131. "From Zion to Diaspora," Society (Transaction: Social Science and Modern Society) Vol. 15, No. 4 (May-June 1978), pp. 92-101.


For people to be in charge of history, rather than subject to laws they do not understand or control, is an option of the postnuclear era, not a prediction. This is what my work is about. When I first joined the Columbia University faculty, C. Wright Mills was still around, but most of the senior faculty did not care for his brand of sociology. Soon a senior colleague took me aside and advised me to stay off the stuff; i.e., off critical, normative, activist sociology. He was very warm and meant well. "Mixing socialism with social work" (his sarcastic labels for active sociology) is not the way to .,make it." I was told at the time. And I did try to comply. I wrote A Comparative Analysis of Complex Organizations (1961) which was regarded as "neutral" sociology and got me tenure three years after I graduated from Berkeley. But meanwhile I did organize a nationwide group for the gradualist way to peace (in favor of multilateral arms reduction and cessation of the cold war) which attracted the media's attention. The ideas involved were published in 1962, in The Hard Way to Peace. The rest followed naturally: marches, petitions, speeches, membership on the national board of Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), and so on.

How was this activist-optimist orientation shaped? Quite simply, I had seen in my own experience and from a rather early age that such things could be done, that a movement could take off, could transform societal conditions. My father was a German Jew and a Zionist. Thus, at age seven I found myself at the edge of a small town in Palestine; my parents, with four other families, left daily for a vacant field some miles into nowhere, where they built a new farm settlement. Soon there was a water tower, a fence (to head off Arab Bedouins who pitched their tents nearby), and the plowing of virgin land. By the time I completed primary school there was a full-grown village known as Kfar Schmaryahu, about twenty miles north of Tel Aviv.

The village was 800 yards from the Mediterranean shore. On the shore was a small Arab fishing village and major British police station. Jews were fleeing the ovens of the concentration camps in Nazi Germany and arriving in Palestine in small boats. The British were trying to stop this "illegal" immigration. Four times during my school years I served as a runner when refugee boats, run by the Jewish underground, anchored at night, and weary Jewish families were carried ashore between the fishing village and the police station, hidden for a night in my family's and others' homes, and sent on the next day to settlements deeper inland. It was more exciting than playing cops and robbers and more educational.

However, the formative experience came in 1946. I was sixteen and in high school. Efforts to disinvite the British, who governed Palestine as a "mandate," were mounting. but no one I knew really believed that the British could be made to leave. The British troops totaled 100,000, armed to the teeth. The entire Jewish community, including women and children. numbered about 600,000. Their weapons consisted of homemade hand grenades, old rifles, and such. And there were Arabs on all sides--less friendly than the British, to put it mildly. But we tried anyway. I dropped out of high school and joined the underground (Palmach). Then came November 1947. Ben-Gurion wanted to go "all the way," to recreate the Jewish state, interrupted some two thousand years ago; but nearly everybody said he was a visionary. Moshe Sharett, later Israel's foreign minister, was more cautious and moderate. So was Chaim Weitzmann, later Israel's first president, and so were many others. But Ben Gurion prevailed and the United Nations set aside parts of Palestine as a Jewish homeland. Kibbutz members danced on the communal tables with their heavy work boots on, an astounding expression of exuberance. The next day, the Arabs invaded. While what followed is well known, a sociological footnote is called for.

What Israel achieved was much more than winning a war of national liberation (against the British) and an international war (against the seven Arab states). The birth of Israel advanced a project begun by a social movement two generations earlier. It created a statehood-homeland for the wandering Jew and in the process turned the occupational. stratificational, and political pyramids; made farmers and soldiers out of merchants and intellectuals, turned a middle-class community into a full-fledged society; evolved an institutional fabric which granted priority to equality and democratic socialism over small-town capitalism; and turned a defenseless community into one able to protect itself.

