classic. Acted by the incorrigible Jack Nicholson, the protagonist of the movie is a man who becomes interned in a psychiatric hospital. Unrestrained by middle class ideas of decorum and discipline, he proves saner and more compassionate than the people managing the asylum. Kesey was criticizing the mechanical morality of a society that adhered to principles of restraint and punitive discipline at the cost of empathy. He was also idealizing the character of the noble straight-talking anarchist.
This making of moral points through black comedy and poignant drama became an important genre in the 1960's and 1970's and contributed to a rising sense of 'irony.' It was ironic that the madman seemed saner than his keepers…ironic that the teenager demonstrating for civil rights was more worldly and less prejudiced than his parents who urged him to remain 'adjusted' to social norms. Irony followed from disappointment. And irony liberated a generation from conditioned automatic behavior. The ironic individual has believed in an ideal but been disappointed by its non-fulfillment. Irony becomes a way of distancing himself from the disappointment while retaining some sense of the original ideal. And this distancing became a political tactic of the counter-culture, cutting into the long-standing belief in 'agreeability.' It was an important tactic enlisted in the development of an anti-authoritarian self-awareness. Imaginative acts became a means by which moral and political points could be made (Klinkowitz, 1980). By the mid-1970's, a variety of television programs were satirizing the contradictions of American society. Saturday Night Live became an American institution; what gave the show legitimacy was the appearance of actors of solid mainstream reputation. The program satirized nearly every facet of American society, sometimes with considerable malice. A large portion of the American public seemed to be becoming less formal and less attached to the ritual of patriotic rhetoric.
So, in many respects, the movement of the 1960's and the early 1970's was a movement against 'social adjustment.' Many were feeling that American society---in its existing form---was not worth adjusting to because it produced a debilitating lack of critical awareness. Martin Luther King Jr. had himself affirmed in a speech that 'maladjustment' to certain social realities and prejudices was an effective and noble tactic of resistance. The cultural movement of the 1960's in America was, therefore, as much against mechanical social behavior as it was a movement in favor of political and sensual liberty. This dual agenda of the movement cannot be stressed enough. The downgrading of the supposedly upright citizen as an 'uptight square' was not a frontal attack on decency as much as it was a rejection of adjustment to social conventions that were seen to be producing destructive consequences. Suddenly, the ‘goodie-goodies’ became branded as morally deficient. The underlying moral nature of the cultural movement cannot be stressed enough. That the men who ran and managed the corporations and the parents who managed the families had not successfully lived up to the standards of integrity promoted to the population was a major factor for the backlash. What was being criticized was not mercantilism per se, but the self-abnegation, hypocrisy, greed and environmental degradation that were its consequences. Somewhere, somehow, it had been assumed that 'doing business' could be a noble activity that hurt no one. That was the premise in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged (1957) in which the protagonist manages to bring capitalist society to a halt only to make way for a pure form of capitalism based on the ideal of a non-exploitative business ethic supported by a rational use of technology.
Yet, another social conflict had been brewing. The generation of the 1960's had grown up viewing films from the 1940's and 1950's that promoted successful romantic liaisons as the foundation of family life. Even the film The Graduate (1967), a skeptical indictment of capitalism and suburban moral expediency, ended with a scene of the two young protagonists running away to find monogamous bliss. Members of the flower generation, raised on a steady fare of Hollywood romance, may have turned critically on their parents for not having lived up to the summit of this romantic ideal. The large number of marriages in the 18 to 23 year age group in the 1960's attests to this continuing belief in permanent unions. While some began by cohabiting many did end up formalizing their union with marriage vows. Many of the members of the 1960's youth movement who ended up being divorced must have been very surprised and traumatized by a sense of personal failure. The same Romanticism that drove them into early marriage drove them into early divorce. High expectations and idealism precipitated disappointment.
The use of the word 'love' as part of the cultural movement of the 1960's was, therefore, not exclusively motivated by the desire for free sexuality. This 'love-hunger' is an important aspect of contemporary American culture and one which needs be recognized if we are to understand the semiotics of late modern presentations of self and the rising emotional awareness of individuals.
Relations between genders and between mothers and daughters and fathers and sons also came under considerable scrutiny during this time. Daughters became increasingly allergic to the roles played by their mothers. The conflict continued into the late 1970's and was aptly expressed by Nancy Friday's best-selling book, My Mother, myself: the daughter's search for identity ( 1984). What might have motivated the young women of this generation to discount the moral and role preferences of their mothers was the low status enjoyed in general society by those same mothers. The status of the 1940's and 1950's housewife had been considerably high even though it was held that men and women were basically different and had to make the best of their differences. But the mothers of the teenagers of the 1960's were in a mood of discontent. Although they had not yet developed the power to fully assert themselves within their families, they were certainly complaining. The daughters simply formalized and gave voice to a movement already in germination.
Television programs took the cause of women and packaged it in sitcoms. The sitcom, All in the Family, featured a despotic bigoted father who kept ridiculing his hapless wife as a know-nothing. He was always berating her for this or that, eyebrows raised in amused exasperation whenever she offered her conciliatory wisdom. The series was meant to provide the new society with a target for ridicule: the bigoted, all-American father and his American wife who was always pretending to be less intelligent than she really was. This series, along with other sit-coms such as Maude, served to sensitize sons and daughters to the plight of some of their mothers and the alternatives offered by a new American feminism not at all averse to self-affirmation through civil disruption.
As far as sexuality was concerned, many of the youth of the 1960's went a step further than their parents and accepted total sexual intimacy prior to marriage. 'Necking' and 'petting' between teenagers had already existed in the 1940's and 1950's. Yet, there had been considerable sexual anxiety. The young woman of the 1950's was torn between guilt and her sexual desires. The imperative of preserving virginity until after marriage was still an American social more. Many of the Hollywood films of the period dramatized this conflict. Doris Day and Lana Turner were perfectly crafted representations of the sexually undecided woman, prim and proper according to 'wholesome' American standards but periodically out of breath with excitement, much to her own consternation. This tug of emotions between the strong desiring male and the demurring but tempted woman was a common theme in American post-40's cinema. It is doubtful that the theme would have found a ready audience in France. The French were ahead of the Americans in sexual liberation and were exploring the existential angst that both women and men felt when confronted with the contingency of late-modernity. Topless and nude public bathing on the beaches of the Cote d'Azur were there long before American youth took off their clothes at rock concerts in defiance of American codes of public decency. America was late liberating itself from sexual prudery and the acceleration of this liberation within a narrow historical time-frame created a double-standard: defiant liberty to counteract lingering guilt and playful sexuality to soften the embarrassment felt in the presence of desire. This struggle between purity and lust seems to be an on-going issue in American culture; our content analysis of adult porno videos reveal actors who revel in being 'bad,' as if there were still some underlying contradicting standard troubling them or their viewers. Many of the scenes include pointed looks of defiance as if some rebellion were still under way. English adult films also contain this defiant spirit, with frequent use of the phrase 'being wicked.' French films, on the other hand, are surprisingly free from this implicit unease, while being bound by other fantasies, some intensely misogynistic.
Social rules forbidding the loss of virginity had been substantially connected to the possibility of pregnancies outside marriages. In a very considerable measure, the arrival of the birth control pill took sexual mores out of the hands of the state and the church and put it in the hands of experts. Sexual enjoyment, rationalized as 'sexual experimentation,' was further legitimized by the appearance of many best-selling books, amongst which were Alex Comfort's The Joy of Sex (1974), Shere Hite's The Hite Report: a nation-wide study of female sexuality (1976) and Masters' and Johnson's The Pleasure Bond (1975). These best-sellers stood in stark contrast to the Victorian conduct books preaching against the evils of sexual pleasure. The permissiveness of the 1960's (and disco 1970's) provided youth with the space they needed to take the inhibited bodies inherited from their ancestors and dance till they had reclaimed the grace and energy of those bodies. What occurred during this period was a re-balancing between the mind and the body. The Protestant ethic had subjugated the body in the service of goals created by the mind; this restraint of physical impulse was at the root of Puritanism and later Victorianism. The Romanticism of the years 1850 to 1950 created the preconditions for bodily pleasure by permitting its imagination. The 1960's and 1970's turned the imagined into the experienced. Conduct books that appeared during the mid-part of the century also focused heavily on gender relations. In America, in particular, efforts were being made to level inequalities between genders while continuing to extol the virtues of modesty in sexuality (Wouters, 2004). This is particularly noticeable later on in the 1990's when conduct books begin advising members of both genders to be 'sensitive and flexible in all relationships' (150).
But the sexual revolution of the 1960's and 1970's was only the beginning of what the History Channel has called The Sexual Century (History Channel, July 3, 2003). The initial phase of the revolution made women more easily available for men; the decades following the 1970's have involved the feminine aspect of this revolution during which women have searched for an active and satisfying sexuality unrelated to previous notions of duty (July 3, 2003). Sex in the City and a variety of other television series have presented female characters as much given to pursuing the perfect orgasm as have been males. This equalizing of access to satisfying sex is also observable in the rapid growth of the pornography industry. When the classic Deep Throat appeared on the screens of American theaters in the 1970's after winning a Supreme Court Ruling in its favor, some men were taking their wives to erotic movie theaters to make them privy to the emerging porn. A few years later in 1976, with Sony's invention and widespread marketing of the home videotape machine, the American adult video genre was brought right into the home. Again, the themes of many of these videos and the eventual names adopted by some of the production companies (i.e. Evil Angel Productions) was the theme of rebellion against Puritan asceticism and the association of lust with sin. Titles such as The Devil in Miss Jones, and the sudden appearance in a porn title by the contracted TV spokesperson for a detergent commercial, scandalized conservative America, but it did help make the point that a woman who seemed very wholesome according to proverbial American standards could also have a very active sexual desires (July 3, 2003). Today, the American pornography business dominates the world pornography market with films that satisfy every fantasy that does not clearly violate American sexual laws. And it is, like all capitalist endeavors, informed by the imperatives of the 'bottom-line.' One porno star being interviewed on television explains that she is a strip dancer and a porno star because the money is good. 'I'm just like the girl next door,' she says, 'except I make my money by having sex' (July 3, 2002).
So the sexual revolution of the 1960's was only a departure point; most of America's sexual liberation has come during subsequent decades. In an interview with the History Channel (July 3, 2003), Helene Gurley Brown, long-time chief editor of Cosmopolitan Magazine, the same magazine which years ago preached that a young woman should hold out on sex in order to secure a suitable mate, now declares:
The fact that we have now given ourselves permission to feel these wonderful feelings; that's the most fabulous thing that's happened….We have learned to enjoy it and glory in it…I'm fond of saying that sex is one of the best three things we have; I don't know what are the other two' (July 3, 2003).
The cover of the August 2003 issue of Cosmopolitan's American edition announces the following features: 'Our Most Shocking Sex Survey 15,000+ Men Tell What They're Aching For. Girl, the Power's in Your Hands Now…Beyond Kama Sutra…We Teach Your How to Give Him the Most Intense Pleasure Possible…Get Naked! Does Stripping Down Stress You Out? How to Feel Sooo Sexy in the Buff…' (August, 2003).
The 'creative extremism' of some of the youth of the 1960's tested the limits of many social paradigms. Marxism, anti-bourgeois rhetoric, libertarianism, and anarchism became part of a platform of political and social ideas that led to a proliferation of subcultures. A disoriented generation of elders had little power to stop the spread of this new quasi-Renaissance. A mass-produced car bumper sticker of the 1960's succinctly expressed the changes that had occurred: 'I'm rude as hell, but fucking sincere.'
These youth were not fighting against American ideals as much as they were bringing attention to their corruption. What mattered to them was whether something was 'real' or 'bullshit.' The exclamation 'that’s unreal' was heard repeatedly in the daily interaction of youth. So was the exclamation, 'right!'...sometimes delivered with amused disbelief in the face of government pro-war propaganda, while at other times thrown up with enthusiastic approval for the press when still another betrayal of public trust was exposed. The near-impeachment and subsequent resignation of President Richard Nixon was the final straw in this tragic-comic period. The Watergate scandal created further impetus for a culture of irony in which disbelief became a property of both the Left and the Right. American patriotism had been built on a firm belief in the integrity of the Oval Office; the sudden discovery that a President had actually been a willing participant in a political conspiracy was a blow to that patriotism. Even conservative Americans came to taste of the bitterness of irony.
Oddly, enough, this irony, which the early Puritans might have found heretical and self-indulgent, was motivated by a contemporary commitment to purity. This was reflected in some of the terminology used by the new generation. The struggle with the establishment was sometimes equated with the Roman-Palestinian conflict of 2,000 years ago. There were frequent references to the hippies as the 'Jesus freaks' and many hippies took to calling members of the establishment 'the Romans.' It was as Farber and Foner have stated, an 'age of dreams' (1994). It was also an age during which many of the young generation sought purity of motive and action. Nietzche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra ( 1969) and his other works, notably Beyond Good and Evil ( 1996), appealed to the generation not because of their nihilism but because of Nietzche's merciless critique of the contradictions of 19th century Christian morality. Berating Christianity's self-congratulatory asceticism and abnegation of physical desire, he railed against the 'despisers of the body':
Behind your thoughts and feelings, my brother, stands a mighty commander, an unknown sage – he is called Self. He lives in your body, he is your body….There is more reason in your body than in your best wisdom' ( 1969: 62).
This was tantamount to saying, 'trust your feelings' and stay free of ideology. There was a very strong streak of idealism in Nietzche's writings as well as the generation that welcomed his ideas. Going 'beyond good and evil' required an assiduous application of personal reflection. It was in a way an attempt to transcend a corrupted Protestant ideology by practicing precisely its original search for perfection.
This search for sensual and moral purity soon overtook Hollywod. In the late 1960's, old guard studio executives were dazed by a cultural revolution for which they had made few provisions. Young talent moved in to fill the vacuum and produced a series of daring films that not only represented the mood of the times but changed the entire mission of cinema (Biskind, 1999). Films became the new novels of America, presenting believable characters capable of evoking emotion just as had the characters of 18th and 19th century novels. Directors, writers and actors took on a new role, that of social moralists. A list of the some of the actors and directors involved in this new wave of films helps remind of the massive change that swept over American film in the 1960's and 1970's: Dennis Hopper, Hal Ashby, Sam Peckinpah, Dustin Hoffman, Francis Ford Coppola, Richard Dreyfus, Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese, Roman Polanski, Steven Spielberg, Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Woody Allen, Stanley Kubrick, Mia Farrow, Milos Forman, Mel Brooks, Robert Rossen, Mike Nichols, Robert DeNiro, Peter Yates, Elia Kazan, George Roy Hill…..they and others became the new models of a generation in search of believable and morally courageous heroes. The artist in America, thirsting for justice in the midst of capitalist expediency, found a voice in the mainstream through the medium of cinema.
What Elias has considered a long process of evolution of manners was cheerfully reformed within a few months by the bolder members of the 1960's cultural movement. The stiff formal American dinner-table manner in which one arm was left on the lap while eating and taken onto the table only when necessary to manipulate utensils, was replaced with elbows on the table. The restraint of bodily functions, described by Elias as a sine que non of the civilizing process, was substantially abridged. Fork and knife were handled more casually than before; food consumed and chewed while talking; nudity accepted as a good; breaking wind amongst friends occasionally tolerated with the semi-embarrassed humorous exclamation, 'You're so gross!' What counted was being 'free' and 'natural.'
That certain segments of culture dared become less inhibited---and consequently more spontaneous---may not have been an indication of a de-civilizing process but of how secure (or bored) Americans had come to feel with their rational approach to reality. The rational dared now act irrationally, believing that they would not lose their bearings. It was an act of faith which history might prove not wholly justified.
Cass Wouters (1986: 1-18) suggests that this informalization and 'decontrolling' was made possible by the efficiency of previously imposed restraints. His view accords with that of Elias who maintained that the abandoning of controls was possible 'because the level of habitual, technical and institutionally consolidated self-control' was previously established. Elias considered the reversal a 'relaxation within the framework of an already established standard' ( 1978: 140). The implication here is that a person is behaving in a new way because he is still anchored in the old way. The argument may be based on an unwillingness to part with historical continuity. It is a little like saying that Johnny dares be bad because he is basically good. If Johnny was not basically good then his bad behavior would ruin social order. But what both Elias and Wouters may be ignoring is that the 1960's was not controlled by those who authored the cultural revolution. A tremendous resistance was mounted by the establishment, especially of its members who controlled business interests totally in opposition to the notion of communalism. A decivilizing process did not occur not only because the notion of civilized behavior was sufficiently anchored in the human psyche, but because many continued to remain inhibited and in control while the spontaneous went on their freedom trip. While a certain number tuned in and dropped out, the majority continued doing their work, fixing the plumbing, carrying the garbage to the dumps, putting out fires, etc. The economic survival imperative, together with the absence of a clear communalistic plan, prevented the cultural revolutionaries from taking their wishes and needs to their limit. We will never know what would have happened had they been able to do so. So to look back and say that some of the wild and unrestrained behavior was due to hyper-efficient previous restraints is to reveal a need to preserve theoretical consistency. We still do not know at what point a substantial de-civilizing process is set in motion. Out of our need for certainty, we are left with an act of good faith: we optimistically conclude that a relaxation of rules occurs when controls are efficiently maintained. Whether this proposition has validity or not is less important than the fact that those who hold it begin to worry less about the progressive liberalization of culture. They remain convinced that everything will remain civilized in the end.
