What I am saying here is that the disintegration of the middle class arose from a failure to transfer its outlook to its children. This failure was thus a failure of education, and may seem, at first glance, to be all the more surprising, since our education system has been, consciously or unconsciously, organized as a mechanism for indoctrination of the young in middle-class ideology. In fact, rather surprisingly, it would appear that our educational system, unlike those of continental Europe, has been more concerned with indoctrination of middle-class outlook than with teaching patriotism or nationalism. As a reflection of this, it has been more concerned with instilling attitudes and behavior than with intellectual training. In view of the fact that the American ideals of the 1920's were as much middle class as patriotic, with the so-called "American way of life" identified rather with the American economic and social system than with the American political system, and the fact that a majority of schoolchildren were not from middle-class families, it is not surprising that the educational system was devoted to training in the middle-class outlook. Children of racial, religious, national, and class minorities all passed through the same system and received the middle-class formative process, with, it must be recognized, incomplete success in many cases. This refers to the public schools, but the Roman Catholic school system, especially on its upper levels, was doing the same things. The large number of Catholic men's colleges in the country, especially those operated by the Jesuits, had as their basic, if often unrecognized, aim the desire to transform the sons of working class, and often of immigrant, origins into middle-class people in professional occupations (chiefly law, medicine, business, and teaching).
On the whole, this system was, until recently, a success, but is now becoming less and less successful in turning out middle-class people, especially from its upper educational levels. This failure can be attributed rather to the context within which the educational system has operated than to a failure of the system itself. As we shall see in a moment, this failure occurred chiefly within the middle-class family, a not unexpected situation, since outlook is still determined rather by reaction to family conditions that by submission to a formal educational process.
Much of the disintegration of the middle-class outlook can be traced to a weakening of its chief aspects, such as future preference, intense self-discipline. and, to a lesser degree, to a decreasing emphasis on infinitely expandable material demand and on the importance of middle-class status symbols. Only a few of the factors that have influenced these changes can be mentioned here.
The chief external factor in the destruction of the middle-class outlook has been the relentless attack upon it in literature and drama through is most of the twentieth century. In fact, it is difficult to find works that defended this outlook or even assumed it to be true, as was frequent in the nineteenth century. Not that such works did not exist in recent years; they have existed in great numbers, and have been avidly welcomed by the petty bourgeoisie and by some middle-class housewives. Lending libraries and women's magazines of the 1910's, 1920's, and 1930's were full of them, but, by the 1950's they were largely restricted to television soap dramas. Even those writers who explicitly accepted the middle-class ideology, like Booth Tarkington, Ben Ames Williams, Sloan Wilson, or John O'Hara, tended to portray middle-class life as a horror of false values, hypocrisy, meaningless effort, and insecurity. In Alice Adams, for example, Tarkington portrayed a lower-middle-class girl, filled with hypocrisy and materialistic values, desperately seeking a husband who would provide her with the higher social status for which she yearned.
In the earlier period, even down to 1940, literature's attack on the middle-class outlook was direct and brutal, from such works as Upton Sinclair's The Jungle or Frank Norris's The Pit, both dealing with the total corruption of personal integrity in the meat packing and wheat markets. These early assaults were aimed at the commercialization of life under bourgeois influence and were fundamentally reformist in outlook because they assumed that the evils of the system could somehow be removed, perhaps by state intervention. By the 1920's the attack was much more total, and saw the problem in moral terms so fundamental that no remedial action was possible. Only complete rejection of middle-class values could remove the corruption of human life seen by Sinclair Lewis in Babbitt or Main Street.
After 1940, writers tended less and less to attack the bourgeois way of life; that job had been done. Instead they described situations, characters, and actions that were simply non bourgeois: violence, social irresponsibility, sexual laxity and perversion, miscegenation, human weakness in relation to alcohol, narcotics, or sex, or domestic and business relationships conducted along completely non bourgeois lines. Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Erskine Caldwell, John Dos Passos, and a host of lesser writers, many of them embracing the cult of violence, showed the trend. A very popular work like The Lost Weekend could represent the whole group. A few, like Hemingway, found a new moral outlook to replace the middle-class ideology they had abandoned. In Hemingway's case he shook the dust of upper-middle-class Oak Park, Illinois, off his feet and immersed himself in the tragic sense of life of Spain with its constant demand upon men to demonstrate their virility by incidental activity with women and unflinching courage in facing death. To Hemingway this could be achieved in the bullring, in African big-game hunting, in war or, in a more symbolic way, in prizefighting or crime. The significant point here is that Hemingway's embrace of the outlook of the Pakistani-Peruvian axis as a token of his rejection of his middle-class background was always recognized by him as a pretense, and, when his virility, in the crudest sense, was gone, he blew out Iris brains.
The literary assault on the bourgeois outlook was directed at all the aspects of it that we have mentioned, at future preference, at self-discipline, at the emphasis on materialistic acquisition, at status symbols. The attack on future preference appeared as a demonstration that the future is never reached. Its argument was that the individual who constantly postpones living from the present (with living taken to mean real personal relationships with individuals) to a hypothetical future eventually finds that the years have gone by, death is approaching, he has not vet lived, and is, in most cases, no longer able to do so. If the central figure in such a work has achieved his materialist ambitions, the implication is that these achievements, which looked so attractive from a distance, are but encumbrances to the real values of personal living when achieved. This theme, which goes back at least to Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol or to George Eliot's Silas Marner, continued to be presented into the twentieth century. It often took the form, in more recent times, of a rejection of a man's whole life achievement by his sons, Iris wife, or himself.
The more recent form of this attack on future preference has appeared in the existentialist novel and the theater of the absurd. Existentialism, by its belief that reality and life consist only of the specific, concrete personal experience of a given place and moment, ignores the context of each event and thus isolates it. But an event without context has no cause, meaning, or consequence; it is absurd, as anything is which has no relationship to any context. And such an event, with neither past nor future, can have no connection with tradition or with future preference. This point or view came to saturate twentieth-century literature so that the original rejection of future preference was expanded into total rejection of time, which was portrayed as simply a mechanism for enslaving man and depriving him of the opportunity to experience life. The writings of Thomas Wolfe and, on a higher level, of the early Dos Passos, were devoted to this theme. The bourgeois time clock became a tomb or prison that alienated man from life and left him a cipher, like the appropriately named Mr. Zero in Elmer Rice's play The Hidden Adding machine (1923).
A similar attack was made on self-discipline. The philosophic basis for this attack was found in an oversimplified Freudianism that regarded all suppression of human impulse as leading to frustration and psychic distortions that made subsequent life unattainable. Thus novel after novel or play after play portrayed the wickedness of the suppression of good, healthy, natural impulse and the salutary consequences of self- indulgence, especially in sex. Adultery and other manifestations of undisciplined sexuality were described in increasingly clinical detail and were generally associated with excessive drinking or other evasions of personal responsibility, as in Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms and The Sun Also Rises or in John Steinbeck's love affair with personal irresponsibility in Cannery Row or Tortilla Flat. The total rejection of middle-class values, including time, self-discipline, and material achievement, in favor of a cult of personal violence was to be found in a multitude of literary works from James M. Cain and Raymond Chandler to the more recent antics of James Bond. The result has been a total reversal of middle-class values by presenting as interesting or admirable simple negation of these values by aimless, shiftless, and totally irresponsible people.
A similar reversal of values has flooded the market with novels filled with pointless clinical descriptions, presented in obscene language and in fictional form, of swamps of perversions ranging from homosexuality, incest, sadism, and masochism, to cannibalism, necrophilia, and coprophagia. These performances, as the critic Edmund Fuller has said, represent not so much a loss of values as a loss of any conception of the nature of man. Instead of seeing man the way the tradition of the Greeks and of the West regarded him, as a creature midway between animal and God, "a little lower than the angels," and thus capable of an infinite variety of experience, these twentieth-century writers have completed the revolt against the middle classes by moving downward from the ]ate nineteenth century's view of man as simply a higher animal to their own view of man as lower than any animal would naturally descend. From this has emerged the Puritan view of man (but without the Puritan view of God) as a creature of total depravity in a deterministic universe without hope of any redemption.
