[mtn view, ca]
intro’d to Fred here via an interview with Howard:
Conversation with Fred Turner, author of The Democratic Surround
Published on Jan 31, 2014
Fred Turner, author of “From Counterculture to Cyberculture,” talks about his latest book, in which he uncovered the ways today’s multimedia was deliberately created during World War II & the Cold War to encourage the creation of “democratic personalities” — a multidecade collaboration and convergence that included Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, the Bauhaus, John Cage, Buckminster Fuller, Black Mountain College, Andy Warhol, Marshall McLuhan, the US Information Agency, and the Museum of Modern Art.
Cage spent a summer at black mtn with Bucky, … stages first happening.. be-in .. intro to 60’s..
15 min – creativity is seen as the solution to a social problem..
16 min – the family of man – fulcrum moment – to a time where democracy is more controlled
18:40 propaganda – therapeutic nationalism – ie: most reporters would take pictures of people taking the family of man in – while they are looking very similar to what they are looking like.. to drive in this likeness mentality
21 – howard – almost like refridgerators/consumerism – helped conquer communism.. fred – push for consumerism comes after ww2.. 50’s .. people’s capitalism.. the surround during ww2.. was now combined with consumer goods.. and buying goods seemed a way to create allies..
23 – informational consumerism happening now..
24 – i had no idea that the world of happenings and be-ins was connected to the world of propaganda.. the idea is almost unthinkable.. i was raised that 60s were a revolution and 50s were a cut and dried father knows best world b/w world. cage would travel – to showhouse free individual.. embracing america.. when cage goes to ny 57-58 w/new modes of performance.. then happenings continue in ny.. 66 show in riverside – first be-in.. became basis of human be in of 67 – kicked off high cultural 60s we know.. one thing that didn’t travel -…
60’s took the inward turn that Margaret Meade tried to get in the 40’s – but it turned in so much that it quit talking – because of that turn inward.. we have limited language to reach across our social divide.. (stopped talking about race/class/et al.. turned away from public critique of difficulties.. ie: if we just fix ourselves we will all be well.. )
howard – this could be a trilogy.. seeing another convergence – infusion of african american music, meets the children.. rave, burning man, google (equivalent of consumerism of production of 50s),..
28 – inside google – work with whole.. work with self.. but still those working in kitchen not making living wage.. easier to ignore that…
Howard posts on fb, feb 2014:
This is a VERY interesting and previously untold history. Before multimedia, raves, multi-screen desktops, they were all made possible through a concerted effort by Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, the Bauhaus, Black Mountain College, John Cage, the USIS, Buckminster Fuller, the Museum of Modern Art, that started as a response to fascism.
For that reason, members and friends of the committee advocated a
turn away from single- source mass media and toward multi- image, multi–
sound- source media environments—systems that I will call surrounds.
In 1940s, social scientists agreed that the democratic person was a freestanding individual who could act independently among other individuals. Democratic polity, in turn, depended on the ability of such people to reason, to choose, and above all to recognize others as being human beings like themselves.
Family of Man (360 guy?) visitors free to move, but only w/in environment that had been carefully shaped.
spinach or rock ness…
… even so,…clearly representing the rise of a managerial mode of control: a mode in which people might be free to choose their experiences, but only from a menu written by experts.
1. democratic person – very center of a democratic society
2. find a kind of media to produce that personality – a kind of media that allows us to make choices..
c dot app ness
individuals acting in concert..
early fb rhetoric: surround us with media to make ourselves
a utopian 60’s – actually from the 40’s
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Fred’s conversation with Clay Shirky.. dec 2013:
360 comes to help create space to facilitate the democratic personality
clay – we’ve been asking for 40 yrs… what the heck happened between 64 and 67..
If mass media made fascists, what kinds of media could American leaders make that would help create democratic persons and a democratic kind of unity?
Enter the Committee for National Morale. The Committee was led by Arthur Upham Pope, a Persian art historian, and it included 60 of America’s most interesting thinkers—people like anthropologists. Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict, Mead’s husband, Gregory Bateson, the psychologists Gordon Allport and Kurt Lewin, a refugee from Germany. Together they theorized a new kind of media, a multi-media that could surround individuals and allow them to practice the perceptual skills on which democracy depended: the skills of selection, of integration, of knitting together diverse perspectives into a uniquely individual identity that Committee members called the “democratic personality.”This kind of personality was open to difference: open to racial difference, open to sexual difference. It was the opposite of the fascist personality. And it was the basis of a democratic mode of unity, a way of being together and at the same time remaining individual.