The price paid for this massive social reformation was a mistrust of rules. A rule must be grounded in a cultural meaning that goes beyond the rule itself. And that meaning must be felt and revered as a social good that extends across generations. Otherwise, the rule becomes culturally meaningless, or, at best, the limited codex of a sub-culture. What occurred in the 1960's and 1970's was that, due to the special time frame in which they found themselves, youth observed that the rules of justice, equality and communal caring had become demeaned by a culture of rapid change and expediency. While their complaint was against expediency and its moral lapses, they made an associative error and concluded that the concept of a rule was to be met with suspicion. Not only was the outcome of the American ethical tradition put in question but also the national spirit and emotional discipline that had traditionally been used to uphold that tradition. Lasch-Quinn, in her study of race relations in America, has reviewed these changes in behavior and believes that the rebellion against formality and authority, and its linking with human rights, problematized subsequent efforts to associate morality with manners (1999: 409-427). This did not facilitate understanding between Liberal and Conservative factions. As Suzanne Staggenborg has observed, social conservatives interpreted the actions of the counter-culture as an 'abdication of social responsibility in favor of self-interest' (1999: 60). Mistrust of motives was rampant on both sides of the culture divide.
Human awareness increases in periods of dissonance; the existence of contrasts and contradictions between ideals and reality make self-reflectivity and the calculation of risks particularly urgent (Giddens, 1991: 182). In such times, no formulas can be easily applied to all groups and ages. Contingency follows from increased personal awareness and increased choice. Early Americans had to resist the aristocratic customs of the Old World that they had left behind. The new frontier environment demanded new reactions. Similarly, the youth of the late 1950's, 1960's and early 1970's became somewhat a modern version of the early pioneers. Reacting to what America had become, they asked for a renewed social contract. The burning of flags and the guerrilla discourtesy should not make us blind to the fact that many of their ideas were very similar to the ideas of those who drew up the original American declaration of rights. Like their forefathers, they sought perfection. The early Americans, by resisting tyranny and embracing change at its very inception, had established a democracy predisposed to frequent self-critique. Similarly, enough issues were debated during the 1960's for Isserman and Kazin to refer to the social movement as The Civil War of the 1960's (2000). Richard Sennett also noticed major changes in the meaning of citizenship in his book, The Fall of Public Man (1977).
This confrontation with tradition had multiple effects: 1) A steady rejection of authority through the mocking of precedent and the use of authority-demeaning shock tactics. Some of the youth of the 1960's reveled in being called 'freaks' and purposefully did exactly what would offend the well-heeled members of the establishment; 2) A peculiar aura of 'pleased defiance' in media representations of individuals seeking new 'experiences' and new 'moral and emotional frontiers.' Examining video clips from the period we notice not only the public exhibition of new forms of behavior but a defiant pleasure in such exhibition; and, 3) An openness towards a doubt-based intellectual debate regarding the origins and nature of 'fixity' and its ultimate reliability and legitimacy. A culture of historical retribution came into being, one that has survived to this day.
Many social historians who describe the 1960's as a generalized Western phenomenon do not take into consideration the fact that the issues facing American youth were considerably different from those facing their European counterparts. American youth embarked on a substantial reevaluation of their heritage, contemplating social issues as varied as America's race problem (a problem that dated back to a society that had used slaves on its soil), the Viet-Nam War (a war that was killing thousands of American youth, especially those with no funds to stay in college), the claims of Native Americans, the rising powers of American corporations, and the ambitions of an expansionist government. European youth were not saddled with such a complicated history of social injustice. Britain, for example, had already accepted to play a limited role in world affairs after its involvement in the Suez Canal crisis in 1958 (Briggs, 1987: 358). Moreover, British Parliament had passed a series of bills that distinguished between the realms of 'public and private morality,' deciding that private morality was not to be the business of government legislation. This conciliatory spirit may have helped contain the hippie movement as a minority movement---when one of the members of the Rolling Stones was sentenced to imprisonment for drug offences, a national poll indicated that 85 per cent of British teenagers either agreed with the sentence or thought it too lenient (361). Reaction in America to the court judgment was considerably more hostile. Meanwhile, when Charlie Manson was convicted of masterminding the August 1969 serial killings of the actress Sharon Stone and others in her entourage, some American youth took to protesting that one of their idols was being framed by the government (Bugliosi and Gentry, 2001).
So, it did not take long for American youth to move beyond self-interest and address social issues. By the time W. Dee Brown's poignant history of the American and Indian conflicts, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee – an Indian history of the American West (1971), was published, the flower generation had matured and was concerned with social issues not directly connected to self-interest. We observed during a trip to Spain a group of Americans, ranging from 20 to 25 who had arrived for a one-month holiday. One of them had Brown's book. He began reading and was no longer able to enjoy his holiday. Within a week the book had passed hands in the group and the great injustices of America became the main issue of conversation between the travelers. They returned to America dejected, their vacation marred by guilt and sadness. Scores of other books appearing in the early 1970's served to raise consciousness of environmental and social injustice. Some of the issues were global, while others were very particularly American.
Elias attempted to anticipate changes in social practices, even though his book was published long before the occurrence of the social developments of the 1950's and 1960's. He reminded that as 'contrasts' diminish 'varieties' increase ( 1982: 251); this was tantamount to saying that the diminishing of contrasts allowed in some manner the rise of a more varied and democratic culture. And, indeed, this did occur during the 1960's and 1970's.
Although Elias did not underestimate the long-range traumas of socialization when, in deference to the Freudian model, he admitted that certain individuals carry scars from the restraints they have been forced to internalize, he maintained that most individuals fared quite satisfactorily in the end (Elias,  1978: 243). We question this conclusion because much personal pain has been expressed during the last four decades. As we will argue in this chapter a generation that attempted to reform society discovered at the eleventh hour that it did carry the scars of the past, not only the scars of its own childhood but the accumulated scars of American history. This emotional awakening had far-reaching effects on social norms, civility and social philosophy.
A social standard can last for a long time as long as it is perceived as 'legitimate' or 'inevitable.' But when certain practices and standards are perceived as incompatible with other valued ideals and practices, then a period of uncertainty follows as old practices are shifted to the background and new ones brought to the foreground. The luxury to demand such correlation between ideal and actual practice is an outcome of prosperous democracies, especially those that are pressured by competing interests to revise older systems of subjugation, or those, such as America, that have assigned a premium to the quality of 'sincerity.'
America was very vulnerable to the type of social critiques that emerged from its own shores as well as from Europe. Europeans had a long history of subjugation. They also possessed long-standing traditions that assured national and cultural identity based on a continuance of customs balanced by measured innovations in style. There did not exist a strong enough antipathy between the old and the new as there did in America, a country that had purposefully rejected the old world in order to create itself in its own image. The 'politeness' of the English (together with their emotional restraint) and the 'style' of the French (together with their honoring of individualism and their acceptance of occasional, quickly forgiven outbursts of emotion) was deeply ingrained. Continental disbelief in historical justice did not immediately or necessarily require a remarkable degradation in social relations. The onslaught of the post-modern European social critiques could, therefore, be integrated by the Europeans without them being substantially thrown off balance in relation to their own codes of interpersonal discourse. Furthermore, intellectual dissent (and philosophical discussion) was a long-standing practice of European society and accepted as a necessary social activity. Radical groups were tolerated by the mainstream and considered part of social discourse. Members of the bourgeoisie adopted whatever ideas they wanted and left the rest. They were habituated to having philosophical discussions about life and society, ideas that were not immediately measured by their social usefulness. So, philosophizing about the futility of things did not immediately render actual personal and private behavior dysfunctional. Counteracting this intellectual nihilism was a strong sense of national identity based on a long-standing pride in European civilization and its aesthetic accomplishments.
The social critiques emanating from Europe found their ways into the American universities and dealt a considerable blow to American certainty. Only history will tell whether the European philosophers of the 20th century helped America emancipate itself or caused excessive doubt and guilt. Many American intellectuals took the premises of the theoretical writings of the 'post-structuralist' and 'post-modern' writers and applied them ruthlessly to their own cultural history, causing a considerable disenchantment with established American values and practices.
The French were able to integrate Michel Foucault's ( 1970;1979) merciless commentaries on the structures of power and knowledge while still believing in the age-long sanctity of individual freedom, a privilege that they attributed to the French revolution. Not much was being said that already hadn't been said by French writers of the Enlightenment. The French were singularly conscious of the trade-off that they had accepted between the ideals of the revolution and their need for social order. French intellectuals had always published in mainstream newspapers and their presence was normalized by such public exposure. Similarly, in Britain, a population given to valuing 'liberty' of speech, was not overly-perturbed by iconoclasm; there have always been members of the British aristocracy who have reminded the population of the meaning of 'liberty' through their own outrageous acts. Eccentricity in Britain was not associated with misanthropy towards the community. For a young nation like America, dislocation, doubt and disagreement had unbalancing consequences, for many of its hopes for a just society were based on early pre-industrial American communalism and the sanctity of consensus.
In America, a generation emerging from public schools not given to properly teaching American history, let alone European history, was suddenly made to read the intellectual products of European countries out of context. Most American youth starting university, not even remotely familiar with what Voltaire had meant by the infamous thing, nor the writings of their own American pragmatists, were suddenly waddling through the abstract and maddeningly elegant writings of thinkers such as Kierkegaard, Foucault and Sartre. The Europeanization of the American academy was a jarring change that further destabilized American moral fixity.
That many American academics responded favorably to the European theorists was understandable considering the rising American intellectual discontent with the authoritarian consequences of fixity and tradition. The new claims of minority groups and a growing awareness of the injustices of past American racial, gender, political and economic policies motivated academics to be open to the new social critiques. Moreover, these critiques gave them an opportunity to become socially active. The American social sciences had been late responding to social issues plaguing American society; they now galvanized to make up for lost time.
What also facilitated the entry of European social theory into the American academic market was a precedent set by the American philosophy of Pragmatism. Although the consequences of this 'philosophy of action' had become formalized in an unwavering belief in progress (at first glance, a form of certainty in itself) its central premises were based on a rejection of the fixity of idealism and the acceptance of contingency as a facilitator of progress.
American pragmatism appeared at the end of the 19th century at a time when American business development and the acceleration of scientific innovations required a philosophy of thought and action that not only explained change but rationalized it as a social good. American pragmatists responded by departing from European idealism and developing a philosophy substantially based on the validation of technical and social inventiveness, a worldview considerably different from passive English empiricism.
The work of the pragmatists had a profound effect on education, commerce, law, social and political thought, art and family practices. Although the various thinkers associated with this movement held to varying interpretations of the relationship between ideas and objective reality, their theories reveal a common tendency towards favoring 'purposive' and 'useful' action. Pragmatists did not regard 'practice' as an automatic consequence of a fixed reality, but an opportunity to develop procedures that could potentially lead to positive social benefits (Dewey, 1910. 1929; James, 1890, 1897, 1909; Peirce, 1869, 1877). Many of these pragmatists held that the search for truth should not eclipse the search for human happiness. In fact, they remained skeptical of the entire idea of searching for a Platonic convergence of truth and reality.
This ambivalence towards an essential truth capable of standing above human action required a continuing suspicion of dogma as well as the categorical dualities necessary for the categorization of 'truths.' For William James, one of the principal strengths of pragmatism lay in its ability to depart from a-priori dogma in favor of empirical investigation. James questioned any body of foundational 'truth' that could not (or would not) allow proper empirical verification (1909). Similarly, Peirce held that the understanding of an idea is an interpretative act because it is inexorably tied to the observation of effects ( 1986). In On The Grounds and Validity of the Laws of Logic (1869, 5: 416-34) he argued that 'logic' was an outcome of human meaning and the only referent that could be successfully used in the analysis of various relationships between various signs. According to Peirce, the function of pragmatic inquiry was to shed light on how conceptions of 'the real' (that which we believe exists regardless of interpretation) play a constraining role on the inquiry process (5:433-34). In stating this, Peirce stood in transformative relation with Darwinism---logic was the one element permitting a rationalization of a human progress not limited to species-specific evolution. In Fixation of Belief ( 1986) he alluded to quite a few of the issues that would later pre-occupy the post-modern movement.
These early pragmatists suggested that reality was fluid and that any attempt to understand it should adopt practices that were adaptable to the specific intervals of the reality being observed. Nothing was to be held sacred but the democratic aspirations of the investigator and the society he or she wished to investigate. What was to keep the investigator and society in a positive moral frame of mind was the integrity of the inquiry process itself. Rather than search for a fixed system in which beliefs are evaluated in terms of their coherence within the system in which they are located, pragmatists have underplayed established relationships between propositions and observances and have adopted, instead, an experimental method of verification in which experience is seen as a product of idea rather than its a-priori determinant. The need for coherence has been accepted as a human necessity---the rest, however, has been considered socially negotiable.
James' The Will to Believe (1897), for example, was a seminal argument in favor of purposive thought and idea-formation. Similarly, for Dewey, truth followed from inquiry and was instrumental in transforming chaos and doubt into organized coherence. He wrote that 'Natural man dislikes the dis-ease which accompanies the doubtful and is ready to take almost any means to end it' (1929: 227). This sanctioned any change that would decrease dissonance. In Dewey's 'instrumentalist' system moral ideas were not precursors but 'means' within a purposive process designed to 'control' experience and cause chosen ends to be manifested (1910).
Pragmatism was a bold move against American traditionalism. Loyalty to tradition implies the acceptance of discomfort and even dissonance. Tradition is maintained for reasons that sometimes require the rejection of change and abstention from the enjoyment of novelty. Sometimes, even the search for happiness must be tempered in the favor of a lesser but more lasting contentment. Instrumental thought is anathema to the traditionalist because it transforms hierarchical knowledge in favor of a more horizontal, pluralistic social mentality. Robert L. Duffus, writing in the New York Times (May 3, 1925), welcomed Dewey’s philosophy: ‘It is natural, in a sense, for such a vigorous and life-loving faith to develop on the soil of a new and youthful nation’ (cited, Longley, Silverstein and Tower, 1961: 212).
David A. Hollinger confirms the purposive nature of pragmatic thought, stating that pragmatists believe that
....inquiry itself is a discipline that could stabilize and sustain a modern, 'scientific' culture for which truths could be only tentative and plural; that the social and physical world is responsive to human purpose; and that inquiry is an activity open to the rank-and-file members of an educated, democratic society (1995:32).
Cornell West, in The American Evasion of Philosophy: A Geneology of Pragmatism (1989), reminds that pragmatism, regardless of its particular hue, is not given to favoring grand theory or philosophizing for the sake of philosophizing. Any intellectual activity that stands outside practice becomes suspect. At its best, it provides the means for a cultural critique that furthers individual rights and individual growth within a culture of tolerance. Pragmatism compounded this existing anti-intellectual tendency by devaluing ideal-oriented philosophical activity, leaving the American intellectual marginalized.
This allergy towards idealism and vertical associations has had a salient effect on the degree to which intellect is valued. In Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, Richard Hofstadter reminds that democracy has a leveling effect on elitist intellectualizing:
Again and again, but particularly in recent years, it has been noticed that intellect in America is resented as a kind of excellence, as a claim to distinction, as a challenge to egalitarianism, as a quality which almost certainly deprives a man or woman of the common touch (Hofstadter, 1963: 48-50).
America was, therefore, somewhat predisposed to social critiques that questioned the legitimacy of formal structures. Its constitution as well as the upheaval of the 1960's had made it particularly vulnerable to the arguments of the post-modern European social critics. American consciousness of American race problems and the growing demands for equity for minority groups made Americans particularly open to the post-functionalist proposition that if systems were not producing the desired results it was because those who had designed them had not wanted social problems solved. This 'intellect of suspicion' gave birth to schools of critical social thought that challenged the social 'explanations' of American functionalism with a daunting list of cautions, complaints and prohibitions.
Surveying a variety of post-modern social theorists we find a series of characteristics common to post-modern social philosophy: 1. It is anti-epistemological; 2. It distrusts essentialism; 3. It negates the accuracy of 'realism'; 4. It is anti-foundationalist; 5. It does not accept 'knowledge' as a reliable indicator of reality; 6. It rejects the idea of 'truth' as representation of reality; 7. It questions the habitual terminologies of disciplines; 8. It suspects 'grand narratives' and does not believe in systemic structural homeostatis; 9. It considers 'reason' anything but neutral or objective; 10. It shows skepticism towards 'words' that have come to take on fixed ideological connotations; 11. It shows skepticism towards the idea of an autonomous subject; 12. It is reluctant to accord great value to the project of the Enlightenment.