This point of view, which, in the period 1550-1650, justified despotism in a Puritan context, now may be used, with petty-bourgeois support, to justify a new despotism to preserve, by force instead of conviction, petty-bourgeois values in a system of compulsory conformity. George Orwell's 1984 has given us the picture of this system as Hitler's Germany showed us its practical operation. But in view of the present upsurge of non bourgeois social groups and social pressures, this possibility becomes decreasingly likely, and Barry Goldwater's defeat in the presidential election of 1964 moved the possibility so far into the future that the steady change in social conditions makes it remote indeed.
The destruction of the middle classes by the destruction of the middle-class outlook was brought about to a much greater degree by internal than by external forces. And the most significant of these influences have been operating within the middle-class family. One of the most obvious of these has been the growing affluence of American society, which removed the pressure of want from the childbearing process. The child who grows up in affluence is more difficult to instill with the frustrations and drives that were so basic in the middle-class outlook. For generations, even in fairly rich families, this indoctrination had continued because of continued emphasis on thrift and restraints on consumption. By 1937 the world depression showed that the basic economic problems were not saving and investment, but distribution and consumption. Thus there appeared a growing readiness to consume, spurred on by new sales techniques, installment selling, and the extension of credit from the productive side to the consumption side of the economic process. As a result, an entirely new phenomenon appeared in middle-class families, the practice of living up to, or even beyond, their incomes - an unthinkable scandal in any nineteenth-century bourgeois family. One incentive in this direction was the increased emphasis, within the middle-class ideology, upon the elements of status and ostentatious display of wealth as status symbols rather than on the elements of frugality and prudence. Thus affluence weakened both future preference and self-denying self-discipline training.
Somewhat related to this was the influence of the depression of 1929-1933. The generation that was entering manhood at that time (having been born in the period 1905-1915) felt that their efforts to fulfill their middle-class ambitions had involved them in intensive hardships and suffering, such as working while going to college, doing without leisure, cultural expansion, and travel, and by the 1950's these were determined that their children must never have it as hard as they had had it. They rarely saw that their efforts to make things easy for their children in the 1950's as a reaction against the hardships they had suffered themselves in the 1930's were removing from their children's training process the difficulties that had helped to make them achieving men and successful middle-class persons and that their efforts to do this were weakening the moral fiber of their children.
Another element in this process was a change in the educational philosophy of America and a somewhat similar change in the country's ideas on the whole process of child training. Early generations had continued to cling to the vestiges of the Puritan outlook to the degree that they insisted that children must be trained under strict discipline, including corporal punishment. This seventeenth-century idea, by 1920, was being replaced in American family ideology by an idea of the nineteenth century that child maturation is an innate process not subject to modification by outside training. In educational theory this erroneous idea went back to the Emile of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1762), which idealized the state of nature as equivalent to the Garden of Eden, and believed that education must consist in leaving a youth completely free so that his innate goodness could emerge and reveal itself. This idea was developed, intensified, and given a pseudoscientific foundation by advances in biology and genetics in the late nineteenth century. By 1910 or so, childrearing and educational theories had accepted the idea that man was a biological organism, like any animal, that his personality was a consequence of hereditary traits, and that each child had within him a rigid assortment of inherited talents and a natural rate of maturation in the development of these talents. These ideas were incorporated in a series of slogans of which two were: "Every child is different," and "He'll do it when he's ready."
From all this came a wholesale ending of discipline, both in the home and in school, and the advent of "permissive education," with all that it entailed. Children were encouraged to have opinions and to speak out on matters of which they were totally ignorant; acquisition of information and intellectual training were shoved into the background; and restrictions of time, place, and movement in schools and homes were reduced to a minimum. Every emphasis was placed on "spontaneity"; and fixed schedules of time periods or subject matter to be covered were belittled. All this greatly weakened the disciplinary influence of the educational process, leaving the new generation much less disciplined, less organized, and less aware of time than their parents. Naturally this disintegrative process was less evident among the children of the petty bourgeois than in the middle class itself. These influences in themselves would have contributed much to the weakening of the middle- class outlook among the rising generation, but other, much more profound, influences were also operating. To examine these we must look inside the middle-class family structure.
In marriage, as in so many other things, Western Civilization has been subjected to quite antithetical theories; these we might call the Western and the Romantic theories of love and marriage. The Romantic theory of these things was that each man or woman had a unique personality consisting of inborn traits, accumulated by inheritance from a unique combination of ancestors. This is, of course, the same theory that was used to justify permissive education. In Romantic love, however, the theory went on to assume, simply as a matter of faith, that for each man or woman there existed in a world a person of the opposite sex whose personality traits would just fit into those of his or her destined mate. The only problem was to find that mate. It was assumed that this would be done, at first sight, when an almost instantaneous flash of recognition would reveal to both that they had found the one possible life's partner.
The idea of love at first sight as a flash of recognition was closely related to the Manichaean and Puritan religious idea that God's truth came to men in a similar flash of illumination (an idea that goes back, like so many of these ideas, to Plato's theory of knowledge as reminiscence). In its most extreme form, this Romantic theory of love assumed that each of the destined lovers was only part of a person, the two parts fitting together instantly on meeting into a single personality. Associated with this were a number of other ideas, including the idea that marriages were "made in heaven," that such a Romantic marriage was totally satisfying to the partners, and that such a marriage should be "eternal."
These ideas of Romantic love and marriage were much more acceptable to women than to men (for reasons we have not time to analyze) and were embraced by the middle class, but not, to any great extent, by other classes. The theory, like so much of the middle-class outlook, originated among the medieval heresies, such as Manichaeism (as the Swiss writer Denis de Rougemont has shown), and was thus from the same tradition that saw the rise of the bourgeois outlook in the Middle Ages and its reinforcement by the closely associated Puritan movement of modern times. The Romantic theory of love was spread through the middle class by incidental factors, such as that the bourgeoisie were the only social class that read much, and Romantic love was basically a literary conven- tion in its propagation whatever it may have been in its origins. It made no real impression on the other social classes in European society, such as the peasants, the nobility, or the urban working craftsmen.
Strangely enough, Romantic love, accepted as a theory and ideal by the bourgeoisie, had little influence on middle-class marriages in practice, since these were usually based on middle-class values of economic security and material status rather than on love. More accurately, middle- class marriages were based on these material considerations in fact, while everyone concerned pretended that they were based on Romantic love. Any subsequent recognition of this clash between fact and theory often gave a severe jolt and has sometimes been a subject for literary examination, as in the first volume of John Galsworthy's The Forsyte Saga.
Opposed to this Romantic theory of love and marriage, and almost equally opposed to the bourgeois practice of "sensible" marriage, was what we may call the Western idea of love and marriage. This assumes that per- sonalities are dynamic and flexible things formed largely by experiences in the past. Love and marriage between such personalities are, like everything in the Western outlook, diverse, imperfect, adjustable, creative, cooperative, and changeable. The Western idea assumes that a couple come together for many reasons (sex, loneliness, common interests, similar background, economic and social cooperation, reciprocal admiration of character traits, and other reasons). It further assumes that their whole relationship will he a slow process of getting to know each other and of mutual adjustment - a process that may never end. The need for constant adjustment shows the Western recognition that nothing, even love, is final or perfect. This is also shown by recognition that love and marriage are never total and all-absorbing, that each partner remains an independent personality with the right to an independent life. (This is found throughout the Western tradition and goes back to the Christian belief that each person is a separate soul with its own, ultimately separate, fate.)
Thus there appeared in Western society at least three kinds of marriage, which we may call Romantic, bourgeois, and Western. The last, without being much discussed (except in modern books on love and marriage), is probably the most numerous of the three, and the other two, if they prove successful, do so by gradually developing into this third kind. Romantic marriage, based on the "shock of recognition," has in fact come to be based very largely on sexual attraction, since this is the chief form that love at first sight can take. Such marriages often fail, since even sex requires practice and mutual adjustment and is too momentary a human relationship to sustain a permanent union unless many other common interests accumulate around it. Even when this occurs and the marriage becomes a success, in the sense that it persists, it is never total, and the Romantic delusion that marriage should be totally absorbing of the time, attention, and energies of its partners, still expected by many women brought up on the Romantic idea, merely means that the marriage becomes an enslaving relationship to the husbands and a source of disappointment and frustration to the wives.
