NOTE: This posting has been modified (as of 5-19-2001) and is now accessible in book form. Go there now.
The earlier course format, updated through April 2001, based on Anderson's book "Reality Isn't What It Used To Be" is still accessible. Go there now.
NOTE: This page is the first half of the whole, original (stages2.htm) page, which now has been split into two parts.
This page last Updated: 03-28-2001
Please refer comments and suggestions to Notess' e-mail address is: (email@example.com). His telephone number is: 970-613-9967 in Colorado.
This paper presents several considerations aimed at helping to explain why uncertainty has increased and why responses to uncertainty can be so different among neighbors and even among members of the same family.
1. Some of us have lost faith in modern (scientific) ways of thinking and in technology as ways of responding to opportunities and to threats in the social and human aspects of this postmodern age. In the search for more effective ways of responding, some place increased emphasis on traditional approaches that they feel have worked for centuries. Others see the world differently and create other (innovate) new, more flexible approaches if they have the freedom to do so. There are now many different ways of viewing the political and social realm; many different realities. These many realities add to the confusion. People ask: "Whom shall we believe?"This paper ends with an outline of seven levels of perspective-taking that provide, in this writer's view, a basis for explaining different standards of morality and commitment. Understanding what are the predominant levels used by different groups in contention over an issue, can help development of negotiated agreements among social groups which are engaged in seemingly unresolvable conflicts, such as over use of the land, environmental concerns, political styles and ideologies, or approaches to religious faith and values.
Increasingly we hear the questions: "Who is right?" "Who is really telling the truth?" Such questions are especially prevalent in a presidential election year. The past presidential election has provided much evidence that political parties and leaders, with help from advertising agencies have created two different realities, a Republican one and a Democratic one. Leaders of both sides have presented too many half truths and appear to have been more interested in winning the election than in honestly informing and educating the public.
To a significant extent, answers to the foregoing questions depend upon learning about the views of others and communicating with the others sufficiently so that one can understand the different perspectives upon which the different realities and founded. This idea leads us to the field of developmental psychology.
2. The stages of psycho-social and moral development that people pass throuth as they grow from babyhood to adulthood influence how they respond to an increasing variety of realities and the frustrations caused by variety. As one progresses through these stages of development, they can better appreciate the different perspectives that other persons and organizations take toward important social and human issues.
If the upbringing of young people is not adequate for handling this complexity, they surround themselves with groups of people who they feel have a workable solution to the problem of responding to complexity. What are these different groupings?
Sociologists have classified responses to uncertainty in ways that differ slightly from those of the developmental psychologist. David Reisman, in his classic book "The Lonely Crowd" defined three social character types: tradition-directed, inner-directed and other-directed persons.
3. There are limitations in our language and discourse that restrict and distort our perceptions and our thinking about the fair and just ways to respond to persons from different social and/or cultural backgrounds. Our thinking amd analyses are prone to suffer from dualistic divisions wherein one is either right or wrong and there is no in-between. Being aware of these limitations and discussing differences in perception and reality construction helps one understand the differences, and also helps one clarify ones own perceptions and views.
The following notes and course outline was developed for use as an internet course for college students possibly to be offered through California State University's DearHabermas web site accessed through: Northern Colorado Local Hub Site.
The introductory text for the course is Walter Truett Anderson's paperback, "Reality Isn't What It Used To Be". This book provides a readable introduction to impacts of postmodernism. For advanced students who are upper level sociology majors and are familiar with the classical theorists, considerable information on the transition from classical to postmodern sociology is presented in the reader, "Culture and Society - Contemporary debates", edited by Alexander and Seidman. Students might select chapters from this reader, if they prefer. This book summarizes the classical approaches from perspectives of the 1980's and then summarizes the debates among thinkers in the postmodern period. I personally found this second book very helpful.
A Table of Contents for this posting is accessible at: TABLE OF CONTENTS.
A Course Outline is accessible at: COURSE OUTLINE.
General Instruction File
A Glossary of Terms is accessible at: GLOSSARY
An extensive BIBLIOGRAPHY is accessible at: BIBLOGRAPHY
Our society has been undergoing ever more rapid change. We are increasingly dependent upon new technology in the form of appliances, automobiles, computers, cell phones, and so on. Technological change and related social changes affect, in many ways, our career choices and our daily activities of living. Successful applications of logic and reasoning skills have helped us to understand dynamic systems and their controlling mechanisms. Reliance on the empirical-scientific method has proven to be quite effective in the design, management and operation of technology based on the physical and natural sciences. Much of this scientific approach is based upon techniques, wherein complex systems are broken down into small components for analysis by specialists. When dealing with technological innovations, it is fairly straight forward to design, manufacture, manage, and control complex electromechanical systems such as an automobile, an airplane or a high-speed computer, by breaking the complex systems down into their functional components. The whole system can be tested, and the operations of component parts simulated, with help from high-speed computers. An instruction manual shows how to put all the components together and operate the whole system effectively.
We have progressed a long way in this area of our lives during the past 150 years.
However, in the broad area of human affairs, we have not made anywhere near similar levels of progress as have the hard sciences (the physical and natural sciences). This is because of the unpredictability that humans contribute to complex, multicultural social and political systems, especially in societies that guarantee their citizens a reasonable level of free will.
Our success in the areas of physical and natural sciences has had an impact on the human sciences (psychology, sociology, economics and politics) and religion. Faith in science and technology became a foundation stone of our Modern Era. In psychology, for example, Skinner followed the empirical approach in developing his behaviorist research and theories.
In religion, the advancing knowledge of natural sciences led many to demythologize creation stories and other myths, especially shaking the faith of many who interpreted literally, the mythological metaphors and stories in the Bible.