In the United States, being active was at first a much more disjointed experience. There was no shortage of social . . movements to join; e.g., as a member of the ADA I helped make sure that liberal congressmen did not leave Washington before pivotal votes were taken on civil rights of legislation, especially the 1964 Voter Registration Act. During the same period I became involved in the peace movement (seeking to curb the nuclear arms race) and not long after, in the antiwar (Vietnam) movement. Here too, the cause seemed at first as hopeless as that of the Jews in Palestine; then, activism yielded fruit.

Rather than try to recount here all I tried to do and the mixed bag of consequences, let me provide two brief illustrations. In 1961 and 1962 Charles Osgood, myself, and some others argued for a "psychological disarmament," a lowering of the high level of tension between what were at the time two relatively solid and hostile blocks, the West, led by the United States, and the East, led by the Soviet Union. This, we said, could be achieved by a series of limited unilateral steps such as minor arms cuts, a limited ban on nuclear tests, release of a few cold war prisoners. Such steps. we argued, would lead to reciprocation by the other side. The resulting better atmosphere would open the door to mutually agreed upon, more significant arms reductions and international agreements.

Well, in 1961-62 these ideas were viewed as strictly "pinko" stuff; treasonous to some, silly to others. In 1963, however, President John F. Kennedy launched such a policy in his "Strategy for Peace" speech. It gained the expected reciprocation from the Soviets and opened the door to some arms reductions, SALT, and detente.

In 1964 (on June 28, to be exact) I published an article in the Washington Post arguing against the war in Vietnam. I gave a lot of time and energy to this cause in the following decade, as did many others. We were at first a small outcast minority; then a nationwide protest movement; then--national policy shifted toward our views. It is odd now to see establishmentarian figures, who used not just to fight us off but scoff at us, trying to explain away their war roles.

Side-Effects of Activism

My FBI, CIA, and USIA files--copies of which I recently acquired under the Freedom of Information Act--showed that to be active tends to generate some countercurrents. Let me he the first to say that I was neither run out of office, job, or country. As I was prepared to be criticized one I chose to be critical, the resulting pain was less than overwhelming; indeed one incident borders on the humorous.

In what must have been a moment of confusion and ineptitude, the University of Frankfurt in West Germany decided to add to the afflictions of its students (and possibly some faculty) by inviting me to deliver a lecture. This might not have involved the powers of the U.S. government, had not my colleagues in Frankfurt been ever so slightly too enterprising: they asked to house the lecture to be delivered by an American professor at the Amerika House. They probably simply assumed that a lecture hall maintained by the USIA in Frankfurt for purposes of improving German-American cultural contacts was a proper locale. Little did they know. It turned out that the scheduling clerk of Amerika House was concerned with more than assigning rooms, providing chalk. and other such matters. He also "cleared" lecturers with Washington, D.C. In the USIA headquarters in Washington, D.C., a review was undertaken which established, using information from the House Unamerican Activities Committee, the FBI, and other sources, that while Etzioni was not a security risk, his attitude toward U.S. foreign policy was "critical" and "negative." On September 2, 1966, Bonn was cabled: "On basis of available information Agency advises against lecture use of Amitai Etzioni." A year and a half later: "Security office needs know if Post used Amitai Etzioni which was subject adverse Agency recommendation re appearance 1966-67. Advise soonest." When Uncle Sam wakes up, he is in a hurry. Bonn responded that by and large they had "adhered to the Agency's advice." However, in Etzioni's case,

while USIA Bonn recognized that the professor was not an approved speaker, we also had to contend with the fact that he was the invited guest of the university and that the invitation to him had been made and accepted without our knowledge months before the date of the lecture. The post felt that cancellation of his appearance might seriously threaten our relationship with the university. USIA Bonn therefore gave Amerika House Frankfurt a one-time approval with the understanding that no special effort should be made to attract a large audience.
The USIA is resourceful. and its labor bore the desired stunted fruit. "Twenty-five persons were present at the lecture." Well, God and country were save, almost. A year later, a request to reprint an article by Etzioni from Science, in one of the USIA magazines, and later one from the New York Times Magazine, was turned down on the same grounds. The first article dealt with the biological and sociological issues raised by parents' choosing the sex of their offspring. It has quite often been cited in subsequent studies on the matter. The second article, entitled "Confessions of a Professor Caught in a Radical Revolution," reflects critically on student violence at Columbia University. In a letter to the editor which followed its publication, the Left-leaning students criticized it for, among other things, arguing that the students abandoned traditional constitutional means of protest without adequate cause. One even lumped me with Sidney Hook.

