The Transformation as Sandbox Syndrome

By Michael Marien

Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Vol. 23 No. 1, Winter 1983 7-15

Association for Humanistic Psychology []

MICHAEL MARIEN, after four interesting years in Berkeley during the early 1960s, returned "back East" to earn Ph.D. in interdisciplinary social science from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University (1970). He has monitored the writing of futurists, system theorists. and various other reformers and visionaries for the past 14 years.  His self-published guidebook to this literature. Societal Directions and Alternatives (1976; out of print) led to the founding of FUTURE SURVEY. a monthly abstract journal of books and articles on trends, forecasts, and proposals-transformational and otherwise. FUTURE SURVEY and Future Survey Annual, which integrates abstracts from the monthly, have been published by the World Future Society since early 1979. In late 1979, the New World Alliance was initiated. and Michael has served as a member of the Governing Council since then, with special effort devoted to helping prepare the NWA Transformation Platform (1981), which he considers unique and promising, but very preliminary and incomplete. This essay adapted from a presentation at the Association for Humanistic Psychology Twentieth Annual Meeting in Washington (1982), is seen as an  initial probe into the vast and vexing  problem of why so little humane, transformational change actually takes place.  [See footnotes for additional biographical  notes- S.G.]




Belief that a social transformation is happening serves to keep it from happening.  Behaviors associated with the sandbox of political impotency include: pronouncement of actual or imminent success, confusion of goals and results, an acritical stance, hubris, an incapacitating dialect, pseudo holism, egalitarian blinders. and self-centeredness.  Upward growth to escape the Sandbox Syndrome is a necessary ingredient of any serious social change.


At the outset, I want to emphasize three beliefs that I share with many others:

- Peace, freedom, equality, justice, community, love, truth, health, beauty, frugality, self-reliance, and self-fulfillment--despite frequent conflicts with each other--are all worthy goals,  and should be pursued for all people worldwide.
-The old paradigms or ways of thought are obsolete; new and broader paradigms offer more promise for the intelligent conduct of human affairs.

-Hyper-industrialized societies are in deep trouble, as are "developing" countries seeking to follow their example; major changes will be necessary if we are to survive in any dignified fashion.

Although a transformation in values, perceptions, and institutions is desirable. it is far from inevitable.  Despite an urgent need, change in a humanly desirable direction may not be taking place at all or may be taking place at such a miniscule rate rate to be irrelevant.  Indeed, I strongly suspect that the widespread belief in a transformation that is happening in fact keeps it from happening. We need reasonable hopes, of course. But making a religion out of social change--developing a body of unquestioned belief, derived from concern for the human condition and hope for a better world--only serves to deflect energies away from the hard work that must be done.

To illustrate, imagine that you are an agent of the FBI or CIA. You are called into the office of the Big Chief and informed that there may be a subversive movement afoot--some call it the Aquarian Conspiracy.1 It threatens the American way of life by seeking to disarm the U.S. and make peace with the Soviet Union. by redefining national security, by weakening the nation-state in favor of global peacekeeping. by
weakening the global economy in favor of national and local self-reliance by slackening U.S. participation in world competition for high-technology leadership, by encouraging individuals to be more self-reliant and not to consume as much. by promoting environmentalism at the expense of commerce, and by decentralizing economic and political power through wider participation in corporate and community decision making. This is clearly subversive. Your mission is to atop it What should an effective agent do?

Being wise in the ways of the world, you realize that the 1950s strategy of fighting the Red Menace will no longer work in the sophisticated 1980s. In our age of infoglut, why give valuable publicity to the Green Menace, when the movement, at least in the United States2, is largely invisible! Rather, you would exploit the widespread tendency of the movement, such as it is. to render itself politically impotent.  You
understand the dynamics of the sandbox: an. enclosed area where children safely play, while adults carry on, undisturbed, in their usual wicked ways. Two complementary forces promote this condition: Adults place children in the sandbox to get rid of them, and children volunteer to play there because it is fun.