We mention this historic development as part of our discussion even though we remain aware that at its inception it went unnoticed by the majority of the public. Those who did take notice of it, however, were intellectuals in positions of power in the educational system and their subsequent teachings had considrable 'down-flow' influence on media and the population
The 'deconstructionism' of these thinkers was based on a desire to uncover motives and processes which, if left unchallenged, might have left intact the simplified penchant for all-encompassing, apologetic grand theories of society which fell short on issues of social injustice. The intellectual motives of the 'deconstructionists' was not destruction per se but 'emancipation.' That which could be pulled apart through analysis could free society from the politically motivated worldviews of primordialism and naturalism.
An important component of the work of the post-moderns was their interest in language and the study of signs. Language and signs provided a clue regarding the relationship between 'knowledge' and 'power.' The deep skepticism of their works was informed by their suspicion of bourgeois institutions and values. While all were not avowed Marxists, they agreed in considerable measure with Marx's claim that knowledge was a product of class domination. As Nietzsche had already declared, if the absolute God of absolutism was dead, then 'all was possible.' That many began reacting with allergy to the entire idea of standards was understandable.
Allan Bloom made the useful observation that European philosophy became Americanized when it reached the American academies. While it was used to reexamine American social values, it was also edited to extract what appealed and suited American critics in the European literature of 'despair' (1987: 147-148). This distinction is important, for much of European literature, especially French literature, had made an art form of existential despair. Readers were able to read these works and feel inspired by them; these works had quite a different effect, however, on idealistic Americans raised on a civility diet of directness and practicality.
One thinker who had enormous influence on American campuses was Herbert Marcuse of the Frankfurt School. In One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society (1964), Marcuse asserted that contemporary society had become dehumanized due to centralized regimes. As for psychoanalysis, it had created a repressive system that manipulated its audience in the interests of financial and political ends. He made no distinction between Soviet authoritarianism and capitalist authoritarianism, believing that both systems thrived on a limitation of libertarianism. In his many lectures, attentively attended by students on both sides of the Atlantic, he encouraged students to counterattack the 'numbing' influence of bourgeois regimentation by forming cooperative alliances with the underprivileged in order to bring about a substantial revolution against the mind-set of 'democratic totalitarianism.' Marcuse proposed that 'tolerance' in and of itself is never a sufficient guarantee of true libertarianism. In a very popular essay, A Critique of Repressive Tolerance (Marcuse, Wolff, and Moore, 1969), he suggested that 'liberal tolerance' can even block emancipatory criticism by creating a false sense of harmony. Simultaneously, Jean-Paul Sartre's call for personal political commitment through personal action also appealed to a generation of youth seeking the means to change America's domestic and foreign policies.
The idea that much of what had been considered 'human nature' was not innate but an outcome of social structures had already been proposed by Claude Lévi-Strauss who suggested that language was comprehensible due to its existence within a structured system where meanings were socially constructed and based on artificial links between the 'signifier' (the word) and the 'signified' (the meaning of the word). If language was the product of structure, then many other social practices and ideas could be considered to be determined in much the same structural way. The transformation of power relationships, therefore, required the transformation of structures and their disciplinary terminology. This desire to explain that ideology had an anatomy deeply rooted in structures of power and domination led Roland Barthes to question the entire manner in which texts were written and received, for texts were important building blocks of grids of knowledge (1977: 142-148).
The pervasiveness of power and its inescapable ideologies were also the themes adopted by Michel Foucault. For him, meanings were created as a consequence of 'discursive' practices which ultimately became represented as 'knowledge.' In Les Mots et les choses: archéologie des sciences humaines (The Order of Things) ( 1970), he suggested that even the notion of a 'subject' or 'historical agent' was a construct of bourgeois social science and that nothing assured that future studies of society would be 'man-centered.' He was readily appropriated by minority groups who saw the usefulness of his arguments for their own struggles with the establishment (in February 2005, we found over 2 million references on the internet using his name in one way or the other).
Jacques Derrida's considerable influence on American campuses played a further role in launching a particularly American version of the French 'deconstructionist' project. In three major works concerning literary texts, all published in 1967, La Voix et le phénomŹne (Speech and Phenomenon), l'Écriture et la différence (Writing and Difference), and De la grammatologie (About grammatology), Derrida proposed that a text was given meaning only subsequent to a 'delay' that occurs between the reading of a text and its readers' awareness of its supposed meaning. The implication was that such a delay provided opportunities for modification of a text's original meaning. It also permitted the text to put forward certain triggering words that could elicit a desired interpretation in the absence of good reason for such. If such modifications were inevitable parts of the process of textual perception then the claims of analysts of text were themselves contingent.
English intellectuals were less given to searching for radical reevaluations of modernity. The humanist portions of Marx's writings had appealed to members of the English New Left; it had respected Marx's socialism while steering clear of radical Soviet Marxism. French writers, on the other hand, had to deal with Althusser's insistence that humanism and Marxism were quite unrelated. As far as Althusser was concerned, any observable coherence in history was not the product of individual actors but of the systems of influence and power in which they were placed (Marwick, 1998). While England managed to respond to those parts of the post-modern writings that it found useful, American intellectuals chose to consider the totality of their implications; America's social and political environment at the time, one of 'rights affirmation,' predisposed it to become substantially self-critical and considerably categorical. Ontological uncertainty was the ultimate product of such unforgiving scrutiny of the human psyche. English social theory later made up for lost ground; but, in the period when the original 'post-modern' literature appeared, American academics were particularly ready for a decentering project.
The sense of contingency and relativism promoted by the post-modern debate has had considerable effects on social interaction. A culture of rights and entitlements emerges from such an uncompromising critique of tradition. The legitimacy of institutional structure and social order has been tested and questioned. The locating of 'motive' has become a principal function of intellectual thought. At the grass roots level people have started wondering about the 'hidden agendas' of people in power. The statement 'Where's he coming from?' often heard in the 1960's is still very much a part of intellectual politics.
THE NEW THERAPEUTIC SOCIETY
Now, when all the various factors that caused the Cultural Revolution of the 1960's and 1970's are considered, what is singularly striking is that many young Americans were experiencing strong emotional pain and anger and showing it. The 'un-restraining' of emotion in America played a paramount role in the rise of present-day American civility. It might have not been as easily achieved in a society not founded on the principles of individual autonomy and a Declaration of Independence that provided for the continual renegotiation of individual rights. It would also have been difficult to achieve in a society habituated to the deferential protocols of vertical associations founded on the traditions of aristocratic caste distinctions or strong inter-generational continuity.
The radical Scotish psychiatrist, R. D. Laing, expressed this generational disjuncture in his various works challenging conventional psychiatry's definition of schizophrenia. In Politics of Experience and the Bird of Paradise (1967) he expressed his conviction---acquired through years of work with the mentally ill---that mental illness was the consequences of abnormal communications rituals taking place in disordered families and societies that had legitimized psychological disorder. What was considered normal by majority consensus was not necessarily normal from the perspective of individual sensibility and need. Many 'normal' social practices were precisely what drove sensitive people who could not adapt to social abnormality into the safety and protection of madness. While Laing did not give enough attention to the biochemical roots of certain forms of schizophrenia and psychosis, he had a profound influence on how psychiatry and psychotherapy were to be practiced in the latter part of the 20th century. He authored the idea of the 'innocent victim' and had a profound influence on the way Western courts would handle offenders in the future. Family psychological history became an important consideration in the judicial process. Laing represented the feelings of the disaffected in the preface of his book:
There is little conjunction of truth and social 'reality.' Around us are pseudo-events, to which we adjust with a false consciousness adapted to see these events as true and real, and even as beautiful. In the society of men the truth resides now less in what things are than in what they are not. Our social realities are so ugly, if seen in the light of exiled truth, and beauty is almost no longer possible if it is not a lie....Can we do more than sing our sad and bitter songs of disillusion and defeat?
What was historically unique about the movement of the 1960's was that perhaps at no time in history had there been so much change as during the period of 1850 to 1960. The 1960's was the point of culmination. Demographic and technical changes radically altered human relationships. The 'generation gap' initially appeared not only due to moral disagreement but because different generations with different experiences came to occupy the same time frame in history. Members of the new generation realized that their parents had not experienced youth in the same way that they were experiencing it and could, consequently, not offer relevant and reliable advice. A new environment outdated some of the advice they were receiving. Moreover, they took to resisting their influence because some of the practices they wished to adopt stood in direct opposition to the established ways and ideas of their elders.
This spirit of 'opposition' was also noticeable in corporations. Many of the younger executives began 'talking back' and arguing with the older guard in the name of a new management paradigm. Nowhere was the corporate struggle between the late baby-boomers and their parents more visible than in the advertising industry where there were now very vocal demands for 'creative freedom.' Agencies became split between those who took creative risks and those that preferred to remain with 'tried and proven' hard-sell methods (Goldman, 1997). The one ad that so aptly symbolizes the revolt in the corporate world and the search for emancipatory communications was Jeremy Sinclair's ad created for the British family Planning Association. The ad shows a pregnant man in profile. Above the picture is a headline: 'Would you be more careful if it was you that got pregnant?' (29). Although the creative movement in advertising was a distinct outcome of English pop art, it soon arrived in America and was adopted by a new breed of copywriters and art directors who considered the creative integrity of the ad sometimes more important than its ability to sell the advertised product. Ironically, the creators of the engine of capitalism were nonetheless affected by a romantic neo-Marxism that made them at once supporters of capitalism as well as reformers of it. Many advertising writers and art directors began producing public service advertisements moralizing about social issues. The idealism of the counterculture is so very much apparent in the ads that appeared in the late 1960's and early1970's. One ad which won an award for social conscience in advertising was an ad showing a graveyard. The headline read, 'Peace: It can work with live people too.' Humor, hard-hitting drama and social commentary were combined to sensitize consumers. When a young copywriter came up with the original Volkswagen slogan for the 'Bug,' drawing a pencil outline of the car with the headline 'Think small,' he was not only selling the car but bringing attention to the intelligent use of natural resources. Not being the owners of the capital invested in the products they advertised, advertising agencies played a seminal role in altering corporate conceptions of the consumer.
A further liberalization of corporate behavior occurred following the appearance of Robert Townsend's best-selling Up the Organization (1970). Townsend blamed the old guard for stifling creativity in the corporation and encouraged corporate directors to stop looking at their workers as employees and start treating them as people. Townsend made a strong case for creative leadership, arguing that too many workers were being administered rather than inspired to produce their best. One of his central ideas was that managers should stop laying blame on their employees and treat them with a civility that would inspire them to produce their best. Townsend favored a horizontal corporate structure, one that was free from the constrictions of vertical institutions.
Such a high valuation of creative change drove a wedge between generations. The search for new forms made the past abstract, forgotten (or unknown) and, consequently, easier to modify, misrepresent or condemn. Centered on itself, the new generation sought models that replayed its present, confirming its validity and originality.
That the rebellion of the 60's would lose its edge was predictable considering that the leaders of the movement did not resort to violent revolution and remained dependent on the cooperation of the establishment. Nevertheless, there was a major transformation in society; although the elders resisted at first, they eventually heeded in some manner the complaints of the youth protesters. The systemic nature of the event is demonstrated by the fact that by the mid-1970's many of the parent generation had adopted some of the fashions and mores pioneered by their children. A partial mutual colonization took place. So, an important outcome of the 1960's was an increasing tendency on the part of parents to recognize the emotional issues affecting their children. This increased intimacy also freed parents to reveal their own emotional issues. Prior generations had done their best to ensure that unpleasant adult topics did not reach the ears of children and teenagers. A Victorian parent did not readily admit to having conflicts with his or her own parent. Admitting faults in one's own self. The adage 'Children should be seen not heard,' was designed not simply to keep children invisible but to keep them from claiming the right to critically participate in adult discussions and eventually criticizing their own parents.
In the 1960's, however, many youth, in a bid to rationalize and share their own preferences and insights, took on the role of family 'psychoanalysts' trying to 'liberate' their fathers and mothers from the restraints that had supposedly constricted their lives. 'Loosen-up, mom' and 'loosen-up, dad' would have been considered presumptive advice and provoked the ire of elders in former times. In the America of the 1960's such familiarity appealed to some of the younger parents who were also beginning to suspect that America had indeed become 'uptight.' The young were referring to two characteristics of Americans who were over thirty: a tendency to be 'square'---meaning to try and categorize everything according to unbending conceptions of good and bad---and an observable 'tightness' in their demeanor that revealed that the restraints that they had been made to internalize had stunted their spontaneity and emotional expression. When the hippies arrived on the scene many all-American fathers were still shaking hands with their sons rather than giving them a hug; a pat on the back was sufficient indication of affection. Many of the most bitter discussions of the 1960's, therefore, were between people who knew one another but fell on separate sides of the line dividing 'uptight' from 'cool'....'closed off' from 'feeling.'
Some of the most heated arguments occurred between new mothers of the 1960's and 1970's and their own mothers concerning the manner in which they had been raised and the different manner in which they wished to raise their own children. Threatened by a more liberal child-raising ethic the older parental generation criticized the new permissiveness, thereby driving a further wedge between itself and its offspring, not to mention its grandchildren. Decreased contact between children and their grandparents was partially caused by this dissonance. Some youth avoided their grandparents in a desire to avoid hearing further lectures about the 'moral life.' Some others were forced to limit contact due to the preferences of their own parents.
A consequence of this expressive movement was the liberation of outright contempt. A review of news documentaries from the era shows a new type of citizen emerging, one not averse to making obscene gestures or using obscene words. The word 'fuck' took on literary qualities in America. It was used to express surprise and confusion (What the fuck are you talking about?); as a parting gesture (Get the fuck out of here); as a caution (Don't fuck with me or else...); as a sign of appreciation (That was a fucking good meal); as a sign of protest (No fucking way...); even as a tribute to goodness (He is a fucking nice person...). Tens of other examples come to mind. Vulgarity became an emblem of freedom (as well as resistance towards tradition). As late as the early 1960's, Americans were cautiously using the word 'frigging' to replace the F word---it took only a couple of years for the discretionary substitute to be abandoned as archaic.
Theodore Roszak understood the full brunt of the meaning of this period: 'We live in a time when the very private experience of having a personal identity to discover, a personal identity to fulfill, has become a subversive political force of major proportions' (1979: xxviii).
The Freeing of the Expressive Body
Freud had believed that 'dark and destructive' forces resided in the recesses of the human psyche; control and repression were, therefore, necessary to keep those forces from erupting into consciousness. The 'socialization' of the American consumer had been based on the similar premise that it was best to form the consumer's behavior in order to save him from self-destructive tendencies.
Despite corporate appropriation of Freudian theory, there was an aspect to Freud's ideas that was emancipatory; psychoanalytic theory could be used to argue for a liberation of human awareness and desire as much as it could be used to rationalize the status quo. Which way it was used depended on the user's opinion regarding the ultimate reliability of human emotion.
The counter-culture took Freudian theory into deeper emotional territory than had Freud himself. It revived the work of Wilhelm Reich, a member of Freud's circle, who had broken away from Freud by asserting that what made human emotion destructive was its repression. According to Reich, human nature was not a cauldron of destructive primitive instincts. On the contrary, it was the repression of normal drives and their bio-physical energy that twisted human personality. Reich maintained that the 'libido' could be repressed only at great cost to human society ( 1964, 1973). He held that a person whose bio-energetic integrity was left intact would not react in destructive ways. In Character Analysis, he provided comprehensive description of the various psychological types (e.g. masochistic, sadistic, oral, rigid) and explained how blockages in libidinal energy created a neurotic personality given to either being excessively withdrawn or inordinately aggressive ( 1964).
Reich's influence on the cultural movement of the 1960's and 1970's cannot be stressed enough. His ideas inspired a new school of psychotherapy and personal growth that gave considerable attention to the body and to emotions. This school reclaimed members of the counter-culture when they came up against the formidable power of the American state. At the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1960, the police and American national guard were given permission to attack demonstrators, and then, a year and a half later, four students were shot dead on the campus of Kent State University. The cultural movement could not respond to the military might of the American government and withdrew to alter its philosophy of revolution. It was rationalized that if one could not directly alter society then one could alter it by altering oneself. The self that had been manipulated by social forces and the interests of elites could be liberated from the controls imposed on it. It was hoped that this liberation would ultimately transform society. Direct political activism was supplemented by the discovery and reformation of the self.
An institution that attracted a considerable number of the therapists and seminar leaders who contributed to this movement towards self-transformation was the Esalen Institute in California. Fritz Perls, who had been trained by Reich, developed a 'gestalt-oriented' therapy that sought to liberate self-expression in the interest of creating a whole person ( 1980). While Freud had warned that the unleashing of repressed emotion could lead to social chaos, Perls insisted that liberation of emotions and repressed thoughts would empower the individual and make him whole. In countless encounter groups participants learned to 'take responsibility' for the unknown part of their innermost thoughts and feelings, become familiar with them, and learn to express them. 'Honesty' of feeling and the recognition of the body as a memory bank of trauma became the common denominator of a variety of therapies (Rothschild, 2000). This was perhaps the first time in the post-Victorian era that the body was seen as an acting, feeling and thinking entity. While Spinoza ( 1959) had heroically attempted to reverse Descartes' splitting of the mind and the body in his passionate plea that mind and body were one and under the dominion of God, it was the Cartesian view of the body as a mechanism apart from the mind that had dominated much of early 20th century thinking. The 1960's to 1980's had a powerful role in reversing this dichotomy.
