"Dissent: Do We Need It?"
Address given on August 24, 1970,
at The National War College and later published in Perspectives in Defense
(January 1971), pp. 21-30.
Perspectives in Defense Management
January 1971, pp. 21-30
This article was edited for publication here with the author's approval from a
transcript of his presentation to the Industrial College of the Armed Forces on
24 August 1970
DISSENT: DO WE NEED IT?
By: CARROLL QUIGLEY
I WILL NOT attempt this morning to deal with the whole subject of
dissent in the United States. Instead, I propose to deal with it from a single
point of view — my own, of course — and to call your attention to some widely
held ideas which I regard as erroneous.
First of all, allegiance and dissent, it seems to me, are opposite
sides of the same coin. We cannot have organized society without allegiance. A
society cannot continue to exist without loyalty. But, I would further add, a
society cannot continue to exist that is incapable of reforming itself, and the
prerequisite to reform is dissent.
Allegiance is absolutely vital. But so is dissent. To me,
allegiance means devotion to symbols and organizational structures, both of
which are necessary in any society. Dissent, it seems to me, is the opposite
side of the coin. It implies a critical approach to the symbols and to
organizational structures of society.
I don't think either allegiance or dissent has anything to do,
necessarily, with loyalty and disloyalty. A dissenter can be loyal and usually
is. Conversely, a person who has allegiance might be fundamentally disloyal. I'm
sure that must be confusing, so let me explain.
I said allegiance is devotion to an organizational structure and
symbols. But in any society, any community of people, organizational structures
and at least the meaning of symbols inevitably change as a result of critical
re-examination of the services they actually perform for the community. Because
the community must be preserved, no matter what changes take place in
organizational structures or symbols.
Loyalty and disloyalty, I would say, focus on the community itself,
rather than on its symbols and structure — the community as an ongoing group of
people working together for their basic way of life. Allegiance is more
superficial and is never an end in itself. It is important only to the degree
that it supports the things which a community must have, such as political
stability and, above all, security.
My examination of history shows that communities can live securely
through severe political instability and turmoil. In fact, communities have
sometimes reached the pinnacle of their political and military power during the
most turbulent periods of their history. France, for example, has never
experienced more internal violence, instability, and ideological conflict than
during the years immediately following the great revolution of 1789 — the very
years in which her armies overran all the major countries of Europe and Napoleon
carved out the largest dominion that Europe had seen since the days of the Roman
But, in the 19th century, allegiance and dissent had a somewhat
different meaning. We had then, for the first time in our history, political
communities in which everyone was a member and every subject was an active
citizen. For that reason, we expected everyone not only to be loyal but to give
Fortunately, in the 19th century we also permitted dissent. The
connection between universal political participation, the citizen Army, and
democracy — essentially 19th century institutions — is very close. I think in
the future we may move away from all of these. Almost certainly we will move
away from the mass citizen-Army, and I think we will also, to some extent, move
away from democracy. I think we will increasingly come not to expect allegiance
from certain segments of the population, perhaps substantial segments.
Now in the 19th century, we tended to think of allegiance, loyalty,
and dissent with reference to the governmental system. Allegiance and loyalty
were owed to the government ; dissent was a threat to the government. In other
words, the insecurity and instability that we were concerned with were the kind
that might undermine or overthrow the government.
Today I do not think that is the issue. I do not think we have to
contend with dissent or even disloyalty capable of overthrowing the United
States Government. The danger comes rather from the capability, which almost any
dissenting group has, of sabotaging the complicated organizational and
operational systems through which our society functions — the telephone system,
for example. As you know, we are likely to have a critical fuel problem next
winter. We might pull through without too much difficulty if everyone
cooperates, but a few determined saboteurs could make a lot of trouble. The
reason for this is that we have built up all these complicated, interlocking,
and bureaucratic organizational structures which are highly vulnerable to
disruption by people who are disloyal to the system, or even by dissenters who
merely want to see it reformed.
Notice another distinction that I am making here. Dissent is
something inside a person; it is ideas, feeling, attitudes. What a person does
is something else. Take urban violence. That is action, something that people
do. But what concerns me about dissent is why these people resort to violence.