To stop the potential subversion of America, all you have to do is go with the flow and promote the Sandbox Syndrome.3 It's easy. Here are some tips:
(1) Encourage Belief in Success. Promote the view that cosmic change is coming, or taking place. Similar to the fundamentalist Christians, who believe that Armageddon is about to take place, to be followed by a millennium for those who are saved, preach that the Transformation, or the Third Wave, is happening now--that we have reached the turning point, and that people are now seeing that we can't continue the old ways. Don't attempt to offer evidence for this change, other than a one-time 1977 Harris Poll based on leading questions,. or some fuzzily estimated data sanctified by association with Stanford Research International.5 Anything else would involve left-brain quantifying--an artifact of Consciousness II.6
(2) Confuse Goals and Results. It feels good, and it won't hurt anyone's feelings, to proclaim that we are working for peace, we are changing minds, we are healing. Perhaps we are; perhaps we aren't. The intention and the process are primary, not the outcome. Any hint of a managerial, performance-oriented approach is fascistic.
(3) Don't Criticize. That's related to asking embarrassing questions about results. Just let it be. Being peaceful, loving, supportive, and cooperative means treating everyone equally and saying ill of no one. After all, everyone means well. Prickly questions are hostile and best ignored, or met with a hug.
(4) Add a Dose of Hubris. Stand on the leading edge, the crest of the Third Wave, amidst the New Age. You're superior to those unliberated, linear cluckheads out there. You know; they don't. Write a guidebook to networking or bartering, the magic processes of the alternative culture--but don't acknowledge the networks and barters used by the rest of the world. Your folkways, too, are superior: To enhance communication, invite Them to your saunas and hot tubs--don't even think of visiting their bridle trails and tennis courts, or, among the masses, their corner bars and bowling alleys.
(5) Promote Your Own Dialect. Tired of pedantic jargon? Create your own hip language. Turn nouns to verbs such as "peacing" and "futuring." Use adjectives such as "incredible" to describe every experience. Blows the mind, but who needs it? Use positive words such as "network," "caring," "holistic," "creativity," "synergy," "foresight," "cooperation," "transcendence," "win/win," "human scale," and "human values." Don't use negative words like "competition," "corporations," "communism," or "crime." Maybe they'll go away.

(6) Extol the Informal aand the Nonacademic.  Your intuition is a safe guide, as is the common sense of the people. Ignore the elitist academics, with their ponderous footnotes and interminable data. Accordingly, the academic journals and commercial publishers should also be dismissed, in favor of small book publishers and honest, alternative periodicals.
(7) Get the Holistic Picture. You can acquire instant wisdom by taking the general systems point of view, or viewing whole systems. When you have the Big Picture of humanity, nature, and society, you know it all, and there is no need to learn any more. A historical perspective isn't needed because these ideas are obviously new.
(8) Create Instant Equality. Forget the rich and the poor. The rich have great power, which is too much to contemplate. So don't. The poor can't meet their basic material needs, which is also a downer, best ignored. Preach that we all have enough and that more self-help is needed. Fits nicely into the antipoverty strategy of the Reagan administration.
(9) Be Self-Centered.  You have the power of the New Age in your head; change your consciousness and you can change the world. We have met the enemy and he is us. The responsibility for health, for change, for peace, is within you.

All of the above--and more, no doubt, could be added-add up to the Sandbox Syndrome: a set of behaviors guaranteed to keep "an individual or an organization in a childish state of innocence,7 content with building sand castles, instead of real-life structures. A good CIA agent would promote this simple-mindedness, rather than publicly fight the specter of the Green Menace.

But what if you read some books by Lester R. Brown, Willis Harman, Hazel Henderson, Ivan Illich, Amory Lovins, James Ogilvy, James Robertson, Theodore Roszak, Kirkpatrick Sale, Mark Satin, E. F. Schumacher, Robert Theobald, William Irwin Thompson, Alvin Toffler, and others,8 causing you to believe the Green Message? What if you see the necessity of a sustainable, decentralized, human-needs-oriented society-the Jeffersonian vision of America as the real American way of life, rather than the Hamiltonian, corporate view?9 With a flush of true patriotism, you decide to be a counteragent and to work for genuine eco-decentralism. What do you do? Here are some general tips:

(1) Grow Up. All of the above-mentioned positions are simplistic. An upward growth requires a broader, more subtle, and complex view:

(a) Develop a wide range of indicators that describe both successes and failures.