I believe that the high levels of certainty and predictability provided by many theories in the physical and natural sciences have led some persons to apply an unjustifiably narrow rigidity and loyalty to selected theories and ideas in the human sciences with the expectation of achieving similar levels of certainty. Such persons tie their identity and worldview to belief and faith in those selected theories and/or ideologies, and they defend them, with great passion, against any policies or actions that they interpret as a threat to their identities and their faith. In the political arena, there is much evidence that candidates for elected offices and incumbents both present such a focused faith to win votes and assure continued financial assistance from supportive lobbyists.
In different words, Amitai Etzioni writes: "In culture wars two or more groups of members of the same community or society confront one another in a highly charged way, demonizing one another, turning differences into total opposition. Such culture wars tend to make reaching a shared course more difficult and they often invite violence (from bombing of abortion clinics to outright civil war)". From: "Deliberations, Culture Wars, and Moral Dialogues," (See Etzioni in the Bibliography)
We are living in a world that has changed significantly in the past 50 years. Increasing numbers of persons on our shrunken globe are becoming aware of the existence of many different worldviews and conceptions of reality. They are becoming aware that many conceptions of reality are constructed under the influence of powerful persons with vested interests. In some respects, each individual interprets and constructs his or her own unique version. This trend leads us toward a relativism ("My view is as good as yours.") that frightens many who do not understand these trends.
Walter Truett Anderson writes in the preface to his book, "Reality Isn't What It Used To Be", "We repeatedly create symbolic systems of meaning - religions, political ideologies, scientific theories - and then forget that they are our own creations: we have a devilish habit of confusing them with the mysterious nonhuman reality they were meant to explain."... "..postmodern ideas reveal the workings of the reality-creating machinery, how contemporary operators of the political and cultural scene create new realities before our very eyes".
A Reader edited by Anderson, is a good supplement for his book on Reality. It is entitled "The Truth About The Truth". This Reader might help some of the senior citizen students prepare their class presentations on particular topics. For example, Chapter 15 discusses orthodox and progressive approaches in a very straight-forward and well organized manner. Chapter 18, on different ways to be right is another good one. For the moralists in the class, Anderson writes about how postmodernism has affected moral and ethical codes. See: "The Future of the Self", Chapter 10. We will touch on these topics later in the course.
In human affairs, interpersonal relationships contribute significantly to meaning and help provide answers to questions such as: Who am I? Where do I fit into the larger picture beyond my family? What should be my purposes or goals in life? How do I develop the experience and skills needed to reach my goals? Relationships with others help one to appreciate why others, in some cases, have very different perspectives and views of issues that are important to all of us.
Instead of instruction manuals and other ways to keep track of interconnections among the many system components, humans rely on stories that show them how others have answered such questions while maintaining a fair level of coherence in their worldviews. Stories rely on use of a common vocabulary, metaphors and symbols to convey meaning. In times of change, particular words, metaphors and symbols sometimes lose relevancy as the social and cultural contexts change. Therefore parents, school teachers, church officials and government officials, create, provide, and sometimes revise, experiences, ceremonies and rituals that help clarify interpretations and communicate more current meanings and ideas.
Unfortunately, at this point of my introduction, I wish to remind the reader that in this age of mass media and electronic communication, powerful interests also influence the development of new vocabularies and interpretations, often biased toward their own selfish interest. Keep this last sentence in mind as you read further.
Dramatic presentations in print and on the stage help the viewer relate subjectively to the emotions portrayed by characters in the stories. There are grand narratives that help us imagine who we are, what is expected of us and how to fulfill these expectations and who or what we can rely on for guidance and assistance. Bible stories are one example. Other examples come from novels and dramas, such as "The Death of a Salesman".
Folk stories, Bible stories, dramatic presentations as well as ceremonies, and personal, real-life experiences can change our worldviews or "constructions of reality" in ways that help or hinder our adaptation to change. The phrase "constructions of reality" was described by Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann in 1966 as an outcome of the sociology of knowledge which was first mentioned in the 1920's. The phrase implies that in the realm of human affairs, much of what each individual takes as real, is a "social construction" influenced by the limitations of one's particular language, the values and norms of one's culture or way of life, and by the teachings and/or propaganda of powerful special interests in modern and postmodern societies.
(Please Note: An extensive BIBLIOGRAPHY listing all sources sited herein is accessible at: BIBLOGRAPHY.
Before the time of mass media, there often was one dominant conception of reality and those who would not accept it were burned at the stake, imprisoned, ignored or unable to find a job. The many different and competing conceptions of reality, to which we are exposed, contribute a major part of the variation in responses to uncertainty.
Some persons can handle only one or two constructions of reality whereas others can handle several. Kenneth Gergen's book "The Saturated Self, Dilemmas of Identity in Contemporary Life" discusses this problem.
To explain how individual persons and social institutions respond to uncertainty, subsequent sections of this paper include a brief review of how our cultural traditions help us find meaning in, and respond to, uncertainty.
Community is a term that has many different definitions. In a recent issue of Contemporary Sociology, Amitai Etzioni, a sociologist who has written much on community, defines it as: "a combination of two elements:
A) A web of affect-laden relationships among a group of individuals, relationships that often crisscross and reinforce one another (rather than merely one-on-one or chainlike individual relationships).Another detailed source is Philip Selznick's book, "The Moral Commonwealth - Social Theory and the Promise of Community". This book touches on several of the key concepts in this paper on responses to uncertainty, communitarian justice, moral institutions, human nature, subjectivism, plurality, relativism, altruism and the responsible self. An effective community provides a balance between preserving a degree of autonomy for the individual on the one hand and a working mix of shared experiences, involvement, plurality and identity developed over time. On page 360 Selznick writes: "Typically communities provide settings within which people grow and flourish and within which subgroups are nourished and protected". In addition, Chapters 6 & 7 have much to reenforce ideas that are presented in this paper.