Somewhat more serious was the fact that the FBI's investigation of me was so sloppy. On November 2, 1972, the acting director of the FBI, L. Patrick Gray, forwarded to an unidentified "Deputy Assistant to the President, the White House," the results of a comprehensive FBI investigation of me. The information collected in the course of the investigation included interviews with at least ten of my colleagues at Columbia University and elsewhere, three or more of my neighbors. government agencies for which I consulted, eight of my employees at a research center I direct, a search of police files, credit agencies' records and various government agency files, a search in newspaper morgues, and reports from FBI bureaus in New York, Washington, San Francisco. St. Louis. Baltimore, Philadelphia, Columbus (Ohio), and Cincinnati. The report to the White House led off with the observation that the investigation had been instigated due to "allegations that Etzioni had made statements critical of the United States' foreign policy, that he had defended the position of Red China and the Soviet Union, and had made unwarranted accusations against the military and intelligence organizations of the United States." At issue were viewpoints and veracity, not acts or even intention for action. The constitutional issue involved here is clear, as it has often been discussed: whether or under what circumstances it is appropriate to launch a police investigation to ascertain a citizen's political beliefs. But I shall be concerned here with another question: What chances does a citizen stand that the assessment made will be reasonably accurate?

The final synopsis of the FBI's investigation provided to the White House composed the following picture of one Amitai Etzioni: First, it is stated that Etzioni, in his writing and teaching, calls for disarmament; was included in a group of professors protesting a new regulation forbidding campus demonstrations against official guests of the trustees. Also noted is a Times article captioned "Young Radical Group Created Tension among Sociologists." The synopsis goes on to characterize Etzioni as an "activist" who "reportedly" participated in a teach-in. His position is summed up as "indicating the U.S. was using Southeast Asia as a training ground for military forces. . . saying the U.S., not China is the sole aggressor." Finally, in a debate at Swarthmore, Etzioni "was reported" to have been very critical of the CIA, .'claiming that agency was guilty of everything the Soviet Union was doing." The net conclusion of the report, especially if read in the context of the time it was composed before the revelations about illegal CIA activities, during the Vietnam War, etc.--must be a sense of an individual who is at least in disloyal opposition, one-sidedly against the United States, its agents and agencies, and on the side of the Communist powers.

It is difficult to describe oneself without sounding defensive or self-congratulatory. Let me just list a few points which did not find their way into the FBI report. I must admit that on matters of national security and communism I am rather what a number of my students call "reactionary." First, accidents of my past deprived me of the sequence through which quite a few of my colleagues passed: fashionable Left in the thirties; liberal chick in the forties; and increasingly conservative from the McCarthy through Nixon eras. It was not my superior foresight, but the circumstances of my youth which rendered me hopelessly anticommunist from the first days of political thought and action. The reason was elementary: I grew up in Palestine. There the intellectual bankruptcy and lack of integrity of the small band of Jewish Communists were particularly evident. Whereas in those days before Yugoslavia's breakaway all Communist parties followed in detail and with precision in line laid down in Moscow, elsewhere they could try to conceal the fact that when Soviet interests and those of their own nationality were at odds, they would toe the Moscow line. In Palestine this was not possible because Moscow instructed Jewish Communists to identify with Arab workers and nationalism. because at the time Arabs were viewed as entitled to all of Palestine; Jews as the bourgeoisie or colonizers. This led the Communists to oppose Jewish immigration from the gas ovens of Nazi Germany to Palestine. even joining with Arab terrorists who, among other things, threw hand grenades into my school bus. If the American Communist party had supported Japan after Pearl Harbor by acts of violence. it could not have been more discredited than Communists were in the Jewish community, during my formative years. Stalin's pact with Nazi Germany (which preceded the German invasion of the Soviet Union) and openly anti-Semitic acts only helped to cement the feeling.

