The following authors suggest major social changes are due:
In 1997, the book "The Fourth Turning: What the Cycles of History Tell us About America's Next Rendezvous with Destiny", by William Strauss and Neil Howe, made the National Bestseller lists.
At that time, Strauss and Howe placed America in the third Turning of an immutable four turn cycle. Each cycle of 4 turnings, lasting about 80-100 years, a unit of time called the saeculum by the ancients, comprises history's seasonal rythm of growth, maturation, entropy, and destruction. The First Turn is called a high; an upbeat era of strenthtening institutions and weakening invdividulaization. The second Turn is a passionate era of social upheval, when civic order comes under attack from a new values regiem. The Third Turn is an unraveling; a downcast era of strengthening individualism and weakening institutions, when the old civic order decays and the new values system implants. The fourth turn, which the authors predicted in the first decade of the twenty-first century, is a crisis; a decisive era of secular upheval, when the values regiem propels the replacement of the old civic order with a new one. The authors state that Americans have been thru these cycles before, and see the First Turning of the current saeculum beginning with the end of ww II thru the Kennedy administration. The Second Turnng was the Consciousness Revolution from 1964 through the mid 80s.he Third Turning has been the Culture wars. Strauss and Howe are saying, that the coming era of secular upheaval will be triggered by a single incident, and may be disruptive.
Fritjof Capra, in his 1983 book "The Turning Point" presented a sketch of the current social problems, including the military budget, nuclear arms, environmental degradation, environmental and chronic health problems, crime, economic disruption and gross maldistribution of wealth, and notes the inability of the academic (or political) mainstream to offer any solution. He made an urgent plea for action.
To understand our multifaceted cultural crisis, says Capra, we need to adopt a broad view. He discusses the Toynbee and Sorokin cycles of evolution, and notes that Sorokin predicted the social problems we are now witnessing as a sign of a major cultural transition.
"studies of periods of cultural transformation in various societies have shown that transformations are typically based on a variety of indiacators. These include a sense of alienation and increase in metal illness, violent crime, social disruption, and increased interest in religious cultism."
According to Arnold Toynbee's "A Study of History", civilization results from a transition from a static state to a condition of dynamic activity. Toynbee sees the basic pattern in what he calls "challange-and response"; a challange from the natural or social environment produces a creative response in a sociey which induces that society to enter the process of civilization. The civilization continues to grow when successful response to challenge creates momentum. After civilizations reach a peak of vitality, they tend to loose their cultural steam and decline. An essential element of decline is a loss of flexibility. When social structures and behavior patterns have become so rigid that the society can no longer adapt to changing situations, it will be unable to cary on the creative process of cultural evolution. Whereas growing civilizations display endless variety and versatility, those in the proces of disintegration show uniform lack of inventiveness. Although the cultural mainstream has become petrified by clinging to fixed ideas and rigid patterns of behavior, creative minorities will appear on the scene and carry on the process of challenge and response.
Sociologist Pitirim Sorokin, in his 4 volume work, provides a grand theme for the synthesis of western history based on a waxing and waning of three basic clture values: sensate, ideational and idealistic. The sensate value system holds that matter alone is the ultimate reality. The idational value system holds that true reality lies beyond the material world, in a spiritual relam, and that knowledge can be obtained by inner experience. Western representations of the idational concept include platonic ideas, the soul, and judeao christian images of God; and is represented by the western middle ages; and in Hindu, buddhist, and Taoist cultures.
The third value system is a result of a synthesizing of the sensate and idational: the idealistic. In this view true reality has both sensory and supersensory aspects. Examples of idealistic periods are the greek flowering of the 5th and 4th cen bc, and the European renaissance. In sorokins model, the curent paradigm shift signals the beginning of the decline of sensate culture, which reached its peak in the value system of the Enlightenment, the science of Descart and Newton, and the Industrial Revolution.
The coming transition, capra argues, may be more dramatic than any preceding one, because the changes are global, and several transitions are coinciding: The decline of patriarchy, the end of the fossil fuel age, and Sarokin's predicted paradigm shift away from materialism.
Fritjof Capra received his Ph.D. fom the University of Vienna, and has done research in high energy physics at several European and American Universities. He has written and lectured extensively on the philosophicsl implications of modern science. .
Ray, Anderson and Hunter, in the book "cultural Creatives" (Three Rivers Press, 2000), proposes that a new culture is silently shaping within America, and that the change is manifesting everywhere. According to this book, one quarter (fifty million) of all americans, as well as a corresponding number of Europeans, have made a comprehensive shift in world view, values, and way of life. These people are not aware of the potential power of this collective body.
The book points to visionaries in the 60's and 70's who saw a convergence of various "fringe" movements, including feminist, ecological, spiritual, human potential, to form a coherent new politics.Mark Satin, a draft resister, identified "an entire third force in politics in the 70s. George Leonard's "ransformation" in 1972 predicted that a civilization wide social shift was coming. Marilyn Ferguson's "The Aquarian Conspiracy, Alvin Toffler's "he Third Wave", Fritjof Capra's The Turning Point", Hazel Henderson's The Politics of the Solar Age, and theodore Roszak's Person/Planet made similar predictions. So far the predicted transformation has not occured.
the Battle in Seattle of 1999 gave another hint that something was happening. Richard Flacks, sociologist at U. of California, Santa Barbara(who helped form the radical 1960's anti-Vietnam war group Students for a Democratic Society noted (San Jose Mercury-News: "This was historic, cutting edge...The linking of groups that have rarely been in coalition before-the labor and the environment- is a real breakthrough in social movements in American History.
Social and consciousness movements flow together. (social movements: direct action in conventional political or economic areas is focused on changing actiona and policies in the real world; consciousness movement: change to the individual psyche, culture, worldview; change is private an apolitical.
A sense of the general movement in culture supported by author Ralph H Turner argues tha over the past generation a large general social movement has unfolded in western Europe that encompases all of the new social movement's concerns: "a sense of personal worth, of meaning in life, is a fundamental human right that must be protected by our social institutions". Ray and Anderson believe that the people at the center of the general movemnt for change are a particular set of people that are the shared constituency of the social and consciousness movements.
Why dont we see it? The authors suggest business as usual; government, corporations, media, and movements caught in narrow specialized viewpoints.
Marilyn Ferguson, in "The Aquarian Conspiracy", discusses a new, ecologically friendly paradigm shift, which is a spontaneous change in consciousness and perception. This change of perception, the book argues, would bring about a total renewal of our society.
Edward O. Wilson, in "Consilience", argues that the enlightenment, with its emphasis on rationality and science, basically had it right. He supportsthe enlightenmen concept of unity of knowledge, based on reductionism, as the best means of protecting the environment, as well as humanity. Wilson is among the most respected and honored of scientists, as well as one of the most dedicated to environmental stewardship. His views are in direct opposition to some ecology movements: specifically Deep Ecology.