Social Problems Theory

No. 115

 Social Problems Theory:
  An Affirmative Postmodern
Agenda for the 21st Century
T. R. Young
The Red Feather Institute
August, 1984



A version of this paper was presented at the SSSP Meetings in San Antonio in 1984.

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     Social Problems Theory: 
           Affirmative Postmodern Agenda for the 21st Century

All science in all disciplines is embedded in a network of values
from the ways in which scientific concepts are fashioned, to the
ways in which scientific problems are identified to the ways in
which scientific knowledge is applied.  Pure science is as much an
impossibility as is the detachment of language, music, literature
or dance from distinctly human interests of health, food,
procreation, solidarity or social control.  Social Problems
research and findings are no exception.  Whatever is identified as
a problem depends upon the existing structure of social relations. 
Whatever is conceived to be a research question arises from some
practical interest in reproducing those social relations.  Whatever
is defined as a solution is mediated by and tends to reinforce
existing social relations of power, wealth, kinship as well as more
diffuse social processes.
     If, then, postmodern sensibility argues that all social
science is and must be value oriented, the operative question
arises which values are to be served and who is to benefit.  The
answer varies in history but in the last four centuries feudal,
slave, and capitalist Úlites have been the prime beneficiaries of
theories and theorists who talk about social problems.  The age of
feudal lords, slave masters, commercial and industrial barons as
well as bureaucratic Úlites is slowly fading...too slowly, too
erratically.  That there has been much progress for ten percent of
the world's population should not be taken with too much
celebration.  There is much to do. Wealth continues to pour from
the poorest countries in the world to the richest.  Military and
police force continue to retard social justice in rich as in poor
countries.  Health care and education continue in short supply
across the world.  Political agency continues to be misused in
capitalist and socialist countries alike. Hunger stalks the land in
an age of plenty. 
     Partisan Religions are, too often, narrow, mean spirited and
diverting rather than encompassing, sharing, and redeeming of the
bitter imperfections of life.  Buddhism may be the definitive
exception.  Liberation theology in its many forms is, also, most
congenial to the human estate.  While there is a postmodern
religious sensibility emerging out of the major religions and some
of the minor ones, still location of agency in a supernatural being
transfers responsibility for both good and evil from social
arrangements which, as Durkheim noted long ago, the empirical base
for claims of super-natural agency.  Postmodern sensibility argues
that there is only human agency masked as 'law,' 'god,' 'nature,'
or 'functional imperative.'
Affirmative postmodern praxis must be linked to progressive
policies which transform social relations to more democratic,
supportive and peaceful social relations.  There is no choice. 
Social scientists may be either the amoral agents of the powers
elite or the morally informed catalysts of progressive social
change. In this paper, I want to put forward several
transformations in Social Problems necessary to progressive
One Postmodern Approach.  The first transformation in American
Social Problems this paper proposes is an explicit use of a
normative base from which to generate data and policy for social
problems.  The case for a morally informed social science hinges
upon the magnitude of a wide variety of serious problems which
beset ever larger portions of the world population.  Current
positions on the knowledge process argues, forcibly, for
detachment, impartiality, emotional distance and careful control in
research design to avoid bias.  On its own terms, this is good
sound advice.  However there are larger, non-psychological
considerations which forever contaminate the knowledge process. 
The very language itself greatly distorts attitudes and
understandings as do basic assumptions about life and nature. 
These are, all and equally, human constructs which select part and
only part of the incredible complexity of life and nature.
     And there is something to be said for a dedicated and
passionate quest for specific kinds of knowledge. In the case of
medicine, a dedicated search for a solution to smallpox, polio,
yellow fever and diabetes produced good results.  In the case of
mathematics and metallurgy, the quest for wealth by kings and
nations fueled the knowledge process.  In the case of computers,
war and defense of a way of life pushed people to find ways to
process large data sets.  These accomplishments were not a result
of a disinterested science.  They were based upon differing sets of
human values.  
     An affirmative postmodern approach to social problems theory
asserts that there are trans-societal and trans-historical human
needs which shape the very defining process from which a thing may
be conceived as a problem.  This approach asserts these fundamental
human needs are specific enough to guide policy and general enough
to permit the rich diversity of the thousands of ethnic cultures
which have arisen out of the vast genius of countless generations
of men and women across the wide sweep of history and land on the
good earth.