Thousands of practitioners became influenced by the original work done at Esalen. Workshops were offered in psychotherapy, body-awareness training, and massage. It was thought that liberation of feeling would increase a person's capacity to feel joy (Schutz, 1967). It was believed that the reclaiming of the emotional self could become a political means for resisting the conformist values of a corporate and political environment built on the molding of national character. Personal transformation became a means for effecting social transformation by increasing personal awareness and 'peak experiences.'
An interesting experiment was carried out at the Convent of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Los Angeles. Influenced by the new theories of Carl Rogers (1961), who had developed a person-centered psychotherapy method in which the individual was empowered to make his own decisions, the leaders of the Convent agreed to allow a group of psychologists to hold encounter groups with the nuns. It was thought that if the sisters developed personal autonomy they would become more sensitive to their work. Within a few months the sisters voted unanimously to dispense with wearing their nun's habits. Within a year, half the nuns had filed requests to be freed from their vows. A few were thought to be having sexual relationships with one another. The order was eventually disbanded. The disappointed nuns reported that the authoritarianism of their superiors and the concept of 'duty' they had been asked to adopt had made them feel powerless in their dealings with others. They voted to 'honor their selves and their personal needs' rather than the order's traditions of virtue and prudence (Jones, 1999).
The freeing of the 'emotional self' seemed to make people unpredictable according to established standards of 'proper' and 'improper' behavior. The expression of difference and individuality contradicted the mandates of conformity and restraint. And, indeed, the return to the core of the inner self does imply a disconnection from established regimes of behavior. Whether the disconnection is temporary or permanent it has important influences on social behavior and organization.
A similar transformation was occurring in the corporate world. In 1978, SRI (Stanford Research Institute) came up with some startling discoveries that had a seminal influence of American marketing techniques. Impressed with the writings of Abraham Maslow who had developed a hierarchy of 'types' and 'needs' (1962, 1975) these researchers focused on the most important need of the new consumer: self-actualization. Rather than researching the consumer's attitude towards a given product, they developed depth questionnaires that tried to uncover the respondents' relationships with their selves and what they held to be important values in their own lives. The resulting marketing, named 'Values and Lifestyles,' identified two major types of consumers: the 'inner-oriented' who wanted to develop their expressive self and form their own values and standards, and the 'experientially-oriented' who sought similar self-development through 'experiences.'
As a result of this new type of market research, corporations were taught how to produce and market products that would help people express their preferred identity. Variety and smaller manufacturing runs allowed corporations to service a variety of preferences, thereby allowing them to integrate the counter-culture into the consumer society. What had begun as a direct frontal attack on the corporation became corporate America's greatest ally. By encouraging 'individualism' the corporation began servicing the varied desires of individuals who were supposedly being 'themselves.' Capitalism legitimized the project of the 'liberated self' and benefited from it by selling 'identity.' Identity could be a permanent state or a temporary lifestyle adopted for some transitory experience or benefit. 'Doing drugs,' 'Doing the single scene,' 'Doing the marriage scene,' and 'Doing the veggie thing' were only some of the myriad choices suddenly available to individuals who were released from a common over-arching behavioral standard. A person could 'do' one lifestyle with one person and then switch interests when with another.
Anthony Giddens has listed the major 'dilemmas' of the self in late modernity as it faces the demands of ideological, psychological, and systemic changes. The rise of the late modern concept of selfhood has occurred in the intersection of four basic mutually antagonistic forces: 'unification versus fragmentation, powerlessness versus appropriation, authority versus uncertainty, and personalized versus commodified experience' (1991: 180-201). The late modern corporation learned to be comfortable with these antagonisms and channel them to its benefit. If there is a sense of 'amoralism' in contemporary North American culture it is perhaps due to this accommodation of varied identities and beliefs in the name of mercantilism.
The growth movement split into two branches during the 1970's. The first remained committed to the discovery and liberation of the feeling self; the second questioned the idea of a core self and proceeded according to the premise that a person could build whatever personality he preferred for himself without substantial returns to the past. Dwane Dwyer explained in Your Erroneous Zones (1976) that people were bedeviled by limiting beliefs that were the result of their socialization. Dwyer and subsequent leaders of the personal growth movement, including Werner Gerhardt of E.S.T. seminars (Pressman, 1999), believed that a person would become a better person by discovering the 'erroneous' ideas that controlled his reactions. Uncovering one's limiting beliefs allowed for the creation of a new personality. It was assumed that an innate core of competence and freedom existed and it could be accessed by transforming beliefs. This was tantamount to handing moral authorship to the individual.
These 'action-oriented' personal growth methods appealed to the experiential types. The inner-directed types, however, required a more emotive self-exploration, one that did more than erasing the habituations that emanated from their childhood. They needed to explore the actual events that had formed their personal conflicts. Perhaps for the first time in history, individuals took time to try and remember and feel their early childhood experiences. Sociologists who study late modernity without taking into account this watershed event neglect a major event in late modern society.
This search for the 'emotional self' was not without risk. As a result of the self-exploration that followed the 1960's and 1970's, many Americans found themselves submerged in emotional pain. The implications of this emotional upheaval have been difficult to rationalize within the confines of a sociology that tends to posit 'psychologism' and 'social structure' as different categories of explanation. What C. Wright Mills termed 'methodological inhibition' has prevented sociology from considering the intimate relationships between individual psychology and social structure (1959).
The Freudian notion that socially functional behavior can be energized by 'neurotic needs' has lost some of its authority in a pluralist society. The 'who's to say?' moral-political banner has complicated the idea that 'normalcy' is something innate. Differences are explained as 'choices' and 'life-styles' rather than being measured against an absolute standard of normalcy. But there is a simple and profound contribution made by Freudian theory to which we can refer without running the risk of denying the rights of varying interest groups. Many who joined the personal development movement of the 1960's-1980's sought to understand why a person would react to certain situations in personally prototypic ways. Freudian theory partially helped answer the question: the energy of an 'impulse' can become redirected when its original object of desire is evasive or unavailable; the impulse or 'need' is then directed to a substitute agent. That is the personal and social psychology of 'transference.' The proposition prevents the automatic acceptance of the idea that emotions expressed in the public sphere are being wholly caused by public events. Although public events can sometimes 'trigger' unresolved emotions and issues, so can personal sentiments and predispositions affect a person's reaction to public issues. Giddens refers to this process of transference when he writes that 'feelings of personal impotence may become diffused "upwards" towards more global concerns' (1991: 193).
The anatomy of transference shows that an impulse being restrained is not necessarily sent out of existence. The impulse can be submerged and redirected, giving the impression that it has been neutralized. The process of 'sublimation' is one example of such rerouting; that of 'reaction formation' is another. So while restraints can become sufficiently applied at the external level they are not as securely controlled at the internal, individual level. Having 'skeletons in the closet' has been a proverbial euphemism for the breaking of public mores in private. An exaggeration of restraint can produce reactive behavior through the process of impulse-redirection, for the sum total of the restraints can produce an overload situation that requires relief. And, sometimes, that reactive behavior can appear to have no substantial connection to the original restraints that have caused the reaction. This, in essence, is the meaning of behavior that becomes so symbolically distorted that it no longer accurately represents the person's inner state.
In Modernity and Self-Identity (1991), Anthony Giddens integrates the rise of this psychological awareness within his discussion of the peculiar conditions of late modernity. He describes late modernity as a culture of increasing 'risk.' Contingency and the eclipsing of authority by a market-driven economy broaden the field of human experience and cause fragmentation within previously unified local habitats (189). Yet, this fragmentation also has unitary effects, for it releases aspects of personal and collective existence that may have been previously repressed. As markets expand and ignore 'pre-established forms of behavior' they promote an individualism that is then entrusted with servicing the problematic of its newborn identity and responsibilities (197). The resulting (and necessary) 'self-reflexivity' is a peculiar characteristic of the late modern self which is forced to construct its identity in a fragmented world in which the authority of tradition and elders is replaced by the multiple and conflicting views of 'experts' (195). The individual is forced to anchor himself in a self-referential piecing-together of 'meaning.' Skepticism is an outcome of such uncertainty. As the control of a central political and moral authority decreases in the face of rival minority groups the individual is given more responsibility to control his own life. And that control is made possible only when there is a life-plan available, a process through which the person can keep track of where he is in the narrative of his life at any given moment. An individual has to ask questions that are often personal: Where am I in my own existence? How am I feeling? Am I satisfied or not? How can I help myself to feel more satisfied? To whom do I belong?
The etiquette books of the 1980's and 1990's reflected this growing emotional expressiveness and the belief that authorship of the self was a personal undertaking. Letitia Baldridge's Complete Guide to A Great Social Life (1987) contained considerable advice on matters such as self-esteem and the art of becoming comfortable with one's aloneness. Baldridge offered advice that went beyond etiquette and good manners. Reassuring her reader that self-improvement needed not be dependent on wealth or social position, she advised: 'The fact that any kind of improvement---physical, spiritual, or intellectual---is completely up to you should give you a certain sense of power' (121-122). In all sections of the book, including chapters on entertaining, making friends, and being a success at work, parallel advice was dispensed on how to handle insecurities, fears and uncertainties connected to personal issues. No assumption was made that the reader would not require such advice. The book was a very good example of how the therapeutic mentality of self-healing and self-creation had become integrated into literature on conduct.
Yet, the search for a personal identity is not without risk, especially when members of co-existing generations embark on the same search negating previous assurances of reliable inter-generational knowledge and behavior transmission. Two works that illustrate the breaks that results from such simultaneous searches are a film entitled '13,' in which two teenage girls search for identity through deviance and remain unnoticed by their respective parents who are searching for their own selves, and, Avril Lavingne's best-selling song, I'm with You. Lavingne expresses the dilemmas faced by individuals who not only have to cope with their own biographies but with the contingencies of a very self-referential culture. It would be an error to discount the words of this young artist as the fringe attitudes of a punk rocker. She touches an emotional cord in a generation that is wakening up to the stark realities of a new introspective society:
Isn't anyone tryin to find me?
Won't somebody please take me home
It's a damn cold night
Trying to figure out this life
Wont you take me by the hand
take me somewhere new
I don't know who you are
but I'm, I'm with you
I'm looking for a place
searching for a face
is there anybody here i know
cause nothings going right
and everythings a mess
and no one likes to be alone (June 4, 2002).
We are suggesting that 'self-referentiality' has not only been a reward of a democratic system; it has also been a direct cause of a 'therapeutic mentality' that takes personal feeling and desire with extreme seriousness. 'What do I want to be?'---a question more appropriate to a career decision---has been transformed into: 'Who do I want to be?' a question that, by its very nature, requires decisions about the manner in which one relates to oneself and others over and beyond assigned roles and responsibilities. So, the demand for emotional gratification as part of identity construction has been a characteristic of late modernity and a by-product of the paradoxical opportunities for self-realization made possible by fragmentation, diversity, and the choices that come with prosperity.
Freud can be identified as the first harbinger of the therapeutic culture. By explaining that much of human action was motivated and energized by personal conflicts buried in the subconscious he established a precedent for the questioning of 'appearances.' He pointed to the need to 'dig deep' into the recesses of human personality to discover the deeper meanings of surface behavior. He addressed the issue of 'restraints' and emerged to declare that what was believed to be restrained (repressed) continued to exercise considerable power over persons and civilizations. Although in part mythological and affected by his own unresolved psychic conflicts, his writings on sexuality are useful indications of the processes through which individuals keep themselves unconscious of drives and desires (1930, 1950).
So the question 'Who do I want to be?' was a politically-charged one, to say the least. Becoming who one wanted to be entailed desisting from becoming what some others, including parents and authorities, might have wanted one to become. More often than not, creating a persona that was satisfying in the present required the questioning of premises and habits adopted in the past, notably during childhood and pre-puberty.
This search for the 'true self' led to some surprising discoveries regarding the extent to which childhood experiences affected adult life. One therapist-researcher working in Los Angeles, Dr. Arthur Janov, went beyond the limits of psychoanalysis and even the bio-energetic theories of Wilhelm Reich (1950) and Alexander Lowen (1967). He took on the project of explaining the nature and sources of emotional pain. Due to his work, Western knowledge of the individual, especially in America, broke the barriers of traditional restraints and addressed the energy that lay beneath those restraints and the social costs (and opportunities) of its repression.
Now, references to memories of childhood are found in the literature of every country. One of the classic examples of how present events can trigger memories (pleasant and unpleasant) from the past is found in the pages of Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, an autobiographical novel in which the narrator recounts the present while also remembering scenes from the past and the emotions associated with them. Proust brilliantly accomplishes a 'time-travel' in which associations, emotions and memories are used to lift the veil of forgetfulness that separates the adult from the child and youth. The rich use of detail, sound and nuance in Proust's work is like a neurological map of the human psyche ( 1983). Yet, the account remains as art and has no empirical foundation.
Janov stumbled onto a therapeutic process that facilitated the search for a forgotten childhood. In The Primal Scream (1970), Janov documented a therapeutic process that seemed to be helping adults release emotional pain supposedly originating from childhood experience. The book struck a cord in a generation wondering why it felt so much frustration and yearning; it became an instant best seller and was soon translated into over twelve languages, triggering a worldwide movement in emotional therapy. While Sigmund Freud and Wilhelm Reich had written extensively about 'emotions' and the 'compensatory' character structures that arise out of repression they stopped one step short of discovering the full extent of a person’s feeling self and the consequences of the suppression of that self.
Janov's approach went against the entire idea that 'restraint' and 'civilized behavior' are functionally correlated within a closed and reliable system of checks and balances. The totality of the evidence we have presented, from medieval times right into the Victorian era, has shown one predominant tendency: the imposing of restraints on aggression, sexuality, bodily functions and emotions has steadily increased in tandem with increased specialization, technical development and state centralization. This general picture of an accumulation and sophistication of restraints is also the major empirical discovery of Elias' own comprehensive analysis of conduct over a long period of time  1978,  1982). Janov, however, reversed the process and helped his clients to remove the restraints that had been placed on their emotions and their bodily expressions. Since no decivilizing effect was observed (not as long as the person expressed his feelings in connection to their real source rather than 'acting them out' or 'taking them out' on others), we feel it important to give some consideration to Janov's discovery as part of our study of how emotions and civil/uncivil reactions are intimately related. Janov's discovery has been supported by neurological research on the human mind's ability to store memory and emotion out of consciousness (Penfield, 1950: 45, 50-51; Melzack and Wall, 1965: 971-979; Melzack and Scott, 1957: 155-161; Herrick, 1926: 91; Janov and Holden: 1975).
Janov's discovery had considerable consequences on American ideas of the self. Although the majority of Americans never experienced Janov's therapy they came under the influence of a new feeling-oriented social philosophy. The idea of releasing pain infiltrated the media. Janov's process encouraged 'feeling' as a central need of selfhood. A feeling person was a self; a non-feeling person, regardless of his mental acuity, was a half-person. Countering the rationalist objectivity of writers such as Ayn Rand, Janov championed the 'feeling individual' as the solution to social problems. His work affected an entire range of holistic personal growth approaches and welfare programs. The idea that the 'inner child' needed healing permeated the New Age movement of the 1980's and 1990's, making millions question the meaning and quality of their lives. Even those personal growth methods that did not require an experiencing of childhood pain cautioned how 'scripts' emanating from childhood disappointments could bedevil adult behavior and get in the way of personal success and self-esteem. The contemporary 'life-coaching' movement, although action-oriented, is also based on the premise that individuals seeking success need to be freed from preceding 'limiting beliefs and experiences' which supposedly predispose them to fear or avoid success.
The new 'therapeutic movement' put a tremendous amount of pressure on the individual to take responsibility for his own psychological and spiritual growth. Conformity to communal values became paralleled by personal growth and the need to discover and build the 'authentic self.' This reversion to emotional authenticity had considerable social consequences. It established an irreconcilable tension between a presentation of self that was focused on the comfort of 'the other,' the central pillar of courtesy, and a presentation of self that remained loyal to personal desire and emotion. While the Victorians had believed that excessive sincerity could create embarrassment in social discourse, the American therapeutic culture agreed to pay the cost of unease despite the 19th century American consensual ideal of being 'at all times at ease' and 'agreeable.'
Although he does not substantially refer to the American therapeutic movement, Giddens also distinguishes between the 'feeling real self' and 'unfeeling unreal self.' According to him, the search for personal integrity becomes at once a search for 'authenticity':
To be able to act authentically is more than just acting in terms of a self-knowledge that is as valid and full as possible; it means also disentangling---in Laing's terms---the true from the false self. As individuals we are not able to 'make history' but if we ignore our inner experience we are condemned to repeat, it, prisoners of traits which are inauthentic because they emanate from feelings and past situations imposed on us by others (especially in early childhood. The watchword in self-therapy is 'recover or repeat' (1991: 79).
