This book is not about “things to come.”
It is not about the “next century.”
Its thesis is that the “next century” is already here, indeed that we are well advanced into it.
We do not know the answers.
But we do know the issues.
The courses of action open to us can be discerned.
And so can those which, however popular, will be futile, if not counterproductive.
The realities are different from the issues on which politicians, economists, scholars, businessmen, union leaders still fix their attention, still write books, still make speeches.
The convincing proof of this is the profound sense of unreality that characterizes so much of today’s politics and economics.
And thus, while this book is not “futurism,” it attempts to define the concerns, the issues, the controversies that will be realities for years to come.
Some of the toughest problems we face are those created by the successes of the past—the success of the welfare state, for example; the success of this century’s invention of the fiscal state; the success of the knowledge society.
Some of the greatest impediments to effectiveness are the slogans, the commitments, the issues of yesterday, which still dominate public discourse, still confine our vision.
Also, some half-forgotten lessons of the past are becoming relevant again.
The nineteenth-century experiences of Austria-Hungary and of the British in India with the impact of economic development on nationalism and colonialism mean a great deal for the future of the Russian Empire, for instance.
This explains why a good deal of history is included.
This is an ambitious book that casts its net over a wide range of subjects.
Written in the United States by an American, it does not confine itself to American topics; it deals fully as much with government, society, and economy in Japan, in Western Europe, in Russia, and in the Third World of developing countries.
Yet the book may also be faulted for not being ambitious enough.
The impacts of technology on arms and defense; on the function and limits of government; on schools and learning are frequently discussed.
No chapter as such is however devoted to technology per se.
This subject, I felt, is abundantly discussed in a spate of works.
While highly important, technology is hardly “news” any more.
An even greater limitation: this book deals with the “surface,” the “social super-structure”—politics and government, society, economy and economics, social organization and education.
The foundations—world view and values and the shifts in both—are mentioned often, but are discussed only in a few short pages at the very end.
And there is no discussion of the spiritual agonies and moral horrors: the tyranny and brutal lust for power; the terror and cruelty; the naked cynicism, that have engulfed the world since the West’s descent into World War I. For this I lack both authority and competence.
This book does not focus on what to do tomorrow.
It focuses on what to do today in contemplation of tomorrow.
Within self-imposed limitations, it attempts to set the agenda.
Education fuels the economy.
It shapes society.
But it does so through its “product,” the educated person. concepts
An educated person is equipped both to lead a life and to make a living.
Socrates and Arnold of Rugby put all their emphasis on the “life,” and dismissed “making a living” as irrelevant if not vulgar.
But very few people in any society have as few wants as Socrates the philosopher, or were endowed with the rich fathers of Arnold’s “gentlemen.”
All other educational philosophies always balanced the two.
So will education in the knowledge society.
It can afford neither the schooled barbarian who makes a good living but has no life worth living, nor the cultured amateur who lacks commitment and effectiveness.
In the knowledge society, education will have to transmit “virtue” while teaching the skills of effectiveness.
At present our educational systems do neither—precisely because we have not asked: What is an educated person in the knowledge society?
One hears a great many complaints these days, especially in the United States, about the decline if not disappearance of the “humanities.”
Any number of books bewail the ignorance of the great traditions on which civilization and culture rest.
These complaints are valid.
There is danger of producing a society of schooled barbarians.
But whose fault is it?
The young these days it is said are not attracted to the “classics”; they are said to be “anti-historical.”
But they do respond with enthusiasm to history, to the great tradition altogether, if offered to them in a form that makes it relevant to their experiences, their society, their needs.
Older people, the participants in continuing education, usually cannot get enough of ethics, of history, of great novels, of anything that helps them understand their own experience, the challenges they face in their own life and in their own work.
And they also crave the fundamentals of science and technology, the ways and values of government and politics; in short, everything that constitutes a broad liberal education.
But we have to make all this meaningful and to project it on the realities in which people live.
There is need to make the “humanities” again what they are supposed to be: lights to help us see and guides to right action.
This is not the job of the student; it has to be the job of the teacher.
Sixty years ago, in 1927, a French philosopher, Julien Benda, published a slashing attack, La Trahison des clercs (The Betrayal of the Intellectuals) on the scholars and writers of his time who subordinated truth to racial and political dogmas, whether of the right or left.
Benda’s attack was prophetic, anticipating both the betrayal of the truth by the German intellectuals during the Hitler years and the betrayal of the truth by the fellow travelers and Stalinists in the thirties and for twenty or thirty years after World War II.
To let the humanities die out of snobbery, disdain, or sloth is equally betrayal.
The advent of the knowledge society will force us to focus the wisdom and beauty of the past on the needs and ugliness of the present.
This is what scholars and humanists contribute to the making of a life.
The key to doing this may be the needs we face in equipping students to make a living.
For almost nothing in our educational systems prepares them for the reality in which they will live, work, and become effective.
Our schools have yet to accept the fact that in the knowledge society the majority of people make their living as employees.
They work in an organization.
They have to be effective in it.
This is the exact opposite of what educational systems still assume.
Arnold’s public school was based on the assumption that its graduates would be leaders in society; it did not expect them to be “employees.”
The product of the American university or the German university, the professionals, were equipped to earn a living as an independent, or, at most, while working in a small partnership.
No educational institution—not even the graduate school of management—tries to equip students with the elementary skills of effectiveness as members of an organization:
ability to present ideas orally and in writing (briefly, simply, clearly);
ability to work with people;
ability to shape and direct one’s own work, contribution, career;
and generally skills in making organization a tool for one’s own aspirations and achievements and for the realization of values.
These, by the way, are very much the concerns that Socrates in Plato’s Dialogues talked about 2,500 years ago as the keys to a life worth living.