     An affirmative postmodern approach asserts, also, that there
are the structural and interpersonal sources of social problems. 
Such normative approach suggests what is to be done about each
social problem.  Postmodern normative approaches are informed not
only by what, objectively, is; but by what should be if 
fundamental, trans-societal human needs are to be served. 
Postmodern normative approaches to social problems sets forth in
explicit terms the agenda it embodies and makes no false claims
about impartiality, objectivity, or neutrality.  There are no
hidden agendas when a normative agenda is first announced in such
a sociology.
     Postmodern normative orientations to social problem
explicitly politicizes sociology, economics, psychology, medicine
as well as those disciplines intimately associated with the social
policy.  Such politicization changes the function  of social
problem research from one of serving the technical needs of the 
established power elite to the more dignified task of facilitating
open  discussion on the pressing questions of an age.  Indeed, the
only solid reason  for tenure and the protection afforded by the
social honor of its award is  that one acts on one's informed
opinion and takes a moral stance even against  power and privilege. 
To accept the rewards of a professorship, the protection  of tenure
and the intellectual challenge of such normative question and then 
to produce only ideas which are congenial to power and wealth; such
a servile  career betrays the role and degrades that high honor.  
     Explicitly normative approaches set themselves against the
structural functional school which, in part, asserts social
problems arise from deviant individuals or from social
disorganization.  Deviance, pathology, crime and delinquency exist
only in reference to some universalistic and totalizing effort to
define one social life world as normal, natural and/or god-given. 
Postmodern social problems theory accepts that there are behaviors
harmful to the human project but that one must resist claims that
a given pathway to human being is natural while all others are
either primitive or deviant.  Capitalism, Communism, Catholicism,
Islam, Protestantism, Socialism and/or Feudalism are, equally,
human constructs; as such they are neither natural nor are they the
last, best product of social evolution.
     Affirmative postmodern social problems theory sets itself
against the constructionist school which asserts social problems
arise from moral entrepreneurs.  The assumption in an affirmative
and normative social problems discipline holds that social problems
exist; whether or not a people can recognize and articulate their
own alienation, exploitation and oppression; whether or not a
people have the political capacity to form a social movement or
not.  Against the constructionist school, a normative approach
insists that social problems exist, they arise out of alienated
social relations and they may be solved.
     In this historical epoch five alienated relationships which
produce social problems: they include class relations, racism,
sexism, age and authoritarian relations.  Many would add
nationalism. The problems these relations produce are poverty,
inequality, hunger, crime, alcoholism, despair, suicide, warfare as
well as distorted sexuality.  These are, ontologically, social
problems whether protesters call them such or not.
     If one, in principle, can accept an affirmative postmodern
approach to social problems, the immediate question which presents
itself is how to identify the basic values and how to set the norms
which guide research, teaching and practice.  In the next section,
I present a set of human rights which, I will argue, serves the
trans-historical and trans-societal needs of human beings.  But
first I want to say that the universe of social problems is
presently set by the economic, managerial and political needs of
Úlites in any given social formation.
     Some of the more serious forms of social problems are set
outside the universe of discourse for most who teach and research
in social problems.  A call to adapt a postmodern approach to the
identification; to the definition; to the formulation of policy for
a social problem is, in the same instant, a call to reject the
private, elitist control over the specification of that which is a
social problem as well as the reductionist policies derived
therefrom.  The first item on a affirmative postmodern agenda for
emancipatory approaches to social problems is, then, to gain
control over the process by which social problems are set as
problematic within a society.  The least questionable way to do
this is to specify a grounding set of human rights against which to
measure misery.
Human Rights.  In this section, I want to try to specify a set of
human rights upon which to ground a normative study of social
problems or pursuit of that first item of a affirmative postmodern
agenda.  While the rights specified here may be subjected to
critique for their adequacy, I argue that, in principle, it is
possible to generate such a set and it is desirable to ground
postmodern social problem work thereby: The guiding assumption I
make in the set that appears below is that human beings do not
exist or develop by themselves. There must be facilitating social
resources and supportive social relations in order for something
called a human being to develop and to remain human.  