As I grew up politically in the Israeli Labor party (Mapai), believing in social-democratic tenets, Stalinism had little to offer. Years of service in the Palmach deepened my Fabian conviction that the use of violence should be reserved for self-defense. Alien was the communist motto that you have got to crack eggs (i.e., heads) to make an omelet (i.e., revolution). After becoming an American citizen, I served for seven years on the National Board of ADA--itself an adamant anticommunist force--a natural continuity. Within the antiwar movement--often torn by rifts between those linked to communism, or unwilling to attack it because this was to conform, or be McCarthyite, or "divide the camp"--I sided with the anticommunist peace groups. At one point I became so dismayed with the naivet‚ of unilateral disarmament that I wrote two books for multilateral disarmament and founded a national organization of people who shared, if nothing else, these feelings (it was called Gradualist Way to Peace).

In more than a hundred newspaper and magazine articles and in a similar number of public lectures, I was a member of what is best called "a loyal opposition." I opposed U.S. involvement in Vietnam, clandestine and armed support of dictators in other countries, the cold war attempt to isolate China and confront the Soviet Union. Not to belabor the point, I cannot but point out that John F. Kennedy followed, as of 1963, the views others and I developed regarding the cold war (especially after his Strategies for Peace speech at American University); that Kissinger implemented our views of a detente with the Soviet Union and China and initiated the multilateral arms control thrust we favored; and Carter has adopted our concern with human rights. It may well sound immodest. but as I see it, since 1961, when I first became politically active in this country, U.S. foreign policy did shift gradually from a cold war mentality to one of detente my colleagues were arguing for, until by 1977 there was but a difference of details. This was possible because our line was always a legitimate variant within the U.S. national interest, although McCarthy, Nixon, and for a while Johnson tried to make it look otherwise.

While I did enjoy a measure of popularity in the student movement because of my active role in the antiwar cause, once the students turned to violence, they found me adamantly, opposed, both in public dialogues and during an often reported (and photographed) dramatic confrontation on the steps of Fayerweather Hall at Columbia University during the 1968 "uprising."

Relatively little of all this found its way into my FBI file and practically none into the final synopsis sent to the White House. By very selective reporting, facts which would depict me as a loyal American were left out; those which were ambiguous were reported in such a way as to create doubts principally by confusing the difference between one critical of the Vietnam War, some CIA practices, and other elements of the cold war foreign policy--and an American advocate of Soviet and Red Chinese policies.

From Sociology to Social Analysis

Over the years my interest has moved from the study of smaller social units to that of larger ones; from greater concern with conceptualization to an emphasis on the social relevancy of social science; and from a fair segregation of the role of the sociologist and the active citizen to a greater effort to integrate the two. In so doing, I believe my work reflects trends which affect the social sciences in general and sociology in particular. I shall focus first on these trends, then briefly discuss a contribution I might have made to their extension.

Many a sociological article in sociological journals as well as in often-cited sociological works opens with a definition of a new concept and a discussion of methods to be employed to measure it. This is frequently followed by presentation of data relevant to the new concept and relating it to familiar sociological variables (e.g., "the distribution of xyz by age and sex in cities with a population of over 100,000"). Many sociologists, the author included, feel that such combination of theory and methods is a foundation on which sociology as a science ought to be and is being built. But many of us also feel that something is lacking. What is lacking is social analysis, the systematic exploration of social issues. That is, concern with the great issues of our age, which tend to involve the study of macroscopic societal units. The subject of social analysis is the issues, not the sociological building stones; the prime purpose is to use the concepts, not to add to The Vocabulary. The aim is to elevate the analysis of societal issues, to improve on amateur. intuitive, or journalistic sociology.