The other track follows the development of those same environments for the liberation of individual selves and the making of democratic community in places like Black Mountain College right up into the happenings of the 1960s. It ends in 1967 at the first Human Be-In, where people danced in Golden Gate Park and saw themselves as free, liberal individuals, diverse, racially mixed, sexually mixed, and open in every way. The Human Be-In helped bring us San Francisco’s Summer of Love and the high counterculture of the late 1960s. But the book shows that it was also the endpoint of the movement against fascism that Margaret Mead and the Bauhaus artists spawned.
To give you a sense of why, I want you to remember that, in February of 1939, 22,000 Americans filled Madison Square Garden to rally in support of fascism. Organizers hung giant banners on the wall that said, “Stop Jewish Domination of Christian America.” That’s America, 1939. In October that year hundreds of people marched down 86th Street in New York City with swastikas and American flags. This was in Life magazine and now it is almost totally forgotten.
20 min – counselors offices were called adjustment centers… which seemed nicer than the fascist mentality.. but now we see – we probably got a little to adjusted (to the system)
in need of detox
CS: In The Democratic Surround the fear of fascism is the original motivation for the development of new media strategies. At first, this is underwritten by the US government. By the 1960s the source of fear is often the US government itself. How and when did that turn happen?
FT: The short answer is: when the draft was instituted and we went to war in Vietnam. The more complete answer is actually a story about the long 1950s. In the ‘50s we moved away from a robust, pro-liberal, anti-Communism that was grounded in an earlier anti-fascism toward a consumerist alternative.
We wanted them to experience choice in a commercial as well as a political vein. That turn toward mingling consumption and politics took place in the ‘50s and was available as a strategy to folks in the 1960s. While that was going on, some of the same people who had been working to promote the ideology of choice abroad—Walt Rostow, folks like this—were working at the Center for International Studies at MIT on the ideas that would become the foundation of America’s war inVietnam. Some of the same people who were fighting for a liberated, individuated society that would be diverse racially, diverse sexually, slowly but surely turned into the people who brought us Vietnam. You can watch it happen in the archives. And it’s terrifying.
The fantasy goes like this: If I express myself, the world will change. That is not correct. I was so angry to see Occupy focus on expression while the Tea Party focused on elections. Who is driving our policy now? It’s not Occupy. Sure, we got that phrase, “the 99 percent.” That’s great. It helps frame the debate. But framing debates is totally insufficient.
The business of the individual is to be a free, articulate participant among others. That’s not enough. Folks who buy into that vision have failed to do the institution-building that actually generates change. That’s a negative legacy on the Left, and it’s one that all sorts of New Media companies take advantage of. Google and Facebook are counting on it. They issue an invitation that is very profitable to them: Come connect with your friends. Hook up. Connect. Connect. Connect. Connect. But: Don’t build institutions. Don’t regulate us. We are the key institutions of free expression, free innovation—not the government. Never mind that it was government-sponsored research that brought us the Internet in the first place.
The threats are different today than they were in the 1940s and 1950s. Back then, American intellectuals and artists feared hierarchical institutions and centralized bureaucracies as tools of fascism. They tended to forget that those same structures helped bring America the New Deal. Today, many on the Left—and many in the corporate sphere—are still pushing the pursuit of individual satisfaction and the development of individual-centered networks as keys to democratic unity. The trouble is, what we face today is not the fascism of the 1930s. What we face is the dissolution of the middle class and the predatory accumulation of wealth by a tiny fraction of our population. What we face is the failure to band together to take action against climate change. These are the kinds of challenges that individuals gathered together in expression-centered networks are uniquely ill-equipped to meet.
We need to do the institutional work that builds free societies over the long haul. And if we don’t, the Tea Party will.
i was always told that the 60’s were the 30’s again..
37 min – the family of man – cracked open alternative perspectives
50 min – grand theft auto 5 – such a high degree of choice it feels like freedom – totally structured from the outside..
1:02 – courage – it’s really hard to take public stands esp when everybody around you tells you to take that tight professional stand that will help you move forward in life …it’s hard to reach out to ..people who are unlike ourselves.. tech for reaching to people like us – amazing.. tech for reaching those unlike us – not so much. that’s what the family of man tried to do. that’s our challenge now.. stop focusing on the improvement of self and start focusing on building of a polity out of people who are different than ourselves..