B) A measure of commitment to a set of shared values, norms and meanings, and a shared history and identity - in short to a particular culture".
In the modern era, many families have left their supportive communities, moving away to follow more promising career opportunities. Those of us who now live in large urban areas know very few of our neighbors. Neighboring has declined substantially as a result of the private automobile, airconditioning and television. Both of these technological achievements have contributed to our isolation and loneliness by decreasing our chances of meeting and talking with next-door neighbors. As a result, many Americans have lost the benefits of living in what Scott Peck calls "authentic communities", wherein each member of the community is familiar with other members and accepts their uniqueness and differences. In authentic communities, compromise and consensus are feasible responses for resolving differences of opinion.
Our emphasis on personal freedom and individual responsibility as we manage our own personal affairs and interrelationships, has not fit well with the regulating and controlling systems imposed by business and government. These controlling systems guide and manage major social institutions such as: the economy, the polity, education and to some extent, the family. Achieving a balance between such control on the one hand and individual freedom on the other hand, is still problematic and complex; in large part, because some persons can handle and/or demand much more personal freedom than others.
Uncertainty and powerlessness have led some individuals to weaken their commitments: to community, to employer, to maintaining balances in our ecosystems, and/or to the democratic process in general. In addition, some youth and many in the Boomer generation in general, do not fully appreciate the degree of commitment that is required to develop a deeper appreciation and understanding of useful particular traditions, rituals, ceremonies, metaphors and symbols.
This idea is discussed from another viewpoint in Building Mental Berlin Walls.
As we enter the postmodern era, it is important to remember that particular interests try to control perceptions of reality for their own particular, and sometimes selfish, purposes. During presidential election campaigns and the debates in legislative chambers, we are bombarded with so many conflicting constructions of reality that we lose our faith in government. The distortions of fact by television commercials contributes to a loss of trust in the products advertised on television and in advertising in general. This distrust is problematic for a functioning democratic government and also for guiding individuals in managing successfully their progressions through the stages of career and vocation.
All this makes our lives less certain, and living with uncertainty is stressful. We can reduce our stress as individuals in several ways. We can follow traditional means and/or goals, innovate new responses, or we can rebell. Individuals can band together to change institutions (family, education, politics, economics, etc.). They can work to change them for the good of all and they can work to change them for the benefit of narrow special interests. Those in leadership roles in institutions such as government, religion, and economics respond to change and the impacts of change by using their power and control to create new constructions of reality and to new approaches within the existing social institutions.
Interestingly, Walter Truett Anderson, in his book "Reality Isn't What It Used to Be" presents a quote from Socrates in "The Republic" that points to one of the "earliest recorded discussions of a deliberate social construction of reality." (Page 10). The Bible presents even earlier examples. Anderson calls the Buddha the first deconstructionist, on page x.
Anderson, on page 159 summarizes the start of "for hire - media-based campaigning". Since that time the number of social constructions of reality has increased tremendously. It is difficult to know what is a basically true description of events and what is a biased construction.
Tom Inglis in the second (expanded) edition of his book, "Moral Monopoly - The Rise and Fall of the Catholic Church in modern Ireland" presents a detailed case study of what we are talking about here.
Dykstra and Parks, in a book entitled "Faith Development and Fowler", published in 1986, wrote, on page 3: "...the need for mutual understanding, acceptance, and appreciation in a world become small and dangerous is profound". Gergen, in "The Saturated Self" (Page 252) writes: "When convinced of the truth or right of a given worldview, a culture has only two significant options: totalitarian control of the opposition or annihilation of it". When the wide variability in approaches to reality generates extreme (single-issue) types of polarization, the dangers to our ever smaller world become scary. On the other hand, Dykstra & Parks continue on page 4, "..sheer relativism - the view that one way of living and believing is just as good as any other - is no answer either"...A kind of skepticism develops when one encounters one system of meaning after another and they all seem plausible. It is the very plausibility of them all that seems to undermine each in turn."
How then can mere citizens, in the postmodern era, respond to the many realities in constructive ways? I believe that there are some basic and universal truths that can serve as safe points of anchor in the storm of relativism and nihilism that some short-sighted artists and writers see as the essence of the postmodern age. My optimism, in part, derives from James Fowler, the son of a Methodist pastor, who wrote his doctoral dissertation on H. Richard Niebuhr and saw: "..that relativity need not lead to relativism (which tends to weaken some of the moral foundations of a society,) but that all of our constructions of meaning, all of our worldviews, are in some sense relative to that ground of being and meaning which they to some degree try to apprehend and bring to clarity for us. " (from page 4 of Dykstra and Parks. The parenthetical expression was added by this author, Notess.)
Another bit of optimism comes from recent advances in experience with negotiation. Negotiative processes aimed at collaborative outcomes can broaden the perspectives of those who resort to single-issue strategies and competitive approaches to negotiation. See the book edited by Kramer and Messick, and also one by Lewicki and Hiam in the Bibliography.
The remainder of this web posting summarizes five considerations that contribute to variability in responses to uncertainty. These five are summarized below. Short identifiers of each source are shown in bold type.
One part of the variability results from the different generational backgrounds (related to year of birth) of persons living in our own neighborhoods, towns and state. The changing impact of television enters this consideration to increase intergenerational variation.
A second contribution that influences variability and differences of opinion comes from the limitations our language imposes on our thinking and actions. This problem starts with the simplistic and linear, logical thinking which is so prevalent in our society and was derived from the ancient Greek dualistic basis for logic and reasoning. That problem was discussed in a small book by S.I. Hayakawa, first written when he was teaching at the University of Wisconsin and published in 1941. The fifth edition is updated and was published in 1990 with help from his son. I have summarized some of the relevant ideas about levels of abstraction and the closed mind in "PROBLEMS OUR LANGUAGE IMPOSES ON OUR THINKING" below.