This search for emotional authenticity is accompanied by the desire not to repeat precedent or, at least, drive its reverberating effects out of one's system. The past comes to represent a disintegrative and limiting experience for certain individuals---their reactions to that realization greatly affect their private and public behavior. Certainly, some become cynical of any communally proposed project, preferring to adopt a 'live and let live' philosophy of life.
Now, an interesting concept emerged from this 'therapeutic era.' Many participants in the hundreds of growth therapies developed a standard reply to questions probing at their social commitment. The reply given was: 'The best way I can help the world is by helping myself first.' 'Getting one's self together' was now seen as the best way of repairing the world. Since the world was fragmented and no official ideology seemed to govern social action, many turned to setting their own psychic houses and physical health in order, or, conversely, indulged in a carpe-diem hedonistic lifestyle. While this return to the inner self was to produce many socially conscious individuals who became activists in the promotion of various social issues, it made unavailable the type of concentrated collective energy needed to continue the anti-corporate movement of the 1960's. Instead, it led to the formation of special interest groups, each presenting the claims held in common by its members.
The American movement towards an emotionally expressive person was slow to take root in Britain. English growth therapies followed softer approaches that did not require extensive emotional expression. The English preferred to restrain their emotions while using more talk-oriented methods of personal growth. The French, who had been used to expressing their emotions frequently, saw no need to go in search of the 'well' from which their emotions emerged. When Janov opened centers for feeling therapy in France, he closed shortly after due to lack of interest. In England, a similar marginalizing of feeling therapy occurred.
One thing is certain; in a society that permits emotionalism in public, the 'stressed-out' person spreads his stress to others more than he would if placed in an emotionally restrained society. Our field observations in England and America seem to confirm this hypothesis. During two years of research in England, we noticed only two instances of people crying in the street in the absence of physical injury. We also noticed much less tension and incivility in public places, especially underground transport systems, restaurants, pubs, and shopping malls.
Therapeutic Romance and Civility
While every culture in history has caused pain to its children through the imperatives of the socialization process---a process considerably reliant on the impositions of prohibitions, restraints and roles that contradict the child's need for unlimited pleasure and unconditional love---these pains have been compensated for through the consolations of a network of supportive kin. In extended family networks, a youngster who has been castigated by his parent can turn to an uncle or aunt or grandparent for distraction and consolation. Similarly, a spouse who is having marital difficulties can receive encouragement and strength by talking to a trusted cousin or uncle or sibling. Such advice received from kin is very different and usually more conciliatory than advice received from friends who may not have an investment in keeping the extended family intact. In fact, psychotherapy is an underdeveloped profession in societies that continue to favor extended kin networks. In such cultures, people are too busy pouring their hearts out to their own kin and do not need to pay a stranger to listen to their complaints.
Emile Durkheim took note of how social bonds play a seminal role in social organization. He found that the desires of the self and its need for communal associations should be balanced: 'The human personality is a sacred thing; one does not violate it nor infringe its bounds, while at the same time the greatest good is in communion with others' (1953: 37). It would seem there is a point where there needs be a satisfactory balance between personal and communal identity. Giddens has issued a similarly cautionary warning to late modern Western society: 'The inability to take a serious interest in anything other than shoring up the self makes the pursuit of intimacy a futile endeavour' (1991: 173).
The American 'return to feeling,' and the decision to satisfy emotional needs in addition to material ones, predisposed many people to begin expressing emotions emanating from their childhood disappointments in the here and now. It was a little like opening the gates of a dam. This 'displacement of affect' (or 'acting out') created a great deal of stress within relationships, a stress that could not be readily resolved through discussions focused on the present because the emotional problems pre-dated the particular situation. People made one another responsible for their own history and hoped that this history could have a pleasant revision in the present. 'You make me angry' and 'You make me sad' became part of this vocabulary of transference and blame-assignation. Its effects on adult relationships was considerable. A dissatisfied spouse may have thought: 'If I can get away from this person who makes me angry and hurt then I will not be angry and hurt any more.' More often than not, however, a period of rest and emotional consolidation following a separation was followed by another turbulent liaison. Few people were able to detach themselves from their situations long enough to ask themselves why they seemed to be so sensitive and prone to hurt.
Nathaniel Branden, a psychologist-philosopher who achieved fame in America through his writings on self-esteem and romantic love, has explained how difficult it is to maintain a long-term romantic relationship without an adequate inter-personal communications system that makes the participants conscious of which of their disaffections come from the past and which from the present. He further specifies that in the absence of authentic self-esteem (the certainty that one's mind is being used towards rational ends that are in keeping with one's highest values) people become prone to dysfunctional behavior whether they are living alone or in a partnership (1988).
The decrease in 'formality' between genders----a consequences of a variety of economic, ideological and emotional factors---had a crucial effect on releasing thoughts and emotions which in previous eras, such as the Victorian period, might have been referred to obliquely but kept under restraint. The dissatisfaction that arose in many couples was not simply the consequence of economic and ideological forces but a result of this new desire for 'intimacy' and 'directness.' 'Bread-winning' and 'house-keeping' were no longer sufficient measures of a spouse's worth. Couples came to expect that a true loving bond required the maintenance of passion, love and mutual kindness over a long period of time. Positive emotional expression and 'open sharing' became the new standard, confounding many who had contented themselves with performing their marriage duties without considering the complexity and contingency involved in maintaining romantic love over the period of a lifetime.
A major issue in relationships was the emerging identity of women. As early as 1965, Betty Friedan had questioned women's acceptance of their traditional role as homebound nurturers. In The Feminine Mystique (1965) she wrote of her own search for a 'purpose' in life that went beyond caretaking. While men were given to asking themselves professional questions such as 'What do I want to be?' Friedan asked, 'Who do I want to be?' The question not only addressed the division of labor in marriage, but a woman's search for validation in the creative arena of work in a male-dominated culture. Additionally, it addressed the emotional needs of a woman who managed to liberate herself from the constructed mysteries that had kept femininity within bounded definitions. Germaine Greer took up the same theme in The Female Eunuch (1970). Gloria Steinem, co-founder and editor of Ms Magazine, became another dynamic activist for women's rights (1970). Steinem's home web site still carries a quote from one of her interviews given a couple of decades ago: 'I have yet to hear a man ask for advice on how to combine marriage and a career.' Her more recent works include Revolution from within: a book of self-esteem (1992). The feminist project has tried to address a variety of issues, including career management, family planning, choice of lifestyle and sexual preference. Men have also been faced with similarly complex role conflicts even though the men's movement has lost some of its impetus.
Giddens explains these new romantic liaisons as 'pure relationships' that are considerably different from former duty-bound relations. In a 'pure relationship' participants are frequently measuring their level of happiness and wondering if they are receiving feedback that coincides with their needs and their image of themselves:
Yet, pure relationships, and the nexus of intimacy in which they are involved, create enormous burdens for the integrity of the self. In so far as a relationship lacks external referents, it is morally mobilised only through 'authenticity': the authentic person is one who knows herself and is able to reveal that knowledge to the other, discursively and in the behavioural sphere. To be in an authentic relation with another can be a major source of moral support....But shorn of external moral criteria, the pure relationship is vulnerable as a source of security at fateful moments and at other major life transitions ( 2001: 186-187).
This search for authenticity and personal satisfaction complicates the imposition of restraints based on traditional notions of 'duty' and 'function.' The prolific bread-winner who is emotionally unresponsive is rejected; so is the meticulous mother and keeper of the house who is satisfied measuring her worth by whether or not she has performed her duties competently. Freed a little from the restrictions of traditional gender-role definitions, the male-female relationship has fallen into considerable contingency. Bereft of the type of courtship codes used by the Victorians, late modern women and men are left with their emotions as reference points. They must not only try to be authentic and loyal to their own inner feelings, but must also read the feelings of a potential or existing mate in order to ensure that both will not emerge from the contact less integral than before.
Shere Hite records the comments of one of the female respondents to her study entitled Women and Love (1988). It is a poignant illustration of the desires and fears of many women in late-modern times:
I have a feeling of never being satisfied for some reason. either he's not calling, or when he's calling, it's not romantic, and so on....Loving him makes it difficult to leave him. I've been so scared all the way, thinking to myself, no matter what happened, giving him the benefit of the doubt, 'Let me trust, let me trust', not letting myself believe the negative signals, thinking he was just insecure or reacting to something I had done in my own effort to seem invulnerable. I've always been so afraid, wondering, 'Will somebody stay?' (cited in Giddens, 1991: 88).
Apparently, more and more women have been answering the question asked by the woman quoted above and not staying. Freed from strict divorce laws, women have had to refer to their inner judgment (Weitzman and Dixon, 1994). Hite reports:
Women are deserting marriage in droves, either through divorce, or emotionally, leaving with a large part of their hearts....Most, after an initial period of trying, have gone on to find other places to invest their emotional lives. Woman after woman, after the initial years of 'trying to get through' gives up and begins to disengage quietly, gradually, perhaps even unnoticeably (1988: 526).
The same need that motivates women also motivates men: the need for love and confirmation of self-worth. Yet, it would seem that decades after the cultural revolution men still find it challenging to relate to women at the level they desire. Robert Bly notes this disconnection:
For grown men, serious change today usually means moving into expressiveness. It means leaving the tightly controlled, work-dominated, slavelike closed mouthedness that has already destroyed their relationships with their families; it means they must move into expression of feeling, reconnection with nature, reconnection with the feminine, reconnection with the deeper side of masculinity (1994: 84).
Ashley Montagu also observed that American women are less 'uptight' about touching than are American men (1978: 185). Although men are more tactile than they were when Montagu wrote his book, they may still not be at the level women would wish them to be. Letty Cottin Pogrebin has made the perceptive observation that 'American females are raised to need the touching behavior most men cannot give them' (1981: 126-7). In our conversation with men in relationships with women who seem unsatisfied with the level of intimacy with their partners we have discovered that many men resist intimacy. Further research needs be done to locate the causes of such resistance.
Thus, many men and women have tried helping each other resolve issues that involve subjects as diverse as childhood experience and the pressures of overwork. A major project has been the resocialization of the male to be a more sensual and emotionally expressive partner. The new male-female relationship has become a heroic attempt to include in the relationship a therapeutic project that tries to heal centuries of alienation between the genders and between parents and children. This new 'familiarity' has had a profound influence on the practice of 'tact.' Tact permits the keeping silent of certain thoughts and feelings. The 'emotionally honest' relationship, however, requires the revelation of what might otherwise be kept silent. There is considerably less artifice…and considerably more opportunity to give and receive hurtful criticism.
Relationships have also come under the influence of the standards of a society of consumption. Roger Scruton believes that the subordination of relationships to a commodity culture has served to commodify sex, thereby turning love into an abstraction; such exchanges of companionship according to the rules of mutual consent and carefully measured value-exchange demeans the spiritual side of love and creates a void that, ironically, fuels further unproductive attempts at acquiring love as a commodity (1999: 57-63). Ironically, the act of measuring benefits acquired for the self prevents 'the losing of the self' in the act of romance.
As in all eras, relationships are very much affected by larger social and economic forces. The privatization of the family does not at all imply any substantial uncoupling from public influence. Further complicating gender-compatibility have been a series of major cultural developments: 1. A massive entry of women into the work force together with a restructuring of the work force that has included the making redundant of many male managerial posts; 2. A feminist movement that has awakened women to anger and energized and supported them to fight for their rights as workers and domestic partners; 3. A rising discontent between men and women over role-duty and emotional issues, causing a rapid escalation in divorces and abandoned relationships; 4. An increase in father-less families as a consequence of divorce and single parenthood; 5. Increased disconnection between the primary socializers of children and media 'experts'; 6. Decreased conjunctive communication between parents and the teachers who have the attention of their children for the greater part of the day; 7. A pluralist culture that has discovered enough complaints about the past to make the entire idea of 'belief,' 'codes of restraint' and 'tradition' suspect; 8. Increased reliance on state services to fulfill responsibilities that were once shouldered by the family.
In her groundbreaking study of the dilemmas faced by working women, The Second Shift, sociologist Arlie R. Hochschild observes that we are experiencing nothing short of a social revolution due to the massive entry of women into the workplace. Hochschild's study shows the two-way interactive relationship between economy and cultural values and habituations. The end-result of economic pressure and continuing dissonance between the genders is a stressed family environment in which both fathers and mothers pay an emotional cost. The stress level seems higher in women:
As the main managers of the second shift, women become the "heavies," the "time and motion" persons of the family-and-work speed-up. They hurry children through their daily rounds---"Hurry up and eat…," "Hurry and get into your pajamas…"---and thus often become the targets of children's aggression. ( 1997: 262).
Children's reactions to this hurried, time-hungry environment are usually extreme. They either withdraw or become excessively emotional and over-activated in order to gain attention or drain off the tension of pain. As Hoschschild observes wrily, a parent who has two children, each who have adopted a different coping mechanism, is stuck with a double-stress and is forced into 'drawing the one out and calming the other down…' (262).
Despite the glamorization of 'busy-ness,' this continuing race against the clock has devastating effects on civility. As Hochschild argues, homelife becomes a stressing work environment, while, work outside the home, ironically enough, becomes a respite. It is not surprising that such acute family stress leads many partners to abdicate and separate from one another, in spirit if not in body.
Now, the explanation that divorces occur more frequently than before because partners are less willing to suffer neglect and abuse is a partial explanation. Another major reason for them is the high expectation that partners have of the new marriage relationship. Many marriages break up not because of abuse but for simpler reasons such as the 'lack of emotional intimacy' and the 'lack of great sex.' This time round, however, it is the women who are demanding equal opportunity for sexual fulfillment. Candice Bushner writes about this new attitude towards female sexuality. She is the creator of Sex in the City and writes about a group of women who are learning to play by new rules and not at all embarrassed to discuss with another their sexual experiences and preferences. Bushner explains that women have the same sexuality as males and can enjoy brief encounters just as can men. Helene G. Gurney agrees that recreational sex can feel very good if it's practiced with someone you like (July 3, 2003). It is difficult to estimate the number of people who agree with her statement; the arrival of Sexual Transmitted Diseases has placed new restraints on sexual activity and prevented us from observing where the sexual revolution might have led had the fear of disease not been a constraining factor. One thing is certain: an individual who experiences 'great sex' outside marriage will most probably also require it within a marriage.
So, it would seem that the degree of expectation in a relationship affects the consequent degree of disappointment. In serial monogamy, both outgoing and incoming partners are vulnerable to the forces of emotional disagreement. A man and woman trying to have a successful relationship must do so within a culture in which cynicism and doubt regarding relationships is rampant. Few of the assurances given by the Victorians of the 1800's and the Americans of the 1950's are there to console and reassure potential partners. Moreover, a hyper-romanticizing of relationships in the media have contributed to a sentiment of 'relative emotional poverty.' Even a relationship that might in other eras have been considered emotionally satisfying is measured against the models of romance and love emanating from story-tellers.
Expectations and disappointments are only part of the cause of divorce, however. Marcuse's explanations of the multiple social problems created by unbridled manipulation of consumer desire holds today as it did in the 1960's. While relationships now require a communicative dialogue based on 'reciprocity,' the public sphere continues operating according to a different standard: that of the bottom line. Marriages must try and survive within what financial pundits call a 'cut-throat environment' in which 'professionalism' excuses lapses in empathy. Even some relationships have taken on a bottom-line mentality. In traditional times friends and family more often than not encouraged reconciliation. Now, the more frequent response of kin, when faced with a dear-one contemplating divorce, is: 'I don't know what to say. I just want you to be happy.' Happiness becomes the bottom line of the 'pure relationship,' setting existential stoicism off to the side. It has to be achieved despite past personal disappointments as well as the demoralizing effect of hearing of the disappointment of others through the confessions of friends, news about acquaintances, and a media that broadcasts news of interpersonal suffering on a continuous basis. As for mainstream 'personal growth' programs such as Oprah and Dr. Phil, watched almost religiously by millions (and most certainly deserving further sociological analysis), they attempt to not only clean up some of the damages of a self-referential society but also try and propose some satisfactory compromise that will serve the individual's need for happiness and self-esteem.
As for divorces and separations, they have had multiple effects on families and children: 1. Loss of the expertise and moral knowledge of the departing parent; 2. A decrease in economic resources; 3. Increased life stress emanating from novel situations such as new baby-sitting arrangements, changes in spending habits, and changes in leisure activity; 4. Suffering caused to the children due to the distressed mental states of the parents; 5. Decreased parental competence following divorce and a consequent decrease in sources of behavioral examples (Amato and Keith, 1991: 26-46; Amato, 1994: 143-164). In their seminal study of divorce, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce (2001), Judith S. Wallerstein, Julia M. Lewis, and Sandra Blakeslee have followed the lives of 131 children of divorce over a twenty-five period and found that divorce has had a marked negative effect on the lives of these children and the choices they have made in their own adult lives.
