Courtesy Reuters

July 1914-July 1964

The lights of nineteenth-century liberalism that Lord Grey saw going out all over Europe on the night of August 3, 1914, dimmed and sputtered toward extinction during the years of furious war that followed. But new lights flared up during the war itself which have since continued to elaborate an electrified wonderland which no man of 1914 could easily have imagined. The new landscape is still unfamiliar: things change even as we look at them. Remote controls and energies entirely alien to ordinary, age-old sensory experience inform our electric power grids and make them function. The same seems true of modern societies, imparting vastly enlarged capabilities to leaders who sometimes seem not to know how to use them.

Amid bewildering change, global in scope and reaching so deep into the fabric of each human society as to affect almost every living person, reliable guide lines to our understanding, much less to effective action, are hard to find. Still, half a century has now elapsed since Lord Grey's liberal, nineteenth-century world leaped toward its own destruction. With 50 years' perspective it ought to begin to be possible to estimate trends and detect the lines of development in Western civilization that have become important since 1914.

On the other hand, one may argue that the transformation is so profound that even after 50 years the outcome cannot yet be understood. If, for example, mankind is now on the verge of shifting the fundamental rhythms of human life from an agricultural to an urban setting, who can yet say what the patterns of daily experience will become? Problems of social control are even more unfathomable. For if the farmer's simple but well proven equation between hard work in the fields and economic return ceases to have relevance to more than a minority left behind on the land, what new social disciplines will be required to apportion goods to appetites? And if natural laws, exhibited in the elemental vagaries of weather, cease to regulate the economic lives of the majority of

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