Middle-class marriage, in fact, was not romantic, for, in the middle class, marriage, like everything else, was subject to the middle-class system of values. Within that value system, middle-class persons chose a marriage partner who would assist in achieving middle-class goals of status and achievement. A woman, with her parents' approval, chose a husband who showed promise of being a good provider and a steady, reliable, social achiever, who would be able to give her a material status at least as high as that provided by her own parents. A man chose as a wife one who showed promise of being a help in his upward struggle, one able to act as hostess to Iris aspirant activities and to provide the domestic decorum and social graces expected of a successful business or professional man.
Such a marriage was based, from both sides, on status factors rather than on personal factors. The fact that a man was a Yale graduate, was trained for a profession, had a position with a good firm, drove an expensive car, could order dinner with assurance in an expensive restaurant, and had already applied for membership in a golf or country club were not reasons for loving him as a person, since they were simply the accessories of his status. Yet middle-class persons married for reasons such as these and, at the same time, convinced themselves and their friends that they were marrying for Romantic love (based on the fact that they were, in addition to their mutual social acceptability, sexually attracted).
For a time the new marriage could keep up these pretenses, especially as the elements of sex and novelty in the relationship helped conceal the contrast between theory and fact and that the marriage was basically an external and superficial relationship. But this fact remained, and in time unconscious frustrations and dissatisfactions began to operate. Often these did not reach the conscious level, especially a few generations ago, but today the question is posed by every women's magazine, "Is your marriage a success?" But unconsciously, long before tiffs, realization had been growing that the marriage relationship was not based on love, which must be a recognition and appreciation of personal qualities, not of status accessories. Without personal feeling based on such personal qualities, the relationship was really not a personal relationship and was really nor based on love, even when the partners, with the usual lack of introspection associated with middle-class minds, still insisted that it was based on love. The consequences of such unconscious recognition of the real lack of love in the bourgeois marital relationship, in a society that never stopped reiterating in song, cinema, magazine, and book the absolute necessity to love for human happiness and "fulfillment," will be examined in moment.
Three generations ago the bourgeois wife rarely became aware of her frustrations. She was largely confined to her home, was kept too busy with children and housework to find much time for meditation on her situation or for comparison with other wives or the outside world generally. Brought up in a male-dominated family, she was prepared to accept a similar situation in her own life. This means that her outside contacts and her general picture of the world came to her through the screen of her husband's vision of these things.
The decrease in the number of children in middle-class families and the spread of labor-saving devices, from vacuum cleaners to frozen foods, gave the bourgeois wife increasing leisure in the 1920's and 1930's. Enterprising editors like Edwin Bok filled that leisure with new slick women's magazines (like the Ladies' Home Journal). Popular novels and, to a lesser extent, the early movies, dramatic matinees, and spreading women's clubs allowed women to build up a vision of a fantasy world of romantic love and carefree, middle-class housewives with dazzling homes and well-behaved and well-scrubbed children. By 1925 the average bourgeois housewife was becoming increasingly frustrated because her own life was not that pictured in the women's magazines. Her increasing leisure gave her time to think about it, and her more frequent contact with other wives encouraged her to raise her voice in criticism of her husband whose financial inability to provide her with the life she came to regard as her due seemed to her to justify her desire to nag him onward to greater effort in pursuit of money. To him this became nagging; to her it was only an occasional reminder of the expectations under which she had entered upon the marriage relationship.
While this was going on, the outside world was also changing. Women became "emancipated" as a consequence of World War I, with considerable urging onward from the women's magazines. Shorter skirts and shorter hair became symbols of this process, but even more significant was the appearance in the outside world of a great increase in the number of jobs that could be done best, or only, by women. As part of this process, there took place considerable changes in bourgeois morality, the ending of chaperonage, greater freedom between the sexes, and the acceptance of divorce as morally possible in bourgeois life (a custom that came in from the stage and cinema).
As part of this whole process, there occurred a dramatic event of great social significance. This was the reversal in longevity expectations of men and women in adult life. A century ago (to be sure, in a largely rural context), a twenty-year-old man could expect to live longer than a twenty-year-old wife. In fact, such a man might well bury two or three wives, usually from the mortality associated with childbirth or other female problems. Today, a twenty-year-old man has little expectation of living as long as a twenty-year-old woman. To make matters worse, a twenty-year-old woman a century ago married a man considerably older than herself, at least in the middle classes, simply because future preference required that a man be established economically before he began to raise a family.
Today, from a series of causes, such as the extension of the female expectation of life faster than the male expectation, the increased practice of birth control, coeducation (which brings the sexes into contact at the same age), weakening of future preference and of the middle-class outlook generally, which leads to marriages by couples of about the same age, husbands now generally die before their wives. Recognition of this, the increased independence of women, adaptation to taxes and other legal nuisances, has given rise to joint financial accounts, to property being put in the wife's name, and to greatly increased insurance benefits for wives. Gradually the wealth of the country became female-owned, even if still largely male-controlled.
But this had subtle results; it made women more independent and more outspoken. Bourgeois men gradually came to live under a regime of persistent nagging to become "better providers." To many men, work became a refuge and a relief from domestic revelations of the inadequacy of their performance as economic achievers. This growth of overwork, of constant tension, of frustration of emotional life and of leisure began to make more and more men increasingly willing to accept death as the only method of achieving rest. Bourgeois men literally began to kill themselves, by unconscious psychic suicide, from overwork, neurotic overindulgence in alcohol, smoking, work, and violent leisure, and the middle class slowly increased its proportion of materially endowed widows.
One notable change in this whole process was a shift, over the past century, from the male-dominated family to a female-dominated family. The locality in which the young couple set up their home had an increasing tendency to be matrilocal rather than patrilocal. In increasing numbers of cases, where the young couple married before the groom's educational process was finished, they even lived with her family (but very rarely with his family). Increasingly part of the burden of housework was shifted to the husband: washing dishes, buying groceries, even tending the children. In 1840 a child could cry at night and would invariably be tended by its mother, while the father slept peacefully on, totally unaware of what was going on. By 1960, if a child cried at night, the chances were as likely as not that the mother would hear nothing while the father took over the necessary activities. If this were questioned by anyone, the mother's retort was pointed: "I take care of baby all day; I don't see why he can't take care of it at night."
Closely related to this confusion, or even reversal, of the social roles of the sexes was decreasing sexual differentiation in child-rearing practices. As recently as the 1920's girl babies were reared differently from boys. They were dressed differently, treated differently, permitted to do different things, and admonished about different dangers. By 1960, children, regardless of sex, were all being brought up the same. Indeed, with short cropped hair and play suits or both, it became impossible to be sure which was which. This led to a decrease in the personality differences of men and women, with males becoming more submissive and females more aggressive.
This tendency was accelerated by new techniques of education, especially in the first twelve years of life. The neurological saturation of girls was faster than that of boys, especially in regard to coordination, such as in feeding oneself, talking, dressing oneself, toilet-training, learning to read, and general adjustment to school. The shift from home to school in the early grades was adjusted to by girls more easily than by boys, partly because girls were more self-assured and gregarious. By the age of ten or twelve, girls were developed physically, neurologically, emotionally, and socially about two years in advance of boys. All this tended to make boys less self-assured, indecisive, weak, and dependent. The steady increase in the percentage of women teachers in the lower grades worked in the same direction, since women teachers favored girls and praised those attitudes and techniques that were more natural to girls. New methods, such as the whole-word method of teaching reading or the use of true-and-false or multiple- choice examinations, were also better adapted to female than to masculine talents. Less and less emphasis was placed on critical judgment, while more and more was placed on intuitive or subjective decisions. In this environment girls did better, and boys felt inferior or decided that school was a place for girls and not for boys. The growing aggressiveness of girls pushed these hesitant boys aside and intensified the problem. As consequences of this, boys had twice as many "nonreaders" as girls, several times as many stutterers, and many times as many teenage bed wetters.
While the outside world was decreasing its differential treatment of children on a sexual basis by treating boys and girls more and more alike (and that treatment was better adapted to girls than to boys) within the middle-class home, the growing emotional frustrations of the mother were leading to an increasing distinction on a sexual basis in her emotional treatment of her children.
