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April 10, 1972

Under the auspices of the multidisciplinary program on Man and the Human Community, Austrian-born American sociologist Dr. Peter Berger from Rutgers University spoke on “Modernists as Fall Guys: Basic Script for a Sociological Harlequinade.” Dr. Berger, wrote Nancy Borland ’74 in The Miscellany News, “feels that technical rationality, or modernity, has produced an ‘abstract society’ in which human interactions are frustratingly shallow and lonely. As the abstract factors further expand, they tend to ‘infringe upon privacy in terms of offering weak social supports to the individual.’”

Arguing that attempting to reverse “technical rationality” was futile and materially destructive, Berger proposed instead, according to Borland, that the role of “demodernizers” was “to help us recognize that some parts of your life should be led by technical rationality while others shouldn’t.” Berger cited the “counter culture” identified in The Greening of America (1970) by the lawyer and social scholar Charles Reich as “Consciousness III” as “an example of why technical reality has to continue: ‘Nine out of ten members of the counter culture who are able to aspire to Consciousness III can do so only becaue their daily needs are taken care of. The counter culture can flourish here—it is a luxury…. Technology allows people to drop out—usually from the upper classes—and make sandals to their heart’s content because they don’t have to worry about starving. So long as a counter culture is allowed to exist and can exist, I will be convinced that modernization has not totally invaded all our lives.’”

Berger’s studies of the relation of the individual to social constructs appeared in The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge (1966), written with Thomas Luckman, and they were extended in The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion (1967) and A Rumor of Angels: Modern Society and the Rediscovery of the Supernatural (1969).

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