The recent transformations in parental roles
in the Western nuclear family have made children more independent. Their socialization
thus comes more and more from school, youth groups, and from the workplace, once
they enter it.
This freedom is a two-edged sword. Being open to many influences
can make children more well rounded, but the lack of clear guideposts can lead
to a kind of relativism that stunts their moral development. Indeed, many young
people rightly sense a great void in our consumer society and try to fill it through
escapist entertainment or massive
consumption of psychotropic drugs.
If society may be defined
as the framework within which all organized human relationships and exchanges
take place, then culture may be defined as all the products of these exchanges,
including individual behaviours, objects, techniques and rituals, institutions,
Human cultures vary considerably.
Some are based solely on oral tradition, while others have vast libraries. In
some, a good father must act like a tyrant; in others, he must be a tolerant protector.
Some cultures forbid the consumption of pork, for religious reasons, while others
consider it a meat of choice. And so on.
of language was a watershed event that made this astonishing diversity of human
cultures possible. By enabling people to exchange meanings by making sounds, language
becomes the starting point for cultural evolution. By transmitting the ideas,
customs, and art forms specific to a culture, language gives the members of that
culture’s community a feeling of belonging to it.
following diagram summarizes the various influences that contribute to social
evolution (place your cursor over each underlined term to see a brief definition).
How can individuals break free of
the propaganda that tries to reduce their myriad fields of endeavour to the consumption
reflex alone? They cannot, unless they personally have at least a minimum of material
resources, cultural resources (knowledge, in particular), and affective resources
(openness to the world, curiosity, etc.).
collective measures are also essential to guarantee some space for the solidarity
that is necessary for physical and social survival. In our societies today, the
distribution of resources is highly inegalitarian, and there are many obstacles
on the path to collective action.
One thing is certain:
if we hope to one day build a social and economic structure that can free all
of us from primitive relations of dominance, we will first have to learn to know