The earliest feeling of sensual reassurance and comfort any child experiences is against the body of its mother. To a boy baby this is a heterosexual relationship, while to the girl it is a relationship with the same sex. In most cases the little girl avoids any undesirable persistence of this homosexual tendency by shifting her admiration and attention to some available male, usually her father. Thus by the age of six or eight, a daughter has become "Daddy's girl," awaiting his return from work to communicate the news of the day, getting his slippers and newspaper, and hoping that he will read her a story or share her viewing of a favorite television program before she must go to bed. By the age of twelve, in a normal girl, this interest in male creatures has begun to shift to some boy in her class at school. With a boy baby the transference is later and less gradual. The undesirable aspects of his love for his mother are avoided by the powerful social pressures of the incest taboo, but this merely means that the sexual element in his concern for the opposite sex is suppressed and is undeveloped. Thus there is a natural, we might almost say biological, tendency in our society for the sexual development of the boy to be delayed axed for the girl to be free from this retarding influence.
In the American middle-class family of today, these influences have been extraordinarily exaggerated. Because the middle-class marriage is based on social rather than personal attraction, the emotional relation of the wife to her husband is insecure, and the more her husband buries himself in his work, hobbies, or outside interests, the more insecure and unsatisfactory it becomes for his wife. Part of the wife's unused emotional energy begins to be expended in her love for her son. At the same time, because of the emotional insecurity in the mother's relationship with her husband, the daughter may come to be regarded as an emotional rival for the husband's affection. This resentment of the daughter is most likely to occur when there is some other cause of disturbance in the mother's psychology, especially if this cause is associated with her relationship to her own father. For example, as female domination becomes, generation by generation, a more distinctive feature of American family life, the daughter's shift of attention to her father becomes less complete, and, by adolescence, she tends to pity him rather than to admire him and may become relatively ambivalent in her feelings toward both her father and mother, sometimes hating the latter for dominating her father and despising his weakness in allowing it. In such a case, the whole development of which we speak is accelerated and intensified in the next generation, and the daughter's relatively ambivalent feelings toward her parents are repeated in her relatively ambivalent feelings toward her husband. This serves to intensify both her emotional smothering and overprotection of her son and her tendency toward emotional rejection of her daughter as a potential danger to the relatively precarious emotional relationship between husband and wife.
As a consequence of this situation, the frustrated wife has a tendency to cling to her son by keeping him dependent and immature as long as possible and to seek to hasten the maturing of her daughter in order to edge her out of the family circle as soon as possible. The chief consequence of this is the increasingly late maturity, the weakness, under-sexuality, and dependence of American boys and American men of middle- class origins and the increasingly early maturing, aggressiveness, over sexuality, and independence of American middle-class mother's alienation of the daughter (which often reaches an acute condition of mutual hatred) may begin in childhood or even at birth (especially. if the girl baby is beautiful, is not nursed by the mother, and is welcomed with excessive joy by the husband). It usually becomes acute when the daughter reaches puberty and may become very acute if the mother, about the same time, is approaching her menopause (which she often mistakenly feels will reduce her attraction as a woman to her husband).
During this whole period, the mother's rejection of her daughter appears chiefly in her efforts to force her to grow up rapidly, and leads to premature exposure of the daughter to such modern monstrosities as preteen "mixed parties," training bras access to overly "sophisticated" movies, books, and conversations, and the practice of leaving daughters unchaperoned in the house with boy classmates, on the early high school or even junior high school level. Such experiences and the increasingly frequent clashes of temperament between mother and daughter lead a surprisingly large percentage of middle-class girls to move from the home before the age of twenty. And whether she leaves or not, sexual and emotional maturity comes to the American middle-class girl earlier and earlier, not only in comparison with the middle-class boy but even in absolute terms. We are told, for example, that the onset of puberty among American girls (an event which can be dated exactly by the first menstrual period) has been occurring at an earlier age by about nine months for each passing decade. As a result, this milestone is reached by American girls three years earlier than with American girls of the early twentieth century.
Over the same period, the American middle-class boy has been moving in the opposite direction, although the physiological element cannot be documented. Indeed, it need not be. More significant is the changing relationship between the arrival of sexual awareness and of emotional readiness to accept sex. There can be no doubt that the American child today, especially in a middle-class family, becomes aware of sex much earlier than he did a generation or two ago, and long before he is emotionally ready to face the fact of his own sexuality. In the nineteenth century three things came fairly close together in the fifteen to seventeen age bracket: (1) sexual awareness; (2) emotional readiness for sex; and (3) the ending of education :red the opportunity to seek economic independence from parents. Today sexual awareness comes very early for all, perhaps around the age of ten. Emotional readiness to face the fact of one's own sexuality comes earlier and earlier for the girl today, but later and later for the boy, chiefly because the middle-class mother forces independence and recognition of the fact that she is a woman upon her daughter but forces dependence and blindness to the fact that he is a man upon her son. And the date for the ending of education and seeking economic independence from parents gets somewhat later for girls but immensely later for men (a process that becomes increasingly extravagant).
One result of this is that the much greater (sometimes indefinitely postponed) delay for a boy of emotional readiness after sexual awareness leaves the boy emotionally desexed for so long that it affects his sexuality and emotional maturity adversely and to an increasingly advanced age. But the opposite is true for a girl, because of the shorter and decreasing lag of her emotional readiness after her sexual aware- ness. Lolita, who is not as rare as the readers of that novel wanted to imagine, becomes increasingly frequent, and cannot be satisfied by boys of her own age; consequently she seeks for many reasons, including financial resources and greater emotional maturity, her sex companions among older men.
On the other hand, the position of the middle-class boy becomes even more complex and pitiful, since he not only must face the fluctuating chronology of these developments to a greater degree but must free himself from his emotional dependence on his mother with little help from anyone. If his father tries to help (and he is the only one who is likely to try to do so), and insists that his son become a responsible and independent human being, the mother fights like a tigress to defend her son's continued immaturity and dependence, accusing the husband of cruelty, of hatred for his son, and of jealousy of his son's feeling for the mother. She does not hesitate to use the weapons that she has. They are many and powerful, including a "reluctant" and ambiguous "revelation" to the son that his father hates him. Any effort by the father to argue that true love must seek to help the son advance in maturity and independence, and that insistence that he avoid or postpone these advances might well be regarded as hatred rather than love, are usually blocked with ease. At this stage in the family history, emotional frustrations and confusions are generally at so high a level that it is fairly easy for mother and son to agree that black is white. "Momism" is usually triumphant for a more or less extended period, while normal adolescent rebellion becomes a whole-sale rejection of the father and only much later a delayed effort at achieving emotional detachment from the mother.
The point of all this is that normal adolescent rebellion has become, in America today, a radical and wholesale rejection of parental values, including middle-class values because of the protracted emotional warfare which now goes on in the middle-class home with teen-age children. The chief damage in the situation lies in the pervasive destruction of the adolescent middle class boy and his alienation from the achieving aspects of middle-class culture. The middle-class girl, chiefly because she still tries to please her father, may continue to be a considerable success as an achiever, especially in academic life where her earlier successes make continuance of the process fairly easy. But the middle-class boy who rejects the achieving aspects of middle-class life often does so in academic matters that seem to him to be an alien and feminine world from the beginning. His rejection of this world and his unconscious yearning for academic failure arise from a series of emotional influences: (1) a desire to strike back at his father; (2) a desire to free himself from dependence on his mother and thus to escape from the feminine atmosphere of much academic life; and (3) a desire to escape from the endless academic road, going to age twenty-three or later, which modern technical and social complexities require for access to positions leading to high middle-class success. The lengthening of the interval of time between sexual awareness and the ending of education, from about two years in the 1880's to at least ten or twelve years in the 1960's, has set up such tensions and strains in the bourgeois American family that they threaten to destroy the family and are already in the process of destroying much of the middle-class outlook that was once so distinctive of the American way of life.
From this has emerged an almost total breakdown of communication between teenagers and their parents' generation. generally the adolescents do not teal their parents' generation their most acute problems; they do not appeal to parents or adults but to each other for help in facing such problems (except where emotionally starved girls appeal to men teachers); and, when any effort is made to talk across the gap between the generations, words may pass but communication does not. Behind this protective barrier a new teen-age culture has grown up. Its chief characteristic is rejection of parental values and of middle-class culture. In many ways this new culture is like that of African tribes; its tastes in music and the dance, its emphasis on sex play, its increasingly scanty clothing, its emphasis on group solidarity, the high value it puts on interpersonal relations (especially talking and social drinking), its almost total rejection of future preference and its constant efforts to free itself from the tyranny of time. Teen-age solidarity and sociality and especially the solidarity of their groups and subgroups are amazingly African in attitudes, as they gather nightly, or at least on weekends, to drink "cokes," talk interminably in the midst of throbbing music, preferably in semidarkness, with couples drifting off for sex play in the corners as a kind of social diversion, and a complete emancipation from time. Usually they have their own language, with vocabulary and constructions so strange that parents find them almost incomprehensible. This Africanization of American society is gradually spreading with the passing years to higher age levels in our culture and is having profound and damaging effects on the transfer of middle-class values to the rising generation. A myriad of symbolic acts, over the last twenty years, have served to demonstrate the solidarity of teen culture and its rejection of middle-class values. Many of these involve dress and "dating customs," both major issues in the Adolescent- Parental Cold War.
