Gaines - Teenage Wasteland Suburbia's Dead-end Kids - Ch2 in Ferguson

Gaines - Teenage Wasteland Suburbia's Dead-end Kids - Ch2 in Ferguson

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Unformatted text preview: 6 C. Wright Mills Teenage Wasteland 7 An issue, in fact, often involves a crisis in institutional arrangements, and of- ten too it involves what Marxists call "contradictions" or "antagonisms." In these terms, consider unemployment. When, in a city of 100,000, only one man is unemployed, that is his personal trouble, and for its relief we properly look to the character of the man, his skills, and his immediate opportunities. But when in a nation of 50 million employees, 15 million men are unem- ployed, that is an issue, and we may not hope to find its solution within the range of opportunities open to any one individual. The very structure of op- portunities has collapsed. Both the correct statement of the problem and the range of possible solutions require us to consider the economic and political institutions of the society, and not merely the personal situation and charac- ter of a scatter of individuals. Consider war. The personal problem of war, when it occurs, may be how to survive it or how to die in it with honor; how to make money out of it; how to climb into the higher safety of the military apparatus; or how to con- tribute to the war's termination. In short, according to one's values, to find a set of milieux and within it to survive the war or make one's death in it mean- ingful. But the structural issues of war have to do with its causes; with what types of men it throws up into command; with its effects upon economic and political, family and religious institutions, with the unorganized irresponsi- bility of a world of nation-states. Consider marriage. Inside a marriage a man and a woman may experi- ence personal troubles, but when the divorce rate during the first four years of marriage is 250 out of every 1,000 attempts, this is an indication of a struc- tural issue having to do with the institutions of marriage and the family and other institutions that bear upon them. Or consider the metropolis— the horrible, beautiful, ugly, magnificent sprawl of the great city. For many upper-class people, the personal solution to "the problem of the city" is to have an apartment with private garage un- der it in the heart of the city, and forty miles out, a house by Henry Hill, gar- den by G arrett Eckbo, on a hundred acres of private land. In these tw o controlled environments—with a small staff at each end and a private heli- copter connection—most people could solve many of the problems of per- sonal milieux caused by the facts of the city. But all this, however splendid, does not solve the public issues that the structural fact of the city poses. What should be done with this wonderful monstrosity? Break it all up into scat- tered units, combining residence and work? Refurbish it as it stands? Or, af- ter evacuation, dynamite it and build new cities according to new plans in new places? What should those plans be? And who is to decide and to accom- plish whatever choice is made? These are structural issues; to confront them and to solve them requires us to consider political and economic issues that...
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Gaines - Teenage Wasteland Suburbia's Dead-end Kids - Ch2 in Ferguson

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