The third contribution is related to how our brain influences and limits our creativity. Chapter 3 in Anderson's book discusses this topic. Dr. Edward de Bono, has taken a somewhat different approach in a book entitled: "I Am Right You Are Wrong". De Bono has degrees in medicine and psychology. His introductory chapter outlines much about his approach and describes how our dualistic way of thinking and perceiving events leads to the types of polarized arguments that have persisted for years in government and elsewhere. He outlines an approach to thinking and creativity that is in line with the way the human brain creates its networks. If we based our thinking on this model our society would be much more successful at resolving many of the seemingly insolvable issues in human affairs.
Much of de Bono's work is accessible online through: http://www.debono.ws , a web site posted by a Business School Professor in New Zealand.
Brian Fay also wrote against dualism in his book "Contemporary Philosophy of Social Science". He wrote on page 223, " Throughout the (Fay's) book a plea to avoid pernicious dualisms has been a constant motif".
When a person encounters an attempt at persuasion, there are at least two different ways to respond. One involves considerable thought about the persuasive communication and how it fits in with ones thinking, whereas the other involves little thought and relies on quick associations such as the reliability of the source. The latter approach takes less effort and is prone to biased choices. Chapter 6 in Shavitt & Brock discusses these two routes to persuasion.
Mel Levine in his web site describes variations in how the minds of children develop. He describes how school teachers can identify differences among their students and respond to these differences in constructive ways. His web site under the topic, "Our Perspective" can be found at the URL: http://www.allkindsofminds.org/library/sitemap.htm. Go there now, if you wish.
A fourth source to variability is rooted in stages of psycho-social development. I believe that James Fowler's work with stages of faith development indirectly explains a significant part of this variability. Some adults, in areas of their lives wherein the stresses from uncertainty are excessive, respond in ways that are similar to those in earlier, teenage stages of development. Note that this similarity does not necessarily mean that the adults regress, as a whole, to earlier stages of development, but rather in certain problem areas some fall back on familiar approaches that seem to have worked in their past.
This idea is discussed from another viewpoint in Building Mental Berlin Walls.
A more detailed discussion of Fowler's ideas and those of Piaget, Erickson, Kohlberg, Gilligan, Habermas and others are included in a subsequent section called: "STAGES OF PSYCHOSOCIAL DEVELOPMENT" below.
A fifth source of variability, and perhaps one that has the greatest impact on variability overlaps the others, and is the changes in constructions of reality as we move from the pre-enlightenment era to the postmodern era, a trend that leads to a much increased number of alternative and conflicting worldviews. The multiplicity of views of reality is increasing as our planet shrinks toward the direction of globalism, affecting more and more aspects of all cultures. The dominant social institutions which control the constructions of reality have changed over the past few centuries from religious institutions to combinations of industrial, commercial, political and other institutions.
The mass media seem to relish the newsworthiness of incidents involving single-issue zealots that occur in legislative bodies, especially in a presidential election year. On page 213 of "Realities and Relationships", he writes: "To pay heed to "the opposition" is to relinquish one's integrity". By "opposition", I believe that he means being exposed to persons who have different constructions of reality; persons who see things and perceive them differently than we do. Encounters with the opposition causes them to seek certainty in a variety of ways. Some call for more tolerance of other views. The zealots "draw lines in the sand". Others believe that the need for tolerance of different realities leads to relativism. A more detailed discussion of constructions of reality appears in a subsequent section entitled "CONTROLLING SOCIAL CONSTRUCTIONS OF REALITY" below.
TABLE 1. AGE DISTRIBUTIONS OF U.S. POPULATION SINCE 1950 AGE GROUP 1950 2000 0-17 years 31.0% 25.6% 18-34 years 26.3 23.2 35-54 years 25.7 29.8 55+ years 16.9 21.3 Total % 99.9% 100.0% 65+ years 8.1% 12.7% TOTAL POPULATION IN 1,000'S 152,271 274,912
Table 1 shows that from the years 1950 to 2000, estimates of the percentage of population age 65 and older increased from 8.1% to 12.7% of the total population. The numerical count almost tripled, from some 12 million to 35 million seniors. At the same time, the percentage who are under 18 years of age decreased from 31.0% to 25.6%. While the young adults, age 18-34, decreased in percentage, the mid-life adults, age 35-54 increased.
TABLE 2. PERCENTAGES OF CIVILIAN LABOR FORCE WHO ARE EMPLOYED BY SEX, AGE AND MARITAL STATUS 1960 1985 1998 M F M F M F AGE GROUPING OF SINGLES 16-19 years 42.6% 30.2% 56.3% 52.3% 52.9% 52.4% 20-24 years 80.3 77.2 81.5 76.3 79.7 75.3 25-34 years 91.5 83.4 89.4 82.4 89.1 83.0 35-44 years 88.6 82.9 84.6 80.8 82.5 80.9 45-64 years 80.1 79.8 65.6 67.9 70.2 69.9 65+ years 31.2 24.3 15.6 9.8 15.2 9.7 AGE GROUPING OF MARRIEDS 1960 1985 1998 M F M F M F 16-19 years 91.5% 27.2% 91.0% 49.6% 83.8% 49.8% 20-24 years 97.1 31.7 95.6 65.7 95.0 66.1 25-34 years 98.8 28.8 97.4 65.8 96.4 71.6 35-44 years 98.6 37.2 96.8 68.1 95.8 74.5 45-64 years 93.7 36.0 81.7 49.4 83.7 64.9 65+ years 36.6 6.7 16.8 6.6 17.5 8.9 AGE GROUPING OF OTHERS [WIDOWED, DIVORCED AND MARRIED (SPOUSE ABSENT)] 1960 1985 1998 M F M F M F 16-19 years N/A 43.5% N/A 51.9% 66.2% 50.4% 20-24 years 96.9 58.0 95.1 66.2 89.1 73.7 25-34 years 95.2 63.1 93.7 76.9 93.0 81.0 35-44 years 94.4 70.0 91.8 81.6 89.1 82.8 45-64 years 83.2 60.0 72.8 61.0 73.7 68.6 65+ years 22.7 11.4 11.4 7.5 13.1 8.4
Table 2 shows that from 1960 to 1998, The percentage of single females age 16-19 in the civilian labor force who were employed increased from 30.2% to 52.4%, whereas the similar percentages for those 65 and over decreased from 24.3% to 9.7%. On the other hand males age 16-19 showed an increase from 42.6% to 52.9% and the males 65 and over decreased from 31.2% to 15.2%.