 Two Paths to Transformation


(The prevailing Way of the Sandbox)

(A possible pattern of the future)

I. Progress

The Transformation is happening

Weigh both successes and failures

2. Results

Goals are Outcomes

Outcomes not necessarily in accord with goals

3. Supporters

Be supportive and don't criticize,; all efforts are good; no sense of evil or excellence

Constructive criticism; back winners and drop losers; evil and failure are possible popular

4. Opponents

Ignore or vilify; you are superior

Seek to debate opponents and learn from them; invite hard questions

5. Language

Create your own; ignore official definitions of reality

Use common language to communicate broadly; challenge ideas in power

6. Information

Favor intuition and the non-academic

Seek the best in formal and non-formal, scholarly and popular

7. Truth

Perfected wisdom through instant holism

Holism as a learning tool and unrealized ideal

8. Power

Ignore it

Acknowledge it--and its very unequal distribution

9. Se1f

You are central; change self to change world

You interact with nature and society; many paths to change

(b) Don't confuse goals and results, but insist on measures of performance and on standards.
(c) Be constructively critical: Point to good work and how it can be improved--and also to work that is useful or damaging10.
(d) Be humble: We all have much to learn in an age of ignorance. Identify your opponents and their arguments, and learn from them.11
(e) Use the English language correctly as a tool of thought, and to enable communication with those in need of hearing your message.

(f) Seek the best thought from both academics and nonacademics; use your intuition as one of many learning tools.
(g) Similarly, holism should also be used as a tool for learning, and recognized as an ideal to strive for ceaselessly both in apace and time.

(h) Recognize that inequities in wealth and income are increasing, that the poor need help to help themselves, and that even good help will not necessarily help.
(I) Understand that there are many sources of problems in both individuals and society, that the two are interactive, and that individuals are often not at all responsible for their problems.12

(2) Connect Some Disconnected Yins and Yangs. In advocating a Taoist framework for dealing with reality, Fritjof Capra notes that a dynamic balance between yin and yang is good, and imbalance is bad.13 Several balances are mentioned above (success and failure, academic and nonacademic, individual and society). Several additional pairings not to be found on Capra's list are also needed:

(a) Inspiration and Perspiration. Our spirits can benefit from the uplift of preaching and cheerleading. But exhortation toward the promised land is not enough: we must work very hard to bring it about.
(b) Realism and Idealism. We need idealists with a foot on the ground of reality, as well as realists who can keep some ideal in mind. Both, in dialogue with each other, should replace the great number of utopians with no sense of reality and "realists" with no appreciation of any ideal.
(c) Cooperation and Struggle. In our age of instant gratification by video and drugs, many think that social change should be instant, painless, and non-reversible. While seeking out opportunities for cooperation, a dialectical view of struggle is also needed. Indeed, those who ostensibly share your views may not necessarily be cooperative, and your greatest struggle may be with such "movement killers. "14
(d) Intellect and Spirit. In trying to escape from what is seen too much rationality in modem society, an excuse is often provided for anti-intellectualism in the name of the neglected "right brain." We need a more rational rationality, not less rationality.
(e) Critics and Lovers. As pointed out by John W. Gardner. we should avoid the extremes of unloving critics and uncriticallovers.15  Another way to consider more productive behavior, to note the traits of Abraham Maslow's self-actualizing people, which include: fighting untruths, not needing to be loved by everyone, enjoying greater efficiency and being effective, looking at facts courageously, and avoiding illusions.16

(3) Get the New Age Act Together (to Some Degree). The pervasive condition that must be faced is the fact that we live in an age of infoglut. Another book, journal, conference, or newsletter about peace, healing, or environmentalism will not necessarily help people, and might simply add to the pervasive problem of information overload and fragmentation. The transformational message must be recognized as "the world crisis solution with a hundred names"-green revolution, human scale, person-centered society, human economy, conserver society, solar age, meta-industrial alternative, Gandhism, and so on. As long as this message is fractured into a hundred or so labelings. The Transformation, or whatever, will continue to be stillborn.
(4) ... and Take it on the Road. Talking to the converted is sufficient for a religious organization, although even religions seek converts. If we are serious about a genuine transformation of values and perceptions, the world must know that desirable and practical alternatives exist. Despite the great volume of New Age literature, "the world-crisis solution with a hundred names" still remains invisible to mainstream culture, or is readily dismissed as "small is beautiful" romanticism. New Age literature is seldom reviewed in mainstream periodicals. It seldom enters textbooks or political campaigns. The old ways of thinking are still very much in power:

(a) One-dimensional, flat-earth politics, restricting all possibilities to "the" left-right political spectrum of liberals and conservatives, still prevails in our political analysis.
(b) One-eyed economics, ignoring the informal or household economy, continues to define "the" economy.
(c) One-directional social evolution, involving more economic growth and a service society, continues to be the only definition of progress.17
(d) One-time education, assuming that an individual has completed learning upon leaving school or college, continues to inhibit adults from discovering ignorance and learning needs.