What makes people who are normally decent, restrained, and well-behaved suddenly
flare up and throw rocks through windows, burn office records, pour blood on
draft files, and generally behave like savages ? What causes dissent to lead to
This violence, let me repeat, does not necessarily lead to
revolution, a threat to the government. I don't believe that violent dissent
today is at all likely to lead to a takeover of the Government by dissenting
groups or even to a demand for drastic changes in our society. But sabotage and
violence by dissenting groups can make life very difficult for a large part of
our population. In other words, we have the paradoxical situation in which the
government is sound and strong while we, people in general, are insecure and
vulnerable. Here in Washington, as you know, many people are afraid to go
downtown at night. So the theaters are half-empty and even the restaurants are
in trouble. All because the anger and despair resulting from social ills has
overflowed into violent action which disrupts normal processes of living without
really threatening the political structure itself.
No society can stand still. Its institutions must constantly adjust
and evolve, and periodically undergo reform, because the needs they are supposed
to serve are themselves constantly changing. And institutions cannot grow and
reform unless the people whose needs they fail to serve, or serve badly, can
make their dissatisfaction felt in short, unless they can actively dissent from
things as they are. If dissent is stifled and denied redress, it builds up like
a head of steam. Many people assume that dissent and the demand for reform are
the first step toward revolution. They are mistaken. My study of history shows
pretty generally that revolutions do not come from dissent. They come from a
failure to reform, which leads to breakdown. It is quite true that misguided
reforms which fail to attack real problems may also result in breakdown. But
dissent, and reform responding to dissent, do not lead to revolution. They lead
away from it.
There are two kinds of dissent, just as there are two kinds of
allegiance: intellectual and emotional. They are quite different. Much of our
concern lately, in the government and on the campuses, has been with
intellectual dissent. We worry about alien ideologies and revolutionary
philosophies, like anarchism. Now I will not say this is a waste of time. But I
do believe that far too much time has been spent on it. Intellectual dissent is
not the real problem today, particularly in the United States. The real problem
today is emotional dissent.
The two are not the same thing — they may well be opposites.
People's emotional makeup — the values, needs, and ideas about which they feel
strongly and emotionally are often quite different from their intellectual
makeup, their rational idea systems. The values that they profess and hold to
intellectually may have little to do with their more basic needs, those which
inflame their emotions, often without their really knowing why.
Now, action — what people do — usually results from their emotional
rather than their intellectual makeup, from their strongly felt but sometimes
only dimly understood needs. Afterwards, they justify what they did tin terms of
an explicit ideology, through the process of rationalization.
I am going to put a diagram on the blackboard here of what I think
a human being might look like. And instead of saying man has a body and a soul
(which is dualistic thinking) I am going to take a tripartite approach body,
emotions, and reason. Reason is concerned with thinking, so I'll put a "T" here.
That is the realm of ideology. The emotions are "F" — concerned with feeling.
That is associated with what I call outlook, which is people's value systems,
the basis on which they classify things and experiences as good or bad.
Incidentally, this affects other kinds of classification, too. You
see someone coming down the street, and you classify this person male or female.
That is, you did until recently. That makes you laugh, but it is not a trivial
matter. When people no longer wish to be obviously male or female, but wish to
be obviously neither, clearly there are rather deep-seated emotions involved.
These people are expressing attitudes, in a spirit of defiance, which are alien
to my generation but which we cannot afford to ignore because a substantial
group of the society seems to be turning in that direction. We will have to look
behind the strange behavior and try to determine what are the attitudes and
needs that cause it.
Then we have the body, which provides the means for action. Talk
comes from ideology but action comes from outlook. In one of my earlier lectures
here, on Russia and Communist ideology, I argued that what the Russian people do
is largely a result of the Russian outlook, rooted deep in their history, going
back long before 1917. Russia also has an ideology, Marxism, which was imported
from Western Europe. This ideology is not at all suited to their outlook, formed
from their ancient traditions, and it certainly doesn't jibe with the character
and aims of their revolution. But because the leaders of their revolution were
Marxist, they had to rationalize it in terms of the Marxist ideology, which was
intellectually quite difficult and doesn't make much sense even to some
Action is what matters. A society is fully justified in putting
restraints on action. I think it is also justified in putting some restraint on
talk because talk can excite people to action. But I do not think a society is
justified in putting restraints on what people think or feel. Action is what
Therefore, feelings, which are the cause of action, need to be
understood. Ideology is much less important because it usually leads only to
talk, not action. People who talk the most violently are seldom the ones who
commit violence. My observation has been, particularly among students, that
those who commit the violence are the docile types whom you would not expect to
even knock over a glass of water at dinner. They are the ones who get themselves
arrested for throwing bricks at policemen or calling them fascist pigs. The
reason they behave in this way, I believe, is related to the fact that they are
habitually unassertive and docile. In a certain kind of exciting situation, they
suddenly feel a compulsion to assert that they are somebody, that they can do
something, that they can make people notice them.