Fred on stanford site:
book links to amazon
“This is the true story of how a small group of artists and anthropologists set out to create an alternative to fascism during World War II—and ended up setting the stage for the consumer-driven, media-saturated world we inhabit today. A gripping, well-balanced, and surprising history.” -Douglas Rushkoff
if mass media tended to turn the psyches of their audiences in authoritarian directions? Was there a mode of communication that could produce more democratic individuals? A more democratic polity? And for that matter, what was a democratic person?
the surround clearly represented the rise of a managerial mode of a control: a mode in which people might be free to choose their experiences, but only from a menu written by experts.
In The Family of Man, Edward Steichen hoped to surround museum visitors with images and so free them to see a whole world of people who were simultaneously unlike and yet like themselves.
Cage’s performance shared their psychological ambition. He, too, hoped to surround his audience with sights and sounds that might free them from allegiance to more authoritarian modes of communication—and, by implication, from authoritarian political systems too.
spaces of permission ness
In Le Bon’s view, a leader could analyze the hidden desires of the individuals in a group and speak to them in a way that would undermine their ability to reason—that is, their “conscious personality.” Once exposed to the leader’s messages and to the contagious enthusiasm of the group, the individual would enter “a special state” like that of “the hypnotized individual . . . in the hands of the hypnotizer.
The Nazi type of morale resulted in “conformity” but not in an “inner strength” that might outlive the regime itself, he argued.15 Nazi morale might have looked like the sort of national unity Americans needed, but it wasn’t: it was too brittle.
sounds like our push in institution Ed for grit.. when what we need is true grit.. (difference if it’s a grit for battle.. or a grit for the thing you can’t not do.. the 2nd is way way stronger.. even if the 1st might appear so)
Thus freedom for the personality may be viewed as the crucial issue of a democratic society. . . .
Nazis longed for nothing more than to obey, and so to lose their individuality in the great mass of the crowd. They wanted only to follow and to attack those who wouldn’t or couldn’t also obey. Under the Nazis, the Germans had given up their powers of intellectual discrimination, of moral choice, of psychological independence. Above all, they had ceased to tolerate racial and cultural differences.
institution of Ed
In place of instrumental, message-driven modes of communication, they developed a theory of what I will call surrounds—arrays of images and words built into environments that their audiences could enter freely, act spontaneously within, and leave at will.
Does not the implementation of a defined direction call for control, and does not control—measured, calculated, definite control; control which really attains its ends—by its very existence invalidate democracy, necessarily raising up some men to exercise the control and degrade all others to be its victims? – M Mead
How would we rig the maze or problem-box so that the anthropomorphic rat shall obtain a repeated and reinforced impression of his own free-will?’
iterations of self. emergence of us. via a people experiment..
As Mead put it, “They go out from the doors of the Museum believing in one of the foundations of democracy, that it is possible, by slow, honest, exact study to find out more about man and the world in which he lives. For an hour or so they have been able to trust their eyes and let their minds rove over materials which have not been arranged to impress, to convert, to push them around, but merely to tell them as much of the truth as is now known, and that quietly.
“The primary need at the moment is . . . to free the individual citizen from his fear of being moved, to restore to the individual his belief that HE CAN MAKE CHOICES, HE IS NOT JUST A HELPLESS MUSICAL INSTRUMENT ON WHICH THE PROPAGANDIST PLAYS WHATEVER TUNE HE WISHES” [capitalization original].
set people free – to believing – it is legal to think for themselves..
In other words, chance methods of composition freed sounds from the need to obey the will of a dictatorial composer or even to follow the norms of an oppressive culture.
He described his new method less as a way of organizing sound than as a way of leveling power relationships between people by organizing sound.
What was the alternative to this implicit fascism? For the audience, it was to hear an array of sounds whose interrelationships could not be predicted beforehand but, rather, had to be made on the spot by the listeners themselves. For the performer, it was to cease to obey the commands of invisible authoritarians and to enter instead into a state of “being alert in an indeterminate situation.
the composer needed to develop a structure within which every person and every sound might be wholly itself, independent and free.
Artaud had long advocated a theater in which, as he put it, “the actors are not performing / they are doing.
Dwight MacDonald, editor of the left-wing journal Politics, put it, “There is something askew with a society in which vast numbers of citizens can be organized to create a horror like The Bomb without even knowing they are doing it.
Americans had been asked to turn off their reason, to act on their most violent impulses, and to do so as a unified, uniform mass. When they returned home to the United States, they brought with them not only their recollections of the fighting but the specter of their own resemblance to the enemy.