Traditional training in sociology is no more a preparation for social analysis than training in biophysics or biochemistry is for medical practice. Social analysis requires special training as well as distinct methods, knowledge. and a professional tradition. It requires more than the simple application of an existing body of social science knowledge to the study of a set of problems. When sick, one would hardly exchange treatment by one M.D. for that of two Ph.D.'s in biology. The M.D. is closer to the body, less abstract. more interested in the total system. and more concerned with results than the research scientist. Similarly, society needs, aside from sociology as a science, social analysis as a new element of sociological study, and training, i.e., a professionalization of sociology--for adding to sociology as a science (as the institutionalized desire to know) the systematic concern with application of knowledge (the institutionalized desire to help).

What is the substance of social analysis and what generic problems does its study raise? The focus and raison d'ˆtre of social analysis are the problems of the age, application of sociology to the understanding of society, its major subcollectivities, and a society's place in more encompassing communities. Biochemistry views the blood as having varying chemical compositions; medicine sees it as infested with illnesses. One day--when our knowledge of hematology is much more advanced--the distinction might disappear; meanwhile somebody had better be concerned with how to cure illnesses, using the very partial biochemical information available. The methodological question in medicine is how to act under partial information. Sociological theory and research slice society into social systems, role sets, and reference groups; social analysis is concerned with applying such concepts to the evolution of a world community, the redistribution of wealth, efforts to advance the growth of human rights, the development of have-not countries, etc. We train students to achieve higher levels of precision by drawing better samples, using more refined measures, more specific concepts. The trained sociologist often shies away from major segments of social data because he cannot obtain the kind of precision we taught him to look for. The field of analysis of societal problems is often left wide open to social commentators who have no methodological training. We should develop and teach the methods to be applied when information is fragmentary and vague, as it so often is, because the trained sociologist can still do much better--especially when he is trained to face this problem--than the uninitiated social observer.

A hardly novel historical approach to sociology serves to emphasize our position. We started with grand social theories, formulated in emotion-laden terms (e.g., progress), covering no more and no less than all of history and mankind. We began by flying so high on the verbal trapese that most of our propositions could not he pinned down and those that could often did not withstand empirical tests. Our grandiose designs collapsed.

Then we foreswore high jumps. We preferred to advance step by step, even if it should take us a hundred years to learn to walk firmly, rather than engage again in breathtaking but also neck-breaking gymnastics. We sharpened our tools on the radio-listening of housewives and focused our concepts by observing small groups of college sophomores. Such concentration was essential for a transitional period; but behavior suitable for student days becomes an adolescent fixation when it dominates the behavior of a mature man. While sociological theory ought to be further extended and methods of collecting and analyzing data improved, we should recognize that our wings have sprouted; we are ready to fly. It would be an overreaction to our earlier misadventures to remain earthbound to a restrictive interpretation of our discipline, to delay a new test flight of social analysis.

Another reason we, as a profession, shy away from social analysis is our fear of value judgments which, we sense, are more rampant in social than in sociological analysis. In the time elapsed since the publication of my theoretical book The Active Society, one question has been raised more often than any other--how can I maintain that the theory advanced is both critical (i.e., normative) and objective. My answer is that we are critical in that we take the human needs and values of the subjects of our study, members of society, as our basis for evaluation. We compare various social structures in terms of the extent to which they are responsive to their members; asking what factors prevent them from being more responsible than they are, and the conditions under which their responsiveness may be increased. We thus do not evaluate a social structure in terms of our preferences but in terms of those of its members. This position is hardly novel--Gunnar Myrdal followed a similar approach in The American Dilemma: he did not state that Americans were failing to live up to his creed, to his conception of equality, but to theirs.

