A More Perfect Union: Holistic Worldviews and the Transformation of American Culture after World War II

A More Perfect Union: Holistic Worldviews and the Transformation of American Culture after World War II

A More Perfect Union: Holistic Worldviews and the Transformation of American Culture after World War II

A More Perfect Union: Holistic Worldviews and the Transformation of American Culture after World War II

Synopsis

In 1962, when the Cold War threatened to ignite in the Cuban Missile Crisis, when more nuclear test bombs were detonated than in any other year in history, Rachel Carson released her own bombshell, Silent Spring, to challenge society's use of pesticides. To counter the use of chemicals--and bombs--the naturalist articulated a holistic vision. She wrote about a "web of life" that connected humans to the world around them and argued that actions taken in one place had consequences elsewhere. Thousands accepted her message, joined environmental groups, flocked to Earth Day celebrations, and lobbied for legislative regulation. Carson was not the only intellectual to offer holistic answers to society's problems. This book uncovers a sensibility in post-World War II American culture that both tested the logic of the Cold War and fed some of the twentieth century's most powerful social movements, from civil rights to environmentalism to the counterculture. The study examines important leaders and institutions that embraced and put into practice a holistic vision for a peaceful, healthful, and just world: nature writer Rachel Carson, structural engineer R. Buckminster Fuller, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., Jesuit priest and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow, and the Esalen Institute and its founders, Michael Murphy and Dick Price. Each looked to whole systems instead of parts and focused on connections, interdependencies, and integration to create a better world. Though the '60s dreams of creating a more perfect world were tempered by economic inequalities, political corruption, and deep social divisions, this holistic sensibility continues to influence American culture today.

Excerpt

A More Perfect Union contends that one of the most powerful visions to guide Americans between World War II and the mid-1970s was a holistic, communal, and often utopian worldview. This holistic perspective—a view that holds that reality can only be understood as a whole, can only be understood by focusing on relationships between the parts and the whole—emphasized unity, interdependencies, and integration. Holistic projects helped drive social reform, changed the ways many people understood themselves and their environment, and altered conceptions of science and religion. By the 1960s and 1970s, holistic sensibilities resounded throughout significant subsections of the culture with particular power.

To follow the story of this particular holistic sensibility, this book spotlights nature writer Rachel Carson, structural engineer R. Buckminster Fuller, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., psychologist Abraham Maslow, Jesuit priest and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and the Esalen Institute and demonstrates how they helped change the shape of American culture in the last half of the twentieth century. Each individual spoke to similar concerns and offered complementary answers. Troubled by what seemed to them a fragmented world, they chastised a science that led to atomic war and a government and economy that relied on military-industrial complexes. They balked at medical approaches that treated humans as parts, systems that compartmentalized life, and huge corporations that, in quest of profit, ignored the harm caused by their products. Some challenged accepted social codes, rebelling against hierarchical distinctions of race and sex. With zeal, each strove to create a better world, infusing their spiritual values and holistic sensibilities into some of the century’s most powerful social movements. Though contested and controversial, their influence can be measured through their best-selling books; large turnouts at speeches, rallies, and marches; popular architectural designs; prominent academic work in journals and institutes; legal reforms; increases in the number of . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.