It will be a person-centered society in which no type of person can impose his pattern of selfhood upon other persons.”
Each gave voice to a widespread hope that social and technological engineering could enable Americans to manage themselves.
we shall use social engineering to solve the problem of setting up the conditions of freedom but not to determine what men shall do with freedom when they get it. Indeed, we are arguing here that the chief uses of freedom are defeated by those who set up the conditions and try also to determine its content.”
pbl, cc, eve parents who don’t want to – via krishnamurti – so c dot app ness- because tech is non judgmental – no agenda ness – can take in too big to know data – and organize it for connections.. – help us find our tribe.. help us rattle out brain…
In 1950, UNESCO published a complete report of the conference edited by Hadley Cantril and entitled Tensions that Cause Wars.
Even Max Horkheimer, who at times during the conference protested the psychologization of what he believed were also economic and political conflicts, argued that the Nazis would never have come to power had German parents not turned the personalities of their children in authoritarian directions. “Men . . . who have not been browbeaten in childhood,” he wrote, “will not be driven by irrational anxieties . . . [to] aggressive nationalism.
the f scale – testing for vulnerability to fascism. adorno
erich fromm – research in 1920s
Those with a broadly antidemocratic personality structure were unable to recognize other people as individuals, but saw them only as types.
If potential fascists showed a psychological propensity to give themselves over to the will of another, to dissolve their own desires into those of the throng, the democratic psyche longed for a different kind of intimacy. The democratic personality enjoyed “a degree of detachment which enables the individual to sense the feelings and viewpoints of others in the life of the entire group.”
2 books that defined debates on nature of american society through the 50s:
The first was Harvard historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr.’s best-selling polemic, The Vital Center: The Politics of Freedom, in 1949.
The result should be a balance of “individualism which does not wall man off from community” and “community which sustains but does not suffocate the individual.
Schlesinger. “We must commit ourselves to it with all our vigor in all its dimensions: the struggle within the world against communism and fascism; the struggle within our country against oppression and stagnation; the struggle within ourselves against pride and corruption: nor can engagement in one dimension exclude responsibility for another.
– The second – In 1950, Riesman’s widely acclaimed The Lonely Crowd: A Study of the Changing American Character challenged the confidence of The Vital Center even as it echoed its preoccupation with personality
Even as such an orientation freed individual Americans to make their own way in the world, it knit them ever more tightly into the systems of production and consumption within which they worked.
In the early spring of 1955, more than a quarter of a million people streamed through the doors of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. They came to immerse themselves in The Family of Man.
In other words, even as it freed Americans from the massifying effects of totalitarianism and its media, The Family of Man invited them to adjust themselves to a softer but equally pervasive system of management—a system pioneered, in part, in Victor D’Amico’s classrooms.
By January 1943, the Museum of Modern Art had mounted an entire exhibition on the theme, called Art Education in Wartime. In a draft press release, museum officials argued that art educators were helping to win the war from kindergarten through college by helping children avoid becoming authoritarians.
“The war has created new and greater tensions which will cause their share of mental and emotional maladjustments,” wrote D’Amico in 1943. “If the therapeutic value of art is employed in a plan for re-education [of veterans], America may be spared a phenomenal rise in mental illness and emotional disturbance.
for many in the late 1940s and early 1950s, it also meant working to raise the sort of open-minded, empathetic, emotionally flexible children who would not start the kinds of wars they themselves had just survived
Parents became childlike once again, while their children enjoyed managing themselves within an environment established for the purpose. In short, the classroom became a world without a dictator, unified in its pursuit of individual diversity
Fascist-minded subjects show, on a deeper level, no genuine attachments to the parents, whom they accept in a fairly conventionalized and externalized way. It is this configuration of submissiveness and coldness which more than anything else defines the potential fascist of our time.
In this setting children needed to learn not only how to make art, but how to manage themselves in terms set by largely invisible others.
I guess in art you can be pretty free,” said Mrs. Kawachi. “Yes,” replied Victor D’Amico, “that’s what art’s for.”
Many lauded Steichen as a sort of author—speaking in what he and reviewers alike called the “universal language” of photography—and the exhibition as a text, an essay even.
Eisenhower and leaders of American industry worked closely together to establish American goods as intermediaries between the craven, earthly desire for things and more abstract human longings for social justice.
what? consumerism as glue?
