Our Contemporary Civilization: A Study of the Twentieth Century Renaissance

Our Contemporary Civilization: A Study of the Twentieth Century Renaissance

Our Contemporary Civilization: A Study of the Twentieth Century Renaissance

Our Contemporary Civilization: A Study of the Twentieth Century Renaissance

Excerpt

A changing civilization is intriguing because it is dynamic. Its transitions, which are making many things new, are not easily traced or analyzed. Static life can be classified and catalogued; dynamic defies diagnosis. In a study of the past, trends and tendencies are discoverable, because we know results as well as causes. An attempted analysis of the present gives us partial views of existing conditions and problems; but the picture as a whole lacks depth and perspective. Too often we have a single image when we need a view both stereoscopic and comprehensive. Even better would be a composite from several angles, taken at many times.

The twentieth century offers a series of kaleidoscopic changes following one another with bewildering rapidity. Compared with the late nineteenth century, the present often gives us more contrasts than similarities. Not only business and science are diverging far from accepted norms but religion and democracy are breaking new paths. Social habits are being re-molded on models at variance with sanctioned social patterns. Many centrifugal forces are at work, sweeping mankind from its accustomed orbit.

The challenge of the new age calls us to seek knowledge of the conditions and problems of this new renaissance and the dilemma of America, one chiefly of industrialism and of capitalism. Because our civilization is not an integrated product, for no one principle underlies it all, it may be easy to make any necessary reorganization. The great variety of American institutions and systems may include ideas and principles out of which we may possibly build a new social order. In this book a few American experiences have been selected, a few problems cited, a few suggestions offered. Inevitably the analysis is limited to materials organized to explain the American problem rather than to cover western civilization. In-

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