Man's Quest for Social Guidance: The Study of Social Problems

By Howard W. Odum | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
SOCIETY AND THE GOOD LIFE

The Good Life as a Social Objective . From the viewpoint of social guidance, the good life may be interpreted as being the result of the individual's harmonious development of his whole personality and his satisfactory adjustment to his fellow man and to his physical environment. An ultimate goal of all social study and of the science of society is to develop the good society and to teach the individual how to make good in it. The objectives of a good society, therefore, are manifestly bound up with this problem of enabling individuals and groups to approximate the maximum adjustment and the minimum of maladjustment in the world of men and of things. We shall be asking, therefore, many questions concerning this "coming to terms with one's environment; the optimum conditions of living the good life," as Mr. Stuart Chase puts it in The New Republic for January 5, 1927. What may we expect anthropology, sociology, economics, history, biology, psychology, social geography to tell us about environment and our adjustment to it? What may we expect them to tell us about the individual and his more perfect development? About social groups and their more perfect development? For the individual, for instance, may we expect these social sciences to help us develop and measure soundness of body, the balanced mind, the sensitive spirit, all functioning in the midst of an evolving society? For the group would Mr. Chase's standard be acceptable, "a cultural environment, where cruelty, exploitation and ignorance are at a minimum and tolerance, kindliness, beauty, art, and science at a maximum."

Concepts of "the Good" Variable . It is important at the outset to keep in mind that concepts of the good, of right, of wrong, and of various other aspects of the good life have always been relative matters. They have differed widely in different periods of time and among different peoples and cultures. The student of social relationships cannot emphasize this too much in his efforts to

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