For the young married males, employment in the civilian labor force decreased over time, whereas that for the females increased. This might indicate that proportions of males in school, prison and the military increased and more of the females were working. For the oldest married males, quite a large proportion were out of the labor force in 1985, mostly retired, but by 1998, a small increase in their employment was noted as some males 65 and over returned to work. A much smaller proportion of married women 65 and over worked, but after 1985, this cohort also showed a slight increase.
Among the widowed, divorced, etc. group, the percentage of women who worked increased over time whereas that for the males decreased. Again there were slight reversals for the 65 and over cohorts.
TABLE 3. EMPLOYMENT BY INDUSTRY Industry 1960 1998 Number Percent Number Percent Non Agricultural Total in 1,000's 54,234 128,085 Mining 712 1.3 620 0.5 Contract Constr. 2,885 5.3 8,518 6.7 Manufacturing 16,796 31.0 20,733 16.2 Transport. & Public Utilities 4,004 7.4 9,307 7.3 Wholesale & Retail Trade 11,391 21.0 27,203 21.2 Finance, Insur. & Real Estate 2,669 4.9 8,605 6.7 Services 7,423 13.7 47,212 36.9 Government* 8,353 15.4 5,887 4.6 --------------------- * See the change in the Government category, in the following paragraph.
Table 3. shows that from 1960 to 1998, the greatest change in occupational mix was the decrease in percentage of workers in manufacturing industries, from 31% of all non-agricultural workers in 1960, to 16.2% in 1998. The category that balanced the decrease was Service industries, with an increase from 13.7% to 36.9%. It appears that the governmental category decreased also, but that change is partly due to a change in definition of the category. In 1960, the Government category included state and federal workers which included hospital workers. In 1998, the hospital workers were included in the Services category.
Sociologists have examined how cultures and individuals respond to social change for over a century. They have classified a number of different responses to change and uncertainty. One response is to regress to old ways that seemed to work in the past. This is exemplified by the car-driver who steps on the gas pedal and expects to go forward, but is on a road covered with slippery ice. The car doesn't move and the driver then pushes down harder on the gas pedal. That approach works on dry pavement, but not on ice.
Another approach is by seeking and testing responses to one's actions or commands. Children often test a new teacher to see whether the limits for acceptable behavior have changed. A third response is to be creative and explore new approaches to changed conditions. A fourth is to give up trying to adapt, the do nothing or wait-and-see approach. A fifth is to assign blame for one's loss of freedom and confusion by blaming aspects of the modern era such as: inappropriate use of mechanistic paradigms, consumerism, disregard for Mother Nature, outdated religious doctrines and policies, etc..
The following example illustrates how people with different cultural backgrounds, yet area, responded differently to a problematic event. A study, over forty years ago, was done in a southwestern state to learn about value orientations in different cultures. The researchers found that farmers of Latino origin were more fatalistic about the amount of water available for their crops. When their well ran dry, there wasn't much they could do for their crops and they waited to plant again in the next growing season. On the other hand, Anglos would dig the well deeper. The difference in responses was attributed to their ethnic/religious background. A combination of fatalism and blaming others is evident in the language of the Latinos when they say "The bus left me."; rather than "I missed the bus".
The Boomer generation (roughly those born in the two decades following the Second World War) have been and are the object of many surveys and studies. By the mid 1960's, student revolts emphasized the need to update some of the practices in our educational and political institutions. Updating would help the culture, as a whole, adapt to changes that the students perceived in their career opportunities, resources, obligations and parental expectations.
Changing expectations occurred so rapidly, that the young had no time to sort out, together with the older generation (their parents), what traditions were worthwhile holding on to and which caused the pain and confusion that they felt. One student told me in 1970 that his parents were the first to go to college and become professionals in his family. In a similar fashion, his parents expected their son to progress beyond their own achievement level. Yet, he asked: "What career would signify a comparable level of achievement for me? There is no where higher to go". This statement illustrates to me now, as we enter a new millennium, why, in part, the Boomer generation has hesitated to make the kind of commitments that help one organize a coherent set of personal goals and a feasible worldview.
Persons in the Boomer generation are now reaching the mid-life-crisis stage in their life cycle. Many of them are seeking to clarify the purpose of their lives and to find meaningful relationships with other persons. They are also seeking to relate to some transcendent ideas and/or forces that are somehow tied to basic (eternal) truths that will provide some direction for their lives. This provides an opportunity for our culture to guide them in ways to handle the complexity of our era.
We humans, as individuals, are not alone in trying to adapt to change. Cultural traditions adapt to change also. They evolve slowly over time to guide individual behavior, our relationships to other persons and how we manage our environment. Traditions include sets of norms, expected ways of behavior in particular situations, and these norms are organized into institutions such as the family, economy, religion, politics and commerce. Traditions also include our language and predominant ways of thinking and analysis. Those areas of life that are governed by our social and other institutions are interconnected and interact upon each other. Therefore it is difficult to predict how any one particular institution will respond to changing conditions without considering changes in the other institutions.