How do people come to this? The explanation, it seems to me, must
lie in their whole past, their whole experience up to that moment. We cannot
know this in detail, of course. We can only say that what a person does is the
consequence of everything that happened to him, especially while he was growing
But for our society as a whole, I think we can say that there is a
tendency for people to act in certain ways on the basis of their class origin.
Let me put up another diagram here, showing the American class structure and the
kinds of outlook and feelings that are typical of the various classes.
America is a middle-class society. The dominant group is the middle
class; its values and ideology dominate our society. I would say, moreover, that
the feelings of the American people, by and large, are middle class. Now what I
mean by "middle class" is a whole series of things. For example, middle-class
people have future preference. They are prepared to make all kinds of sacrifices
in the present for the sake of a hypothetical future benefit. You are willing to
spend 10 months of study here because you think this will help you in the
future. We call that future preference.
Not everybody has future preference. There are whole societies
which do not have it. Most people in black Africa have present preference. They
are mainly concerned with the present moment. Students who rebel against
middle-class parents do so not merely by letting their hair grow, by dressing
like their girl friends, who in turn dress like them, and so on, but more
fundamentally by abandoning future preference and adopting present preference.
They live from moment to moment in what we call an existential way.
Middle-class people are extremely insecure. They do not seek their
security through the development of a stable, mature personality, sufficiently
strong and autonomous to cope with life's problems. Young people today, and
indeed an increasing proportion of the American people, tend to stereotype
patterns of behavior with which they react to particular types of situations in
particular settings — at home, at work, at school. In effect, they try to have a
role, like a costume, for each situation. They may have a wide assortment of
these roles, which they can play very skillfully, but they lack the integrated,
independent personality that would enable them to deal confidently and serenely
with any problem that confronts them. They are basically insecure.
To a large extent, too, the American middle class has sought
security in material possessions. This is the root of the acquisitive society.
The middle-class family wants a nice house with a large lawn, which takes all
Saturday afternoon to mow, and a couple of automobiles — these are the visible
symbols of success. And when they get them, they want more; they are insatiable.
Their material demands are infinitely expandable. They finish off' the basement
into a rumpus room; then they build a swimming pool; then they buy a motor boat;
then they get a cottage down on the bay so they won't have to come back and
forth. This goes on and on and on.
This is the American way of life. Many societies have a different
way. Certain classes in our society have a different way. But our society is
still mostly middle class. And increasingly it has become divided into two
segments: middle class proper and lower middle class. The lower middle class is
petty bourgeois. These people seek their security in status, status in an
organizational structure. They try to find a place for themselves in an
organization which has a hierarchy in which they can count on moving up
automatically simply by surviving.
Some people still think that most Americans are active, assertive,
aggressive, self-reliant people who need no help from anyone, especially the
Government, and achieve success as individuals by competing freely with each
other. That may have been true 100 years ago. It isn't true today. Today more
and more of us are petty bourgeois who snuggle down in a hierarchical
bureaucracy where advancement is assured merely by keeping the body warm and not
breaking the rules; it doesn't matter whether it is education or the Armed
Services or a big corporation or the Government. Notice that high school
teachers are universally opposed to merit pay. They are paid on the basis of
their degrees and years of teaching experience. Or consider the professor. He
gets his Ph. D. by writing a large dissertation on a small subject, and he hopes
to God he never meets anyone else who knows anything about that subject. If he
does, they don't talk about it; they talk about the weather or baseball.
So our society is becoming more and more a society of white-collar
clerks on many levels, including full professors. They live for retirement and
find their security through status in structures. In addition, we still have
some of the old middle class who are making a lot of money, mainly in
Up at the top is also another small group, the aristocrats or
quasi-aristocrats. These are the people who made it so long ago — a generation
or two or three — that their position in society is almost guaranteed. They
don't worry about what people think; they don't worry about appearances. They
may live in a rundown house and drive an old dilapidated car and wear seedy
clothes. Eleanor Roosevelt was one of them. Do you young people remember her?
She never worried about what anyone thought; she never cared how she was
dressed; she paid no attention to style. These are the aristocrats. They have
past preference because their own or their families' achievements in the past
are the source of their inner security. They are thus able to deal with the
present and the future confidently, without feeling that they must prove
something to themselves or others.
