The Spike Victoria University College Review 1944
Freedom and Planning
Freedom and Planning
Contemporary social science has been responsible for one of the most significant advances in modern knowledge, for it has given us for the first time the techniques and concepts which make possible an empirical analysis of our culture pattern. We are able to diagnose the factors influential in its formation, and hence to attempt a prognosis. Mankind has for centuries been interested in formulating ideologies, but now for the first time we have the beginnings of valid prediction and control of social and cultural change.
If any one name stands out as a milestone in the process of achieving this new understanding, it is that of Freud. His brilliant insights provided the initial techniques and definitions for a scientific understanding of human personality. His main concern was the individual personality; but a younger generation is concerning itself with personality in its group manifestation. In other words anthropologists and sociologists have learned what psycho-analysis had to say about the individual and have applied the concepts to the group—a kind of group analysis.
The cultural anthropologists led the way with their careful studies of primitive societies, and their task was facilitated by the relative smallness and cultural homogeneity of the groups studied. The great industrial societies of our own civilization presented much greater difficulty, and it has been only in the last decade or so that much headway has been made. One of thhe most masterly studies is that of Erich Fromm in 'The Fear of Freedom.'1
In a very cnvincing argument Fromm argues that since the Renaissance western man has achieved freedom from external restraint, particularly that exercised by institutionalized authority. Such freedom has been insufficient, however, for it has left man isolated, filled with doubt and anxiety and terribly afraid. This process was implemented by the Reformation with its Lutheran and Calvinist doctrines and theologies. It has been further facilitated in the modern world of competitive aggressive industry and mass production.
Man has gained freedom from external restraints, but is still a victim of his inner restraints, insecurity, anxiety and fear. Such a condition is intolerable. An outlet must be found somewhere. Hence the frantic and almost neurotic compulsion to work and accumulate wealth and goods. More sinister are such mechanisms of escape as authoritarianism, destructiveness and automaton conformity. Yet, it may not be too late to seek to gain a new kind of freedom, one which enables us to realize our own individual selves, one in which inner restraints are no longer secret saboteurs.
At this point we face problems of political organization. Fromm declares in no uncertain words that the fullest freedom is possible only if the irrational and planless character of society is replaced by a planned economy that represents the concerted effort of society. Whether we agree with Fromm or not on the value of freedom as an end or goal, we cannot but admit the validity of his argument. We may, however, ask what chances there are of achieving such a rationally planned society.page 28
In seeking an answer it will be only too easy to be swayed by emotional preferences, whereas a scientific attitude isneeded. This requirement is met by Burnham in 'The Managerial Revolution,"2 a book which has the rare quality of presenting an analysis of the contemporary socio-political scene which makes sense.
Burnham's thesis is that we are in the midst of the managerial revolution, and will wake up to find ourselves in a new type of social organization in which the managers and executors are the socially dominant class. With convincing analysis he argues that the social organization of capitalism and private enterprise is almost gone; likewise that socialism, or the Marxist ideal of a free, classless and international society, is at the present stage of history incapable of achievement. Burnham deliberately refrains From making value judgments and asserts that we must not let our hopes and dreams prevent our seeing the truth. He shows in detail how the managerial revolution is succeeding in Germany, Russia and, although more slowly, in U.S.A. One scarcely need mention what light his whole discussion throws on the N.Z. schene.
It is Burnham's belief that the uncontrolled forces which have during the centuries been responsible for social change will again maintain full sway, and that managerial society will be arrived at without deliberate or volitional effort. It will certainly be a planned society in the sense of being super-organized. It will also, most likely, be one which has complete disregard for freedom—even the freedom from external restraints already gained.
Perhaps Burnham is correct. Perhaps man's control over physical phenomena has so greatly outstripped his control over social phenomena that there is no chance for a very long time of the latter's catching up with the former. Perhaps, however, seeing the trend of social change, it will be possible even to plan for freedom, to devise a plan whereby the undoubted values of a rationally-planned society can be achieved without a ruthless dictatorship of a managerial class. One envisages a completely independent research body whose job is to plan for rational planning within the community, and ultimately the world—due precautions against beaurocracy and dictatorship being taken.
Maybe it is a distant dream. Moreso the need for dreamers.
1 Erich Fromm, The Fear of Freedom. London. Kegan Paul. 1942.
2 James Burnham, The Managerial Revolution. New York: John Day, 1941.