1880-1900'S Social and Cultural Change Traditional Values and Bourgeois Ideals of Modernity Term Paper

  • Length: 6 pages
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  • Subject: Military
  • Type: Term Paper
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Excerpt from Term Paper :

War Influencing Social and Cultural Change

Social and cultural changes are important determinants of any society. Philosophers have put extensive amount of time and energy in examining how the social and cultural changes have occurred from one time to another. Gordon Wood, Robert Wood, and Modris Eksteins have considerably depicted in their books that war has acted as an important catalyst for social and cultural change in the society. Their viewpoints are similar but contradictory at the same time.

War as a source of change

Gordon Wood talks about the early twentieth century and analyzed the world trends starting form 1760, and had paid particular emphasis on the early nineties, which according to him have instigated change in intellectual though to happen. Wood indicates that while there has been no revolt or overthrow of the elite by the working class people, there has been a steady and quiet revolution in people's intellect and that this has led to the formation of the modern society. He lays the emphasis on social relationships, which changed due to the war as they were forced to adapt to the new and unknown environment that they were being out in before and during the war. He further goes on to indicate that due to this changed nature of relationships the world changed in a steady and yet quiet manner. Wood further supports this argument by analyzing the transition of country from monarchy to republic to democracy. Before war, the monarchical society categorized people on their assets in a hierarchy of rank. The poorer and small depended on the richer and great. As Wood (71) says in his book "These great Chesapeake planters had the wealth and, more important, the influence to make themselves the strongest aristocracy America has ever had." These personal relationships then formed the pillars of the society together.

Additionally, what America was fighting for abroad, was also its motto at home now that the war was over and had created many opportunities for the people to migrate to the country in search for a better life, and in providing every one of its citizens the life that was considered to be ideal by modern standards of the time. (Wood)

Robert Wiebe, in his book, 'The Search for Order' depicts war as a catalyst for change in the sense that it caused bewilderment to the people and created a chaotic situation where people who were in the nineteenth century communal mode of life. He indicates that the war created a chaos where people were forced to abandon their status quo and were inclined to think in ways that were focused in creating a new social order. Robert Wiebe talks of the new environment, after the war as:

"If those who thought of the new industrial giants as diabolically perfect organisms could have peeked inside, they would have found jerry-built organization, ad hoc assumptions of responsibility, obsolete office techniques, and above all an astonishing lack of communication among its parts." (Wiebe 19)

Wiebe's book indicates that the war creating needs and wants that the organizations had not fathomed, and in trying to ride the tide, they were responding to the needs in a haphazard manner. He explains that war has brought the economic power to more larger national organizations while social and political life remained centered primarily in local communities thereby resulting in the huge society unrest causing disturbance and violence in the 1980s. As he Wiebe compares the new mentality of reform to "the fluidity of calculus, not the order and balance of plane geometry" (146).

As far as Modris Eksteins view is concerned, he considers war as a catalyst for change and indicates that the First World War, akin to the Rites of Spring, a Russian ballad, has been a harbinger of change. He indicates that the war was the reason why people's ideas of modernity and consciousness changed. He argues that the world after the war became more and more concerned with primitivism, myth making as well as death and aesthetics which have blend together into modern consciousness because of the war. Moreover, he argues that the German ideals before the war have prevailed and the world has become imbued with their ideas even today. Eksteins points out Germany to be the most modern nation in the world and states in his book "the heart of the modern experience" (11). Eksteins (12) also mentions that similar to the modern world, before war the importance in Germany was given to scientism, efficiency and management. He gives an example that in Paris, the modern looking Theatre Des Champs Elysees was thought of as German because of its unique and daring architecture (Eksteins, 8).

Similarities vs. Differences

Considering each of their arguments, we can see that there are several differences and similarities that can be observed in each of the author's arguments. The similarity is obvious. Wiebe and Eksteins both consider some change in ideological thought. While Gordon takes the more humanitarian view of the situation by stating that the war changed the nature of relationships that people have with each other, as everyone worked side by side to meet demand. This was hence also the time when the world realized the importance of a woman's contribution to work and then gave birth to the civil rights movement, which also created a stir among the Afro-American community, which chose to break laws to protect their own interests. Additionally all of these authors considered war important enough to have caused a change in the social order of the world.

Looking at the differences of the three authors' viewpoints, Gordon emphasized on change in terms of the relationships that changed, before that authors of various theorists such as Karl Marx had indication that there would a be a class conflict and there would be chaos when the elite class was overthrown, however, the war led the change in intellectual development. On the other hand, Wiebe stated that the order of things had changed as the human race learnt to develop a response to it. As far as Eckstein's is concerned, he indicates that the world developed a fascination with Germany, so that even after being annihilated in the first world war, the policies of the Germans and their values had and have become a part of modern ideas and thoughts. Even though the world then after Hitler came to shun Germany, it was their developed value system of morals and good practices that the world of art and print also came to embrace.

Rites of Spring and The Search for Order both describe the period around 1900 as one of a clash between traditional values and bourgeois ideals of modernity.

The two are different books, written by different authors of very different ideological make-up. The Rites of Spring is titled after a Ballad which indicates that the author has a more positive outlook on the events of the world taking change as a harbinger of spring. The Russian ballad indicates that the book is named after is a hopeful song in Russia, which states that the way to spring is through chaos, change and disorder.

Therefore while the theme of both the authors is the same, there are other similar aspects, in that both of them are focusing on one country each. But this is where the similarities end, and the list of differences starts. As discussed below, Rites is a more hopeful song that talks about a broken civilization prevailing through all odds and rising above situations that have severely impaired it. It is a more Romantic version of the world view after the war at large. Wiebe with his book, on the other hand is more action- oriented and more business-minded where he is considering organizational change, and how this change led to the change in the American Value systems and life. He considers this as the biggest gift that the Progressive values could give to American society,

Taking the implications of 'The Rites of Spring' first, the author says that the rites and customs of Germany won out in the end, as these are the ideals that are governing the values systems around the world today. He says that the change was daring as the ballad it has been fashioned after and brought the entire civilization into question with regards to its beliefs. He also indicates that with regards to German values, the Germans are focused on scientific management and industrialized really fast, when they focused on efficiency and expedient productions. And this was again what the world was focusing on after the War in the modern era. People were focused on scientific management of organizations and were result driven as the Germans were.

His implications can be seen even today, where despite the fact that the nation has suffered immense losses under the leadership of Hitler, and was considered in a very negative light by the rest of the world, they have been able to rise from the ashes each time. Just…

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