     Data from anthropology, from the study of isolated children,
from reports on concentration camps, prisons, and of military
behavior all tend to suggest that the distinctly human component of
behavior may not develop, may be suppressed, and may reappear once
humane relations are restored.  And I follow Marx who argued that
alienated social relations subvert the human project while praxis
relations promote it.  By praxis, Marx meant that human beings
create themselves as human beings in the act of producing material,
ideological and political culture.
TRANSCENDENT HUMAN VALUES.    A praxis society requires that every
presumptive human being has a secure and significant relationship
to the means of producing culture. A postmodern approach to social
problems requires a research agenda and political agenda such that:
1. The dignity of each human is augmented and the integrity of his
or her community strengthened thereby.

2.  The apparatus of social control and those special costs to
society are reduced. 
3.  The necessary harmony between groups, societies and regions is
facilitated without freezing inequity and oppression, North and
South, East and West, through a false and oppression peace. 
4.  The necessary harmony between human society and the larger
environment of the earth is enhanced.  The earth is a great
bio-system in which all parts are delicately balanced in terms of
chemistry, energy, and information. All human life rests, finally,
upon the integrity of this wondrous bio-system.
5.  Some approximation of balance between the productive capacity
of the earth and the rate of consumption is achieved without the
gross inequalities of feudal, slave, or capitalist societies.
6. Incentive and reward structures are instituted as will recognize
individual merit and special effort without distorting the
allocation of fixed and variable capital to necessary institutions
and without great differences in personal wealth.
7.  Some limited tension, stress, anxiety and insecurity are
necessary to stimulate the music, theater, poetry, science,
philosophy and literature which explore the light and darkness of
human venture.  However, levels of stress and uncertainty which are
disabling to the human project must be carefully avoided.
8.  International relations and inter-societal relations are
safeguarded as will encourage the diversity of culture and social
institutions found among peoples of the earth. 
9.  Inter-generational relations are instituted as will balance
the costs and burdens of social change on new generations with the
richness of the cultural heritage from prior generations.  If we do
not plan for the future, we may get a future in which social
problems become insoluble.
10.  Resources are allocated as will inform and inspire each new
cohort of young people to the social process.  The society which
ignores its children imperils not only their humanity but the
future and humanity of the entire society.
     Again, this set is, arguably, deficient in a number of ways. 
Such a critique creates an invitation to improve and expand the
grounds for a postmodern sociology rather than deny a normative
approach.  Then, too, there are competing rights which call for
some priority claims to be included in a affirmative postmodern
agenda.  It is possible to respond to some human needs immediately. 
There are enough resources in the world to feed, house, cloth and
educate every one of the some five billion persons alive today.  A
system of production based upon human need--rather than the private
profit of some sixty million persons located mostly in the twenty
rich capitalist countries--must be instituted if we are to give
practical attention to human rights.
     The flow of wealth from poor countries to rich countries must
be reversed.  The flow of military goods must be replaced by the
flow of knowledge and construction equipment.  The flow of talent
from the poor countries to the wealthy countries must be
interdicted.  A great many things must be changed, radically
changed, if we are to be serious about human rights and the human
project in terms more broad than the narrow, short-term, self
interest of a class, a nation or an ethnic group.  These are a
minimal listing of basic imperatives from which a program for
defining social problems and setting progressive social policy may
be generated.  Such a set is a requisite.
Conflict Relations. There are five great social structures out of
which develop vast inequalities and against which all affirmative
postmodern sociology must be directed.  
These are, first, the structures of class privilege in which something 
like eight percent of the world's population control and enjoy the vast 
resources of the world capitalist system together.  For the rest of the 
world, there is an unseemly scramble to protect one's own position and
family by serving whichever masters own the means of production.  
Some 30 percent in the 20 rich capitalist countries survive and earn this
dubious honor.  For the rest there is work, squalor, hunger and
death at an early age.  The privilege and freedoms in the rich
capitalist countries today are bought at the price of the terrible
unfreedom and increasing misery in the Third World.  A radical
sociology reveals and publishes the alienating features of this
structure of class privilege as it expresses itself in community,
national and international problems.
