|Pete Kendall explores the socionomic forces that shaped the life and career of one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century.|
Einstein and the Study of “Psycho-Pathology”
If there really is such a thing as social mood that guides collective human experience, how come they don’t teach it in school?
One possibility that occurs while reading through the recent biography, Einstein: His Life and Universe, is that social mood is not something writers and educators care to explore. Again and again, author Walter Isaacson shows how the life of a man who is generally considered to be the smartest person to come along in several hundred years is propelled and buffeted by social forces that surrounded him. In 1933, for instance, after his theory of relativity has been verified and his popularity has carried to an unprecedented level of fame for a scientist, he is forced to leave his beloved home by the rise of the Nazis. Another example is the Red Scare of the late 1940s and 1950s. When fears of communism gripped the United States, Einstein fought the Red Scare tooth and nail, and he paid a price for it. When Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted of giving atomic secrets to the Soviet Union, Einstein wrote a letter to President Truman supporting an appeal. Somehow, it ended up in the New York Times and “angry letters swept in from across the nation” in response.
But Einstein played a key role in the social change of the early twentieth century and there is no way to entirely miss the socionomic forces that were at work. The author actually touches directly on the relationship between Einstein and the social realm in a section titled “The Ripples from Relativity:”
There was a complex relationship between Einstein’s theories and the whole witch’s brew of ideas and emotions in the early twentieth century that bubbled up from the “highly charged cauldron of modernism.” One author went so far as to make “the Relativity proposition directly responsible for abstract painting, atonal music, and formless literature.”
The relativity proposition, of course, was not directly responsible for any of this. Instead, its relationship with modernism was more mysteriously interactive. There are historical moments when an alignment of forces causes a shift in human outlook. It happened to art and philosophy and science at the beginning of the Renaissance, and again at the beginning of the Enlightenment. Now, in the early twentieth century modernism was born by the breaking of the old strictures and verities. A spontaneous combustion occurred that included the works of Einstein, Picasso, Matisse, Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Joyce, Eliot, Proust, Diaghilev, Freud, Wittgenstein and dozens of other pathbreakers who seemed to break the bonds of classical thinking.
Isaacson’s “mysterious interaction” is, of course, well known to the socionomist as a key moment of social mood change. Most of those cited gained fame by applying themselves to new avenues of thought and expression that were created by the start of a powerful new uptrend that would carry into the next century. This observation is as close as the author gets to placing Einstein’s life and discoveries within its socionomic context. But there are hints that Einstein himself was somewhat familiar with the source of his fame and its role in his field. As the pitch of excitement surrounding his public appearances rose to near hysteric levels in the 1920s, he was asked why he had attracted “such an unprecedented explosion of public interest” from “people who generally did not care for science.” He answered, “It seems psycho-pathological.” He later addressed the faddishness of his own field by saying, “Each period is dominated by a mood, with the result that most men fail to see the tyrant who rules over them.”
And so it goes with social mood. There is no escaping it as it drives all social action, but even the greatest minds seem too busy harvesting the fruit of its growth and regress to study the roots and branches that support them – at least so far. If it can guide the trajectory of the strongest and most disciplined minds and still remain largely unexplored by those same minds, imagine how hard it is for artists, teachers and the average corporate kingpin to get their head around the concept of social mood.
Another problem is that in a generally rising trend, economic observers tend to attribute the uptrend to the gains themselves rather than the psychology of optimism that produces them. Over the years, many economic arguments that are perfectly consistent with the Wave Principle and socionomic theory have been overlooked. In some cases, these same works have even been used to defend and construct mechanistic approaches to creating social change.■
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Most economists, historians and sociologists
presume that events determine society’s mood. But socionomics hypothesizes
the opposite: that social mood regulates the character of social events. The
events of history—such as investment booms and busts, political events,
macroeconomic trends and even peace and war—are the products of a naturally
occurring pattern of social-mood fluctuation. Such events, therefore, are not
randomly distributed, as is commonly believed, but are in fact probabilistically
predictable. Socionomics also posits that the stock market is the best available
meter of a society’s aggregate mood, that news is irrelevant to social
mood, and that financial and economic decision-making are fundamentally different
in that financial decisions are motivated by the herding impulse while economic
choices are guided by supply and demand. For more information about socionomic
theory, see (1) the text, The
Wave Principle of Human Social Behavior © 1999, by Robert Prechter;
(2) the introductory documentary History's
Hidden Engine; (3) the video Toward
a New Science of Social Prediction, Prechter’s 2004 speech before
the London School of Economics in which he presents evidence to support his
socionomic hypothesis; and (4) the Socionomics Institute’s website, www.socionomics.net.
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