In order to show the validity of the above description we will try to articulate the various connections and circular, self-perpetuating and mysterious relationships between history, geography, economics and politics that sit on one side of family rules, and patterns and individual character and behavior that sit on the other side of this thing called "family."
When we refer to “societal character” we follow Fromm and Maccoby and use this definition:
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"The social character is the central basic concept of the analytic social psychology of Erich Fromm. It describes the formation of the shared character structure of the people of a society or a social class according to their way of life and the socially typical expectations and functional requirements regarding socially adaptive behavior. Social character is essentially adaptive to the dominant mode of production in a society. According to fromm, the concept integrates Marx's theory concerning how the mode of production determines ideology with Freud's concept of character.
"While individual character describes the richness of the character structure of an individual, the social character describes the emotional attitudes common to people in a social class or society. The social character is acquired substantially in the family as an agent of the society but also developed in other institutions of society such as schools and workplaces. The function of the social character is to motivate people to accomplish the expected social tasks concerning work and interaction, education and consuming. Arising in the interaction of the socio-economic social structure and the social libidinous structure the social character makes it possible to use human energies as a socially productive resource. Erich fromm emphasizes the social necessities, which must be obeyed by the members of a society. So that a society functions adequately, their members must acquire a character structure which enables them to do what they need to do in order to prosper. It is for example expected in an authoritarian society that people are motivated to subordinate themselves to a hierarchy and fulfill selflessly the instructions brought to them. In peasant society, people are socialized to save and to work independently. However, in the permissive consumer culture people are socialized to consume gladly and extensively.
"Thus the character structure in every society is formed in such a way that people can fulfill expectations quasi voluntarily. Although everyone develops character traits and character orientations that distinguish them from people who live in other cultures, people in every culture with the same mode of production share basic elements of the social character. As a theorist of the society, Fromm is not interested in the peculiarities by which the individual persons distinguish themselves from each other but he asks what is common to most people in their psychological reactions. So he examines the part of the character structure which is shared by most members of a society. Fromm describes this general core in the character as social character. The figuration of the social character takes place in most societies at cost of the spontaneity and freedom of the individuals.”
We have set ourselves a formidable goal. Believing that the human experience contains multiple dimensions is not a twenty first century revelation. We seek to delineate and then formulate an integration of roughly three of these universal dimensions. These dimensions that we think are in play everywhere and always are:
i. MACROECONOMICS, GOVERNANCE & POLITICS, CULTURAL HISTORY (All the social sciences including geography & demographics)
ii. FAMILY PROCESSES & FAMILY SYSTEMS THEORY (Please see Systems for more details. Or go to the BOWEN CENTER FOR FAMILY THERAPY, www.thebowencenter.org)
iii. INDIVIDUAL DEVELOPMENT
This goal began, in order to influence understanding and use of the benevolent parenting process to overcome children’s unnecessary problems. By training parents to be the therapist 24/7, we found and developed a powerful tool to foster growth and happiness for their troubled child. Our encounters with these parents, who we were not trying to individually change or therapize, elicited in the therapist a respect and collaboration that was qualitatively different than the real respect we would otherwise have for them if they were seen as individual or "couples therapy" patients.
This atmosphere produced a view of the system circles that Murray Bowen, MD, emphasized. Restoration of primary and often extended family balance and function was an acknowledged goal. Noting and exploring these larger circles inevitably led to including non-traditional elements into the therapy room. The ethnic backgrounds of the patients became relevant (along with other systems elements) to understanding the balance problem. We found that intimate ethnic understanding was among the potential sources of resolution. From these, the societal background (the macroeconomic, historical-political; often more than two generations back) stood out as relevant to straightening out the crossed wires in the picture. This led us to one foundational question. How to make sense of “why it’s working?”
Here is our theory.
Our hypothesis is that, as per Dr. Murray Bowen, all cultures (all individuals and all groups) for the sake of survival, seek stability and balance (Homeostasis). As Bowen formulated, the family is a living breathing organism that responds internally and dynamically to changing circumstances. We believe the same description can be applied to society. In order to function within different socio and political-economic constraints, all civilizations instill certain unique anxiety parameters and markers, as well as anxiety antidotes, in its family- citizens in order to facilitate cultural stability and survival.