In the past, mainstream sociologists argued that sociology must be neutral to be objective. Critics have posited that it cannot be neutral and urged that one's normative position ought to be explicitly stated. As long as this course is followed, sociology is either normatively sterile (at least claiming to be) or subjectively based, which undermines its scientific foundation. Using the subjects' values rather than our own allows sociology to leave behind the either/or position.

Another problem arises. Members of society, the subjects of our study, may be inauthentically committed and unaware of their real needs and preferences. Our proposition is that ( I one can empirically test when the declared preferences are the real ones and when they are inauthentic (e.g., when there is a significant gap between declared and real needs, respondents tend to be defensive about their positions); and (2) the attributes of the real needs can be empirically determined.

It is said that sociologists, by learning to walk, will find out how to fly. You can learn from the fruit fly, it is correctly suggested, new laws of genetics that apply to all animals and plants. Similarly, we can derive from sophomores' chit-chat universal laws of interaction which enrich our understanding of social behavior in general. While it is true that in this way we can learn the universal elements of our theory--all the universal chemical characteristics of water are represented in any drop--we cannot study the emergent properties of complex units in noncomplex ones. We will not learn much about the anatomy of elephants by studying that of fruit flies. While we ought to continue to study small groups for their own sake and for the light they cast on social behavior in general, we ought to invest more of our resources in macroscopic sociology.

As a second line of defense in favor of our present low (though rising) investment in social analysis, it is said that one cannot direct scientists and tell them what to study. If sociologists find race relations an unrespectable subject, unless it can be used to perfect survey methods or to redefine the concept of prejudice, what can we do? What we can do is realize that the distribution of scientific resources is not random, does not follow a laissez-faire pattern. and is "interfered with" regularly anyhow. The distribution of sociological manpower is directly affected by the advantage of required courses, which as a rule include theory and research techniques over optional courses; by Ph.D. committees that approve and encourage some subjects and discourage others, by foundations and federal agencies--which we advise--who support some subjects to the neglect of others, by space awarded in our journals; as well as attention granted at professional meetings, to some subjects over others. All these are occasions where theory and methodology are celebrated while social analysis is given, at best, second-class citizenship.

The role pair of sociologist-intellectual is a particularly effective one. Not that all sociologists were ever intellectuals or vice versa, but there seems to have been a much higher degree of overlap in earlier generations. The growing tendency to dissociate the two roles is particularly regrettable because the virtue of such a role combination is greater now than in the days when it was more common--for now we command a body of theory and methodology as well as a store of validated knowledge about man in society which can provide much-needed background for speculation about society. The social analysis of Daniel Bell, Lewis Coser, Nathan Glazer, David Riesman, Dennis Wrong, and other contemporary sociologists who fill this role pair is much more hardheaded, soundly based, and politically sophisticated than that provided by earlier generations of social analysis or by their former college mates who majored in English literature and still interpret the American scene in the light of moods revealed in Moby Dick, or "understand" the Soviet Union because they suffered with Dostoevsky.

Policy Research and Action

The deliberations outlined in the preceding pages lead me to write numerous articles and essays aimed at citizens and policymakers rather than only colleagues, and to publish them in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and elsewhere where they could reach a wide audience. In 1968, attempting to develop this line of work, I founded a research center, the Center for Policy Research.

Policy research seeks to guide action, while basic research seeks to uncover truth. While in the long run basic research nourishes policy research with its findings, and policy research provides data for basic research, in the short run their foci diverge. Policy research must focus on malleable variables, i.e., those most readily subject to deliberate change. For basic research, uncharted territories are especially alluring, though technically all variables are equal candidates for analysis. Policy research must concern itself with decision points, lest recommendations come too late; basic research is timeless. Policy research is inevitably normative, as it deals with implementing public purposes which are never value-free (e.g., alternative housing, welfare, national health programs and policies). Basic research often aspires to neutrality. Policy research must communicate with leaders and citizens; basic research can be esoteric.