I confess to some liking and respect for this group, probably
because, as a New Englander, I have been exposed to a fair number of them. In my
class at college, for example, there was a boy named Robert Saltonstall.
Everybody respected him because he had integrity, he was dependable, he was
unselfish. Aristocrats are not much concerned with themselves They don't try to
impress anyone. Often they are do-gooders, the sincere kind. If they have money,
they often concern themselves with the arts, social welfare, reform, betterment,
volunteer work. Many have been big in politics — the Roosevelts, the
Rockefellers, the Kennedys. They are the complete antithesis, in every way, of
the petty bourgeoisie down here, who, of course, hate them intensely.
Below the petty bourgeoisie are the blue-collar workers. They have
present preference. They don't worry about the stock market or the arts or
making a killing in real estate or helping others. Their overriding interest is
in spectator sports. Every game in the football season, every day of the World
Series, every night of the fights — they are glued to the TV. They don't try to
impress anybody. They don't dress up. They don't go out much.
In the old days, many of these workers were true craftsmen. They
served their apprenticeships, learned their trade well, worked hard, took great
pride in their work, whether as a plumber, a painter, a carpenter, a mechanic,
or whatever. Today, with assembly line mass-production techniques, no individual
worker can be held responsible for his work. If the front wheels fall off the
1969 Fords, you can't pin it on any worker. Conversely, no worker can take much
personal pride in a car whose wheels don't fall off. So in recent years the
blue-collar class has been becoming more and more petty bourgeois. They're after
status and more pay and less responsibility.
Generally, the petty bourgeoisie hate the workers. One reason is
that many of the petty bourgeoisie do not really have status security — bank
clerks and insurance agents, for instance. People who are really clerks in the
lower levels of the white-collar class do not have the security or the labor
union protection or, in many cases, the annual income of the blue-collar class.
I know bricklayers who are making $15,000 to $18,000 a year. I don't know of any
bank clerk who makes that much.
Now there are still a lot of blue-collars who work only when they
feel like it. They don't really want the money that much. They'd rather enjoy
themselves. Present preference, you see. Instead of salting it away for the kids
or for retirement, they knock off work a couple of days in the week and go to
the beach or just sit around and drink beer and talk to the neighbors and watch
the fights on TV.
At the very bottom, we have what Marx called the lumpenproletariat.
The Marxists hated them because they were the oppressed working people who were
too stupid to realize they were oppressed. They had no revolutionary spirit, no
self-discipline. The middle and lower middle classes are self-disciplined — you
have to give them that. You cannot have future preference without
self-discipline. Future preference means that, for the sake of some future
benefit, you have restrained yourself from indulging your present inclinations.
You restrict intercourse with your wife because you are worried about 9 months
The people at the bottom don't think ahead even 9 weeks or 9 days
from now. This is the culture of poverty, in the ghettos and the rural slums of
Appalachia and the South and the Southwest. It includes blacks, and whites, and
Puerto Ricans, and Chicanos, and many other ethnics. These people live in
shattered neighborhoods and shattered families and shattered cultures. Oscar
Lewis and many other writers have described them in detail.
There are two other groups, the religious and the intellectual.
Now, a person who studies or reads books or talks learnedly isn't necessarily an
intellectual. An intellectual is essentially a person who believes that truth
exists in this world and that, if we work hard, we can discover it. A scientist,
or a research historian, who has such a belief would belong to this group. I
would put myself there. We study the natural universe or human nature or human
societies, observe what they do or have done in the past, and learn more and
more about why they do what they do. The religious, on the other hand, believe
that truth exists in some other world, not this one. Furthermore, they are
pretty sure they have already discovered it.
Dissent is found in all of these class groupings, and it is
different in each one. There are dissenters among the aristocrats. That's one
reason why the petty bourgeoisie hate them: they think they are Communists,
spending foundation money to finance subversive projects and undermine the
American way of life. The people in the lower middle class object to anyone or
anything different. Anyone who is different is a threat. Many of them are WASP's
(White Anglo-Saxon Protestants) but there are a good many Irish, Italians, and
other nationalities, too. To them, intellectuals are dangerous; aristocrats are
dangerous; workers are dangerous; the ghetto poor are dangerous; even religious
people, like Father Berrigan, are dangerous.
