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Kardiner, A. (1978). The Social Distress Syndrome of Our Time. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 6(1):89-101.

(1978). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 6(1):89-101

The Social Distress Syndrome of Our Time

Abram Kardiner

Since World War II there has been a veritable avalanche of alterations in our folkways the world over, that is startling in its rapidity and the wideness of its scope. Institutions have vanished and been replaced by new ones as have alterations of values. This avalanche is difficult to account for and still more difficult to foretell the impact it will have on our children thirty-five years from now. Those of us who live in the eye of a hurricane, are hardly aware of any of the commotion taking place at the periphery. Are these changes of mores harbingers of disaster or a passing crisis that will right itself?

History has furnished us with some parallels to the current trends. The last great transition took place two centuries ago with the liquidation of feudalism and the crystallization of the liberal creeds and combined with the invention of technology and free enterprise of the capitalist system both of which gave humanity a great boost. However good the results of this have been, it is patent that two world wars and the possibility of the third world points to another critical alteration of social and political patterning whose end form will not be visible for another generation.

What went awry? This has not yet been clarified entirely. But some signs have made themselves manifest: (1) the discrepancy between global population and food supply; (2) the increasing of longevity from fifty to seventy-five years; and (3) the exhaustion of the sources of energy caused mostly by the factor of waste and the factor that energy and mineral sources have been squandered on the manufacture of “things” not essential to life, or even comfort. The absolute necessity of technology is to grow or go under: the homogenization of cultures, and the liquidation of institutions that have a history of undiluted success accompanied by a drop in affectivity the capacity for feeling the world over. Survival and the maintenance self-esteem are now universal goals.

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