Gary Dean Best
What were the effects of machines on American culture? Had that culture become so mechanized that it had become standardized, regimented, a 'lock-step culture?' Chase doubted if American culture had become any more standardized than those of non-machine societies like those of traditional China, medieval Europe, and others. In fact, Chase wrote, 'One of the outstanding facts governing a machine culture is its restless and remorseless change.' If American culture was standardized, it was 'the standardization of infinite variety and perpetual change—and thus uncomfortably close to a contradiction in terms.' 'The machine,' he wrote,
having destroyed the bulk of our old folkways, has forced us to experiment with a host of new ones, none of which have crystallized; and none of them can very well crystallize so long as our technology continues to change. No sooner do we adapt ourselves to travelling at the rate of thirty miles per hour on earth than we are compelled to take to the air at two hundred miles an hour. And what is this going to do to the family, religion, the etiquette of visiting and entertainment, habits of recreation, education, relations with other races and nations?Varieties of behavior had become legion, with no standard religious code. Chase wrote:
If religious standards are in disorder, sexual standards are even worse. Unless we happen to live in the Bible Belt, we may select orthodox marriage, trial marriage, companionate marriage, marriage of convenience, or no marriage at all. We may divorce at random. We may practise birth control in all circumstances, in specific circumstances, in no circumstances-again with authority to sanction each decision. We are urged to have small families, large families, no families; to marry when we are young and poor, to wait until we are old and rich; to marry within our class, to marry above or below it. Nor is sanction altogether lacking for the advantages, cultural and economic, of a 'sugar daddy.' The psychoanalysts have lifted theAs for the work world, Chase concluded that every American was convinced his place belonged at the top and was devoted to clawing his way there. 'In theory,' he pointed out, 'no man is fixed, however much he may be in fact; and because this doctrine is so generally held, the organized labor movement can make no great headway in America.'
curtain on a variety of matters long held suitable for discussion only in a brothel—if at all-and have made them current coin at every 'modern' dinner table. In brief, the only dependable standard in sexual affairs seems to be that any sort of reticence connotes a serious, not to say perilous, internal conflict.
Through all this welter of modern life many old behavior patterns still survive, but the indirect effects of mechanization have shaken us loose from ancient mental certainties. We are never adequately prepared for change and resist it when it comes, but we are beginning to realize with some bewilderment that almost anything may happen. And that mental attitude is slippery ground on which to build a case for one dead level of behavior.