The dissent that we find in the aristocratic class is the dissent
of people who are troubled by our social problems and who feel that they should
devote their lives to remedying them. Formerly they might try to improve society
by founding a symphony orchestra or a university or a foundation to finance
sending blacks to college. (A black today can get into Harvard and have his way
paid even if he has much poorer grades than your son or my son, who probably
couldn't get in and certainly couldn't have his way paid.) This group at the top
has influence far out of proportion to their numbers.
Many religious people, too, are dissenters. Hardly any of them are
Communists or congenital revolutionaries. Mostly they are emotionally hung up on
the oppression of the Negro, or the bureaucratization of the government, or the
militarization of our society, or other problems which they consider offensive
in the sight of God. The intellectual is a dissenter for somewhat similar
reasons, except that his dissent grows out of his immediate concern for what is
going on in this world. Pollution, poverty, war, and other evils he denounces as
offensive to reason, equity, morality, or, in many cases, simply to the ideal of
an efficient and orderly society.
I put the intellectuals and the religious on the sides of my
diagram, incidentally, to show that people can enter these groups from any level
of the structure. For the other groups, the movement is generally up or down
into the immediately adjacent group.
There is a change underway, however. Our society used to be a
ladder on which people generally climbed upward. More and more now we are going
to a planetary structure, in which the great dominant lower middle class, the
class that determines our prevailing values and organizational structures in
education, government, and most of society, are providing recruits for the other
groups — sideways, up, and even down, although the movement downward is
As the workers become increasingly petty bourgeois and as
middle-class bureaucratic and organizational structures increasingly govern all
aspects of our society, our society is increasingly taking on the
characteristics of the lower middle class, although the poverty culture is also
growing. The working class is not growing. Increasingly we are doing things with
engineers sitting at consoles, rather than with workers screwing nuts on wheels.
The workers are a diminishing, segment of society, contrary to Marx's prediction
that the proletariat would grow and grow.
I have argued elsewhere that many people today are frustrated
because we are surrounded by organizational structures and artifacts. Only the
petty bourgeoisie can find security and emotional satisfaction in an
organizational structure, and only a middle-class person can find them in
artifacts, things that men have made, such as houses, yachts, and swimming
pools. But human beings who are growing up crave sensation and experience. They
want contact with other people, moment-to-moment, intimate contact. I've
discovered, however, that the intimacy really isn't there. Young people touch
each other, often in an almost ritual way; they sleep together, eat together,
have sex together. But I don't see the intimacy. There is a lot of action, of
course, but not so much more than in the old days, I believe, because now there
is a great deal more talk than action.
This group, the lower middle class, it seems to me, holds the key
to the future. I think probably they will win out. If they do, they will
resolutely defend our organizational structures and artifacts. They will cling
to the automobile, for instance; they will not permit us to adopt more efficient
methods of moving people around. They will defend the system very much as it is
and, if necessary, they will use all the force they can command. Eventually they
will stop dissent altogether, whether from the intellectuals, the religious, the
poor, the people who run the foundations, the Ivy League colleges, all the rest.
The colleges are already becoming bureaucratized, anyway. I can't see the big
universities or the foundations as a strong progressive force. The people who
run Harvard and the Ford Foundation look more and more like lower-middle-class
bureaucrats who pose no threat to the established order because they are
prepared to do anything to defend the system.
In a book of mine, Tragedy and Hope, I conclude with two words,
"inclusive diversity." The whole book leads up to those two words. It seems to
me that the American way of life and the traditions of Western civilization are
summed up in this phrase. In recent years, perhaps for much longer, this
tradition has been losing ground to the opposing principle, exclusive uniformity
— the coalescing of highly uniform groups which exclude people who are different
— we build suburbs for middle-class people to get them away from the workers and
the poor who are left in the cities. We strengthen segregation in education.
The people who want to halt this trend, the people who want to take
people in buses from the ghetto out into the suburbs so they can go to school
with middle-class children, the people who wish to end school segregation are
the liberals in these groups on the sides and the top: intellectuals, religious,
aristocrats. In American politics, the Republican Party has tended to be in the
center; the Democratic Party, on the fringes, including the bottom fringes.
Notice that the workers are now abandoning the Democratic Party. They are
abandoning it because they are becoming lower middle class. The fringes — the
intellectuals, the aristocrats, religious people, workers, and the poor — the
great coalition that supported the New Deal — this coalition is breaking up.