Over the years more of my time has been devoted to policy research. Two core notions, derived from The Active Society and from policy research experience, guided me in two advocacy situations: one in which I failed rather completely; the other in which I believe I contributed to the winning team.

In 1975 the nursing home scandal was ten years old. Despite exposes by Mary Adelaide Mendelson, Ralph Nader et al., and John Hess of the New York Times, the 900,000 older Americans institutionalized in nursing homes at great public expense continued to be subject to gross personal, physical, and financial abuse. The governor of New York appointed a Moreland Act Commission to look into the matter and recommend solutions; I became its first staff director, but soon resigned. As in most human affairs, several factors led to my resignation, but one was pivotal: I failed to convince the lawyers who dominated the commission to form the power base my policy analysis suggested was essential for its success.

The Moreland Commission helped call attention to the nursing home tragedies through hearings it held; it issued seven reports, and the New York State legislature passed ten of the eleven bills the commission recommended. Yet when it completed its work, investigative reporter John Hess of the New York Times wrote an article entitled "Literally, It Is Business as Usual in the Nursing Homes." Despite the sixty-five nursing homes closed, a package of reform legislation on the books, and scores of indictments in process, Hess concluded: "Nothing basic has changed." I share that assessment.

Implicit in the commission's work was the theory that the searchlight of public outrage leads to social change. The commission conducted public hearings, visited nursing homes at night accompanied by TV cameras, put Vice President Rockefeller in the hot seat, etc. The main purpose of these hearings was to call public attention to the abuses. It was assumed that the revelations of the hearings would mobilize public dismay, which in turn would make the legislature accept the commission's remedies. As a socio-political lever, though, this approach failed. First, the work of exposure had already been accomplished through a series of articles in the New York Times, coverage of the scandals by other newspapers and television, and hearings held by Assemblyman Andrew Stein. Second, public attention tends to be mercurial. Public concern and indignation can be raised rapidly to a high pitch, but one must expect that it will soon move on to another topic--as it did.

The exposure led to new laws, which brings us to another erroneous social change theory implicit in the commission's approach--one to which many lawyers are particularly susceptible, though certainly not just lawyers or all lawyers. This is the notion that a social problem is corrected by passing new laws, formulating stricter regulations, and calling for the imposition of stiffer penalties. These are helpful, but not cardinal. The law is a tool of the state. The state is not a benign being, acting on behalf of the public's needs. The state responds to all inputs, including those of pressure groups, and not just voters. Confronted on the one side with a well-organized lobby and on the other with the amorphous public at large, the state will most of the time bend toward the lobby. It is only when the public (or segments of it) is organized to push the state continuously in the desired direction in the long stretches between elections that its course leans more toward the public interest.

The political problem of nursing home residents is that they have no such means of political expression, while the owners and administrators are well organized. The lobbyists are bribing legislators, judges are on the take, district attorneys are on the take; the nursing home industry even got its own man--an employee of the American Nursing Home Association--on the committee that wrote the Medicaid regulations governing them. Where is the vector to prod supervisors and inspectors to do their thing?

I favored that the Moreland Commission act to form the political base for nursing home residents. As these patients are often quite old (average age is eighty), sick and immobilized, and under drugs, they need outside backup. This could come from three sources: (1) associations of members of their families; (2) older American associations such as the National Council of Senior Citizens, the American Association of Retired Persons, etc.; and (3) main religious groups such as the American Jewish Congress, National Council of Churches, and Catholic Charities.