There is an intense interactive relationship between families and their surrounding societal culture. Families are seen as the mediators between the individual, (his character, style and substance) and that of the surrounding socio-political-economic institutions and culture.
We believe that the family process is the mechanism that instills, transmits and enforces pack principles. The pack's (historically the extended family and/or village) job has always been to funnel tribe compatible citizens into the larger "society". A German pack cannot develop citizens compatible and adaptive to Somalian society. And visa-versa. To the extent that this is true it follows that the family framework is a crucial and indeed powerful component in understanding the various elements (economy, laws and institutions (rules of the game) such as schools, police, and social or work relationships.)
Using the principles of Family Therapy Systems Theory we seek to draw a series of parallel lines between these two dynamic domains: on one hand the workings of cultural history, macroeconomics and political science, and on the other hand, individual development, parenting and adult character and behavior. Between these two domains is "la famiglia." These two parallel lines (an interactive pattern of reciprocity and spiraling mutual influence and reinforcement) are mediated and held in place by this universal institution, the family. We contend that appreciating the interactions of these 3 parallel lines (society, family, individual) has the potential to unlock new conversations, theories, vocabularies and solutions for our pressing global challenges.
To understand societies (and their constituents: families and individuals), historical context must be a consideration. We show that connection and explore its implications.
Examples of some historical facts not previously considered relevant to such a discussion are:
A- the 300-400 year religious wars between Protestants and Catholics in Great Britain
B- over hundreds of years, the repeated invasions, occupations and general exploitation of the south-eastern European countries: Italy, Spain, The Balkans, Greece Romania, Hungary, Russia and other Mediterranean countries by Arabs, Austrians, Turks, Mongols Huns, etc
C- the current cultural-polis-economic differences in Central and South American countries depending on the empire by which they were "imperialized" between 1500 and 1960.
D- in Christian Europe, the sequential 800 year denial of dignity and citizenship to Semitic people.
In this regard, we hope to show how these historical facts are directly related to and predictive of:
1) Working clinically with many contemporary globalized patients and families and
2) Training, supervising, motivating and retaining a multi-ethnic, multi-generational workforce
3) Designing and implementing multi-national (North American, Euro, as well as emerging market) macroeconomics and civic policies.
So how does the treatment of mental health patients connect to macroeconomics and industrial management? Read on, read on.
We hypothesize that certain parallel processes take place in the lives of individuals, families, communities and whole societies. These parallel processes interact and produce parallel results. As the existential circumstances of a society change, the institutions both physical and “spiritual” (societies all have a zeitgeist, a spirit,; a set of discernable, organized values) change over time. As those institutions change so do the citizen-families. All are seeking to rebalance the circumstance disruptions (good or bad) that have occurred.
For instance, repeated war, invasion, repeated alien occupation and chaos, almost always produce absolute tyrants and autocrats. After several generations of autocracy and tyranny, in a political-economic context, (such as southern and eastern Europe suffered for hundreds of years) the families in that society will similarly demonstrate a tyrannical structure whereby the father rules the roost and must be obeyed by all in the household. In turn those fathers need to obey the patriarch of the extended family, village and tribe. This continues up into the largest circles (institutions and the power structures) and down to the smallest (the family and parenting) and the individual citizen-serf. "Character" and "personality development" is the terminology that the mental health professions use to describe this process that is at least partially societally determined. For examples of evasive and "not law abiding" (psychiatrically known as 'borderline personality disorders') southeastern mentalities think Madoff, Tony Soprano, the Greek and other bureaucrats and politicians who foisted deliberate and consistent fantasy GDP numbers to the (northerwestern) European Union in the years before everything hit the fan. These societies throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, produced certain adaptation patterns (called character and personality disorders, like societal acceptance of tax evasion, a black market economy, corruption tolerance) in many of their institutions and in their abused citizens, in a manner similar to an "abusive family" pattern and structure. "Pay taxes? Be honest? To these tyrants? Why would we?" More later.