As I see it, norms, in some instances are guides for behavior, such as acting the way your mother expects you to behave. They can be community-wide strongly held traditions, such as driving on the right-hand side of the road. They can be viewed as infringements on personal freedom, such as not having more than 3 unexcused absences in one semester. Norms act to reduce uncertainty.
Thus norms can be viewed in many different ways, depending on the context of the situation. Some persons can view a particular norm as a strict obligation while others might not feel obligated at all. How a norm is viewed can depend upon the stage of development and the level of experience one brings to the context of the situation.
Generally each person is involved with others in a community and the strength of commitment to that community or group influences the degree of obligation one feels for following any particular norm.
Each person has to choose the level of obligation or freedom at which s/he will function, and at times this level must be made known to others with whom one has relationships.
The assurance and peace-of-mind that comes with fundamentalist responses to uncertainty attracts many. They seem to cluster in the political and religious arenas to help each other maintain faith in, what they believe is a more consistent and coherent worldview. Many of them isolate themselves from, or are isolated by their leaders from, any evidence that might weaken this faith.
In the pre-enlightenment era, religious institutions controlled what was accepted as truth. The pre-Enlightenment Era ended some 3-400 years ago; the result of a growing faith in the scientific method. There was a resurgence in application of the logic and reasoning skills derived from the ancient Greeks, but which were lost during the Dark Ages. Galileo advocated the idea that the planets revolve around the sun and was put in jail by the powers that controlled how we were to view reality and what we were to believe as truth.
The emerging age of reason weakened the hold that the church-state had on our worldviews, our concepts of reality, and truth. New discoveries led to progress in the fields of science, technology and industrial production. This, in turn, led to changes in our life styles. People began to move to the cities from rural areas to work in the growing industrial and commercial realms. This epoch became known as the "Modern Era".
How, in the modern era, did government, business, industry and the mass media begin to replace the domination of religion? At the start it was the growing evidence that the empirical-scientific approach to gaining knowledge was superior in answering some of the questions formerly answered by mythical stories. Our growing faith in technology and industry made us dependent on new appliances. An emphasis on consumerism and consumption (keeping up with the Joneses) has become an addiction that now dominates the American life style. Competition within a "free" market economy is highly valued in our individualistic society. As a result, our dominant American value priorities today differ significantly from the set promulgated centuries ago by most of the world religions.
The foregoing leads us to consider in greater depth, the concept, "social construction of reality"; and how responses to several dominant realities relate to stages of psycho-social and moral development. However, before that topic is discussed, we need to remind ourselves about the limitations our language imposes on thinking, perceiving and actions. This is the topic of the following section.
Language is another aspect of culture that affects our perceptions and thinking in a number of ways. Language includes vocabulary and grammar. Because the number of persons involved in science and technology has increased so rapidly, our language today includes many terms and paradigms from the physical and biological sciences, from economics and psychology. In addition, new forms of mass communication have affected our language, by increasing the usage of terms related to violence, incivility and conspicuous consumption.
Chapter 2 in Anderson's book includes a brief summary of General Semantics and the work of Korzybski and Chase starting on page 40.
When we talk about spiritual aspects, words such as mysticism, enlightenment, ego, subjectivity and self, are far less precise than terms in the physical sciences. When we lack precise meanings for such important concepts about human affairs, progress in the human sciences is slowed significantly.
Some examples of how the human affairs area relies on terms from the more technical and quantitative sciences are given below.
I have summarized some of the relevant ideas about levels of abstraction and the closed mind in section entitled "Language in Thought and Action" . Some of de Bono's ideas on perception, thinking and creativity are summarized in Dr. Edward de Bono's Ideas. His introductory chapter outlines much about his approach and describes how our dualistic way of thinking and perceiving events leads to the types of polarized arguments that have persisted for years in government and elsewhere. His approach is more in line with the way the human brain creates its networks. Basing our thinking on this model would make our society much more successful at resolving these seemingly unsolvable issues in human affairs.
How we humans relate to other persons is influenced by our early bonding to care givers. Human beings are very dependent at birth. Our parents or other care givers have to nurture and care for us. As a result of this early caring relationship, our brains develop in a way that includes a need for bonding to a caring other. I believe that this need for bonding remains in most of us humans throughout our lives. We feel that we are not whole if this desire for a relationship with a caring other is not satisfied. In other words, I would say that our brain becomes "hard wired" in a way that creates a desire for trustworthy relationships with caring others. More recently, some say that the desire is inherented through our genes. It is possible that both considerations interact with each other and thus, both views are partly right. In either case, I believe that this proclivity remains with us; our individualistic bent not withstanding.
My ideas about the importance of early bonding came from rereading the first 20 pages of a small book "Acquiring Our Image of God", written by Martin A. Lang in 1983. He writes most clearly about meaning, bonding and the role of mythical stories. A different approach that ties together neuroscience, biological evolution, cognitive psychology and social behavior, mentions attachment on page 276 in Edward O. Wilson's book "Consilience - The Unity of Knowledge".
Another source that supports what I have said about early bonding is an a special issue of Newsweek, Fall/Winter 2000 devoted to the importance of the first three years of a child's life. The article "Our Window to the Future by T. Berry Brazelton & Stanley Greenspan (pp.34-36) is especially relevant. So is another article bo Thomas Hayden, "A Sense of Self" (pp. 57-62), as is that on "Raising a Moral Child" (pp.71-73).
As the child becomes less dependent on parental care, and developes a concept of her/his SELF; new relationships with others, such as a favorite teacher, a friend or relative, tend to appear. Unfortunately, some children encounter inconsistent nurture and punishment and end up with deficiencies in this very important attachment to a care giver or bonding. This can lead to attachment disorders which include distinctly antisocial personality traits.