To improve on these paradigms in power, there must be widespread and genuine debate and discussion, rather than smug isolation and loose talk of paradigm change.


(5) Aim High and Don't Shoot Your Foot.  There is a frequents tendency to underestimate the transformational task, while overestimating the progress that has been made. This is complicated by the use of images and ideas that are intellectually laudible but politically inept: for example, a "no-growth society," in contrast to the more attractive notion of a human-growth society. Western science is another illustration:
rather than rejecting it, and creating an easy target for the charge of being antiscience, a better strategy would advocate a more scientific science--a superior world science that incorporates various scientific traditions.18

This advice is for the counteragent, who would seek to promote an actual transformation. But the task is difficult. The agent, who embraces the Way of the Sandbox, follows the path of least resistance. Both the agent and the counteragent are at work. Who will win? Probably the agent,  Still, the counteragent may prevail--the slender hope that prompts this essay. Whom do you want to win?



1. Marilyn Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy, Personal and Social Transformation in the 1980s (Los Angeles: J. P. Tarcher, 1980).
2. Green parties such Les Vertes. Die Grünen, and the UK Ecology Party are now established minor political parties in Europe. Despite characteristic disorganization, they are at or near the point of being wooed by the major parties.

3. The Sandbox Syndrome is not confined to New Age groups, but can be found in many minority political groups of both the Right, the Left. and "beyond Right and Left" (which New Age groups purport to be), as well as in established organizations. For purposes of this exploratory essay, Sandbox behaviors will be described only as they apply to "transformationalists."
4. Duane Elgin, Voluntary Simplicity {New York: William Morrow. 1981), p. 128. An example of the leading questions asked: "By 66 percent to 22 percent, the public chooses 'breaking up big things and getting back to more humanized living' over 'developing bigger and more efficient ways of doing things'"
5. Ibid., p.132. Based on work with Arnold Mitchell at SRI, Elgin estimates that, in 1980, roughly 6% of the U.S. adult population is "wholeheartedly exploring a life of voluntary simplicity," and that such a lifestyle" could well grow to be the dominant orientation for as much as a majority of the adult population of many Western developed nations by the year 2000." No justification is given for this exuberant extrapolation. Although the SRI data have been frequently and acritically cited by many New Age writers, they are not based on a rigorous survey, but on "beat guesses based upon our immersion in all of the relevant data that we could find" (Elgin letter to Marien, September 7, 1979).
6. For historical buffs, Consciousness II is the establishment mindset as characterized in a 1970 best seller by Charles A. Reich, The Greening of America  (New York: Random House). Ferguson's Aquarian Conspiracy might be usefully compared as a 1988 version of Reich's book.
7. Rollo May, Power and Innocence (New York: W. W. Norton, 1972). May describes innocence as the virtue of not having power--a way to confront one's powerlessness by making it a seeming virtue.  He distinguishes between the authentic innocence of childlike attitudes and the childishness of pseudo-innocence, often associated with utopianism and the urge to make things simple and easy.
8. Abstracts of recent books and articles by most of these writers are available in Future Survey Annual 1980-1981, ed., Michael Marien (Bethesda, MD: World Future Society, 1982). Note especially the section on Decentralization/Eco-Humanism, pp. 109-117.
9. This argument, still applicable today, is made in detail by Herbert Agar, Land of the Free (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1936), who posses a choice between the true American Culture of self-government, equality, freedom, and humanity, and a debased form of the Civilization  of the West (finance capitalism and ownership by the few).
10.  May, Power and Innocence, p. 110, eloquently states that "our narcissism is forever crying out against the wounds of those who would criticize us or point out our weak spots. We forget that the critic can be doing us a considerable favor."
11. Charles Hampden-Turner, Radical Man: The Process of  Psycho-Social Development (Cambridge, MA: Schenkman. 1970), p. 327. Developmental radicals, in contrast to dogmatic radicals, need the insights of all their political opponents (p. 329). Also see May, Power and Innocence, pp. 109-110, who points to the necessity of opponents for all important truths.
12. William Ryan, Blaming the Victim (New York: Pantheon, 1971), argues that the ideology of victim-blaming is a primary barrier to effective social change. Also lee Dana Ullman. "Responsibility and Holistic Health." Holistic Health News (Berkeley Holistic Health Center), Spring 1980. Ullman has pointed out that "blaming the victim" (including self-blame) is another important characteristic of the Sandbox Syndrome (Ullman letter to Marien, July 30, 1982).
13. Fritjof Capra, The Turning Point: Science, Society, and the Rising Culture (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1982), p. 36.
14. Byron Kennard, Nothing Can Be Done, Everything Is Possible (Andover, MA: Brick House Publishing, 1982). p. 83.