Now, why do children and adolescents rebel? They rebel because they
are brought up in middle-class families with bourgeois values and priorities —
future preference and self-discipline (you can't go out tonight, you have to
study; you can't have the car this weekend because your grades are slipping) —
which demand achievement in a system built around organizational structures and
artifacts. They rebel against those things because young people cannot get
emotional satisfaction from structures and artifacts. Young people are searching
for satisfaction through contact with each other and with nature. That's why
they sleep out in the rain and in the cold in groups.
I remember when I was doing some research at Harvard and had to
walk across the Boston Commons just about every day, and it rained for 3 weeks.
There were hundreds of kids lying there in extreme discomfort who could have
been at home sleeping on innerspring mattresses in air-conditioned comfort. Why?
Because they wanted to feel something. They had renounced the values of their
parents. This was a way of asserting their identity, of dramatizing the fact
that they were not merely an extension of their parents' lives. They refused to
behave in the way their middle-class parents considered proper or to strive for
the goals their parents equated with successful achievement.
This is dissent dissent from middle-class values and it may take a
variety of forms. They may adopt almost any kind of ideology — Zen Buddhism, the
Black Muslim movement, Marxism, anarchism — the ideologies do not matter. The
stated goals of their agitations and demonstrations and violence do not matter.
If they agitate against the draft and you abolished the draft tomorrow, they
would still agitate.
There was a young girl on our campus, Catholic, very pious, with a
couple of brothers who were priests, one of the best-behaved students we had.
She took part in the demonstration at the Pentagon, and the next week she told
me about it. She was a rather colorless girl, really, but now she was all
excited. She exclaimed, "There we were, all together; marching up the hill, all
together!" She belonged, she was with other young people, and they were going
somewhere, doing something, and the rest of the world was noticing them.
Suppose, as they were marching up the hill, the Pentagon had disappeared, poof!
Probably she would have been quiet for a few weeks. But then she'd have found
something else that needed to be changed, because she had to satisfy her own
inner need to feel, to assert herself as a person, to do something.
Dissent that expresses itself in sabotage and violence comes
largely from the children of these two middle-class groups. Now they have
aligned themselves with the culture of poverty, with the blacks, with the Black
Panthers and similar radical groups. Are they ideologically committed to these
groups? I don't think so. They are simply trying to be different from their
parents, to live from moment-to-moment: present preference, not future
preference. They don't want to accumulate artifacts. They want no place in the
Dissent against the establishment — its structures and its
artifacts — is not necessarily disloyalty. But if it becomes nihilistic,
anarchistic, and destructive simply because of the emotional inadequacies of the
individual dissenters, then it can become dangerous, not to the government but
in terms of the physical damage they can do to our vulnerable operating systems.
And in the process, they may also injure some of the very things they value
most, such as the prospects for real improvement in the condition of the worst
disadvantaged of our society, the blacks and the poor.
QUESTION: Do you envision any real
intermingling between the aristocrats and other groups?
Actually, there are few aristocrats and it is not easy to reach
them. If they meet you, they behave democratically, but they don't say, "Here is
my phone number. Call me up."
But they have been a significant element in the politics of many
countries, including this one, particularly in the last generation or so. And
most people are not really familiar with them because, while they can be found
in many places, they are unobtrusive. There is an aristocrat who lives in
Georgetown. He has a house there with a dome, a small version of Monticello. A
descendant of Martha Washington, he spends all his time working for the
improvement of Georgetown. But he doesn't want his name in the paper.
So people don't notice aristocrats or they don't understand them.
There are some parts of the country where it is hard to find them — Reno,
Nevada, for example. They are scattered around mostly in places where there are
older families, some of them very impoverished now but nevertheless people who
command great respect in their community. A book called Deep South describes
Natchez, Mississippi; it tells about a family there which has no money, and yet
nothing is done in that town without consulting with them.
If you are asking me, "Will the rebels against the middle class
work with the aristocrats?" they already do to some extent. As you know, they
rush out and work for the Kennedys or anyone else they believe to be devoted to
a cause beyond their own personal interests. This is the kind of an image a
politician has to create in order to get their support.
QUESTION: Do the dissenters typically join established groups,
or do they form their own?
Of course they tend to be suspicious of established groups. The
religious dissenters may take up religious reform along with political and
social causes. The girl I mentioned, who wanted to blow down the Pentaeton, also
insisted that Catholic services on Sundays at the university be turned into a
real hippie Mass in which she played the guitar. Generally, it would be
difficult to align large groups of dissenters because they would disagree on so
QUESTION: Are all the dissenters young people rebelling against
the values of their middle-class parents?