     The second great structure is that of racial and ethnic
privilege.  Generally there is a flow of wealth from African, Asian
and South American countries to the wealthy Euro-American
countries.  Within the Euro-American countries the structure of
racist-ethnic privilege is duplicated on a smaller scale.  All
sorts of biological and social evolutionary theories give a gloss
of genetic necessity for this pattern of inequality.  The vast wars
of colonial domination, the merciless use of superior weapons and
inferior morality of the victors are not weighed in this
theoretical explanation.
     The ugly uses of religion to celebrate and sanctify such
murderous colonial conquest in the world history must enter into
explanations of present inequality.  The role of finance capital in
purchasing land and resources from the occupying conquerors should
be entered into the textbooks in psychology, sociology and socio-
biology.  Whole generations of Euro-Americans grow up believing,
falsely, the inevitability of racial inequality.
     The third great, endemic structure of inequality is that of
gender preference.  All over the capitalist world order, women
absorb the alienations of other forms of inequality to add to the
primal inequality of gender.  The status of women in the socialist
countries is only marginally better--with perhaps some generational
improvement; not yet clearly established.  Once again biology,
theology, and psychology converge in the politics of knowledge to
subvert the emancipatory process--to exclude this structure of
inequality from progressive social change.
     A fourth great structure of inequality found in socialist,
capitalist, feudal and tribal society is that of authority--not the
authority of expertise but the authority of position whether earned
or unearned.  Sanctified by tradition and formal theory alike, this
social pattern assigns to some persons the power to control others
in shop, school, office, church, play and politics. In any social
formation in which there is conflict over the kind of and use of
wealth, knowledge, and art such authority relations will be
superimposed upon the system of production and distribution.  In
capitalist societies, the conflict keys off of property claims and
private accumulation: in socialist societies, the conflict derives
from a claim that expropriation of surplus value is legitimate for
purposes protecting the revolution at home and making the
revolution abroad.  Equality in political, economic, sexual,
recreational and religious life is a major goal of a affirmative
postmodern agenda.
And finally there is the twinned structure of exclusion of the
very young and the aged from the processes by which labor
creates, in the same moment, both being and culture.
  There may be good reason to exclude the some of the
young from equal participation in some realms of social
life.  There may have been, arguably, in the past, good reason to
exclude young people from the production of the various forms of
human culture.  I doubt it.  Whatever the case, many young people
and most old people are fully capable of creating material,
ideological or political culture.  It is a social problem of some
magnitude to so exclude them.  Young people are systematically
excluded from the production of material culture, from secure and
significant involvement in sexual, religious and political
relations.  They are locked into authoritarian relations in family,
classroom, sports, and marketplace.  They are treated as children
and remain children long after they are capable of being fully
human...and human they will be.  The only question is the pathways
they take to embody human desire and human passion.
     The aged are discarded by an economic system which stresses
low wages above the human need for the dignity of useful work.
After a lifetime of building the richest society in all history,
too many old people are discarded as social junk while that wealth
benefits, at best, a third of the population.  The affirmative
postmodern sociologist has much to do in the way of teaching and
organizing the senior citizen.
     As do the socialist feminists, I urge a holistic and combined
effort to transform the structures of inequality.  Race, class and
gender inequalities interact to reproduce each other.  It does not
advance the human project that Euro-Americans are prosperous,
healthy and happy if we buy these advantages at the terrible price
of oppression, poverty and illness in the Third World.  It is
little credit to a full humanity that a handful of leaders make and
move great things on the shoulders of the masses.  There is no
theory, no science, no ideology, no politics which can argue
legitimately that an infant in Euro-America has a greater claim to
or holds a greater promise for the human project than does a Black
or Yellow child born elsewhere on the earth.
     What talent, what skills, what capacities are lost to the
human process by the division of male and female roles one cannot
know.  One can only know that the loss is great and most likely
unnecessary.  And the demographics of all societies are changing.
Power is slowly devolving toward the older citizen in all
Euro-American countries. External exclusion of the aged from the
life of labor--life-giving labor is not on the agenda of history. 
The affirmative postmodern sociologist must be on the right side of
history.  To be fully human is to create culture. Material
resources are necessary to this agenda.
