The Scope of Psychoanalysis, 1921-1961: Selected Papers

By Franz Alexander | Go to book overview

Mental Hygiene in the Atomic Age
1946

The central psychological difficulty of our industrial era consists essentially in the need for rapid adjustments to ever changing conditions. In times of slow social change--as for example the eight hundred years of feudal era in Europe--individual adjustments are supported by tradition as represented by attitudes in the family and in institutions like school and church. The life of everyone is rigidly determined by these traditions. A glance at the contours of history in the past one hundred and fifty years presents us with a sharp contrast to this picture. With the Industrial Revolution a fundamentally new era of civilization started, characterized by change and mobility. It is, however, erroneous to limit the extent of Industrial Revolution to the last decades of the eighteenth and the early part of the nineteenth centuries. Since those days we have never ceased to live in the era of industrial revolution, if we define the latter as sudden social changes resulting from rapid advancements of technology.

We have no methods to measure precisely the speed of social change, but it is certain that the rate of this already rapid change has been greatly accelerated in our present days. Our habits and views and our knowledge of yesterday are out of date today, and it seems that the demand for adjusting ourselves to an ever changing world exceeds our adaptability.

The birth of this nation coincided with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The American pioneer could turn to technology in his heroic task of conquering a vast, unexplored country. Just as the Spanish Civil War was a rehearsal for modern warfare, the conquest of the American continent was a grand rehearsal for modem technology--at first steam, then electricity, and eventually the combustion engine and electronic devices. The utilization of atomic energies will be the next step. The hero of this development was at first the settler

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