A Nation's Socio-Psychological Climate: Change, Determinants and Value Shift

Article excerpt

Using contemporary historical perspectives, the following reviews the meaning of Ethos, and old but resilient term, factors that determine social climate in a nation and changes therefore in a nation's system of human values. The examples are international conflict and were based on, of course, the underlying notion of sovereignty of nations. Historians are often unable to reflect this when they discuss a historical set of events in chronology. What was going on at the time in relation to Ethos? They cannot always validate this social attitude of people or general attitude of mind in existence at the time certain events drove the nation. Today the climate of which we speak is "diversity", a paradox, for it is difficult to unify a nation of diverse peoples moving in the direction of a common goal. While separating and diversifying we are also trying to commune and solidify. September 11th seems to have encouraged the latter process.

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      "The social heritage is the social factor in determining the 
   individual's attitude. I shall call this factor the ethos or spirit of a 
   group ... the entire complex of ways of behavior, belief and thought that 
   makes up a social culture ... it is a subtle intangible spirit that is in 
   the air of a community that permeates and affects in some degree the 
   feeling, thought and action of every member of the community ... the ethos 
   changes in time ... and even undergoes rapid changes in a single period. 
   When this occurs we have a transitional period ... era of social culture." 
 
      John Leighton, 1937 

Ethos:

The historian and psychologist need a strong degree of synchronization in the composition of any piece of history since the former tries to be objective losing the "feeling of the times" and the latter tries to deal with feelings and attitudes at the time events are changing and gelling. The historian looks for "facts" but in so doing is still a philosopher. He presents a picture depending on his point of view or angle. This cannot be helped. The psychologist too cannot avoid his own point of view but subjectivity in this case can add to ones strength when one tries to analyze the people's mood or disposition. The key to this dilemma is to put one in the position of another at a particular point in time. To describe feelings or attitudes of course is most problematic because of their intangibility. Such would call for one to understand and assimilate the feelings and mental images of a group of people, reflecting "climate" during and after the onset of certain events. A country's social climate, therefore, calls for a greater degree of subjectivity, feeling and introjection if a historian seeks objectivity.

It can be said the group spirit or climate of the times represents the fundamental values of the people of a nation. This is the socio-psychological attitude of the populace generally and may change with radically changing events and the influence of new leaders. It is community of feeling and attitude among the people/participants that transforms an individual's spirit connecting the public with a set of common needs and interests. They can rise, spread and cement incompatible, diverse and indifferent attitudes into a powerful social culture or group attitude.

All social groups in a nation have a social climate or group spirit which influences the members of the group. Changes can affect noticeably the group spirit or ethos of any given social group, i.e. family, club, prison, vocational organization, university, political party, church and nation. In particular, the latter can form a national spirit which differs from country to country. But a nation at peace and one at war present notable differences in their respective socio-psychological climates. When a country moves form peace to war the social culture is transformed and a new one arises. …