We do not list the above effects in order to mount a moral argument in favor of marriage but to indicate that a considerable portion of incivility is connected to perturbations in relationships; how much of this tension becomes expressed through emotional overload in the form of incivility towards kin, acquaintances, friends and strangers is anyone's guess. Even so, our knowledge of the process of 'emotional transference and displacement' suggests that the effects are not negligible.
The American reversion to the naturalism of emotional expression has had important consequences on the socialization process. A review of American films from the 1960's to the present shows that the 'emotional volume' of interactions has been on a continual rise. 'Self-expression' has become the mantra of the post-60's generations. Within this emotionally and ideationally vocal culture, there has been a parallel broadening of the range in which permissible child and youth 'talk-back' occurs. Child-raising experts of previous eras would be stupefied by the new American parenting, just as American parents would be stupefied by the comments of Dr. John B. Watson, the American founder of Behaviorism, who wrote the following advice to mothers in 1928:
There is a sensible way of treating children. Treat them as though they were young adults. Dress them, bathe them with care and circumspection. Let your behavior always be objective and kindly firm. Never hug and kiss them, never let them sit on your lap. If you must, kiss them once on the forehead when they say good night. Shake hands with them in the morning ( 1972: 81-82).
Watson was concerned that affectionate mothering would get in the way of the 'indoctrination' of children and adversely affect their later lives as adults. The price he had been willing to pay for planned social 'coherence' was the child's emotional needs. Watson's manner of viewing childhood was not at all marginal in his era. Despite the experimentation and sensuality of the 'roaring 20's,' the raising of children was increasingly mechanized and regimented. This mechanized view of human behavior (and the human body) paralleled the regimentation occurring in industry and science. Paradoxically, the generation of the 1920's, even though it was sexually more permissive than had been the Victorians, was considerably regimented. The obsession with 'functionality' as a prime evaluator of personality and action was a direct outcome of a philosophy of action that left emotions sorely neglected. While this repression of sentiment might on the surface appear as emotional restraint, it was actually emotional denial, for there is a difference in holding back known emotions in the interests of social order, and denying those of our emotions that form an important part of the human constitution of 'primal needs.' The denial of an a-prior consciousness by American behavioral psychologists was, in fact, a reversal of Victorian and American sentimentalism and romanticism. This materialistic view of human consciousness was the outgrowth of a high valuation of methodological efficiency and not very much connected to an idealistic meditation on human emotional happiness. It caused an outright neglect of the depth of human emotion.
The argument could be made that Watson's advice went unheeded by American mothers and that they continued following their own maternal wisdom. However, if this were so, there would have been no need for anyone to write a passionate argument in the favor of maternal affection. In 1949, Dr. Benjamin Spock was revolutionizing American mothering with his book, Baby and Child Care. Spock encouraged mothers to do exactly the opposite of what Watson had advised. He urged them to listen to their own instincts and assured them that excessive dependence on maternal conduct books was unnecessary ( 1958: 15). As for affection between mother and child, he found it essential:
Don't be afraid to love him and enjoy him. Every baby needs to be smiled at, talked to, played with, fondled---gently and lovingly---just as much as he needs vitamins and calories. That's what will make him a person who loves people and enjoys life (54).
Why would Spock have told mothers not 'be afraid' to love their children if some hesitancy was not already present? Yet, Spock's advice could not have been easy to follow by a generation brought up under a different parent-child ethic. In order to be physically affectionate, the mother (and father) of the 1950's would have had to practice that which they may not have experienced as a child. If Spock was right in warning that an absence of loving touch blocked the development of a loving human being, then what assured that the mothers and fathers to whom he addressed his words were not blocked themselves? Their cultural optimism and enthusiasm did not vouch for their ability to be loving towards infants and very young children. Had they succeeded in relating to their children through loving touch, there would have been no revolution in parenting in the 1960's and 1970's nor a market for a whole slew of books extolling the virtues of touch, the principal one being Ashley Montagu's widely-popular book Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin (1978).
This new respect for emotional sensitivity has, however, had its opportunity costs. It has required considerable permissiveness. A consequence of this 'permissiveness' has been the development of a quasi-peer culture between some parents and children. As early as 1948, Geoffrey Gorer was observing that American parents were experiencing a strong desire to be loved, so strong that they would be willing to purchase that love by agreeing with their children’s desires even when they knew that the immediate gratification of some of those desires may not have been good for the children in the long run (1948). This desire for consensus made parents quite open to the emerging anti-authoritarian popular philosophies. It also made them vulnerable to what could be commercially marketed in the name of 'personal emancipation,' 'responsible parenthood,' and the 'rights of the child.' And, most certainly, it made them unaware of the manner in which a child consumer culture was being installed in society and the power that this culture would have in placing additional stresses on the family.
This new liberalism in childrearing should also be seen in light of the 'ideologies' and 'self-interest' of the parents who subsequently became of child-bearing age in the 1960's and 1970's. John Rothschild and Susan Wolf ask a disturbing question in their book, The Children of the Counter-Culture (1976). They wonder whether the flower children did not unintentionally neglect their children thinking this would give them the freedom that they themselves had not possessed and for which they had fought so bitterly and relentlessly. Their children, however, not having experienced the moral and political issues for which their parents had fought so passionately, might have interpreted the new 'laissez-faire' parenting as a lack of interest or lack of love. The liberalism was practiced in the name of 'individualism' but may have been interpreted by its benefactors as something else.
A similar point was made in Douglas Copeland's best-selling Generation X - Tales for An Accelerated Culture (1991). Copeland considered his generation a contingent one, caught in a sort of time warp whose future still remained unknown.
So one is left wondering about the opportunity-costs of this new permissive American parenting. The consequences of the loosening of parental authority were not quite clear at the time; even today, it is a politically volatile issue, for each negative consequence seems to also have a positive side when compared to the parental cruelties of former eras. For their part, children pick up on the dilemmas faced by their parents and frequently remind their parents that their own 'psychological needs' should be understood and respected. Traditional cultures did not promise to understand their children; it was up to the child to understand adult society, appreciate the functional properties of its customs and learn its codes of behavior. Such culture, at least, provided the child with a continuing extended family and clarity regarding the behavior expected of them. The codes kept parents restrained from seeking personal fulfillment at the cost of family solidarity. In post-50's American society, however, adults had to increasingly learn what bedeviled them as well as their children. Children took to testing limits in a bid to see how far they could go in satisfying their own desires before receiving sanctions from their parents. In the presence of change, limits became negotiable and they differed from family to family. It became current belief that youth itself was a troubled period, like some sort of medical disease that would hopefully cure itself over time. What was not seen, however, was that constant social negotiation of rights and permissions has an agitating effect on interactants, regardless of their age.
Such uncertainty put considerable pressure on individuals not to appear illegitimate in their claims of rights. There was a consequent allergy towards 'being judged.' 'Who are you to judge?' became the defensive reply of one who did not want to be assimilated by non-negotiable behavioral imperatives. That this reply has been sometimes delivered to the parent indicates how far the codes of restraint and deference have changed. It was always the parent's role to judge and evaluate the behavior of his children; now this is considered by some as an abnormal desire for 'control.' This 'self-centered' attitude is further expressed through the popular philosophy (probably acquired as a result of failed confrontations in marriages) that states that a person should 'never try to change another.' The project of moral development becomes a personal one; missionary zeal, even that of a parent, becomes contraband, for it is based on faith in absolute values.
So, in late modern society, parents and children are asked to empathize with the needs of one another. The child takes on a parental duty and is asked to recognize that the happiness of his parents is as important as his own needs for an intact family. While in traditional cultures many children sought to please their parents by being 'good' (without having to think too much of their parent's emotional issues), many contemporary children have taken to measuring their interests against the demands of an inconsistent adult society that is not only subject to parental inconsistency but to contingency in the social norms of civility.
In such a morally and behaviorally diverse society the motivation for submission to proposed restraints becomes weaker because of the fragmentation of authority and authoritative explanations. Leaders (religious, familial and political) are relegated to the sidelines by the appearance of child and relationship experts. They take over as the norm-setters. Ironically, they respond to doubt as well as serve to increase it, for they search for novel and efficient solutions to family problems, problematizing the entire notion of fixity (Giddens, 1991: 195).
Rosalind Miles, in The Children We Deserve, reminds that permissiveness and abdication to the 'public influence' of experts cannot excuse emotional neglect: '...to make an emotional orphan of her child, a mother need not be cold, neglectful or violent. All it takes is the inability to feel for her child, as a child, and to put those needs first' (1994: 47). Miles’ commentary on what it takes to be an effective parent is worth reading carefully, while keeping in mind that Miles, previous to writing her book, had written various works of feminist fiction and non-fiction:
This activity or quality, something that the mothers of the past seemed to manage without even thinking about it, in the full contemporary sense of the phrase is proving the hardest thing to do. The central female character in Nora Ephron’s film This Is My Life observes that if children have to choose between their mother being happy out of town or suicidal in the next room, they’ll take suicidal. ‘As far as kids are concerned there is only being there and not being there,’ comments Ephron. ‘We can’t delude ourselves that it’s better for them if we work. Everything that’s good for you is bad news for your kids' (47-48).
Echoing Janov, Miles further suggests that 'All wrongs to children must spring from the inability to remember what it was to be a child' (103). She explains that, from the moment we come together as male and female to make a family, what we create is not simply a unit, but a system (a series of connections to our own past and to that of our parents) that forms a more powerful imperative than could ever be imagined by two individuals entering a romantic relationship convinced that their love for one another will see them through (106).
Miller questions whether adults realize the extent to which a child can feel lonely and deserted as a result of innocuous or culturally sanctioned neglect (1987). Her question reveals how far we have come from a parental culture of rule and restraint to a culture in which the emotions of the child are held to be as important as his ability to function in society. This therapeutic approach to a wounded generation has been made possible through the subjection of parental duty to public surveillance through state-run welfare systems that seek to locate families in which children are at 'risk' (Knowles: 1996: 41). Yet, counteracting their efforts is the parent's own needs for self-satisfaction. Self-sacrifice is not the ethic (nor capacity) of every citizen, especially in very individualistic cultures.
And, certainly, the idea that a person should restrain his drives out of a sense of duty is increasingly a contested issue. Some of the critics of late modern parenting tend to blame parents for holding their own growth above the needs of their children. Robert Bly delivers one of the more uncompromising critiques:
Latchkey children are television children....In the old paternal society, fathers automatically put their jobs ahead of talking with children. Mothers are now doing the same. The time that mothers spend in conversation with their children is falling rapidly (1994: 136-137).
It would seem that children who are left for long periods on their own because of the heavy work schedules of their parent(s) acquire an acute introspective space. In Talking With Teens: The YMCA Parent and Teen Survey Final Report (Global Strategy Group, 2000) researchers have found that for the 39.7 million American youth between the ages of 10-19 the foremost problem reported by them is not sufficient time spent with their parents. In another report entitled, The Teens and Their Parents in the 21st Century: An Examination of Trends in Teen Behavior and the Role of Parental Involvement commissioned by the Council of Economic Advisers (2000), 'parental involvement' is singled out as the major deterrent in risky teen behavior. Left to his own, the child is given to measuring the pluses and minuses of his existence. In a report entitled Teen Risk-Taking: A Statistical Portrait (Duberstein, Boggess, Porter and Williams: 2000) the authors report that over 25% of teens have seriously contemplated suicide. Some reason must account for this high level of morbid introversion. The conclusions of such surveys are not shared by all writers on the family. Alvin L. Schorr and Phyllis Moen believe that '...the presence or absence of both parents per se makes little difference in the adequacy of child-raising or the socialization of children' (1983: 579)…a statement as absurd as Watson's original advice to mothers in the 1920's.
Ruth Sidel connects much of the post-divorce conflicts between children and their parents not to the absence of parental presence and control but to the absence of a clear definition of 'male presence' (Sidel, 1989). Bly also addresses the dangers of paternal absence:
The father's absence is so pervasive in the sibling society that the mothers now carry an enormous burden; and mothers, no matter which community they live in, know how immense the burdens are that they carry alone. We know that the rituals we have, pitiful and unimaginative, are not working, because the boys are killing each other despite the mothers' care (1994: 87).
At issue are the drives of both children and parents; the preservation of the right to personal happiness has been extended across generations and this is one of the major contributions (and complications) of late modern Anglo-American corporate society.
Whatever one's explanation, the theme of 'absence' or 'hurried presence' seems to dominate most discussions of the contemporary family. Whether that absence is within an intact marriage, a reconstituted family, or a single-parent family, there seem to be repercussions.
Certainly, the above analysis would prove unsatisfactory to certain critics of contemporary American culture who consider American parenthood as an institution in deep crisis. Some thought-provoking works that include more drastic and more worried views regarding the effects of a time-bound culture of self-fulfillment include: Jane M Healy's Endangered Minds (1990), Joseph Chilton Pearce's Evolution's End: Claiming the Potential of Our Intelligence (1992), and Edward F. Sigler's and Meryl Frank's (eds), The Parental Leave Crisis (1988), and Ken Magid's and Carole A. McKelvery's, High-Risk: Children Without a Conscience (1988).
In our review of the conduct books of the 15th to 17th century we have observed a predisposition towards treating the child as a functional necessity of a larger social world, and less often as an emotional being with his own rights and needs. Only when conduct books began suggesting that children be taught through stories that featured them as central players in family dramas did the status of children increase.
This shifting standard of parenthood seems to indicate a change in human awareness and a new recognition of that which might have gone unrecognized (or, faintly understood) in prior eras. Narratives of the 'damage' done to children are less observable in societies of slow change because one generation resembles the other in substantial ways. There is not enough disequilibrium for the younger generation to suddenly review its position and take to complaining about it in public; lack of alternatives makes people compliant to the socialization they have received. Similarly accepted is the restraint of emotion, for the possibilities of feeling the painful imprint of socialization and deprivation becomes less possible in a body cut off from its emotions due to social consensus regarding rules of emotional propriety. Complaints are muted during childhood itself or kept at the level of silent tears. If the child wants to contest a rule he does so with a considerable tact that borders on hedging. The child does not dare overpower the parent with emotion, because a host of socialization agents forbid such imposing expressions.
So, we are suggesting that childhood pain has not necessarily increased; only its awareness has, due to perturbations in family structure, generational continuum, and a new ethic of interactive justice. In previous extended kin networks there were more opportunities for association but there were also more opportunities for the feeling of shame and humiliation because a child's critics were numerous. This certainly had a silencing effect. We discuss this further in context of contemporary French socialization practices (Ch. 11).
What is interesting is that many of the standards of the 'pure relationship' have now been brought into the area of parenting. A child who is simply obedient yet creatively passive is seen as having problems; a parent who administrates rules with no consideration of the shifting values of popular culture is seen as 'insensitive.' 'Authenticity' becomes of considerable importance even in relationships defined by duty. This creates preconditions for the by-passing of older rules of conduct and belief. 'Authentic' dialogue also becomes subject to changes in emotional disposition. One 'goes with one's feelings.'
Tocqueville realized the inherent contradiction between 'authenticity' and 'duty' and seemed to be partial to the former:
If a certain way of thinking or feeling is the result of a particular conditions of life, when the conditions change, nothing is left. Thus law may make a very close link between two citizens; if the law is repealed, they separate. Nothing could have been tighter than the bond uniting lord and vassal in the feudal world. Now those two men no longer know each other. The fear, gratitude, and affection which once joined them have vanished. One cannot find a trace of them. But it is not like that with feelings natural to man. Whenever a law attempts to shape such feelings in any particular way, it almost always weakens them. By trying to add something, it almost always takes something away, and they are always stronger if left to themselves ( 1994: 589).
This struggle against 'authority' and 'formality' has opened a window of opportunity: the private self has been given an opportunity to evaluate its relation to social norms according to standards of personal fulfillment. Psychoanalysis opened the first door to the regions that had remained suppressed in the interests of social cohesion; the American feeling therapies that followed from Freud's ideas opened subsequent doors. Whether a person was inner-directed or experiential, the goal was self-actualization. At first, the concept of self-actualization was based on an actual communion with the inner self and regulated by intense work on personal biography. Later, it became abridged to signify any claim made in the name of the self. While the original participants in the growth movements had sought to exteriorize the claims of the inner self, the cohorts who followed them responded to the corporate idea of lifestyle as an emblem of selfhood. The way a person lived became as important as how he felt. The experiential mode of self-definition coincided with the 'practice' of lifestyle and its efficacy was measured by whether or not a person was able to project an 'image' that coincided with the identity he wished to possess. While 'distinction' could no longer be obtained through noble title it could be obtained through the types of clothes worn, the restaurants frequented, the activities pursued, and the cars purchased. In a democratic society built on an ideal of equality, 'standing out from the crowd' becomes the new emblem of distinction.
The label of the 'me generation' would, in fact, have been more descriptive had it been 'the identity generation.' We are left wondering whether a civilizing process that took centuries to develop has been weakened by this search for identity, or, whether we are faced with a braver new world in which our contingency will lead to the development of increasingly sophisticated measures of courtesy and social civility. We have seen a variety of forces intersect: systemic changes that widened the gulf between generations, ideological disagreements that changed the relationships between youth and parents, divorces which affected the ontological security of all involved, new negotiations between the genders, the fragmenting of the political body through the appearance of rival minority groups, and changes in corporations that radically affected conditions of work, duty and citizenship.