Barresi also has written about stages of development in a 1999 paper. Barresi's paper is listed and linked to in the Bibliography at the end of this paper; (biblio.htm).
The child becomes aware of itself as a separate individual around the age of six months. Then, as she develops further, she takes on increasing independence and responsibility, but mainly centered on her own self. The "terrible twos" are a period wherein the child begins to manage her own self and seeks competence; often saying: "Let me do it". As critical reasoning abilities develop, the child uses her own skills in logic to analyze the pulls of relationship with others and begins to work at forming a coherent identity through her/his high school years. The rules and standards derived from parental coaching become internalized.
Eric Erikson defined eight stages of psychosocial development. He described a number of characteristics that are achieved, to varying degrees, by individuals as they progress through these stages. The summary below was taken largely from Kathleen Stassen Berger's text book. "The Developing Person", p. 42:
Stage 1 (Birth to 1 year) "Babies learn either to trust or mistrust that others will care for their basic needs, including nourishment, sucking, warmth, cleanliness, and physical contact".
Stage 2 (1 to 3 years)"Children learn either to be self sufficient in many activities, including toileting, feeding, walking, and talking, or to doubt their own abilities." They become actively involved in experimentation. They begin to develop awareness of self and thus become more attentive to the reactions of others.
Stage 3 (3-6 years)"Children want to undertake many adultlike activities, sometimes oversteping the limits set by parents and feeling guilty".
Stage 4 (6-11 years)"Children busily learn to be competent and productive, or feel inferior and unable to do anything well", and so on.
Erikson noted that confusion or crises are evident in many of us as we transition from one stage of development to the next. These crises may be viewed as the result of having to reorganize one's view of self and one's priorities, and needing to reestablish some degree of coherence in one's worldview.
As a person passes through the typical stages of development, s/he increasingly thinks critically and becomes more adept at relating cause and effect. One's concepts of morality and of which actions are right, and which are wrong, change with increasing wisdom. For example, elementary schoolers become intrigued with playing games and learning sets of rules and following the rules to the letter. As they learn to think critically and analyze causal relationships they begin to feel competent at making up their own rules according to values they learned from parents and/or teachers and have taken as their own (internalized). In our complex world today, many adults do not have the experience and skills necessary to analyze causation in all of the important aspects of their lives. Others feel that they can not control some of their internal drives (hormonal and other drives) to be a good member of their community. In such cases some reduce stress by following conventional and clear traditions to the letter.
In adolescence, they sometimes develop exaggerated estimates of their capabilities. Some males take on the macho life style. They might drive their car recklessly and in general take risks that tempt fate from the point of view of more mature adults.
Fowler, in his 1996 book "Faithful Change - The Personal and Public Challenges of Postmodern Life", builds on the works of Piaget, Erikson, Kohlberg, Gilligan, Stern & Rizzuto to create a model containing seven stages of faith development. Descriptions of these stages start on page 57 in his book. These stages start with developing trust; becoming self conscious; forming a mythic-literal basis for faith and a beginning at taking the perspective of another person. In adolescence they begin to become aware of how others might see them which makes peer pressure an important consideration; internalizing authority and integrating beliefs, values and commitments with identity and self worth.
Fowler writes (on p. 61) "Personality, both as style and as substance, becomes a conscious issue. ...During this stage youths develop attachments to beliefs, values, and elements of personal style that link them in conforming relations with the most significant others among their peers, family and other adults". In mid-life and beyond, the adult manages many selves, as Gergen points out in his book "The Saturated Self". On page 65 Fowler writes that " one begins to make peace with the tension arising from the realization that truth must be approached from a number of different directions and angles of vision...faith must begin to come to terms with indissoluble paradoxes: the strength found in apparent weakness..".
On page 158, Fowler writes that descriptions of the Conjunctive stage try to capture the dialectical, multiperspectival structure of knowing and valuing. On page 65 he writes: "Acknowledging the multidimensionality and density of symbols and myth, persons in the Conjunctive stage learn to enter into symbolic realities, allowing them to exert their illumination and mediating power. Instead of "reading" and "analyzing" the symbols metaphors and narratives, they learn to submit to the "reading" and illumination of their situations that these and other elements of tradition can offer. In what Paul Ricoeur has called a "second" or a "willed" naivete, persons in the Conjunctive stage manifest a readiness to enter into the rich dwellings of meaning that true symbols, ritual, and myth offer. As a correlate of these qualities, this stage exhibits a principled openness to the truths of other religious and faith traditions."
The idea of entering into the rich dwellings of other religious and faith traditions relates well to my description of perspective-taking (P-T) in a section near the end of this (forum.htm) posting. Go there now.
Fowler's last stage is rarely seen but transcends the bounds of loyalty only to nation, race, or political ideology to display love and an ability to care on a universal basis.
Carol Gilligan, in her book "In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development", comments on the fact that research by Kohlberg (her colleague at Harvard) was not complete. Gilligan discovered that women were perceiving and interpreting moral situations used in Kohlberg's research differently in fundamental ways from the interpretations of most men. Women tend to emphasize concern for the rights of persons, including their own rights, and try to balance these "over against the claims of the welfare of groups of persons for whom they feel responsible".(p. 46) Men, on the other hand, tend to emphasize duties and obligations, and they emphasize an image and self expectation of an increasingly autonomous moral actor. This discovery is summarized in Fowler's "Becoming Adult, Becoming Christian", pages 37-46.
Habermas, in his 1983 book, "Moral Consciousness and Communicative Ethics", translated in 1990 shows how Kohlberg's stages of development of moral consciousness include some of the main features of his (Habermas) own ideas on "discourse ethics". (p.117). Habermas spends over 50 pages relating Kohlberg's and Selman's stages of moral development to include consideration of perspective taking which is so important to both moral consciousness and discourse ethics.