     Class, race, gender and age exclusions are hostile to a human
society.  To deny millions of children the material resources to
learn, act, and create in a human mode may serve the accumulation
needs of an individual, a class, a generation, or a nation but the
affirmative postmodern sociologist owes no allegiance, no loyalty,
no debt to a nation, a class, or a generation.  The radical project
transcends the structures of power, privilege as well as those of
geography and of one's own time.  It is the largest of all possible
agenda limited only by human rights of the sort set forth before. 
Inequality in social relations is the enemy; not people, not men,
not individuals, not races or nations.
     The generic social problem is social inequality and the social
practices which coerce and reproduce them...the narrow ideologies
of religion and patriotism which sanctify them.  These are the
enemy...our ancient enemy.  A second item on a affirmative
postmodern agenda for the 80's and 90's, then, is to more closely
connect the origins of problems with the social context in which
they appear.  Theories which locate social problems in molecular
genetics, in physiological chemistry, in childhood trauma or in
fictitious gods, devils, or chance only deflect attention from the
societal sources of human problems.  A thoroughly affirmative
postmodern social problems discipline locates social problems,
first of all, in social relations rather than in personal,
individual psychology, physiology, genetic or more remote factors.
     I have said that there are basic human rights upon which to
ground the discipline of social problems.  I have argued that there
are at least five great social relationships which hamper the human
project. Now I want to consider social change.  I will argue in the
next section that some behavior involving rebellion and resistance
to those structures above is narrowly individualistic and, in turn,
may be viewed as social problems.  But there is a great deal of
conflict activity which is theoretically informed and emancipatory. 
The affirmative postmodern sociologist must distinguish between
pretheoretical and theoretically grounded analysis. We must support
progressive conflict.
Social Problems: Pre-Theoretical Resistance and Rebellion. 
Crime, drug abuse, alcoholism, some mental disorders, prostitution
and child abuse must be conceived and explained to students,
lawmakers and concerned citizens alike as pretheoretical resistance
and rebellion toward alienated social relations.  Crime especially.
Property crime in particular.  Robbery, burglary, shoplifting,
embezzlement, fraud and mugging are, implicitly, rejections of
capitalist notions of ownership, of exchange for profit and of
private contract.  The thief, the bandit, the burglar and the
swindler simply appropriates property for personal use.  A
depolicitized explanation of crime focuses in upon such physical
characteristics as race, age, body structure, genes, blood sugar
levels or other chemical findings. 
     Psychological factors such as greed, intelligence, mental
disorder or character formation beg the question of why property
crime.  A more theoretical analysis suggests that any socioeconomic
formation which systematically separates people from the means of
distribution while promoting consumption and at the same time
promoting individualism will increase the likelihood that property
crime will occur.  Capitalism does just these things. Some social
formations stress early involvement in production; guarantee
permanent connection to the distribution of social commodities and
de-emphasize personal accumulation of wealth.  They emphasize the
production of goods oriented to need, the distribution of goods
within social relations (rather than within pecuniary relations) as
well as prosocialization.  They are societies with low crime rates.
     A affirmative postmodern approach places conflict behavior on
a continuum from highly privatized, fragmented resistance and
rebellion to highly informed, collective and syntactic revolution. 
An understanding of crime, gender violence, drug abuse, the dumping
of chemicals, price fixing and other antisocial behavior as
pretheoretical adjustments requires one connect such behavior to
society and to history rather than to genes, body chemistry,
childhood trauma, climate or educational level.  The thug on the
street can put racial, economic, ethnic and gender conflict into a
crude language system and can seek to carve out a place in such a
hostile ecosystem, for self and a narrow circle of friends and
     Crimes of the bandit is a bit more theoretically informed. 
Taking the privileged as the target of predation, the bandit in
Sicily, England, America or Africa correctly identifies the class
enemy.  "Dick and Jane" robbed the Phone company to the applause of
an audience.  Pretty Boy Floyd robbed banks and gave to the poor to
the praise of Woody Guthrie. Such Robin Hood myths are common and
commonly understood to be progressive.  They present the criminal
as preying on the privileged rather than upon the poor as is
usually the case.  Terrorism and underground warfare which entails
selective theft and selective assault upon armies of occupation,
upon repressive police state functionaries or upon outside advisors
constitute an even more theoretically informed rebellion and
resistance encompassing interests beyond self and one's friends to
respond to the needs of an entire class, ethnic group, or nation. 
