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Protest and Politics
With surprising unanimity, sociologists and political scientists agree that the spirit of dissent that animated and fractured the '60s is unlikely to be contained during most of the '70s. Quite the contrary; it is more likely to expand than contract. In the U.S., blacks will probably be joined by other ethnic groupsChicanos, Indians, Chinese Americansin seeking equality and identity. High schools, perhaps even more than colleges, will be torn by unrest. New minorities will make themselves heard: women, old people, even homosexuals. "Gay Power," "Senior Power" and "Woman Power" may not be jokes but battle cries that society will have to reckon with.
The major institutions of post-industrial societycorporations, unions and governmentswill probably not escape the virus of what Herbert Marcuse calls "the absolute refusal." Eventually, the nation may find civil service bureaucrats ignoring policy decisions they disagree with; reporters and editors may seek veto power over editorial decisions, as has happened in Europe; factory workers will reject the monotony of the assembly line. Employees at all levels will demand that corporate goals mesh with their personal goals, and socially irresponsible companies will not be able to attract talent. "People will have to be recognized as individuals," says French Futurist Bertrand de Jouvenel. "You have to acknowledge man as a human being. If you forget this, you lose everything."
The young are the natives; the old are the immigrants
The expectation that protest will continue into the '70s is supported by several facts. For one thing, today's student rebels are tomorrow's executives, workers and voters. Obviously, many of these rebels will turn conservative with age and the assumption of responsibility. But probably enough of them will carry enough of their youthful ideas into later years to change the political climate. Moreover, youth itself will continue to grow as a force. By the end of the decade, there will be 11 million more young Americans in the 25-to-34 age group, a rise of 44% over the '60s. (At the same time, there will be 3,000,000 more citizens over the age of 65, a 15% increase.) Never again, insists Anthropologist Margaret Mead, will adults feel entirely at home in a world that is increasingly being shaped by the values and opinions of youth. Today's generation gap, she says, is wider and deeper than any other recorded in history. "They are the natives. We are the immigrants."
In the long sweep of U.S. history, it is dissentfrom the Whiskey Rebellion and the Civil War to the women's suffrage movementand not conformity that has characterized most decades. The Depression, World War II and the cold war were all shattering crises that temporarily created a spirit of national consensus and obscured the tensions within the society. "Now," says Sociologist Daniel Bell, "the historic tendency of the culture is reasserting itself." Adds Susan Sontag, the radical critic and novelist: "It is a kind of false nostalgia to look upon consensus as being normative." For much of the next decade, the U.S. is likely to be an increasingly fractious, and perhaps an increasingly violent and polarized society.
Politics will be more