In the days of Horatio Alger, the marks of youthful middle-class aspiration were such obvious symbols as well-polished shoes, a necktie and suit coat, a clean-shaved face and well-cut hair, and punctuality. For almost a generation now, teen culture has rejected the necktie and suit coat. Well-polished shoes gave way to dirty saddle shoes, and these in turn to "loafers" and thong sandals. Shaving became irregular, especially when schools were not in session; haircuts were postponed endlessly, with much parental-adolescent bickering. Fewer and fewer young people carried watches, even when they lived, as on a college campus, in fairly scheduled lives.
"Dating," as part of adolescent rebellion, became less and less formalized. The formal middle-class dance of a generation ago, arranged weeks ahead and with a dance program, became almost obsolete. Everything has to be totally "casual" or today's youth rejects it. By 1947 a dance program (listing the dances in numbered order with the girl's partner for each written down) was obsolete. "Going steady," which meant dancing only with the boy who invited her, became established, a complete rejection of the middle-class dance whose purpose was to provide the girl with a maximum number of different partners in order to widen her acquaintance with matrimonial possibilities.
"Going steady," like much of adolescent culture of the "jive" era, was derived from the gangster circles of south Chicago and was first introduced to middle-class knowledge through George Raft movies of the 1930's. It was satirized in a now forgotten popular song of the 1920's called "I Want to Dance with the Guy What Brung Me." But by 1947 it was the way of life of much of adolescent America. As a consequence, teen- age couples at high school dances "sat out" most of the evening in bored silence or chatted in a desultory fashion with friends of the same sex. The "jive" language of the period also had a south-Chicago origin and has been traced back, to a large extent, to a saloon run by a certain local oracle called "Hep" early in the twentieth century.
Fortunately, "going steady" was only a brief, if drastic, challenge to parental attitudes, and was soon replaced by tribal gregariousness and tolerant sexual broad-mindedness, which might be called "clique going," since it involved social solidarity (sometimes sexual promiscuity) within a small group, usually of ten or less. This became, to their adults, the "teen-age gang," which still thrives, but never in a very formal way in middle-class circles as it does in lower-class ones. Two casualties of this process are sexual jealousy and sexual privacy, both of which have largely disappeared among many upper-middle-class young people. In some groups sex has become a purely physiological act, somewhat like eating or sleeping. In others, sexual experience is restricted to loved ones, but since these youths love many persons (or even love everyone) this is much less of a restriction than it might seem to a middle-class mind. Generally a sharp distinction is made between "loving someone" (which justifies sex) and being "in love" with someone (which justifies monogamous behavior).
But there is widespread tolerance and endless discussion of all these issues. This discussion, like most of the adolescents' endless talk, never reaches any decisions but leaves the question open or decides that "it all depends on how you look at it." As part of such discussions, there is complete casual frankness as to who has had or is having sexual experiences with whom. Widely permeated with an existentialist outlook, the adolescent society regards each sexual experience as an isolated, contextless act, with no necessary cause or consequence, except the momentary merging of two lonelinesses in an act of togetherness. Among middle-class youth it is accompanied by an atmosphere of compassion or pity rather than of passion or even love (the way Holden Caulfield might experience sex). Among lower-class persons it is much more likely to be physiologically inspired and associated with passion or roughness. This often attracts middle-class girls who become dissatisfied with the weakness and undersexuality of middle-class boys. But petty-bourgeois youth, as befits the final defenders of middle-class conventionality and hypocrisy, still tend to approach sex with secrecy and even guilt.
Because of the breakdown of communication between the generations of middle-class families, parents know little of this side of teen-age culture, at least so far as their own children are concerned. They usually know much more about the behavior of their friends' children, because they are more likely to catch glimpses of the behavior of the latter in unguarded moments. On the whole, middle-class parents today are surprisingly (and secretly) tolerant about the behavior of their daughters so long as they do not create a public scandal by "getting into trouble." Mothers usually feel that their sons are too young and should wait for sexual experience, while fathers sometimes secretly think it might do their son's immaturity some good. When middle-class children get into trouble, or any kind of a scrape, their only large anxiety is to prevent their parents from finding out. Petty-bourgeois parents, as the last defense of middle-class conventionality, generally disapprove of any illicit sexual experiences by any of their children. Naturally there are great variations in all these things, with religion as the chief varying factor and variety of local customs in secondary significance. However, even in religious circles, the behavior of the young is not at all what their adults expect or believe. For example, the number of Roman Catholic young people who have premarital, or even casual, sexual experiences is much larger than the number who are willing to eat meat on Friday.
One reason for the spreading of these relaxed ideas on behavior is the devastating honesty of the younger generation, especially about themselves. This seems to be based on their gregarious garrulity. An earlier generation had its share of illicit actions of various kinds, but they kept these a secret and regarded each as an aberrant action that was psychologically excluded from their accepted social patterns and would not, therefore, be repeated. This view continued, no matter how often it was repeated. But the younger generation of today has accepted the existentialist idea, "I am what I do." The adolescent tells his group what he did, and they usually agree that this is the way he is, however surprising it is. Their whole attitude is pragmatic, almost experimental: "This is what happened. This is the way things are. This is the way I am." They are engaged in a search for themselves as individuals, something they were called upon to do in the early grades of school, thanks to the misconceptions of John Dewey, and they are quite alien to any theory that the self is a creature of trained patterns and is not a creature of discovered secrets. Now, in the 1960's, this opinion of man's nature is changing and, as a consequence of George Orwell, mish- mash conceptions of brainwashing, and the revival of Pavlovian psychology through the work of men like Professor B.F. Skinner of Harvard, the idea of personality as something trained under discipline to a desired pattern is being revived. With this revival of a basically Puritanical idea of human nature reappears the usual Puritan errors on the nature of evil and acceptance of the theory of the evil of human nature (as preached in William Golding's Lord of the Flies).
The new outlook emerging from all this is complex, tentative, and full of inconsistencies, but it will surely play an increasing role in our history as the younger generation grows older, abandoning many of the ideas they now hold, with increasing responsibility; but at the same time the new outlook will force very great modifications in the American point of view as a whole.
This new outlook of the rising generation of the middle class has a negative and a positive side. Its negative side can be seen in its large scale unconcern for the basic values of the middle-class outlook, its rejection of self-discipline, of future preference, of infinitely expandable material living standards, and of material symbols of middle- class status. In general this negative attitude appears in many of the activities we have described and above all in a profound rejection of abstractions, slogans, cliches, and conventions. These are treated with tolerant irony tinged with contempt. The targets of these attitudes are the general values of the petty bourgeoisie and of middle-class parents; position in society, "what people think," "self-respect," keeping up with the Jonses," the American Way of Life," "virtue," "Making money," "destroying our country's enemies," virginity, respect for established organizations, (including their elders, the clergy, political leaders, or big businessmen), and such.
The shift from a destructive or negative to a positive view of the new American outlook is, to some extent, chronological; it may be seen in the former popularity of Elvis Presley and the newer enthusiasm for Joan Baez (or folk singers generally). There is also a social distinction here to some extent, as Elvis remains, to a fair degree, popular with the lower classes, while Joan is a middle-class (or even college-level) favorite. But the contrast in outlook between the two is what is significant. Joan is gentle, compassionate, unemphatic, totally honest, concerned about people as individuals, free of pretenses (singing quietly in a simple full of love and fundamental human decency, and...)
The rejection of acquisitiveness and even of sensuality may be seen in the change in tastes in movies, especially in the popularity of foreign films directed by men like Ingmar Bergman and Federico Fellini. The latter's La Dolce Vita (1961), a smash hit in the United States, was a portrayal of the meaningless disillusionment of material success and of sensuality in contrast with the power and mystery of nature (symbolized by a giant fish pulled from the sea and left to die by thoughtless men and the direct honesty and innocence of a child watching the scene).
