The Conflict of Generations: The Character and Significance of Student Movements

By Lewis S. Feuer | Go to book overview

ONE
The Sources
and Traits
of
Student
Movements

This is a book about the workings of the ethical, idealistic spirit in human history. For of all social movements, those composed of students have been characterized by the highest degree of selflessness, generosity, compassion, and readiness for self-sacrifice. And this is also a book about how the idealistic spirit has done violence to itself and to others, and has been transmuted into a destructive force in human history. Our narratives will tell of the eternal duality which pervades historical movements.

The distinctive character of student movements arises from the union in them of motives of youthful love, on the one hand, and those springing from the conflict of generations on the other. We shall thus be inquiring into the complex psychological origins of human idealism, for we cannot understand the destructive pole of student movements until we have brought to light the obscure unconscious workings of generational conflict. Then perhaps we shall know why student movements have been fated to tragedy.


The Dual Source
of Student
Movements

To their own consciousness, students in student movements have been the bearers of a higher ethic than the surrounding society. Certainly in their essential character student movements are historical forces which are at odds with the "social system." A society is never altogether a social system precisely because such contra-systemic "unsocialized" agencies such as

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