The Family and Democratic Society

The Family and Democratic Society

The Family and Democratic Society

The Family and Democratic Society

Excerpt

This book was at first intended to be a revision of my The Family: Its Sociology and Social Psychiatry, published by John Wiley and Sons, Inc., in 1934. Yet so much has happened since then, to the world and to my ideology, that the present volume emerges essentially as a new treatise, with liberal quotations from its predecessor.

Dreading above all to be called "unscientific," or "wishful thinkers," we sociologists, typically, have pictured social changes as something to be ascertained and understood, but not to be approved or disapproved. If we advocated anything we carefully qualified it by saying, "If you want such and such an end, we recommend this means of attaining it." In other words, we left it to the reformer, the moralist, to the vast "Somebody Else" to determine ends and choose values.

Since 1934, we have seen a small group of determined men who knew what social changes they wanted plunge the whole world into bloodshed.

Some of us have been stirred to a fundamental reconsideration of the sociologist's relation to values. With Robert Lynd, we cry, "Knowledge for What?" Indeed values are chosen, not "proved" or "disproved." Yet values have their own interrelations. Perhaps sociology is eminently well fitted to judge one value in terms of another, to say whether several values are consistent or inconsistent, and to discern any historical trend or "logic" in the evolution of values. Perhaps the anthropologist or sociologist is peculiarly well fitted to discern and represent the universal needs and interests of mankind, as distinguished from the arbitrary goals set by man's various cultures.

We have been encouraged, perhaps, in this bolder attitude by the configurationist anthropology represented by Ruth Benedict, which shows different societies as choosing different aims and values for emphasis; by psychosomatic medicine and psychoanalytic anthropology which suggest that value-choices may be much "better" or "worse" than one another in terms of life and health, and by progressive education philosophy which holds that it is possible for the school to play a creative role in the tides and currents of social change. Indeed the philosophy of Lester Ward has come alive again with new and better implementation.

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