If successful, these criminals become presidents and prime
ministers--if not, they become idolized in song and myth to inspire
another generation to rebellion.
     A third item on a affirmative postmodern agenda is to locate
social change in a more theoretically grounded framework for the
teacher in the university, for the student in the classroom and for
the citizen on the street as well.  Only when such behavior is
understood theoretically is organized and appropriate rebellion
possible.  Pretheoretical understanding of theft, violence against
children, warfare, divorce, or income tax evasion leads to
pretheoretical policies.  
     Bad theory makes for bad policy.  To murder the murderer does
not end class, race, gender, or authoritarian conflict.  To steal
from the thief does not reunite production and distribution for the
masses. To imprison the thug does not remove the objective
conditions under which thuggery arises.  It creates a vast cycle of
prisoners moving in and out of prison, in and out of crime, in and
out of courts.  It creates a vast police apparatus and a rationale
for discarding the Bill of Rights.  Pretheoretical understanding
creates a whole cadre of psychiatrists, social workers,
pharmacists, probation officers, counselors, lawyers, and
psychologists to protect and sustain the wealthy and to manage the
social junk created by such relations.
     All such managers are unproductive workers drawing even more
upon the system of production.  Pretheoretical understanding turns
millions of oppressed peoples to a fraudulent, diverting theology
instead of a caring, sharing, liberating religion.
[NOTE: Since writing this article, Chaos theory and non-linearity
of social dynamics have emerged to dramatically alter our
understanding of the ways that social problems emerge and
transform.  I have begun to explicate and to apply Chaos theory to
a wide variety of social problems.  These are found in a companion
line of work on the Chaos Theory Home Page at:
Together, postmodern work and work in chaos theory can be used to
ground a postmodern philosophy of science which accepts human
agency and human responsibility both for knowledge and for social
problems which emerge out of institutional ways of doing religion,
politics, economics, family and science itself.]
A Political Agenda for Radical Research and Teaching.  The
affirmative postmodern research agenda is always oriented to making
a connection between oppressive social practices and the harmful
consequences.  This may be done by statistical analysis, by case
history, by cross cultural comparative research especially between
social formations with low indicators of poverty, crime and gender
violence with those societies having high crime, and violence and
     Affirmative postmodern research studies the rich and the
powerful as much as street people and the dispossessed. 
Affirmative postmodern research studies and reports the political
crime of the state as much as that of the Red Brigade, the
Tupermaros, or the Weatherman.  Affirmative postmodern research
investigates drug abuse of the middle class as much as drug abuse
of ghetto youth.  Affirmative postmodern research identifies and
provides an ethnography of all the various justice systems in a
society rather than studying only the criminal justice system. 
There are four other major justice systems through which the rich
and privileged are processed.  The medical, the administrative, the
peer group system as well as religious justice system all are used
to mediate deviant behavior but operate very differently with very
different results.  These need to be put on equal footing for the
researcher and made visible in the classroom and in other media.
     By far the most important task of the affirmative postmodern
professor of social problems is to create the basis for democratic
socialism in the next 20 years.  Until the conditions are improved,
the possibilities for progressive change in the United States are
small.  As long as there is a large social base for capitalism and
private accumulation, a surplus population with all the attendant
poverty, hunger, ill health, squalor and crime will continue.  As
long as there is the profit motive, owners will continue to put
workers in jeopardy of illness and accident.  Owners will continue
to dump industrial filth in the water, air and ground to the long
range distress of the environment.  Corporations will continue to
subvert the political process and buy Congresses, courts and media
alike.  As long as there is capitalism, companies will desert
communities, disemploy workers and import goods which subvert local
industry.  As long as there is capitalism we will continue to need
to police the world capitalist system, oppose social justice in the
third world and transfer funds from peaceful use to military use at
home.  These will continue in the U.S. as long as there is a social
base for capitalism and for privilege.  The interesting question
becomes, then, what present factors will erode the social base for
     A subsidiary question is what political face the response to
the collapse of capitalism will take.  The affirmative postmodern
social problems teacher must answer these questions time and time
again.  First the factors which erode the social base of American
capitalism. There is the increased competition between the 20 rich
capitalist countries.  They will continue to automate and disemploy
each other's workers.  Second there is the progressive loss of
foreign market to indigenous capitalists in the third world.  As
third world politicians strive for political legitimacy, they must
protect emerging industry in their own countries from predatory
banking practices of the rich countries.  They must protect
industry from more efficient producers in the rich industrial
nations.  They must subsidize export and keep local factories
working or they will face one coup after another.
