Oct 25 2008
And, indeed the social scientists think so too. As we approach the spectacular 2015 Maslow Window — a decade that economic and other indicators over the last 200 years suggest will be the analog of the 1960s, including a Camelot-like zeitgeist — a new academic social science journal is bursting over the horizon. “The Sixties: A Journal of History, Politics, and Culture.” It’s published by Routledge and edited by Jeremy Varon, Michael Foley, and John McMillian.
The 1960s was the time of humanity’s greatest explorative event: the first man on the Moon. It was and is the greatest because it was the first time humans left Earth and set foot on another world. The Sixties was also the first time in the last 200 years that a Great Exploration (i.e., Apollo to the Moon) was thoroughly integrated with the predominant macro-engineering project (i.e., the Apollo program infrastructure) of its time. For example, the Great Explorations of 1909-11 (the polar expeditions) — which many decades later were judged to be among the top 100 greatest events in all human history — were unrelated to their great contemporary MEP: the Panama Canal — except maybe in their joint sharing of a feeling of almost global ebullience.
The Apollo Moon program was fundamentally triggered by an unparalleled economic boom accompanied by the surprise 1957 launch of Sputnik and the intense confrontations of the Cold War. However in the typical pattern of Maslow Windows during the last 200 years, Apollo was effectively terminated by declining 1960s ebullience and affluence due to the Vietnam War. Nevertheless, Apollo remains a major international symbol of the Sixties.
Although, in their Editorial announcing the new Sixties journal, the editors somehow forgot to mention the most compelling technological and geopolitical theme of the Sixties — the race to space — maybe in time they will rediscover it, because they are on the right track. For example, they sense that the 1960’s produced an ebullience “that continues to initrigue, inspire, confound, amuse, tempt, repel, and capture us.”
In the Sixties, the editors recognize that “all this energy — by parts dignified, militant, uptopian, and delusional — was of great consequence…No recent decade has been so powerfully transformative in much of the world as have the Sixties.”
The Sixties decade “has become plainly iconic.” It continues to “not only define us but remains urgently with us.” But the editors display frustration with their lack of understanding of what created the Sixties’ “transformative longing”: “As time passes, and periodic predictions that a given society or the world is poised for a similar experience prove false, the very fact that ‘the Sixties’ happened at all seems increasingly remarkable.”
We can help them with this one. The last 200 years show that rhythmic, twice-per-century major economic booms create climates of affluence-induced ebullience (known as Maslow Windows) that are momentarily manifested by Great Explorations (e.g., Lewis and Clark), massive MEPs (e.g., Panama Canal), and a utopian feeling of “transformative longing” (e.g., Apollo). The record shows that exceptional ebullience does not propel all people to elevated levels in Maslow’s heirarchy. Tragically, some trigger major wars.
The Sixties editors prefer to consider the “long Sixties” from 1954 to 1975. According to the 56 year energy/economic cycle, the year 2008 corresponds roughly to (2008 – 56) 1952. So it’s not surprising that academics have renewed interest now in the Sixties. Long-term trends — over the last 200 years — indicate the “new 1960s” will begin in only 5 to 7 years..