NameGitre, Edward Joseph Khair (author), Lears, Jackson (chair), Fabian, Ann (internal member), Isenberg, Alison (internal member), Blake, Casey (outside member), Rutgers University, Graduate School - New Brunswick,
Social adjustment--United States,
DescriptionThis dissertation is a history of twentieth-century socio-psychological "adjustment." The concept can be traced back to the burgeoning social sciences in the early years of the century, to a time when practitioners were trying to create a technical, consensus-building vocabulary that would allow them to move beyond the imprecise language of the humanities, metaphysical categories of theology, and biologism of the natural sciences. The language of "social structure," "function," and "roles"--the terms of adjustment--promised to do just that.
Adjustment caught on for a host of reasons. Besides providing social scientists with an argot around which they could construct and carry out research programs, convey results, and foster professionalization, the language of adjustment propagated the reformist ethos of progressivism, inspiring--albeit in more secular, less strident tones--a utopian vision of a more efficient, integrated, and stable social order. That optimism could also be inverted. Adjustment was married with Freudianism to explain both Depression-related ills at home and the rise of totalitarian regimes abroad in the thirties.
Adjustment precipitously spilled over into popular culture, creating new idioms and metaphors, ways of speaking and, thus, thinking. This process of vernacularization was stimulated by the emergence of fascism overseas, by World War II militarization, and then after, postwar, through the wholesale "readjustment" of millions of service personnel, which sparked a dramatic expansion of higher education. Through a host of mechanisms--demobilization programs, "Dear Abby" advice columns, novels, textbooks, among others--the U.S. population was inculcated in the ways of adjustment.
Not everyone thought adjustment a worthy goal, of course. The popularity of anti-adjustment authors Norman Mailer and Betty Friedan attest to that. Yet, both advocates and detractors contributed to its propagation and ensured it hegemony. People began to believe, whether or not it was true or verifiable, that Americans had indeed become too adjusted, too acquiescent to the dominant culture. This dissertation argues that the hegemony of adjustment helps to explain not only the great debates about conformity, boredom, and all things "mass" in the fifties, and then the student uprising of the sixties, but also other essential elements of mainstream mid-century American thought.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references (p. 344-387)
Noteby Edward Joseph Khair Gitre
CollectionGraduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.