     A whole wave of socialist revolutions have taken markets out
of the capitalist world system and have limited the capacity of the
world capitalist system to renew itself.  Both socialist and
nationalist revolutions must limit severely the rate of profit
extracted by private capital from workers and peasants in the third
world or face social problems of a wide variety.  The world
capitalist system based in the 20 rich capitalist countries must
extract and repatriate profits from the third world or face fiscal
crisis of even greater magnitude.
     Then there are demands of workers in Euro-America for better
wages, better working conditions, better health and retirement
benefits as well as for job security.  These demands will not go
away.  There are consumers who demand safe and lasting products. 
There is the demand for programs of social justice: social
security, food programs, health care for the poor and aged,
resources for public education and a thousand special kinds of
help.  A more unmanageable problem for capital is the slow
exhaustion of raw materials, soil and energy resources.  If
capitalism needs a five percentage growth rate in the rich
countries to survive and if populations in poor countries increase
consumption of hard goods, the resources will run out that much
sooner.  While there are alternates to mineral resources and energy
sources, the good earth cannot supply the requirements of a
wasteful economic system for another 200 years.  
     All these factors and more combine to limit capitalism.  When
the third world no longer exports food and wealth to the first
world, capitalism will have to target their own workers in the 20
rich countries for more and more exploitation.  That will require
the reinstitution of direct coercion of the very social base which
now supports capital.  In 1960, 1 out of 11 workers in the U.S.
were college graduates.  Today, 1 of 5 are college educated.  In 20
years, a majority of workers in the U.S. will be college educated. 
Such a work force will not suffer lightly low wages, high prices,
shoddy goods or the despoliation of the air, water and earth.  Such
a work force will be most unruly.  Capitalism will find even fewer
supporters, defenders and academic enthusiasts.  The capitalist
state will have to do something to manage these educated workers
and consumers.
     The second question, then, which arises is what tactics will
be used in Euro-America to control unruly workers, citizens,
students and the disemployed.  The probable answer is fascism...a
genteel fascism comprised of surveillance, social work, private
coercion, the behavioral sciences, psychotechnology,
chemotechnology, patriotism and a quietistic religion all linked to
pacify the disaffected.  The last agenda item I want to set forth
is an analysis of political futures.  The social problems professor
must lay out in detailed form the various futures which are in
front of us if we are to avoid fascism.
Five Futures.  I see five futures possible as the social base for
advanced monopoly capital decreases and as the conditions mentioned
above work together to discredit capitalism.  One future is an
economic and military warfare between rich nations to preserve
legitimacy of their own peoples.  A second future is an uneasy
coalition of the 20 rich countries to control and exploit the 120
poor capitalist countries...the Trilateral solution.  A third
future is a Soylant Green future where a few privileged people live
in affluence in well-guarded enclaves while the streets are given
over to the surplus population to prey on each other.  A fourth
future is a bureaucratic socialism of the sort we see in the Soviet
Union.  A dispirited and poorly working economy in which an uneasy
social peace obtains.  This is not likely for Euro-American
countries but may spread in the third world.  A fifth future is
that of democratic socialism within and between countries.
     Modern electronics technology can be used to mystify or it may
be used to enhance participation in political, religious and
economic life.  Some things must be done face to face: healing,
teaching, loving and playing--if these are different--but many
things can be done through computer based interactive electronic
systems.  Right now the multinational corporations and the various
military forces have a monopoly on the best technology and often
use these for purposes harmful to a full humanity.  One day, given
adequate genius, courage and politics an authentic public sphere
could be created in which social problems are collectively
resolved.  The future embodied in democratic socialism requires
participation, equality and mutual aid.  This future is not at all
secure.  For the next 20 or 30 years, we must make it visible,
practical, and compelling. This is an affirmative postmodern agenda
for S.S.S.P., for American sociology and for Euro-American academic
life.  We must warn against fascism and privatized solutions while
insisting upon democratic socialism oriented to a human rights

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