Americans had been promoting the overthrow of communist regimes without understanding that principles alone could not sustain democracies, Potter claimed. The democratic character of individuals and nations depended on their collective wealth. For that reason, he implied, Americans should promote not only political democracy, but consumer capitalism
Indoctrination was the tool of totalitarianism; democracy required self-discovery
The real problem is to free the child of his clichés or imitated mannerisms and to help him discover his own way of seeing and expressing.”
In the early years of World War II, Margaret Mead had linked American individualism and American national morale.
What better way is there to develop a feeling of brotherhood among nations than to stimulate the creativeness of their children?” asked the reporter
free to become ever more themselves and, at the same time, ever more collaborative and interdependent
At the global level, the United States promised to enclose its allies in a “free world,” watched over by a benevolent, all-seeing military and guided by disinterested American experts
In April 1957, exhibition planners convened a two-day conference at MIT’s Center for International Studies (CENIS). The center had been founded in 1951 with a grant from the Ford Foundation and received substantial secret funding from the CIA
Like Fuller’s dome, Stone’s circular arena modeled an American landscape open to roaming. Stone even built some forty entrances and exits, so that visitors could come and go as they pleased.41 The interior of the pavilion had no clear beginning and no clear end
The Children’s Creative Center allowed visitors who peered through its windows to practice monitoring—not instructing or indoctrinating, but watching, encouraging, and so helping to set the boundary conditions for their children’s performances.
In each case, visitors were enjoined to express themselves—imaginatively, through identification, or mechanically and imaginatively, by voting or picking stocks. As they did, they simultaneously produced themselves as new, creative citizens of a massively abundant world and practiced engaging with democratic politics, market capitalism, and the progressive child-rearing techniques that were thought to produce people who would thrive in those systems
oh my. .. express by voting.. and picking stocks?
They both imagined themselves as and, for an instant at least, became highly individuated members of a seemingly egalitarian society—an Americanized global community whose stability was guaranteed by military forces arrayed invisibly far beyond the circle of the pavilion’s walls.
Reporters tripped over themselves to celebrate the show when it came to their cities. “I am writing this under the spell of an exhibit that could change the face of South Africa if it were seen and felt and understood by the right people,” exclaimed a reviewer for The Johannesburg Sunday Times, entirely typically. “No human being seeing it and understanding its message could ever hold race hate in his heart again.”
For the staff of the USIA, the exhibition was a godsend. With its emphasis on global humanism, the racial diversity in its imagery, and its utter absence of pro-American bluster, the exhibition seemed to have little if anything to do with propaganda. Visitors might even forget that the United States was sponsoring the show (an occurrence that American embassy officials routinely took steps to prevent). When they did notice American sponsorship, USIA officials hoped that visitors would associate their own desires for peace, familial intimacy, and egalitarian community with the guiding international hand of the United States.
More specifically, it was to turn Soviet citizens toward the creative self-expression and self-development that characterized the democratic personality—in this case, through consumption—and at the same time toward an egalitarian mode of unity based on individualism, that ostensibly characterized the United States.
Even as these systems offered to improve Soviet understanding of American life, most generated records of visitors’ opinions about America, the exhibition, and the Soviet Union
Fred – saying computer preprogrammed/guides with thousands of answers to questions .. but more interested in what questions they were asking..
Nelson explained that the dome would be the first building visitors entered, and would be designed to overwhelm them with highly credible facts and images from the United States. These would help persuade the Soviets that Americans could be trusted to tell the truth
so flooding people with highly credible facts persuades trust?
Together these interactions allowed Soviets to express themselves and, at the same time, rendered their psyches available to surveillance.
2 forms of control: 1-they were offered spinach or rock; 2-they were monitored – raised eyebrow and agenda ness.. ?
They listed the questions asked of RAMAC. (Number one in the first week: “How much do cigarettes cost?” Number two: “What is meant by the American dream?”
A society linked by the intercommunications of independent individuals was a far cry from one organized by the top-down dictates of a totalitarian regime
might tech do better facilitating.. and keep from judgment and agenda ness?
In Wiener’s view, communication was not simply a matter of exchange; it was the essence of social and natural order.
Only by surrounding the eye with new images and offering the individual the chance to link them together—that is, by asking both artists and viewers to speak a new language of vision—could designers begin to help individuals become psychologically whole
strange – because here it is again… assumption that fixing requires given/prescribe images… even with the silence ness of john cage in the room..