Etzioni, in his paper: "Deliberations, Culture Wars, and Moral Dialogues," presents some of Habermas' ideas in slightly different language and with many examples, thus helping students to appreciate the implications of Habermas' concept - communicative discourse.
Another concept that is relevant here is Altruism. Morton Hunt in his 1990 book, "The Compassionate Beast" summarizes research on altruism, much of which has been done since 1960. His book, which includes many examples is listed in the Bibliography page in my website (biblio.htm). He defines altruisn as: "Behavior carried out to benefit anotherat some sacrifice to oneself, and without, or not primarily because of, the expectation of rewards from external sources". Even though there is much historical evidence about the barbarity we humans show toward our fellow human beings, Hunt's book presents much evidence about what some call the altruistic personality and others call the altruistic trait. On page 227, Hunt tells a story about Piaget. "...Jean Piaget was once asked by an American psychologist, "Do you think, Professor Piaget, that we can advance people through your stages of intellectual development"? "Ah," jested Piaget, "the American question"!" Hunt goes on to say that we Americans believe we can put our scientific knowledge to good use and we mean to try.
Hunt's book summarizes research on stages of development of altruistic behavior on pages 102-108. He writes "A number of psychologistshave borrowed and adapted both Piagetian and Kohlbergian concepts and methods and used them to investigate how altruism develops in the human personality"...."The data derived from such studies show that altruistic feelings and behavior do develop in stages related to, but not identical with, those of intellectual or moral development"...."As their experiences interact with their maturing mind and personality, they become more capable of empathizing, better informed about the consequences of selfish and altruistic behavior, and more keenly aware of what is expected of them in our society". (pp104-105)
The concept of "self" is an important part of developmental stages. Basically as a person advances through Fowler's stages: "From the nondifferentiation of self and objects in the earliest phases of infancy to the naive egocentrism of the [early childhood] stage, each successive stage marks [an important idea;] a steady widening in social perspective taking." from Fowler, p. 66, (with my changes in [ ] brackets). For an expanded discussion built upon the idea of perspective-taking, of this concept go to a subsequent section on Perspective-Taking now.
Commitments to a spouse, career and parenthood come next and the young adult works at integrating a coherent identity and set of responsibilities. There is an emergence of third-person perspective taking. This capacity generally emerges out of the conflict of voices of external or internalized authorities. With its transcendental view of one's self-to-other relations, the third-person perspective allows one a standpoint from which conflicting expectations can be adjudicated and one's own inner authorization can be strengthened". (on p. 63).
We must remember that since the 1980's in America, there has been a very significant increase of self centeredness that results from the ever increasing amount of advertising that entices people to partake and compete in the game of conspicuous consumption. This advertising has increasingly been oriented toward younger and younger age groups in the past decade. See especially Chapter 10 in Stephen Carter's book: "Civility" for a good description of how the marketing emphasis pervades our language in ways that are antithetical to civility. Roof on page 42 of "A Generation of Seekers" mentions: "Advertising played a big part in shaping their (Boomers) expectations from an early age. ..Advertising serves not only to sell products, but to promote consumption as a way of life".
Fowler mentions on p. 57 that "Persons may reach chronological and biological adulthood while remaining best defined by structural stages of faith that would most commonly be associated with early or middle childhood or adolescence". I believe that some adults become arrested in this way, though not in all areas of their life. In areas of their lives wherein the stresses from uncertainty are excessive, they might respond in ways that are similar to those in earlier stages of development. Note that this similarity does not necessarily mean that the adults are arrested or regress, as a whole, to earlier stages of development.
This idea is discussed from another viewpoint in Building Mental Berlin Walls.
Fowler does mention that a number of men arrest growth in interpersonal relations at an earlier stage of development than they apply toward professional job and career relationships (p. 63). Other writers mention how people bounce back and forth between stages. Note that Fowler writes that growth is arrested in a particular area of life, interpersonal relations. I believe that more research is needed before Fowler's statement may replace a more specific one that indicates the responses are similar to those of a person in an earlier stage of development.
Fowler defines faith on pp. 55-56 of Faithful Change as:
"... characterized as an integral centering process, underlying the formation of beliefs, values, and meanings, that (1) give coherence and direction to persons' lives, (2) links them to shared trusts and loyalties with others, (3) grounds their personal stances and communal loyalties in a sense of relatedness to a larger frame of reference, and (4) enables them to face and deal with the limit conditions of human life, relying upon that which has the quality of ultimacy in their lives".
James Fowler, in "Faithful Change" explores the utility of his stages-of-faith-development paradigm for helping understand and project the changes that modern constructions of reality and of consciousness might occur as we enter the postmodern era. He explores similarities between (1) the crises that an adolescent passes through as she progresses from one stage of development to a higher one and (2) the changes in constructions of reality as a civilization moves from one era to the next. This idea was mentioned by Erik Erikson some decades earlier according to Harvey Cox, on page 194 of his 1984 book "Religion in the Secular City". Cox also mentioned that Freud called the gathering of strength for the next move, "regression in service of the ego". It is interesting to read Cox's description of what he called the New Reformation. He seems to have been close to the mark as we look at where the Christian religion is now growing most rapidly, in the Southern continents and in China.
Dykstra and Parks, on page 4 say: "Finding a way to make sense of the meaning and dynamics of faith in the light of the fact of pluralism and the inadequacy of relativism is central to the point of faith development theory."
To see more information on the early stages of development, in greater depth, and on the higher stages of development click on: Psycho-Social Development From Dependent Baby to Mature AdultGo to part two of this Main page.
Copyright: Charles Notess, March 2001. "Fair use" encouraged.
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