It is a perilous business writing about the history of ideas just a decade or two old. But American society went through a great trauma between the sixties and the early eighties. If there is reason to think ideas from those times prompted policies that contributed to the present state of education, crime, and urban life, there is no choice but to plunge in. For two decades schooling has been seen as failing in various ways, the quality of urban life is generally considered to have declined, and the elderly and the vulnerable have lived in heightened fear of violence and incivility.
The mid-`70S to the early `80S were the worst period. The head¬iness of the `60S was gone and the loss of respect for and involvement in social institutions, spawned by the war, the riots, Watergate, and the civil rights revolution had had time to incubate: There was no excitement anymore, just a gathering awareness of intolerable crime, failing schools, and blue collar blues. People turned inward and each person and each apartment became a fortress. The regard citizens had for the common good-including our schools, ceremonies, rituals, as well as patriotism, mutual civility, and mutual assistance-fell out of fashion. The ideas of the `60S gave us the practices of the `70s-the guilt-exorcism of the psychotherapists, the self-esteem fetishism and flight from standards of educators, the selling of selfishness by pop psychologists, and the criminologists` bland relabeling of crime and delinquency as ``deviance.`` The practices of the `70S left us with problems for the `80S and `90S.
There is now a national will to put an end to this. But the will requires a way and it is my hope to make some small contribution to the fashioning of it-to the articulation of a rational, self-respecting, policy-oriented social philosophy as America finishes the twentieth and prepares for the twenty-first century. The basis of our problems, I shall try to show, was a temporary breakdown of Americans` conception of themselves as social creatures; it was a transitory narcosis of the multitude of filaments that link individual persons to their societies.
I wish to express my gratitude to the Department of Philosophy and College of Humanities at The Ohio State University for a sabbaticalleave during which the final draft of this book was written. The department also was generous in providing me with research assistants. I am also indebted to Ohio State`s Mershon Center, and to its director Charles Hermann, for a National Security Award in the summer of 1980 to write on loyalties. From that essay, which began as a modest defense of a communalistic conception of society and citizenship, the outline of a book quickly took form. I was greatly assisted, during the four years of writing the book, by the congeniality, intellectual stimulation, and generous support of the Mershon Center. The Ethics Resource Center in Washington, D.C., and its director, Gary Edwards, have been a source of encouragement, useful discussion, and funding for research on the phenomena of alienation.
I am grateful to the editors of the following magazines for permission to use material from articles I published: The Public Interest, for II `Indoctrination` and Societal Suicide,`` and ``The Case for Revenge``; The Harvard Educational Review, for ``Review Essay: Moral Education Without Moral Education``; Character, for ``Tribal Morality`` (co-authored with Michael Lynn); The Journal of Philosophy,</I> for ``Loyalties``; American Education, for ``The Decline of American Education in the `60S and `70S.``