The effects of this therapeutic movement on the rise of a self-centered mentality should not be underestimated. Bloom states that 'once Americans had become convinced that there is indeed a basement to which psychiatrists have the key, their orientation became that of the self' (1987: 155). It was thought that this self, although always 'mysterious' and out of reach, could be symbolized and nurtured through the taking on of positions that counteracted the limited loyalty to community. Discussing America's particular reaction to European nihilism, Bloom defines American nihilism not as much a 'lack of firm beliefs but...a chaos of the instincts or passions' (155). He misses, however, the fact that disbelief in existing forms creates a need for discovering new forms; humans are not capable of managing without a certain degree of stability and custom. Even informality can become formalized into a form of its own (Wouters, 1986).
One of the consequences of a society populated by individuals who are allowed to accept and/or reject portions of the social norms of their society is the rise of a 'culture of entitlement.' Identity then requires giving to the self those rights considered to be owing to it. This sense of entitlement is not solely connected to expectation but also to the fact that the individual is allowed to 'choose' from a variety of permissive attitudes and behaviors. Such social permissiveness has an important effect on the degree of self-restraint exercised by a certain individual as well as on the possibility or impossibility of maintaining a collective conception of ideal levels of restraint. No longer limited by a strict codex of personal and political behavior, the individual is freed to construct his identity based on personal preferences and personal evaluations of what is to be considered taboo and shameful.
It would seem that there is a correlation between the number of behaviors that are considered shameful and the degree to which personal impulses are restrained and refined in the interests of public decorum and solidarity. Social and political conditions in the latter part of the 20th century have produced a new cultural environment in which the specifications for good behavior are diminished in favor of personal choice. This change in habituation and rules of conduct has occurred at the primary (parental) and the secondary (educational and political) levels.
In an issue of the British daily, The Independent, columnist Anne McElvoy reminds critics of the highly bureaucratized contemporary educational system of how things were prior to the 1960's:
...in my primary school we were taught for two years by a deranged woman who so obviously disliked children that it could only have been a sadistic streak that kept her in the job. We grew up unprotected from the lazy, bad and cruel teachers, in a culture that assumed that the teacher was always right... (April 3, 2002: 3).
Many of the youth of the 1960's mistrusted their parents because they considered them to be aligned with an authoritarian educational system that was not being held accountable. The authoritarianism of that system helped weaken trust in it. Since then, the teaching profession's self-surveillance and bureaucratization has provided students with much needed protection. It has also transformed the school. The purpose of education itself has been put into question. The study of precedence, custom and established 'facts' has been supplemented by a revision of attitudes. The schools have, in effect, attempted to re-socialize society by addressing the issues that divide identity groups: racism, ethnocentrism, gender-discrimination, child abuse, environmental degradation. The school has become an institution of the therapeutic society, a means for developing personal awareness, sometimes at the costs of academic competence.
The consequence of this democratization of interactions in classrooms is considerable. Permissiveness is demanded of the teacher and a simplifying of material preferred. Critics of education have called this a 'dumbing down' process (Bloom: 1987: 336-347). The liberalization of teacher-student relationships, combined with an academic agenda pressured to include the history and issues of minority groups, has complicated the entire notion of a standard educational canon. The purpose here is not to argue for the merits or demerits of the post-1960's educational project but to point out that the liberalization of the school has facilitated incivility in certain cases. Proverbially, the status of the teacher helped preserve decorum in the classroom. Today, the relationship between teachers and students undergoes similar changes undergone by gender relations. 'Purity' of feeling and democratization of opinion overshadows 'respectful duty.'
Such deformalization has advantages as well as disadvantages. It frees students from the fear they felt when previously confronted with strict, judgmental teachers given to humiliating their students. The student develops a confidence that he might not have otherwise developed. If he is from a disadvantaged background, or if there are particular perturbations in his family, the tolerant school environment can in some measure repair self esteem and act as a comfort zone. On the other hand, the tolerance can act as a rationalization for minimal effort; in such a case, the student is ready to work when the subject represents his social interests but resistant to doing the work when it does not. He is left with a minimum of inspiration and guidance. Certainly, too many graduate while remaining unaware of the tougher standards awaiting them in the corporate world.
Parallel transformations have occurred at the level of the state and the corporation. As Habermas has explained, the neutrality of the law in matters to do with the preservation of rights requires the state to maintain 'moral' facelessness:
...political questions of an ethical nature must be kept off the agenda and out of the discussion of 'gag rules' because they are not susceptible of impartial legal regulation (1994: 123).
This government of tolerance posits that it is by remaining neutral that the state can best assure the protection of a variety of rights that may be in opposition to each other. While Rousseau might have insisted that free speech be preceded by some 'moral vocabulary,' the purely liberal state does not see morality as a general state project. Its purpose is to define what is not permitted, not preach about what should be practiced. The population is to construct its own meanings with that which is not prohibited to it. Habermas has discussed this empowerment of the individual to reach his own moral conclusions and called the individual 'the bearer of rights' ( 1989: 121).
These rights go beyond the right to appear equal before the law, the basic requirement of a society of free individuals. Additionally required is that the law recognize the differences between various identities. For example, a person who is a member of an ethnic minority, gay, vegetarian, ecologically concerned, and a single parent with a disabled child seeks to have all those facets recognized. He also seeks to have the political and social environment in which he lives be influenced by his multi-dimensional identity and his varied choices. Not only does he seek to be recognized for the sum total of who and what he is, he also wishes his identity to be accepted in the definitions and norms of the mainstream culture. Special interest groups are the agencies used to mobilize and unite individual identities that resemble one another. Expectedly, the competition for rights diminishes discretion. Not only is a citizen concerned for his own rights but is prone to criticize those behaviors that contradict his own interests. In response to this conundrum, social policies are adopted that facilitate a consensus achieved within a broad definition of tolerance; this requires that a specific national ethos of morality be reformulated within a definition of civil rights rather than civil cohesion.
A state that lays claims to rational democratic legitimacy loses the luxury of making informal decisions based on moral sentiments. Paradoxically, the more the population demands the satisfaction of local rights negotiated in minority settings, the more is the state forced to adopt a formal position in regards to the rights and their protection. Weber's 'faceless bureaucracy' is a product of such democratization. In a despotism one can turn the bureaucracy to one's advantage with connections or with money placed in the right hands. It is this lack of broadened justice that makes people living under a despotic regime cynical towards the governing powers and given to considering them illegitimate and unjust---such black-humor cynicism is expressed even by those who know how to turn the system to their advantage. In despotic systems, the private sphere achieves a moral maturity that surpasses that possessed by the state; private relationships become subject to codes of honor in the absence of a state-run regulating mechanism that operates on neutral ethical principles. This contributes to political passivity in a population.
So, in democratic countries the state becomes the legitimate source of rights claims. While it is constitutionally prevented from dominating civil society, it provides the legislative means for ensuring that the rights of civil society are preserved. The cost of this 'impartiality' is a loss in the state's authority to 'pursue any collective goals beyond guaranteeing the personal freedom and the welfare and security of citizens' (Habermas, 1989: 123). In effect, the state becomes a dispensing machine for rights. Rights are no longer determined by majority consensus but by the ability of groups to lay claim to legislative benefits. The process of 'claiming' becomes as important as the validity of the issue. Naturally, this increases the opportunities for litigation and has a salient effect on public civility.
In such a culture of entitlement, even the notion of majority consensus is challenged because majority rule is considered a means of keeping minority issues under-represented. The relative superiority or inferiority of claimants is no longer a basis for legislative decision. It is hoped that the majority, by accepting and becoming familiar with the minority claim, will itself become morally transformed. Schudson suggests that democratic conversations between citizens based on a recognition of rights is an outgrowth and not a cause of democracy; so it would seem that the mutual dependence between a state guaranteeing rights and a citizenry affected by its own needs for recognition releases the potential for a general concept of civility that can withstand perturbations between the interests of the public and private spheres. The only price required is a decrease in spontaneity in the interests of mutual recognition (1997: 297-309). Peter Wagner points to the paradox created by such diversity. A mentality comes into effect that welcomes '…diversity and singularity, on the one hand, and resists universal statements, on the other, except that one that no well founded universal statements are possible' (1996: 109). The erosion of boundaries requires the construction of a special boundary against hyper-coherence, a precondition for authoritarian ideology.
Such a politics of rights depersonalizes public personality in the interests of 'impartial justice.' Facelessness assures equal treatment before the law even though it dampens political and moral debate. The power of rejection possessed by a formerly authoritarian state is replaced by non-discriminatory acceptance. So, the moral vocabulary of the democratic culture is no longer limited to the comparison of relative moral worth but to the moral imperative of a politics of rights. Ironically, a strong restraint become imposed on the democratic state, and, by extension, on those citizens who would desire the state to take uncompromising stands on moral issues without majority consensus.
Robert W. Hefner offers some reassurance, explaining that the democratic basis of civility is heterogeneous and is dependent on free speech and associations based on modern values, diversity included (1998a: 16-27). Similarly, in The Politics of Recognition, Charles Taylor tries valiantly to reconcile the tensions that are inevitable consequences of a politics of entitlement. He explains that while, on one hand, the individual needs recognition at the personal level he also requires recognition within the group in which he was born and socialized. The individual asks for recognition as a citizen possessing the right to advance in life without being stereotyped with the identity marks of a given group, yet he also wishes that the group to which he belongs be respected. The multiplicity of rights that can be claimed by any one person puts the state in a difficult position in which it is bound by democratic duty to recognize 'difference' while affirming itself in favor of a neutral unbound citizenship (1994). Neil Bisoondath, in Selling Illusions, a scathing critique of state-sponsored multi-culturalism, states that the enthusiastic recognition of 'ethnic' identity and 'ethnic distinctiveness' serves to exclude members of an ethnic group from inclusion in the dominant culture. By 'identifying' and 'protecting,' the state prevents assimilation (1994). Yet, a segmented recognition is sometimes the best way to protect members of a group from total exclusion from significant jobs in the mainstream culture; the absence of a politics of recognition may cause a prolongation of discrimination and exclusion (Davetian, 1994).
Worry over the actual specification of the conditions and contradictions of a politics of pluralism misses its 'systemic' consequences. Habermas brings attention to the fact that the dialogues of political interest groups have a democratic effect that surpasses the specific claims that are being made:
Citizens who are politically integrated in this way share the rationally based conviction that unrestricted freedom of communication in the political public sphere, a democratic process for settling conflicts, and the constitutional channeling of political power together provide a basis for checking the illegitimate power and ensuring that administrative power is used in the equal interest of all (1994: 135).
Habermas is searching for an approximation of an 'ideal speech situation' in which the mere act of communication produces consequences that enhance emancipation. This search for a 'constitutional patriotism' is an abstract ideal in a liberal state that no longer has the right to legislate the loyalty of its citizens. Few countries possess laws requiring all citizens to vote in national elections. What Lionel Trilling aptly termed the 'oppositional self' (1955) is given the right to use its personality to perturb the habits of a culture, but not required to ground its demands in a larger politics of national cohesion. Habermas' hope is that the combined effects of perturbations emanating from varied claims for distinction will create a stream of discourse that will approximate Rousseau's ideal of a social contract free from humiliation and dependence. Taylor phrases this ideal as the affirmation of distinct identities that are shared within a framework of rights that accords universal importance to each identity (1994: 39). Both explanations, however, do not adequately take into account the competition for scarce cultural and economic resources.
So from the point of view of the state, the individual (and the group in which he claims membership) is at once sacred but also to be held faceless in the interests of overall justice. The state is at once required to be dynamic as well as restrained, concerned as well as detached.
A similar division occurs at the institutional level, especially at the educational level. The guarantee of constitutional equality necessitates the adoption of certain vocabularies of political correctness that symbolize commitment to such equality (PC). This has had a paradoxical effect; on one hand, it has created a new restraint on the open expression and admission of prejudice, while, on the other hand, it has released the tensions that invariably occur when differing groups suddenly find themselves united by an officially imposed code of tolerance (Beckwith and Bowman, 1993; Renzetti, 1993; Johnson, 1992). Nat Hentoff considers the political correctness and rights movement a censoring process. In Free Speech for Me---but not for Thee… he accuses the American Left and Right of playing a mutual game of censorship at the detriment of communal solidarity (1992).
If there is one thing on which both friends and foes of political correctness seem to agree on it is the fact that it champions a 'transformative' view of education and society. Whether that transformation should be welcomed or not is the big bone of contention (Beckwith and Bowman, 1993; McCormack, 1992). That the affirmations of rights and the practice of civility are competing values cannot be denied (Russell, 1996). On a short-term basis, the politics of recognition has entailed a loss of consensus and social solidarity, but it has produced a more abstract social civility, one based on the much-needed recognition of civil rights (Peck, 2002).
Opinions about whether or not political correctness has had an authentically transformative effect on prejudice have been divided. There has also been considerable disagreement on whether it is a positive or repressive cultural force. Miami University professors Henry Giroux and Peter McLaren have stated that education should be liberated from what Michel Foucault called a 'regime of truth' and become a 'form of cultural politics.' They have maintained that teachers should assume a transformational role and universities should take upon themselves the role of 'reconstructing and transforming' the dominance of the status quo culture (cited in Martin, 1991: 639-640). This new view of education echoes the neo-Marxian, post-structuralist notion that the purpose of study is not only to interpret texts, but use the process of interpretation to change society.
The response from the anti-PC camp has been equally passionate. William Bennett’s 1984 report on humanities education in America, 'To Reclaim a Legacy', has argued that the classical texts of Western civilization are being criticized and sometimes replaced by texts of lesser quality and questionable importance. He has warned that a legacy is being irretrievably lost, a legacy that contains timeless truths and values that have to be transmitted intact from one generation to another (Scott, 1991: 34).
What is less discussed in debates of political correctness is the effect of officially restrained prejudice. Agreement to protect equal opportunity by the majority group becomes a reproduction of the proverbial use of 'tact.' For the minority group whose interests are at stake, the tool used to keep the majority group reminded of its responsibility towards the minority group is a determined use of guilt-manipulation and the laying of blame. It goes without saying that these tactics have produced considerable alarmism and hesitancy in interactions that might otherwise have been more direct (whether civil or not). Nevertheless, while PC may produce insincerity, it does allow a neutral space of interaction that decreases the possibility of outright incivility and conflict. In the absence of authentic self-generated tolerance, an external moral code of tolerance is socially less disruptive than the alternative of uncloaked self-interest. It certainly allows minority groups the 'breathing space' they need to repair the wounds of the past and plan constructive actions for the future. Political correctness, a product of the liberal state, becomes a new form of civility practiced between groups, no more or less sincere than traditional courtesy practices. Its long-range effects may include the emergence of a new sentiment of social cohesion and solidarity despite a culture of plural interests, or, on the other hand, as suggests Parthasarathy (2001), it may lead to the less-desirable alternative of the taking on of a position of 'indifference' (neutral tolerance) as a means of tolerating differences (104-106). Indifference, however, is not violence. It remains within the boundaries of a lower-order civility. While it does not welcome the position or claims of the other it does not negate it in an outright manner. And when the possibilities of outright hostility increase, then 'irony' kicks in, standing in for outright unpleasantness.
Robert F. Murphy has reminded in The Dialectics of Social Life (1971) that the principal task of late-modern sociology is the study and explanation of the 'unintended consequences' of social actions. This applies very much to studies of contemporary organizations which, although originally rationalized by ideologies of social improvement, are now substantially uncoupled from concerns over social problems and are having considerable influence on civility in private and public circles.
Had corporate executives heeded Robert Townsend's argument in his best-selling Up the Organization (1970), they might have benefited from his profound understanding of human motivation, sentiment, and behavior. Townsend passionately argued that the productivity of a worker was very much dependent on the manner in which he was treated by his employers. Townsend's partiality to Theory Y management theory was justified because he had proven its effectiveness during his appointment as CEO of AVIS rent-a-car. Townsend had taken a small company and turned it into America's No. 2 car rental company without substantial capital investment or staff turnover. He argued that recognition of a worker's creative worth released the worker's sentiments of personal pride which, in turn, increased levels of participation and loyalty, resulting in added productivity and more corporate profit. The argument seemed as evident as the law of gravity. At the root of Townsend's argument was the belief that corporate employees loved to be creative and would perform very well if released from the constraining controls of bureaucracy.
Townsend also understood the demoralizing effects of Theory X management and its inappropriateness in a culture that valued self-development and independence. Theory X was based on the premise that workers disliked work and needed, by consequence, to be controlled and coerced into remaining productive. While Theory Y management was based on trust and mutual civil inspiration, Theory X relied on the use of fear and incivility. Townsend believed that if employees were freed from fear they would go that extra mile for their employers even though they did not possess shares in the corporation.