First, they asked individual viewers to select among a variety of images on display and integrate their selections into a single, individualized internal picture. In this way, according to Gestalt theory at least, viewers could experience true individuation—an experience that the USIA saw as central to undermining the massified psychology of Soviet communism.
yeah.. that.. over and over.. that. that’s individuation? that’s pbl as we know it.. right? partial freedom is not freedom ness..
soviets found this utterly compelling… yet most compelling was chance to interact with russion speaking american guides.. who were allowed to think on their feet and to acknowledge problems… is that reality?
people drawn to people. that’s it. no? people drawn to awake people.
The USIA had adapted the aesthetics and the ideals of the surround to the work of reorienting the desires of foreign nationals away from the temptations of communism and toward the carefully managed consumer society of America.
so – we modeled what it’s like to dote on a kid.. to offer extrinsic reward.. and clothe it as safety/love/humanity.. ?
The members of the Committee didn’t know how to build these environments. But in the late 1930s, a generation of Bauhaus artists had just fled to the United States from Germany.
They created the spaces that the American social scientists had dreamed of – spaces in which Americans could practice moving their bodies individually together, looking high and low at the world around them, and arriving at a new mode of political unity in the process.
At the same time, artists such as John Cage opened up the soundscape and the world of performance, with an equally explicit desire to engage their audiences in a world of aesthetic democracy – a place in which every sound, no matter how lowly, would be equal to every other, a world in which the European hierarchies of the symphony no longer held sway.
When they headed out to build their communes, the New Communalists of the 1960s tucked books by their parents’ generation into their backpacks. They read Norbert Weiner, Buckminster Fuller, Erich Fromm, Karen Horney, Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson – and I wondered why. When I went back to those books, I saw the appeal. These thinkers were far more radical than we remember. –
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Bayer and his team wanted viewers to practice doing the linking work themselves. They were to engage, even interact with the whole pattern of images and not just any one message they might contain.
Cage is asking his audience to see that they are surrounded by the sounds of their environment. He’s asking them to knit those sounds together in the way that would be most meaningful for them. No piano player, no conductor, no musical dictator demands their attention. The audience, like the sounds themselves, are meant to be free, interacting with one another on equal terms.
The trouble is, these new modes for making liberated citizens also meant a new mode of management. In each case I’ve studied, a team of experts built an environment and selected an array – an often very rich array – of media for audiences to engage. Audience members moved freely, selected what mattered to them, congregated, dispersed – and based on all the archival records I’ve seen, many really did experience themselves as free in these spaces. But of course they weren’t. Or not completely. They may have had more control of their bodies and their senses and their reasoning faculties than, say, the swaying viewers of Disney’s Circarama, but the visitors to surrounds inhabited a thoroughly curated world. They could interact, but the terms of their interaction had been set for them, before they even entered the rooms.
The modes of interactivity and multi-media storytelling that empower audiences to make their own unique sense of the media around them usually invite them to make sense of that media specifically – media which have often been pre-selected and pre-digested for them.
spinach or rock ness in ed – pbl et al
I’m hoping that if we can look back into the 1940s and the 1950s, we can see a world in which it is possible to work for radical political transformation within and around the most powerful institutions of our day – including the media and the government.
Some of the best and brightest social scientists of the 1950s and 1960s, working with the very best of intentions, helped mastermind a national atrocity.
I do see that the lion’s share of funding from the government now goes to STEM disciplines. I think that happens because the outcomes of training in those areas can be so clearly linked to things Congressman care about – jobs, profits, economic growth. But the power of STEM per se isn’t new. The space race and the Cold War drove research in that area to a level of funding and creative abandon that would be hard to imagine today except perhaps in the privately funded stratospheres of Google and Apple and Microsoft. Even with government funding down, the social sciences remain intellectually pretty hardy.
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I think that one of the legacies of the Vietnam era for our generation has been a fear that engaging with state policy or trying to directly influence public life will somehow harm either our ideas or the state itself.
But it also travelled because Mead and others like her were not afraid to mix it up with people in power.
Today we need to do two things I think: first, campus-based writers like you and I need to keep trying to speak outward, to the world beyond the walls, in plain English. Second, we need to work with and if necessary build new kinds of institutions to support the kind of society we want. New social networks, new peer-to-peer collaborations are nowhere near enough. What we need are places where people who are unlike one another can gather and work together, slowly, over time. We are far too entranced with the power of networks today. What we need are not better ways to contact others like ourselves, but better ways to work across our differences. What we need are not better networks, but better institutions.