The Place of Business in America's Future: A Study in Social Values

The Place of Business in America's Future: A Study in Social Values

The Place of Business in America's Future: A Study in Social Values

The Place of Business in America's Future: A Study in Social Values

Excerpt

The question of whether America's social values are changing has become as immediate and vital as whether America's physical environment is dangerously deteriorating. Employers testify that younger workers no longer subscribe to a work ethic. Effortless consumption, as a matter of right, is claimed by some as a new way of life, at the same time that others turn away from mass-made materialistic objects to pursue lives of contemplation, inspiration, or communal fraternity. Technological regimentation is damned by some, while others cling to technological salvation as the rock of the modern age. Racism and sexism are denounced by egalitarians, while these explanations for differential performance are viewed as the evasion of personal responsibilities by the more traditionally individualistic and self-reliant. Seemingly American society is being fragmented and devitalized by contention over the goals we seek. Does the nation still profess any common set of values such as seemed to guide its citizenry of an earlier day, or have these been outworn? Are there "self-evident" truths to which all men may repair, and if not, what are the consequences for America's future?

If these are issues whose very weightiness is depressing, they cannot for that reason be laid aside. But they can be and often are dismissed because they are argued so inconclusively and unpersuasively, by people with a sense of prophecy or mission, from premises deriving from purely personal experience or predilection. Of such argument we have had a surfeit. What I have tried to do in the present study is to start with the basic concept of social values itself, attempting to hone it to a degree of clarity that endows it with analytical utility, permitting—at the last—a more objective and fruitful attack on the questions which prompt the study: Are America's values changing? If so, why, in what direction, and what difference does it make?

If this seems an excessively ambitious undertaking, I make no apology for an effort set in motion by simple intellectual curiosity. What better excuse can I offer? But the satisfaction of such curiosity would remain incomplete if it did not elicit a response from others. And I am mindful that a study which traverses twelve chapters of conceptual development in order to make the application which is the objective presents a formidable obstacle to most readers. So much rough terrain to be covered before one . . .

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