The promise

The promise

What are the major issues for publics and the key troubles of private individuals in our time? To formulate issues and troubles, we must ask what values are cherished yet threatened, and what values are cherished and supported, by the characterizing trends of our period. In the case both of threat and of support we must ask what salient contradictions of structure may be involved. When people cherish some set of values and do not feel any threat to them, they experience well-being.

When they cherish values but do feel them to be threatened, they experience a crisis–either as a personal trouble or as a public issue. And if all their values seem involved, they feel the total threat of panic. But suppose people are neither aware of any cherished values nor experience any threat? That is the experience of indifference, which, if it seems to involve all their values, becomes apathy. Suppose, finally, they are unaware of any cherished values, but still are very much aware of a threat?

That is the experience of uneasiness, of anxiety, which, if it is total enough, becomes a deadly unspecified malaise. Ours is a time of uneasiness and indifference–not yet formulated in such ways as to permit the work of reason and the play of sensibility. Instead of troubles–defined in terms of values and threats–there is often the misery of vague uneasiness; instead of explicit issues there is often merely the beat feeling that all is somehow not right.

Neither the values threatened nor whatever threatens them has been stated; in hort, they have not been carried to the point of decision. Much less have they been formulated as problems of social science. In the ‘thirties there was little doubt–except among certain deluded business circles that there was an economic issue which was also a pack of personal troubles. In these arguments about ‘the crisis of capitalism,’ the formulations of Marx and the many unacknowledged re-formulations of his work probably set the leading terms of the issue, and some men came to understand