This rejection of material things and of sensuality is, in some strange way, leading the younger generation to some kind of increased spirituality. Property and food mean very little to them. They share almost everything, give to others when they have very little for themselves, expect reciprocal sharing but not repayment, and feel free to "borrow" in this way without permission. Three meals a day is out; in fact, meals are almost out. They eat very little and irregularly, in sharp contrast to the middle classes early in the century who overate, as many mature middle-class persons still do. The petty bourgeoisie and lower classes still tend to overeat or to be neurotic snackers, but middle-class youth is almost monastic in its eating. Food just is not important, unless it is an occasion for a crowd to gather. Much of this decrease in emphasis on food is a consequence of their rejection of the discipline of time. Everything in their lives is irregular (including their natural bodily processes). "They usually get up too late to eat breakfast, snack somewhere along the day, refuse to carry watches, and often have no idea what day of the week it is.
This new outlook is basically existentialist in its emphasis on direct, momentary personal experience, especially with other people. It emphasizes people, and finds the highest good of life in interpersonal relations, handled generally with compassion and irony. The two chief concerns of life are "caring" and "helping." "Caring," which they usually call "love," means a general acceptance of the fact that people matter and are subjects of concern. This love is diffuse and often quite impersonal, not aimed at a particular individual or friend but at anyone, at persons in general, and especially at persons one does not know at all, as an act of recognition, almost of expiation, that we are all helpless children together. The whole idea is very close to Christ's message, "Love one another," and has given rise to the younger generation's passionate concern with remote peoples, the American Negroes, and the outcast poor. It is reflected in the tremendous enthusiasm among the young for the Peace Corps, civil rights, and racial equality, and the attack on poverty, all of which have much greater support among middle-class young people than can be measured even by the surprisingly large numbers who actively do something.
This desire to do something is what I call "helping?" It is a strange and largely symbolic kind of helping, since there is with it a fairly widespread feeling that nothing that the helper can do will make any notable dent in the colossal problem; none the less, there is an obligation to do something, not only as a symbolic act but also as an almost masochistic rejection of the middle-class past. The younger generation who support the Peace Corps, the attack on poverty, and the drive for Negro rights have an almost irresistible compulsion to do these things as a demonstration of their rejection of their parents' value system, and as some restitution for the adults' neglect of these urgent problems. But the real motivation behind the urge "to help" is closely related with the urge "to care"; it consists simply of a desire to show another human being that he is not alone. There is little concern for human perfectibility or social progress such as accompanied middle-class humanitarianism in the nineteenth century.
Both of these urges are existentialist. They give rise to isolated acts that have no significant context. Thus an act of loving or helping has no sequence of causes leading up to it or of consequences flowing from it. It stands alone as an isolated experience of togetherness and of brief human sharing. This failure or lack of context for each experience means a failure or lack of meaning, for meaning and significance arise from context; that is, from the relationship of the particular experience to the whole picture. But today's youth has no concern for the whole picture; they have rejected the past and have very little faith in the future. Their rejection of intellect and their lack of faith in human reason gives them no hope that any meaning can be found for any experience, so each experience becomes an end in itself, isolated from every other experience.
This skepticism about meaning, closely allied with their rejection of organizations and of abstractions, is also closely related with a failure of responsibility. Since consequences are divorced from the act or experience itself, the youth is not bound by any relationship between the two. The result is a large-scale irresponsibility. If a young person makes an appointment, he may or may not keep it. He may come very late or not at all. In any case, he feels no shame at failure to carry out what he had said he would do. In fact, the young people of today constantly speak of what they are going to do - after lunch, tonight, tomorrow, next week-but they rarely do what they say. To them it was always very tentative, a hope rather than a statement, and binding on no one. If the young fail to do what they say, they are neither embarrassed nor apologetic, and hardly think it necessary to explain or even mention it. Their basic position is that everyone concerned had the same freedom to come or not, and if you showed up while they did not, this does not give you any right to complain because you also had the same right to stay away as they had.
The other great weakness of the younger generation is their lack of self-discipline. They are as episodic in their interests and ambitions as they are in their actions. They can almost kill themselves with overwork for something that catches their fancy, usually something associated with their group or with "caring" and "helping," but in general they have little tenacity of application or self-discipline in action.
They lack imagination also, an almost inevitable consequence of an outlook that concentrates on experiences without context. Their experiences are necessarily limited and personal and are never fitted into a larger picture or linked with the past or the future. As a result they find it almost impossible to picture anything different from what it is, or even to see what it is from any long-range perspective. This means that their outlooks, in spite of their wide exposure to different situations through the mass media or by personal travel, are very narrow. They lack the desire to obtain experience vicariously from reading, and the vicarious experiences that they get from talk (usually with their fellows) are rarely much different from their own experiences. As a result, their lives, while erratic, are strangely dull and homogeneous. Even their sexual experiences are routine, and any efforts to escape this by experimenting with homosexuality, alcohol, drugs, extraracial partners, or other unnecessary fringe accessories generally leave it dull and routine.
Efforts by middle-class parents to prevent their children from developing along these non-middle-class lines are generally futile. An effort to use parental discipline to enforce conformity to middle-class values or behavior means that the child will quote all the many cases in the neighborhood where the children are not being disciplined. He is encouraged in his resistance to parental discipline by its large-scale failure all around him. Moreover, if his parents insist on conformity, he has an invincible weapon to use against them: academic failure. This weapon is used by boys rather than by girls, partly because it is a weapon for the weak, and involves doing nothing rather than doing something, but also because the school seems to most middle-class boys an alien place and an essential element in their general adolescent feeling of homelessness. Girls who are pressured by their parents to conform resist by sexual delinquencies more often than boys, and in extreme cases get pregnant or have sexual experiences with Negro boys. From this whole context of adolescent resistance to parental pressures to conform to middle-class behavior flows a major portion of middle-class adolescent delinquency, which is quite distinct in its origin from the delinquency of the lowest, outcast class in the slums. It involves all kinds of activities from earliest efforts to smoke or drink, through speeding, car stealing, and vandalism of property, to major crimes and perversions. It is quite different in origin and usually in character from the delinquencies of the uprooted, which are either crimes for personal benefits (such as thievery and mugging) or crimes of social resentment (such as slashing tires and convertible tops or smashing school windows). Some activities, of course, such as automobile stealing, appear among both.
These remarks, it must be emphasized, apply to the middle class, and are not intended to apply to the other classes in American society. The aristocrats, for example, have considerable success in passing along their outlook to their children, partly because it is presented as a class or family attitude, and not as a parental or personal attitude, partly because their friends and close associates are also aristocrats or semiaristocrats, and rejection of their point of view tends to leave an aristocratic adolescent much more personally isolated than rejection of his parents' view leaves a middle-class adolescent (indeed, the latter finds group togetherness only if he does reject his parents), partly because there is much more segregation of the sexes among aristocrats than in the middle class, but chiefly because the aristocrats use a separate school system, including disciplined boarding schools. The use of the latter, the key to the long persistence of the aristocratic tradition in England, makes it possible for outsiders to discipline adolescents without disrupting the family. Among the middle class, effort to discipline adolescents is largely in the hands of parents, but the effort to do so tends to disrupt the family by setting husband against wife and children against parents. As a result, discipline is usually held back to retain at least the semblance of family solidarity as viewed from the outside world is what really counts with middle-class people). But the aristocratic private boarding school, modeled on those of England in accord with the basic Anglophilism of the American aristocracy, is sexually segregated from females, tough, sports-orientated, usually High Episcopal (almost Anglican), and disciplines its charges with the importance of the group, their duty to the group, and the painfulness of the ultimate punishment, which is alienation from the group. As a consequence of this, any resentment the aristocratic adolescent may have is aimed at his masters, not at his home and parents, and home comes to represent a relatively desirable place to which he is admitted occasionally as a reward for long weeks on the firing line at school. Such a boy is removed from the smothering influence of "momism," grows up relatively shy of girls, has more than his share of homosexual experiences (to which he may succumb completely), but, on the whole, usually grows up to be a very energetic, constructive, stable, and self- sacrificing citizen, prepared to inflict the same training process on his own sons.