He pleaded with American executives to abandon military-style hierarchies and adopt horizontal communications networks that encouraged and welcomed creative contributions from lower echelons. He reminded executives that if they were to put their own ego needs aside they would realize that some of their front-line staff knew more about the needs of their clients than they did themselves. He argued that recognizing such competence would lift morale as well as release reserve energy. An honest flow of news, good and bad, would strengthen the decision making process and make the corporation resilient.
Fourteen years later, Townsend resubmitted his argument in a book entitled Further Up the Organization ( 1988). It would seem that the opposing philosophies of John Watson, who warned against affectionate parenthood, and, Dr. Benjamin Spock, who favored the tender touch of emotional supportive parenting, remain unresolved at the corporate level. Many corporations continue to remain surprisingly ignorant of effective family dynamics and how these could be put to use within the workplace.
Townsend's system, however, required a corporate environment in which workers were assured of job security. It also required managers possessing psychological insight and the ability to manage face-work. Perhaps Townsend would might had more converts had he provided a detailed explanation of the mechanisms of shame and pride and given executives specific instructions regarding effective face-work. In any case, the system could not have worked without a preservation of the original corporate-employee understanding in force during the 1950's: it was understood that the corporation would continue offering job security and career advancement in return for competence, creativity and loyalty. When Townsend wrote his book corporate recruiters were still approaching potential candidates with promises of career security. It was assumed that corporate owners and workers were still coming together in a relatively equitable 'exchange relationship' (Homans, 1958, 1961; Thibault and Kelley, 1959; Blau, 1964).
Some executives responded very favorably to Townsend's management advice; others, however, were either reluctant to change their habits or else inordinately influenced by the threat of increasing competition from work-oriented nations such as Japan. A competitive global market weakened the traditional association between 'loyalty' and 'job security.' As corporations competed with cheap sources of foreign production, they decided to benefit from these cheaper labor markets and out-sourced considerable work. America did not become a non-industrial country---rather, the manufacture of many of its products were exported for production overseas. While the early industrialists had rationalized capitalism in terms of patriotism and social improvement, the new late-modern corporation used its 'bottom-line' profitability as the ultimate measure of rational action. Bly quotes a vice-president of Colgate-Palmolive responding to the growing worry over job-exportation in the 1990's. The executive states with no visible discomfort: 'The United States does not have an automatic call on our resources. There is no mindset that puts this country first' (cited, 1994: 156).
Globalization experts sometimes provide reductionistic rationalizations for the phenomenon of job-exportation on a global scale; the statistical evidence, however, suggests that some industrially developed countries such as France, England and Germany continue to favor locally-produced products even if it means a higher cost of living.
Regardless of whether a corporation is managed according to Theory Y or Theory X principles, the corporation has a substantial influence on the emotions of its employees. This emotional influence has a down-flow effect on civility at the corporate, public and private levels. That the contemporary corporation has had a profound influence on the emotions of the population is evident to anyone who has read studies of contemporary families. Policies of downsizing and restructuring have caused considerable worry and stress. There has also been a parallel stress imposed on service personnel who have been required to 'manufacture' appropriate emotions of congeniality towards demanding customers even in the absence of job security. In a classical study of 'emotion work,' The Managed Heart (1983), A. R. Hochschild observed that service personnel, such as flight attendants and debt collectors, had to manufacture emotions to get their jobs done properly. This required personnel to repress normal reactions, creating an extraordinary level of stress. S. Terkel similarly observes in Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day And How They Feel About What They Do that those employees who do not 'play act' the emotions expected of them risk being branded as 'insubordinate through manner' (1972: 82-83).
Terkel identifies fear as the central mechanism in organizational emotional conformity. Such fear seems to increase in direct proportion to the scarcity of employment (Baumol, Blinder and Wolff, 2003). Predictably, job insecurity creates additional social hesitancy and civility issues between workers and also between workers and their managers. Hochschild notes that job scarcity and the fear of the power possessed by management hierarchy to affect one's life chances contribute to submissive play-acting and feigned obedience (1983: 102). The integrity of authentic sentiments of loyalty becomes corroded by stress and worry. The worker, noticing that the corporation is reneging on its original promise of social improvement while continuing to demand peak performance, becomes resentful and cynical (Crenson and Ginsberg, 2002). This cynicism decreases the willingness to be involved with the trials of the corporation and has a negative influence on productivity (Manson, 2000).
The predominance of a service-economy seems to have created considerable opportunities for workplace stress, for interaction becomes particularly subject to commercial mandates. In the late-modern service-oriented economy, workers are required to be selective about their personal emotional reactions vis-ą-vis other workers and customers. As Hochschild has shown in her study of emotions in the workplace, employees must adopt an emotional personality that conforms to the 'image' that the organization wishes to project of itself (1979: 570; 1983). Employees---especially those in service industries where 'customer satisfaction' must be purchased through continual shows of goodwill and deference---are under particular pressure to restrain their personal feelings and thoughts and replace them with 'managed emotions.' Gouldner ( 1981) considers the long-range ability of an organization to achieve its goals dependent on the effective 'emotion work' of workers. Such emotion work becomes a form of commercialized civility and acts to energize workers to be efficient and respond credibly to the needs of clients.
Corporate success is also dependent on the emotion work of managers who are subject to emotions as part of their own work functions. Gabriel considers the batteries of marketing studies, planning sessions, testing of products, and forecasting calculations as means by which the 'anxiety' and 'fear' of managers is rendered manageable so that they can maintain the 'emotional front' of confidence required for their positions (1998: 305). Hearn (1993) even questions the myth of male corporate rationality. Kanter also takes to task the idea that corporate rationality and masculinity are synonymous ( 1981).
This emotional pressure increases dramatically in 'strong culture corporations' whose success depends on very high levels of 'enthusiasm' on the parts of sales personnel who are expected to retain a continuing 'faith' in the products they are asked to sell (team players). Direct marketing organizations and multi-level marketing organizations are some examples of such high emotional-valence environments requiring contagious enthusiasm and conformity to belief in the quality and salability of the product. Conformity to, alignment with and enthusiasm for clearly stated corporate procedures keep these workers under considerable pressure. A group leader's efficacy is measured by his or her ability to keep workers within a zone of ideological and emotional belief or 'corporate faith.' The sales manager or salesperson that begins questioning the viability of the project creates a perturbation in the 'culture' of the organization and he is eliminated in order to protect the 'morale' of remaining staff (Hopfl and Linstead, 1993).
The interconnection between macro and micro processes is most observable in studies of late-modern institutions and family life. Relationships between members of a family are not only contingent on the emotional competence of parents and their children but subject to the degree of stress experienced by parents during the hours they spend at work (Crouter and Manke, 1994; Googins, 1990; Warren and Johnson, 1995). A parent who is stressed at work may resent the additional stress of family life and suddenly flare up in response to the demands of a child. Time that should be ideally devoted to family matters is spent worrying about work already done, work to be done, or work that may suddenly no longer be available. Children, sensing the contingency of their parents' availability, become more anxious and more demanding, or, else, withdraw into the relative certainty of minimal contact with parents. Parenthood becomes, in Hochschild's words, The Second Shift ( 1997). Torn by the role conflict caused by demanding families and corporations competing with one another for their attention, some parents turn to work as an escape. Some others leave the work market in a bid to eliminate an infernal circle of obligation and guilt. Both find no escape from The Time Bind (1997), a direct consequence of technological development and the hegemony of corporate competitiveness.
Civility is a substantial component of corporate life. Whether the worker is treated as an equal member of the enterprise or a 'serf' has great influence on the self-esteem of workers and the peace of the family. For example, if we define civility as a concern for the welfare of others---especially those who are being loyal to us---then it does not require much imagination to reach the conclusion that certain corporate decisions are acts of incivility towards existing and potential employees, and, by extension, towards society in general. The accumulated contributions of existing workers are discounted, while incoming workers are required to take on workloads substantially exceeding those of outgoing workers. The phenomenon of multi-tasking, a source of considerable stress for service personnel, is one of the observable consequences of a bottom-line mentality that rationalizes human action according to the ultimate welfare of the corporation and its stakeholders. Of course, the rationale is not completely sound, because resentful employees do not function at their maximal level. In a survey conducted in 2002, CCH Human Resources Group, a leading consultancy on employment law in America, found that while personal illness accounted for 33% of absences from work, 'reasons other than illness accounted for 67 percent of unscheduled absences. Specifically, these reasons were: Family Issues (24 percent); Personal Needs (21 percent); Stress (12 percent); and Entitlement Mentality (10 percent)' (2003).
Following from Brown and Levinson politeness theory ( 1987), it would seem that organizations that impose long working hours without offering reciprocal job security are denying the face needs of their workers. Both the negative face and positive face needs of the worker are discounted (more on this in Ch. 10). The requirement that the worker submit to the emotional directives of the organization deny the workers' negative face needs for autonomy and independence. And the refusal to acknowledge that workers need peace of mind and validation of their entire career goals within the organization constitutes a denial of their positive face needs and their desire to have the organization recognize the validity and worth of their needs.
This 'loss of face' is observable in late-modern organizations where a high rate of employee absenteeism is an initial indicator of stress and dissatisfaction (Goodman, Atkin and Associates, 1984). Instances of 'subversive humor' are additional indicators of discontent. Through the use of biting humor, workers preserve a sense of personal discrimination while contesting the perceived power of their employers (Holmes, 2000; Rodriguez and Collinson, 1993: 744). Such humor differs markedly from person-to-person humor connected to personal affection and competition. Scott identifies such reactions as consequences of indignation triggered by forced submission and humiliation (1990: 111-112). Humor and gossip about the organization and its powerful members, however, does not guarantee radical change in management attitudes. At best, it provides 'partial consolation' and a temporary release from anger, boredom, and tension (Gabriel, 1993: 137).
It is not our purpose here to come up with an effective theory of organization and work, but what we do wish to stress is that organizations have considerable influence on private and public civility. Not only do they give rise to certain emotions in their workers but leave those workers to deal with the personal consequences of work-related stress. It would not be an exaggeration to state that a portion of the woes of families are a direct consequence of corporations and organizations that hold a supposedly inviolable financial 'bottom-line' above consideration of the emotions and health of workers and their managers. Moreover, the self-referential corporation creates self-referential employees who measure their life chances not only according to their position within a given organization but in relation to opportunities offered by sudden job changes. Deprived of the satisfaction of their own positive face needs (and their need for equity and security), they become disenchanted with corporate rhetoric admonishing them to remain faithful to the needs of the corporation and become private agents.
Certainly, such contingency has pushed certain individuals to develop talents that they might otherwise not have developed had they been assured of lifetime job security. Moreover, workers pressured to practice emotion-management as part of service-based jobs have developed a sense of pride in the social skills that they have mastered. All told, however, job insecurity not only hurts civility within corporations, but has disruptive consequences on communal and private civility. Bly blames the 'bottom-line' survival mentality of corporations for many social problems, ranging from environmental degradation to family violence (1994: 153-157). He also links the economic dominance of late-modern corporations to the erosion of political participation:
Many college teachers tell me stories of the strange silence in their classes; and that silence has an economic origin. They are in college for a job. The literature of social protest---Dreiser, Steinbeck---produces no reasoning, passions for justice (156).
What replaces the idealism of passion for justice is a cynical desire to make the best of the system. Books arrive to advise the disenchanted on how to protect themselves in this contingent environment. One title warns workers to Control Your Destiny or Someone Else Will (Tichy and Sherman, 1994), another title gives advice on Job Shift: How To Prosper in a World Without Jobs (Bridges, 1999).
Those who remain in the workforce are emotionally constrained not only by the requirements of their positions but by the considerable risks associated with disagreement with a 'bottom-line' policy. The relationship between consumers and corporate front line representatives becomes a particularly interesting one. Enthusiastic politeness on the part of the sales person can become interpreted by the consumer as a corporate tactic rather than the authentic sentiment of the corporation. A suspicion of motive is created between citizens who find themselves on different sides of the corporate till. This disjunction is particularly felt during unsatisfactory transactions in which customers become irate at having to deal with a continually polite representative who keeps on stubbornly affirming the company's inability (or unwillingness) to redress the situation. The politeness becomes seen as a tactic of seduction designed to create docility in the consumer.
The degree to which consumers will interpret corporate civility as a business ruse will depend considerably on the level of civility they are habituated to practicing in non-commercial situations. A society that permits and values occasional rudeness might consider impeccable corporate politeness as a business ruse. It would seem that the degree to which corporate politeness seems to be learned as part of sales training will affect whether it is perceived as sincere or not. In England where politeness is the order of the day in most civil interactions, corporate sales staff can be themselves without falling short of corporate civility needs, nor leaving their clients with a sentiment of being manipulated. Similarly, in France, where service personnel do not feel that impeccable politeness must be an emblem of good service, there is less of a variation between public and corporate civility. The variation seems strongest in America where a hearty enthusiastic politeness is marketed as an emblem of corporate caring.
So, whether the corporation is seen as an extension of civil society, or, an entity operating according to its own mandates, has considerable effect on public morale. The street-smart cynicism of some youth is an outgrowth of a disbelief in the longevity of the social safety network. Deprived of sentiments of security regarding their futures, individuals cloak their sentiments of rage and frustration by adopting a cynical attitude. The suspicions of Theory X management theory become a self-fulfilling prophecy; individuals stop worrying about the log-term goals of the corporation and concentrate, instead, on their own survival. Knowing that they might have to pass through a series of temporary assignments and even change careers along the way, they conserve their energy and focus on their own turf. Meanwhile, corporations attempt to compensate for contingent loyalty by demanding that personnel be good 'team players' and conscientious believers in the sanctity of the corporation's success.
In previous sections we advised how changes in human relations, human awareness and a heightened desire for social justice has led to the rise of a self-referential society. A considerable part of such self-centeredness is a result of the diminishing paternalism of corporations. Feeling powerless to change the system in which they spend so much of their working days, individuals adopt a narcissistic approach to reality. Deprived of a safe harbor, they are forced to shore up the self and protect it from humiliation.
So it would seem that corporations, and economic life in general, seem to have considerable influence on the formation of character. They have influence not only through the way they habituate citizens to desiring the products they manufacture, but also through the manner in which they treat those citizens who agree to participate in the production and servicing of those products. We would go far enough to say that the level of shame experienced by members of a given culture is considerably affected by the expectations held of them by their employers and the manner in which their work is recognized and rewarded or, rather unwisely, taken for granted.
We have tried in this chapter to show that a variety of factors are involved in the determination of contemporary interaction. We have chosen to ground our discussion in America because it is the one nation that has so much tested the limits of novelty and change in such a short period of time. It is also, regardless of world sentiment, an extremely powerful and socially influential civilization. We generalize when we speak of Western civilization as if it were a standard culture to which a number of nations belong. We question the generality of world systems theorists such as Immanuel Wallerstein who consider modern American capitalism as a mere continuation of a centuries-old colonial capitalistic project that began in Europe (Wallerstein, 1974). Such an over-arching systems theory fails to consider those aspects of American capitalism that are distinctly connected to American interaction values that stand apart from those of other countries.
Alexis de Tocqueville's analysis of American democracy continues to provide a plausible explanation for why societies lacking an aristocratic heritage tend to favor individualism and tolerate persons who have a deep need to stand out from the crowd ( 1994:568, 598, 610-11). A nation founded on the ideal of minimizing hierarchical relationships and favoring change and mobility is in some way predisposed to placing a high valuation on personal rights (as opposed to communal duties). If it were otherwise, it would risk having a population in which all personal distinctions are leveled in the name of community. In fact, the constitutional nature of a democracy lacking an aristocratic heritage is that citizens are required to continuously recreate themselves to fulfill the ideal type of citizen incorporated in the Constitution. This creates preconditions for the tempering of generational continuity and has a weakening effect on social philosophies that call for restraint and caution against new practices. It certainly affects how 'liberty' and 'freedom' are defined and practiced.
And, here we would like to return to our observation of fundamental differences in the manner that America, England and France defined 'liberty' in context of their particular geographic, economic and philosophical contexts. Two conceptions of freedom emerge in this comparative study, suggesting that liberty, in and of itself, is not an absolute generic reality. While 'individual freedom' specifies that the person must stay free of unwanted social influences that might prejudice his political and creative rights, 'communal freedom' specifies that the community must exist in a state of cohesion in order to resist and prevent domination from some outside force, including the destructive impulses of its own citizens.
Each of the three countries in our study has experienced social movements seeking individual as well as collective freedom. But the time periods and conditions in which these movements have occurred have differed from one country to another. As we have argued in previous chapters, the French conception of liberty was considerably defined by the need to avoid a return to monarchical despotism, while the English notion of liberty was connected to the need for liberty of political and religious diversity. As for the American liberty movement, it was a movement for freedom to remain independent of the rule of empires. And, as America arrived into the 20th-century, the empire it feared the most was the empire of its own accumulated heritage. It is understandable that many Americans set to deconstructing their past in search of new amendments to the original vision of their founding principles. The 9th Amendment had promised them that the Constitution would not prevent the claiming of rights not already enumerated. A permissive society took the Amendment literally and called in additional rights for itself in the 20th-century, the right to be discourteous being one of those rights.