The opposite is true after several generations of citizen based, horizontal poli-economic structure as in the industrial north and west which avoided the alien invasions and occupations. This is not pathology vs health. Nor is it good vs bad. It is an example of a "multi circle systemic process" that is adaptive to all human survival. This disparity in societal patterns does not influence a diagnosis of real pathology perse. “Dysfunctional” is a more appropriate term when a tribal person or family seeks to adapt to an individuating culture. (Of course the opposite would also be true.) The west’s survival depended to a large extent on a horizontal view of individuals whose legal rights and individual selfhood were guaranteed. There was enough stability and predictability to allow enough freedom for growth. Power was interactive and somewhat horizontal eventually spreading to the four corners of today’s western societies. In contrast, the east survived through enforcing a "group-self" wherein survival was dependent on merged boundaries and unity of thinking and acting directed from the top down. Constant danger of external aggression inclined the societies to constrict and enforce uniform rigidity. Survival of the state dictated a vertical non-interactive distribution of power and tribal dependency. (Tribal societies that have arisen in the twentieth century and become super-urban and "industrial modernity poli-economic societies" are still not immune to a horizontal outlook; e.g. Japan, China; although globalization is having a lessening effect.)
Is the global world of 2016 different than the parochial world of 1976? Forty years. Of course it is. How? Are the differences in America connected to the changes in the global village? Of course they are but how and in what dimensions; what are the parameters that even describe the changes? Once described, do we need to manage these dimensions.? How?
Should we try to not manage them; let them just happen, drift on, like the wind? Que Sera, sera? How we decide makes a difference, right? Also, how we describe or delineate them will help us decide.
Available vocabulary matters.
Our purpose in this section is to point to certain themes, dimensions, and unacknowledged elements; to accurately describe the phenomena and begin a conversation to aid management for the future even if that requires new vocabulary.
For us, "GLOBALIZATION" is the single most important purely economic term in describing many of the 1976 - 2016 disparities. The inevitable but necessary changing of identities matters. The involved globalized citizens have either been neglected or taken for granted.
Without a vocabulary and transparent body of knowledge to manage these parameters (eg. societal benefit, societal loss and societal identity) that are drifting towards a collision, these powerful forces are like many runaway trains. The dimension we wish to underline is the non-linear interface between families and the macroeconomic and governance systems of different cultural-identity within this “globalization” context.
What started as a casual observation has burgeoned into a significant theoretical statement. The observation starting about 15-20 years ago, included what seemed to be an increase in entitlement feelings across the board in youngsters of all ages. Having raised 5 kids with a 15 year spread in age, I had been aware of an uphill battle whenever I tried to instill values of self- reliance, responsibility and reliability and such. I think it got done, but it seemed easier in the older than the younger. Later I noticed that public behavior of kids in general was much less disciplined and respectful than what I was used to.
In keeping with our theory of ever-larger systems’ circles, we will try to illustrate the interactivity between family life-parenting, institutions and political economics.
Please read these excerpts from this excellent article concerning a societal trend of “non-consequence enforcement” and tolerance of consistent rule breaking among modern children, from a Pennsylvania’s pediatrician’s viewpoint. Please note that he assumes it started 15-25 years ago.
Dec. 17, 2015 7:04 p.m. ET, WSJ.com
“Kyle was absorbed in a videogame on his cellphone, so I asked his mom, “How long has Kyle had a stomach ache?” Mom said, “I’m thinking it’s been about two days.” Then Kyle replied, “Shut up, mom. You don’t know what you’re talking about.” And he gave a snorty laugh, without looking up from his videogame. Kyle is 10 years old. I have been a physician for 29 years. This sort of language and behavior from a 10-year-old was very rare in the 1980s and 1990s. It would have been unusual a decade ago. It is common today. America’s children are immersed in a culture of disrespect: for parents, teachers, and one another. They learn it from television, even on the Disney Channel, where parents are portrayed as clueless, out-of-touch or absent. They learn it from celebrities or the Internet. They learn it from social media. They teach it to one another. They wear T-shirts emblazoned with slogans like “I’m not shy. I just don’t like you.”
