No Sense of Place: The Impact of Electronic Media on Social Behavior

By Joshua Meyrowitz | Go to book overview

15

Where Have We Been,
Where Are We Going?

No Sense of Place

For Americans, the second half of the twentieth century has been marked by an unusual amount and type of social change. The underprivileged have demanded equal rights, a significant portion of the visible political elite has weakened or fallen, and many of those in between have been maneuvering for new social position and identity.

Perhaps even more disturbing than the dimensions of the change has been its seeming inconsistency, even randomness. What is the common thread? We have recently witnessed peaceful civil rights demonstrations juxtaposed with violent looting and rioting. We have seen the persecution of the people by the agencies of government transformed into the virtual prosecution of a President by the people and press. And angry talk of social revolution has been transformed into the cool and determined pursuit of "affirmative action," community control, and a nuclear arms freeze.

Some social observers have comforted themselves by viewing the disruptions of the 1960s as an historical aberration and by pointing gleefully at former hippies who have clipped their locks and joined the materialistic middle class. Nothing has really changed, they seem to suggest. What they fail to see, however, are the male police and hardhats who now wear their hair long, the "redneck" farmers who let livestock loose in front of the Capitol (echoes of the Yippies?), the wheelchair sit-ins of the disabled, the court battles over returning land to the Indians, and hundreds of other small and large changes in behavior and attitudes. What does it all mean? Are we witnessing constant change and confusion? Or is there a central mechanism that has been swinging the social pendulum to and fro?

Social change is always too complex to attribute to a single cause and too diverse to reduce to a single process, but the theory offered here sug

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