No, not all. One group, for example, are the intellectuals who
originally founded the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to work for control of
the atomic bomb. They are almost religious in some of the positions they take.
QUESTION: Do the workers' children not rebel against their
parents in the same way as middle-class children?
No, they don't. For one thing; they don't have the economic base.
The children of the middle class are rebelling and their parents are picking up
the tab. A couple of years ago I met a girl hanging around Du Pont Circle who
was getting $150 a month from her parents to stay away from home. Workers'
children don't do that. In a real working family, the kids graduate from high
school and never go on to college; they have to get a job and support
themselves. They may marry pretty quickly. In the old days, the aristocrats and
the workers married young and had many children, while the middle classes
postponed marriage and had few children because they looked to the future; they
had no more children than they could properly educate. Intellectuals often had
many children because they were less concerned about the future and figured they
could send their kids to college on scholarships. I would say that the
dissenters on the fringes may be of any age, but the dissenters from the middle
class are more likely to be adolescents or of college age.
Of course, college students may be 30 years old or even older.
Career preparation in the middle class is now pushing up to age 30. A
middle-class child who wants to become a medical doctor specializing in some
field (which is virtually essential) will not be an income-earning individual
until he is 30. And his parents must be willing to finance all that, which means
they will also finance his dissent.
QUESTION: Ex-HEW Secretary John Gardner is trying to form a
coalition of people of all kinds to work for reform. Do you think this will be
I don't know. John Gardner is a bureaucrat from the
eastern establishment as, indeed, Dean Rusk was. Whether this will be successful
I don't know. I would be a little dubious. But I think he is on the right track.
We have got to induce young people to put their nervous energies and their
desire for self-assertion and action into practical reform on a piecemeal basis.
But this is very difficult. You have no idea of the pressures that we who are on
the firing line in the universities have been under in the last few years,
trying to hold back the explosion, trying to persuade students that it is
possible to reform but it has to be done on a piecemeal basis above all, that it
is necessary first to know the facts of the problem.
They say, "The Congress is corrupt." I ask them, "What do you know
about the Congress? Do you know your own Congressman's name?" Usually they
don't. It's almost a reflex with them, like seeing a fascist pig in a policeman.
To them, all Congressmen are crooks. I tell them they must spend a lot of time
learning the American political system and how it functions, and then work
within the system. But most of them just won't buy that. They insist the system
is totally corrupt. I insist that the system, the establishment, whatever you
call it, is so balanced by diverse forces that very slight pressures can produce
For example, I've talked about the lower middle class as the
backbone of fascism in the future. I think this may happen. The party members of
the Nazi Party in Germany were consistently lower middle class. I think that the
right-wing movements in this country are pretty generally in this group. But, on
the other hand, I believe we could make the United States much more stable if
the whole middle class could simply get together on a program that would benefit
all of them.
Why, for instance, should the middle class as consumers and buyers
of automobiles be prepared to defend Ford or General Motors? A piece in the
paper yesterday said that the Number 1 complaint of Americans today is about
their automobiles. Why should middle-class people let themselves be taxed to
death for all kinds of things they don't need for the benefit of corporations
which can't even manage themselves efficiently?
In other words, if we can be saved, our salvation may lie in some
coalition of diverse elements. But I do insist that we must study the situation,
see what's wrong, think it through.
What are the alternatives? Above all, we can't do it with utopianism and
nihilism. Utopianism is the belief that nothing is worth doing at all unless it
can be done perfectly. This is sheer nonsense. There never was a time when
everything was perfect and there never will be. The nihilist says everything
must be destroyed first and then rebuilt from the ground up. This is not only
nonsense ; it is suicide.
QUESTION: Some writers have suggested that the much maligned
bourgeois values saving for the future, home ownership, educating your kids,
strict standards of morality have given this country the internal stability and
the moral stamina which enabled us to win two world wars, maybe others. Would
you comment on this?
I would just as soon not go into who won the wars. Most of the wars
we get into, the other side seems to win. They told us Japan and Germany were
defeated, but they seem to me to be doing awfully well. But I don't think you
can have any society without self-discipline, individual responsibility, some
kind of property that you can call your own, some basis for identity, some
system of moral values. Only emotional people cry, "Down with the middle
classes," or any other class. I think that we can design a better society, and
we still have about the best society that's around. The fact that we are
discontented with its imperfections is not a bad thing in itself, but it is no
justification to destroy it. And if we are to have a society in the future which
is strong and healthy and stable, it will be based to a very considerable extent
on the virtues that you're talking about. But it cannot be based upon a rigid
loyalty to structures.
