Policy and the People
Amidst the rapid and often bewildering change that characterizes our age, advocates of extreme solutions seem to be gaining ground everywhere. Lawlessness in the cities, the restlessness of a good part of the younger generation—especially those in college—and an inconclusive war cause a growing disquiet.
We live in an age of revolutionary transformation. We can seek to shape it or we can doom ourselves to irrelevance. We can accept the challenge to our creativity or we can resign ourselves to ineffectual bitterness. We can lose ourselves in passionate and paralyzing controversy over technical aspects of individual problems, or we can, as I deeply believe we must, develop a more creative perspective—one which enables us to see the inner relationship of great issues and the larger framework within which they can be solved.
A characteristic of a revolutionary period is that it appears to its contemporaries as a series of unrelated crises. What has seemed an obvious course of action in one decade becomes problematic in another. Familiar concepts for dealing with our problems become detached from present reality. This is a particular difficulty in a society like ours which historically has dealt with its challenges "pragmatically"—hat is, on the basis of values and concepts accepted as too obvious to require explicit formulation. Such an attitude is effective in dealing with technical problems, but increases the difficulty where human considerations are involved—whether in changes of social structure or in our foreign relations. In the absence of a guiding philosophy, the tendency is to await developments. This attitude can make it difficult even to agree on the nature of a problem, much less on its solution. Thus the analysis of a technical issue takes precedence over purpose, which alone can make remedies relevant. More energy is expended on deciding where we are than where we should be going. While a crisis may remove any doubt about the existence of a problem, it also curtails the scope for productiveRead the full article on ForeignAffairs.com