Unfortunately for the aristocrat who wishes to expose his son to the same training process as that which molded his own outlook, he finds this a difficult thing to do because the organizations that helped form him outside the family, the Episcopal Church (or its local equivalent), the boarding school, the Ivy League university, and the once-sheltered summer resort have all changed and are being invaded by a large number of nonaristocratic intruders who change the atmosphere of the whole place.
This change in atmosphere is hard to define to anyone who has not experienced it personally. Fundamentally it is a distinction between playing the game and playing to win. The aristocrat plays for the sake of the game or the team or the school. He plays whether he is much good or not, because he feels that he is contributing to a community effort even if he is on the scrubs rather than a star or starting player. The newer recruits to former aristocratic educational institutions play for more personal reasons, with much greater intensity, even fanaticism and play to excel and to distinguish themselves from others.
One reason for the accessibility of formerly aristocratic organizations to people of nonaristocratic origin has already been noted, but probably was discounted by the reader. That is my statement that the American Establishment, which is so aristocratic and Anglophile in its foundation, came to accept the liberal ideology. The Episcopal Church, exclusive boarding schools, and Ivy League universities (like Eton and Oxford) decided that they must open their door to the "more able" of the nonaristocratic classes. Accordingly, they established scholarships, recruited for these in lower schools they had never thought of before, and made efforts to have their admission requirements and examinations fit the past experiences of nonaristocratic applicants. By the end of the 1920's, Philips Exeter Academy was welcoming on scholarships the sons of laboring immigrants with polysyllabic names, and by the 1950's Episcopal clergymen were making calls on "likely-looking" Negro families.
As a consequence of this, the sons of aristocrats found themselves being squeezed out of the formative institutions that had previously trained their fathers and, at the same time, discovered that these institutions were themselves changing their character and becoming dominated by petty-bourgeois rather than by aristocratic values. At the alumni reunions of June 1964, the President of Harvard was asked in an open forum what the questioner should do with his son, recently rejected for admission to Harvard in spite of the fact that the son was descended from the Mayflower voyagers by eleven consecutive generations of Harvard men. To this tragic question President Pusey replied: "I don't know what we can do about your son. We can't send him back, because the May]lower isn't running any more." Despite this facetious retort, which may have been called forth by the inebriate condition of the questioner, the fact remains that the aristocratic outlook has a great deal to contribute to any organization fortunate enough to share it. Among other things, it has kept Harvard (where aristocratic control continued almost to the present day) at the top or close to the top of the American educational hierarchy decade after decade.
The sincere effort, by aristocrats and democrats alike, to make the social ladder in America a ladder of opportunity rather than a ladder of privilege has opened the way to a surge of petty-bourgeois recruits over the faltering bodies of the disintegrating middle class.
The petty bourgeois are rising in American society along the channels established in the great American hierarchies of business, the armed forces, academic life, the professions, finance, and politics. They are doing this not because they have imagination, broad vision, judgment, moderation, versatility, or group loyalties but because they have neurotic drives of personal ambition and competitiveness, great insecurities and resentments, narrow specialization, and fanatical application to the task before each of them. Their fathers, earning $100 a week as bank clerks or insurance agents while unionized bricklayers were getting $120 a week when they cared to work, embraced the middle-class ideology with tenacity as the chief means (along with their "white collared" clothing) of distinguishing themselves from the unionized labor they feared or hated. Their wives, whom they had married because they held the same outlook, looked forward eagerly to seeing their sons become the kind of material success the father had failed to reach. The family accepted a common outlook that believed specialization and hard work, either in business or in a profession, would win this material success. The steps up that ladder of success were clearly marked - to be the outstanding boy student and graduate in school, to win entrance to and graduation from "the best" university possible (naturally an Ivy League one), and then the final years of specialized application in a professional school.
Many of these eager workers headed for medicine, because to them medicine, despite the ten years of necessary preparation, meant up to $40,000 a year income by age fifty. As a consequence, the medical profession in the United States ceased, very largely, to be a profession of fatherly confessors and unprofessing humanitarians and became one of the largest groups of hardheaded petty-bourgeois hustlers in the United States, and their professional association became the most ruthlessly materialistic lobbying association of any professional group. Similar persons with lesser opportunities were shunted off the more advantageous rungs of the ladder into second-best schools and third-rate universities. All flocked into the professions, even to teaching (which, on the face of it, might have expected that its practitioners would have some allegiance to the truth and to helping the young to realize their less materialistic potentialities), where they quickly abandoned the classroom for the more remunerative tasks of educational administration. And, of course, the great mass of these eager beavers went into science or business, preferably into the largest corporations, where they looked with fishy-eyed anticipation at those rich, if remote, plums of vice- presidencies, in General Motors, Ford, General Dynamics, or International Business Machines.
The success of these petty-bourgeois recruits in America's organizational structure rested on their ability to adapt their lives to the screening processes the middle classes had set up covering access to the middle-class organizational structures. The petty bourgeoisie, as the last fanatical defenders of the middle-class outlook, had, in excess degree, the qualities of self-discipline and future preference the middle classes had established as the unstated assumptions behind their screens of aptitude testing, intelligence evaluation, motivational research, and potential-success measurements. Above all, the American public school system, permeated with the unstated assumptions of middle- class values, was ideally suited to demonstrate petty-bourgeois "success quotients." These successive barriers in the middle-class screening process were almost insurmountable to the working class and the outcast, became very difficult to the new generation of middle-class children, who rejected their parents' value system, but were ideally adapted to the petty-bourgeois anxiety neuroses.
By 1960, however, big business, government civil service, and the Ivy League universities were becoming disillusioned with these petty bourgeois recruits. The difficulty was that these new recruits were rigid, unimaginative, narrow and, above all, illiberal at a time when liberalism (in the sense of reaching tentative and approximate decisions through flexible community interaction) was coming to be regarded as the proper approach to large organization problems. In his farewell report the Chairman of Harvard's Admissions Committee, Wilbur Bender, summed up the problem this way:
"The student who ranks first in his class may be genuinely brilliant or he may be a compulsive worker or the instrument of domineering parents' ambitions or a conformist or a self-centered careerist who has shrewdly calculated his teachers' prejudices and expectations and discovered how to regurgitate efficiently what they want. Or he may have focused narrowly on grade-getting as compensation for his inadequacies in other areas, because he lacks other interests or talents or lacks passion and warmth or normal healthy instincts or is afraid of life. The top high school student is often, frankly, a pretty dull and bloodless, or peculiar fellow. The adolescent with wide-ranging curiosity, and stubborn independence, with a vivid imagination and desire to explore fascinating bypaths, to follow his own interests, to contemplate, to read the unrequired books, the boy filled with sheer love of life and exuberance, may well seem to his teachers troublesome, undisciplined, a rebel, may not conform to their stereotype, and may not get the top grades and the highest rank in class. He may not even score at the highest level in the standard multiple choice admissions tests, which may well reward the glib, facile mind at the expense of the questioning, independent, or slower but more powerful, more subtle, and more interesting and original mind.
These remarks bring us close to one of the major problems in American culture today. We need a culture that will produce people eager to do things, but we need even more a culture that will make it possible to decide what to do. This is the old division of means and goals. Decisions about goals require values, meaning, context, perspective. They can be set, even tentatively and approximately, only by people who have some inkling of the whole picture. The middle-class culture of our past ignored the whole picture and destroyed our ability to see it by its emphasis on specialization. Just as mass production came to be based on specialization, so human preparation for making decisions about goals also became based on specialization. The free elective system in higher education was associated with choice of a major field of specialization, and all the talk about liberal arts, outside electives, general education, or required distribution were largely futile. They were futile because no general view of the whole picture could be made simply by attaching together a number of specialist views of narrow fields, for the simple reason that each specialist field looks entirely different, presenting different problems and requiring different techniques, when it is placed in the general picture. This simple fact still has not been realized in those circles that talk most about broadening outlooks. This was clearly shown in the influential Harvard Report on General Education (1945). As one receiver of this document said, "It cost $40,000 to produce and a better answer could have been found by buying one of the books of Richard Livingstone for $2.75." This remark is equally mistaken on the opposite side, a fact that shows that the solution can be found only by all parties freeing themselves from their preconceptions by getting as familiar as possible with the diverse special areas in a skeptical way.