These should have been invited to participate in formulating the new laws, to secure their ongoing interest in and support for them. The political energies of these groups should have been permanently mobilized through the creation of a permanent watchdog commission composed of representatives of the three groups, with rights to visit nursing homes, follow up complaints, and the duty to report annually about conditions in nursing homes. As this did not happen, it was no surprise that the one Moreland bill that failed was the one which would have cut deepest into the political power of the nursing home lobby, namely, the ethics bill. It would have barred state legislators and their aides from representing clients in their capacity as private attorneys before state agencies. During the Moreland Commission inquiries it was suggested, for example, that when nursing home entrepreneur Bernard Bergman sought to influence the decisions of the Departments of Health and Mental Hygiene regarding a facility he was building on Staten Island, he hired a state senator from the area and a legislative aide to the speaker of the assembly as attorneys to represent his interests. A former Health Department official testified that he experienced this as political pressure and in particular viewed the involvement of the legislative aide as evidence of a personal interest on the part of the assembly speaker. Such representation of private interests by legislators has been and remains legal and is one of the prime ways to weaken and negate effective nursing home regulatory efforts.

If the issue in nursing home reform (and many others) is a question of identifying the forces which may support reforms and specifying the conditions under which they can be mobilized, the issues raised by developments in genetic engineering are more a matter of consensus building. Here too, power is far from irrelevant; for instance in the struggle between the scientists who wish to go on with experiments involving the recombination of DNA more or less unfettered, and those who seek to curb them if not ban them altogether. But in many other issues raised by recent developments in biology and related areas of medicine, the issue is to arrive at a new value consensus. I sought and support the mechanisms which would enhance that process. Working with many others, we are getting there.

My initial interest in genetic engineering was highly personal. I had three boys and wondered what could be done to ensure that the next child be a girl. This led to my most widely cited (and misquoted) article, "Sex Control, Science, and Society," published in Science (vol. 161, September 13, 1968), on the societal effects of the forthcoming imbalance in sex ratios. Years later, when the interest in genetic engineering was much broader, I was invited to an international conference of scientists on the basis of this article. During the conference, alarmed by reports of wanton experiments conducted on babies, embryos grown in test tubes, cloning of people and such, I drafted a resolution to form an international body of scientists, humanists, citizens, to prepare guidelines for such work. The resolution, after a struggle detailed in my book Genetic Fix, was passed. Joining with others, I worked in the United States for the introduction of the Mondale bill which would set up a national commission for such guidelines in America. Over recent years significant progress has been made in setting up a national commission to protect human subjects in experiments, and in evolving guidelines for safety in work with recombinant DNA and other risk-prone materials. Much more is still necessary. To social scientists, the way in which changes were brought about is of interest. It was first and foremost by public dialogue, stimulated by the media urged on by dramatic incidents (such as the Karen Quinlan case), congressional hearings, and participation by active scientists and humanists.

The role of public dialogue in forming a new consensus can be briefly illustrated by what is happening to the definition of death. Medical technology has rendered the traditional, widely held definition obsolete. To do "all one can for a loved one, until the heart stops and the lungs cease to function" may now mean keeping a body with irreversible brain damage "alive" for years. Medical science has responded with a new definition of death; briefly stated: forty-eight hours of flat brain waves. For this definition to be accepted by the public, to allow doctors openly to "pull the plug" at this point, could not be achieved without several billion hours of interpersonal and public debate, until gradually the new definition came to be understood and accepted among an ever-larger body of citizens.

A note on the nature of participation in such a project is called for. The more successful a drive, the more people join it. The more encompassing, the more difficult it is for any one person to claim credit for his or her contribution. Thousands of drops make a tributary, and scores of tributaries join to form a new river. One must be willing to find satisfaction in being part of such a social current, and not expect to be able to measure with any precision how much, how far one's own contribution has reached. The goal is not ego glorification, but the desired social change.

While the roots of my activist orientation lie in the early formative and later reinforcing experiences I have described, it also has its own inner logic and force. It feels good to be engaged, involved. True, you must work for the long run; and you must be prepared for brickbats. But as long as you believe in what you are doing, it is endlessly more rewarding than plowing the dust in the stacks or adding to the microfiches. And while often one cannot but fear one will fail to make it to the promised land, there is just enough progress to keep feeling that it is better to keep marching than existing in any other way.

Amitai Etzioni is professor of sociology at Columbia University and director of the Center for Policy Research. His most important book is The Active Society.

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