Thanksgiving Is Ruined

The Personal is Political. The Political is Personal.

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April 01, 2004
Hegel visits Ozzie & Harriet

from "How Changes in the Economy are Reshaping American Values" (1994) by Daniel Yankeovich:

[M]ost value change is not linear but dialectic. The most typical pattern of change starts with a swing to the opposite extreme, which is then followed by a series of multidirectional movements as people struggle to adapt their new values to more traditional ones and to changing circumstances.

Unless one understands the dynamics of the adaptive process, how people juggle the old and the new, the measures of value change recorded in the literature appear patternless or are interpreted as backlashes or cyclical swings of the pendulum.

The pendulum analogy is particularly popular and almost always wrong. A pendulum swing backward implies a return to an older pattern, and this movement almost never occurs.

We never really return to the past.

People's efforts to synthesize the old and the new always lead to new patterns. Sometimes radically new patterns may even parade superficially as a return to the past. For example, Americans in the 1990s yearn for the family values that dominated the country in the 1950s.

But what Americans meant by family in the 1950s is not at all what they mean by family in the 1990s.

found in a footnote (.pdf) while researching Isaiah Berlin's concept of postive vs. negative liberties.