Means are almost as difficult as ends. In fact, personal responsibility, self-discipline, some sense of time value and future preference, and, above all, an ability to distinguish what is important from what is merely necessary must be found, simply as valuable attributes of human beings as human beings. Neither America nor the world can be saved by a wholesale re-creation of African social realities here in consequence of our rejection of the middle-class outlook that brought us to this far. Here we must discriminate. We have an achieving society because we have an achieving outlook in our society. And that achieving outlook has been, over the last few centuries, the middle-class outlook. But there are other achieving outlooks. An achieving society could be constructed on the aristocratic outlook, on the scientific outlook (pursuit of truth), on a religious basis, and probably on a large number of other outlooks. There is no need to go back to the middle-class outlook, which really killed itself by successfully achieving what it set out to do. But parts of it we need, and above all we need an achieving outlook. It might be pleasant just to give up, live in the present, enjoying existential personal experiences, living like lotus-eaters from our amazing productive system, without personal responsibility, self-discipline, or thought of the future. But this is impossible, because the productive system would itself collapse, and our external enemies would soon destroy us.
We must have an achieving society and an achieving outlook These inevitably contain parts of the middle-class outlook, but these parts will unquestionably be fitted together to serve quite different purposes. Future preference and self-discipline were originally necessary in our society so that people could restrict consumption and accumulate savings that could be spent to provide investment in capital equipment. Now we no longer need these qualities for this purpose, since flows of income in our economy provide these on an institutional basis, but we still need these qualities so that young people will be willing to undergo the years of hard work and training that will prepare them to work in our complex technological society. We must get away from the older crass materialism and egocentric selfish individualism, and pick up some of the younger generation's concern for the community and their fellow men. The unconventionality of this younger group may make them more able to provide the new outlook and innovation every society requires, but they cannot do this if they lack imagination or perspective.
Above all, we must bring meaning back into human experience. This, like establishing an achieving outlook, can be done by going backward in our Western tradition to the period before we had any bourgeois outlook. For our society had both meaning and purpose long before it had any middle class. Indeed, these are intrinsic elements in our society. In fact, the middle-class outlook obtained its meaning and purpose from the society where it grew up; it did not give meaning and purpose to the society. And capitalism, along with the middle-class outlook, became meaningless and purposeless when it so absorbed men's time and energies that men lost touch with the meaning and purpose of the society in which capitalism was a brief and partial aspect. But as a consequence of the influence of capitalism and of the middle classes, the tradition was broken, and the link between the meaning and purpose of our society as it was before the middle-class revolution is no longer connected with the search for meaning and purpose by the new post-middle-class generation. This can be seen even in those groups like the Christian clergy who insisted that they were still clinging to the basic Christian tradition of our society. They were doing no such thing, but instead were usually offering us meaningless verbiage or unrealistic abstractions that had little to do with our desire to experience and live in a Christian way here and now.
Unfortunately, very few people, even highly regarded experts on the subject, have any very clear idea of what is the tradition of the West or how it is based on the fundamental need of Western Civilization to reconcile its intellectual outlook with the basic facts of the Christian experience. The reality of the world, time, and the flesh forced, bit by bit, abandonment of the Greek rationalistic dualism (as in Plato) that opposed spirit and matter and made knowledge exclusively a concern of the former, achieved by internal illumination. This point of view that gave final absolute knowledge (and thus justified despotism) was replaced in the period 1100-1350 by the medieval point of view that derived knowledge from the tentative and partial information obtained through sensual experience from which man derived conceptual universals that fitted the real individual cases encountered in human experience only approximately. Aquinas, who said, "Nothing exists in the intelligence which was not first present in the senses," also said, "We cannot shift from the ideal to the actual." On this epistemological basis was established the root foundations of both modern science and modern liberalism, with a very considerable boost to both from the Franciscan nominalists of the century following Aquinas.
The Classical world had constantly fallen into intellectual error because it never solved the epistemological problem of the relationship between the theories and concepts in men's minds and the individual objects of sensual experience. The Medieval period made a detailed examination of this problem, but its answer was ignored when post-Renaissance thinkers broke the tradition in philosophy because they felt it necessary to break the tradition in religion. From Descartes onward, this epistemological problem was ignored or considered in a childish way, as if the medieval thinkers had never examined it. Today it remains as the great philosophic problem of our age. Irrational Activism, semanticism, and existentialism flourish because the present century has no answer to the epistemological problem. In fact, most contemporary thinkers do not even recognize that there is a problem. But Bergson's rejection of intelligence and his advocacy of intuition was based, like the Irrational Activism whence it sprang, on recognition of the fact that the space-time continuum in which man generally operates is nonrational. The whole existential movement was based on the same idea.
Semanticism tried to solve the problem, in a similar fashion, by bringing the infinitely varied and dynamic quality of actuality into the human mind by insisting that the meaning of each word must follow the dynamics of the world by changing every time it is used. All these movements tried to reject logic and rationality from the human thinking process because they are not found in space-time actuality. But the tradition of the West, as clearly established in the Christian religion and in medieval philosophy, was that man must use rationality to the degree it is possible in handling a universe whose ultimate nature is well beyond man's present rational capacity to grasp. This is the conclusion that the success of the West in World War II forces the West and the world to recognize once again. And in recognizing it, we must return to the tradition, so carelessly discarded in the fifteenth century, which had shown the relationship between thought and action.
Alfred Korzybski argued (in Science and Sanity) that mental health depended on successful action and that mental health depended on successful action and that successful action depended on an adequate relationship between the irrational nature of the objective world and the vision of the world that the actor has subjectively in his head. Korzybski's solution like most other thinkers over the last two generations, has been to bring the irrationality of the world into man's thinking processes. This solution of the problem is now bankrupt, totally destroyed at Hiroshima and Berlin in 1945. The alternative solution lies in the tradition of the West. It must be found, and the link with out past must be restored so that the tradition may resume the process of growth that was interrupted so long ago.
Korzybski, Bergson, and the rest of them are quite correct - most of man's experience takes place in an irrational actuality of space-time. But we now know that man must deal with his experience through subjective processes that are both rational and logical (using rules of thought explicitly understood by all concerned); and the necessary adjustments between the conclusions reached by thought and the confused irrationalities of experience must be made in the process of shifting from thought to action, and not in the thinking process itself. Only thus will the West achieve successful thought, successful action, and the sanity that is the link between these two.
As a result of this rupture of tradition, the thinkers of today are fumbling in an effort to find a meaning that will satisfy them. This is as true of the contemporary babbling philosophers as it is of the younger generation who fumblingly try to express Christ's message of love and help without any apparent realization that Christ's message is available in writing and that generations of thinkers debated its implications centuries ago. The meaning the present generation is seeking can be found in our own past. Part of it, concerned with loving and helping, can be found in Christ by going back to the age before his message was overwhelmed in ritualism and bureaucracy. Part of it can be found in the basic philosophic outlook of the West as seen in medieval philosophy and the scientific method that grew out of it.
The problem of meaning today is the problem of how the diverse and superficially self-contradictory experiences of men can be put into a consistent picture that will provide contemporary man with a convincing basis from which to live and to act. This can be achieved only by a hierarchy that distinguishes what is necessary from what is important, as the medieval outlook did. But any modern explanation based on hierarchy must accept dynamicism as an all-pervasive element in the system, as the medieval hierarchy so signally failed to do. The effort of Teilhard de Chardin to do this has won enormous interest in recent years, but its impact has been much blunted by the fact that his presentation contained, in reciprocal relationship, a deficiency of courage and a surplus of deliberate ambiguity.
However, the real problem does not rest so much in theory as in practice. The real value of any society rests in its ability to develop mature and responsible individuals prepared to stand on their own feet, make decisions, and be prepared to accept the consequences of their decisions and actions without whining or self-justification. This was the ideal that the Christian tradition established long ago, and in consequence of its existence, our Western society, whatever its deficiencies, has done better than any other society that has ever existed. If it has done less well recently than earlier in its career (a disputable point of view), this weakness can be remedied only by some reform in its methods of childrearing that will increase its supply of mature and responsible adults.
Once this process had been established, the adults thus produced can be relied upon to adopt from our Western heritage of the past a modified ideology that will fit the needs of the present as well as the traditions of the past. And if Western culture can do that, either in America or in Europe, it need fear no enemies from within or from without. future.htm