QUESTION: How much support do you believe the dissenters in
this country are getting from the Communists?
I'm sure the Communists are supporting the dissenters. But the
Communists are of no importance. The Communist Party in this country was
destroyed. Read Shannon's history. It is extremely likely that by 1960 one of
the chief sources of funds for the Communist Party in this country was the FBI
spies who had joined it. And the chief financial support of the Communists from
about 1920 to about 1950 was Wall Street. Why? I do not know. If you're
interested, look up the story of The Institute of Pacific Relations; it was
financed by Lee Higginson & Company of Boston, Frederick Vanderbilt Field of New
York, and other big money interests.
When these people cut off this money, about 1949, the Communists
were pretty much finished. Their only other source of money was Moscow, and
Moscow has never been generous with funds for local Communist Parties, which
they believe should support themselves. According to an FBI estimate, I believe,
the Communists in this country are down to about 15,000 members. Take Angela
Davis. She is emotionally alienated from our society, and for good reasons, but
this has little to do with communism, even if she is a member of the Party. This
is why I say ideology is not really important in dissent. People become
Communists not because they like the ideology, but because they wish to
demonstrate their opposition, just as young people let their hair grow and won't
polish their shoes or wear neckties.
QUESTION: In your diagram, you have no place for the youth
movement as such — the yippies, the hippies, and so on, as a class. They seem to
be increasing in numbers. Are they growing into a class which ultimately we will
have to support?
Not a social class as I would define it. This is one of the most
controversial questions in sociology: What is a social class? I construe social
classes here in terms of outlook, the values and priorities that are held
neurologically rather than intellectually. I don't regard the various youth
cults and groups as a social class. They are not coalescing because I don't
think there's any program or even value system that they can agree on. Some
people think that, because they're rebelling against middle-class values, they
agree on their own values. They don't. Some of them, for example, believe in
having sex every hour of the day; others, that they should give up sex
completely — in both cases, because they're against middle-class values.
Anyway, most of them are not doing much, at least from my
observation. In fact, it's the neuters who are not sexually identified who are
the real troublemakers, the neuters — increasingly female neuters, I notice —
egging other people on. I think most of them will eventually find a place in
society. At my university, the students range from the extreme left — proclaimed
Communists — to the extreme right — outright reactionaries, including some
What a college administrator must do, if things polarize, is to try
to get the split, the line of cleavage, as far to the left as possible. If he
acts precipitately — bringing in the police, for example — he is sunk because
the whole middle group will go against the police. Then the split will be toward
the right or down the middle.
What he must do is to try to isolate the left. To do that, you have
to give them their head to some extent. If you do, they will probably splinter,
with only a few dozen real troublemakers on the fringe. What you must avoid
above all is a split in the university community that puts a large group on the
side of the violent dissenters. That happens when the authorities act too soon
and too strongly.
DR. CARROLL QUIGLEY, Professor of History, School of Foreign
Service, Georgetown University, is a graduate of Harvard University (B.A., 1933;
M.A., 1934; Ph. D., 1938). He taught at Princeton and Harvard before coming to
Georgetown in 1941. Regarded as an authority on the comparative history of
civilizations and the history of Europe in the 20th century, Dr. Quigley serves
as a lecturer and consultant to the Industrial College and various Government
departments, including the State Department and the Smithsonian Institution.DR.
CARROLL QUIGLEY, Professor of History, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown
University, is a graduate of Harvard University (B.A., 1933; M.A., 1934; Ph. D.,
1938). He taught at Princeton and Harvard before coming to Georgetown in 1941.
Regarded as an authority on the comparative history of civilizations and the
history of Europe in the 20th century, Dr. Quigley serves as a lecturer and
consultant to the Industrial College and various Government departments,
including the State Department and the Smithsonian Institution.
Dr. Quigley is a member of the American Historical Association, the
American Economic Association, the American Anthropological Association, and
other learned societies. The author of Evolution of Civilizations (1961) and
Tragedy and Hope: The World in Our Time (1966), he is a member of the editorial
board of Current History, for which he also writes many articles. Dr. Quigley's
most recent book is Weapons Systems and Political Stability: A Brief History, is
scheduled for publication in 1972.
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