“… The challenge of raising children in America today is different from 30 or 50 years ago…”
“…If you’re going to make a change, don’t be subtle. New Year’s Day is as good a time as any to sit down with your children and explain that there are going to be some changes in this household: changes in how we talk, in how we behave, in how we treat one another. It is possible to create a culture of respect in the home while living in the U.S. today. It isn’t easy, but it can be done…”
Dr. Sax is a practicing physician in West Chester, Pa. and the author of “The Collapse of Parenting,” out this month from Basic Books.
Now please read these excerpts from the writings in three different venues, from a school administrator and from two serious and respected economists: none have content that is in any way related to family systems, parenting or societal factors.
"Success Academy Charter Schools, New York City’s largest network of free charter schools, has recently been the center of controversy over its policies on student behavior. Our critics accuse us of pushing out children who might pull down our test scores, and in doing so creating what some call “a kindergarten-to-prison pipeline.” In reality, our attrition rates are lower than those of the district schools. How then do our students, chosen by lottery and mainly children of color, routinely outperform even students from wealthy suburbs?
I wish I could claim that I’ve developed some revolutionary pedagogical approach at Success, but the humbling truth is this: Most of what I know about teaching I learned from one person, an educator named Paul Fucaloro who taught in New York City district schools for four decades. When I founded Success Academy in 2006, I hired Paul to coach our teachers. I soon learned that while he was quite instructionally sophisticated, Paul was decidedly old school on the topic of student behavior. Every child had to sit up straight and show he was paying attention.
I wasn’t completely sold on Paul’s approach at first, but when one of our schools was having trouble, I’d dispatch him to help. He’d tell the teachers to give him a class full of all the kids who had the worst behavioral and academic problems. The teachers thought this was nuts but they’d do so, and then a few days later they’d drop by Paul’s classroom and find these students acting so differently that they were nearly unrecognizable. Within weeks, the students would make months’ worth of academic progress.
Teachers couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it. But Paul did it over and over again. And incredibly, the kids seemed to love Paul more than the teachers who were far less strict.
So what did he do? Well, imagine that a man to whom you’re speaking at a party is looking over your shoulder. You’ll suspect he isn’t really listening. The same is true of kids. Their physical behavior reflects their mental state. Therefore, Paul set behavioral expectations to reflect the mental state he insisted his students have. Paul’s students had to sit with hands clasped and look at whomever was speaking (called “tracking”). They couldn’t stare off into space, play with objects, rest their head on their hands in boredom, or act like what Paul called “sourpusses” who brought an attitude of negativity or indifference to the classroom. Paul made students demonstrate to him that at every single moment they were focused on learning.
He also had more sophisticated techniques. He’d call on students randomly rather than ask for hands, so students had to prepare an answer for every question he asked. He made students repeat or comment on what their classmates said to make them listen carefully to one another. And he’d never repeat what a child said, as most teachers do, because—besides wasting precious time—it suggested to students that they didn’t have to listen to one another, only to the teacher.
These practices ensured that while only one student could talk at a time, every child was continually engaging in what Paul called “active listening,” meaning thinking critically and preparing to participate if called upon.
Success Academy in large measure uses Paul’s approach, and that is much of the reason why we have schools where more than 95% of the students pass the state math tests in neighborhoods where on average fewer than 20% of students do.
Some critics find our approach rigid and overbearing. I’ve got two of these critics in my own home: my kids, who attend Success. They complain when they get into trouble for not tracking the speaker. They were listening, they protest. Maybe so. But sometimes when kids look like they’re daydreaming, it’s because they are, and we can’t allow that possibility. As Paul repeatedly preached to me, it’s morally wrong to let a child choose whether to pay attention, because many will make the wrong choice and we can’t let them slip through the cracks. So if a student had trouble paying attention, he’d move him to the front of the class, call his parents, keep him after school to practice. Whatever it took. Paul was relentless.
Some critics say that it’s hard for young children to focus. True. But it’s our job to teach them this. Recently, I was at a news conference at which I was asked why Success has strict rules regarding behavior. As I answered, the reporters didn’t stare off into space, look bored or fiddle with things. Because they were focusing. A school that fails to teach students this necessary skill isn’t doing right by them.
