Thursday, July 05, 2007

David Riesman, The Lonely Crowd

Cool quotes:

A definition of tradition-direction.

Since the the type of social order we have been discussing is relatively unchanging, the conformity of the individual tends to reflect his membership in a particular age-grade, clan, or caste; he learns to understand and appreciate patterns which ahve endured for centuries, and are modifeid but slightly as the generations succeed each other. The important relationships of life may be controlled by careful and rigid etiquette, learned by the young during years of intensive socialization that end with initiation into full adult membership. MOreover, the culture, in additoin to its economic tastks, or as part of them, provides ritual, routine, and religion to occupy and to orient everyone. Little energy is directed toward finding nedw solutoins of hte age-old problems, let us say, of agricultural technique or medicine, the problems to which people are acculturated.

A definition of inner-direction.

In western history the society that emerged with the Renaissance and Reformation and that is only now vanishing serves to illustrate the type of society in which inner-direction is the principal mode of securing conformity. Such a society is characterized by increased personal mobility, by rapid accumulation of capital (teamed with devastating technological shifts), and by an almost constant expansion: intensive expansion in the production of good and people, and extensive expansion in exploration, colonization, and imperialism. The greater choices this society gives--and the greater initiatives it demands in order to cope with its novel problems--are handled by character types who can manage to live socially without strict and self-evident tradition-direction. These are inner-directed types.

A definition of other-direction

The type of character I sh all describe as other-directed seems to be emerging in very recent years in the upper middle class of our larger cities: more prominently in New York than in Boston, in Los Angeles than in Spokane, in Cincinnati than in Chillicothe. Yet in some respects this type is trikingly similar to the American, whom Tocqueville and other curious and astonished visitors from Europe, even before the Revolution, thought to be a new kind of man. Indeed, travelers' reports on America impress us with their unanimity. THe American is said to be shallower, freer with his money, friendlier, more uncertain of himself and his values, more demanding of approval from the European. It all adds up to a pattern which, without stretching matters too far, resemblems the kind of character that a number of social scientists have seen as developing in contemporary, highly industrialized, and bureaucratic America: Fromm's "marketer," Mills's "fixer," Arnold Green's "middle class male child."

Hmm. Interesting. I hope I'm not tradition-directed, although after a week at home I do believe my family is. Do we all grow out of tradition-directed communities and aspire to be inner-directed?

The third type is prescient, for a book originally written in 1961. Not that we Americans don't have their maverick, jingoistic moments too. But I would love to astonish curious visitors from Europe. I don't think I did much, other than surprising my Russian Dude with knowing a good deal more about Russian literature than he expected.

This is obviously not real commentary. I'm only half-way through the book. I just wanted to type these up.


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