People have understandably expressed concern that some students may have particular trouble meeting our behavioral expectations and ask why we can’t simply relax them. The answer is that Success Academy’s 34 principals and I deeply believe that if we lessened our standards for student comportment, the education of the 11,000 children in our schools would profoundly suffer. In my case, that belief has nothing to do with any ideological predisposition or pet pedagogical theory. I came to it only because Paul Fucaloro—the most gifted educator I’ve ever met, who spent four decades honing his craft before retiring last year—showed me that it works."
Ms. Moskowitz is the founder and chief executive officer of Success Academy Charter School
They represent concern about a consistent long term deviation from once agreed upon rules of educational, the national governmental and international rules of financial behavior. I think a careful reading, with the above education and parenting articles kept in mind, will reveal interesting parallel lines that also are described as starting economically 30-40 years ago.
All these articles seem to share the following themes or elements in common:
1 – In America, respect for authority (parents or governmental economic authority) has significantly diminished.
2 - Kids, teachers, politicians feel increasingly comfortable ignoring long standing rules of appropriate conduct.
3 – Consequences for misbehaving kids, politicians and bankers has diminished.
4 – “Entitlement” is out of control, educationally, politically, financially and in families
5 - "Discipline", (that is, enforcing or exhibiting the behavior that society has reasonably decided is called for, rather than what is spontaneous) is almost never discussed in economics or political science articles and yet the word and concept applies to the north-south disparities as well as to many parenting dilemmas in the west.
Exorbitant governmental debt, in our view is the economic equivalent of over-indulgence in a family parenting framework. Believe it or not, excessively low interest rates (from the second article below) is very similar in its societal consequences.
(I know there are many parents and members of the helping professions who are allergic to the details of international finance and economics. You may shortly tune out to these financial elements in my presentation. Try not to do that. It’s important to understand this stuff.)
Now, please read this article in BARRONS FEB15, 2016: THOMAS G. DONLAN,
HOW HIGH CAN THE (national) DEBT GO?
BARRONS FEB15, 2016: THOMAS G. DONLAN,
HOW HIGH CAN THE DEBT GO?
The Federal Budget Mess Is Getting Worse Again
The U.S. is another year older and deeper in debt.
By Thomas G. Donlan
“After adjusting for the 92% decline in the value of the dollar since World War II, the 1946 debt works out to be just $3.28 trillion. However, 1946 still holds another record at 118% of gross domestic product, compared with 101.8% now.
There is another important difference between 1946 and the present: After WW II, the borrowing all but stopped, and the country’s economy grew faster than federal spending. Today, nobody intends to stop the borrowing, and the economy is sluggish.
When a war ends, we don’t keep blowing things up. But there’s no end to spending on big programs for people—Social Security, Medicare, Obamacare, and Medicaid. By the way, federal accounting does not deign to notice about $90 trillion worth of promises to present and future beneficiaries…”
“… Still, it would be a good idea for presidents and congressional budget committees to draft balanced budgets, showing what kind of spending cuts they would enact if they had to live within their means.
It would be just for show, of course….”
“. …If, by some frightful miracle, the president’s budget is passed as written and remained law for 10 years, federal taxes would reach 20% of GDP for the first time since fiscal 2000, when the economy was unexpectedly booming. But it still wouldn’t balance…”
“…but posturing is all they’ve got in the modern era.
"...House Speaker Paul Ryan noted accurately that the new budget is the eighth one drafted by Obama that showed no path to a future in which revenues and expenditures could be balanced. How shocking….”
“…We also know that when the U.S. government gets more tax revenues, it spends like a college freshman with a new credit card. Democrats and Republicans are the two wings of the Something-for-Nothing Party…”
“…we know that members of Congress define an investment as anything that will make grateful constituents repay favors with votes. Whether it’s a new interchange out on the Interstate (making somebody’s nearby property more valuable) or charging stations for electric cars (adding to the demand for coal), the name of the game is still patronage. That’s what candidates do understand…”