End of  Michael Marien's Original Article




Start of  Marilyn Ferguson's Resply to Michael Marien



The Transformation as a Rough Draft

By Marilyn Ferguson

Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Vol. 23 No. 1, Winter 1983 16-17

Association for Humanistic Psychology []


I share many of Michael Marien's concerns about simplistic and extravagant claims of a New Age (a term I never use). And I agree that there is hard work to be done. Since he has tied  The Aquarian Conspiracy into his view of "transformation as a sandbox syndrome," it seems appropriate for me to respond.

I think he has missed some important points and jumped to a few unwarranted conclusions.

* As Fred Polak pointed out in his classic The Image of the Future (1961). the future is largely determined by a society's dominant vision of the future. Kenneth Boulding made the same point in The Image (1956). A changing image precedes social and material change. A new sense of what is possible is the necessary, though not sufficient. prerequisite for action.

* Marien assumes that people will quit struggling if they become hopeful that a new kind of society. with new values. may be emerging. What a curiously negative view of human nature! In my experience. the opposite is true. Once people have an inkling that their ideals are not foolish and unfounded. once they think there's a real potential for change. they clamor for a way to contribute. What life game has higher stakes? Cynicism--not false hope--is the major excuse I hear for inaction. Fresh hope carries with it inherent impetus and responsibility.

* Just as the nuclear freeze proposals are a "rough draft" for arms reduction and a strategy for raising public awareness. transformational projects and writings are raising popular awareness of alternatives.

* Marien says that. "despite the great volume of New Age literature. 'the world-crisis solution with a hundred names' still remains invisible to mainstream culture." Within the past year. I've compared notes with dozens of spokespersons for social transformation. Without exception. they described a new openness in the society. The advance excitement about John Naisbitt's Megatrends (Warner,1982) is an example of growing establishment awareness of changing values.

Who cares? It's not just "the converted." as Marien puts it. Since The Aquarian Conspiracy was published in Spring 1980.1 have been invited to talk about personal and social change to the World Business Council. church group&, IBM. Digital Equipment Corporation. the American Hospital A88OCiation. the American Council of Life Insurance, farm wives in Canada, hotel and restaurant executives. members of the U.S. Congress (twice), business leaders in Sweden, educators in England, communications technology specialists in Switzerland, and university audiences in Vienna. Hamburg, London, Oxford, and Cologne.

Among the readers of The Aquarian Conspiracy are leaders of the Solidarity Movement in Poland (they ordered ten copies). the late Anwar Sadat, the president of the Sociological Association of the USSR, governors, senators, and a White House staff member. Maybe some of these people are just checking it out, as in Marien's CIA scenario, to kill the movement Seems unlikely, though.

There are Aquarian Conspiracy discussion groups in nursing homes, prisons, universities, churches. and government agencies. Recently a reader called from Tokyo to say that 75 people had met the night before to form a network. The book is now out in French. Swedish, German (it was a Number 2 bestseller in Switzerland), Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch. and Japanese.

Marien urges that we "connect some disconnected yins and yang." I could not agree more. This is a crucial point, one we emphasize in our newsletters. I have written at length of the power of the "radical center." The Transformational Platform drafted by the New World Alliance urged balance and synthesis. Everywhere I hear people quoting Rene Dubos: "Think globally, act locally."

Marien concludes that there is only a "slender hope" that the Way of the Sandbox will not prevail. I wish he could meet the hundreds of thousands of hardworking visionary people I've met in the past two and a half years.1f he were to "take it on the road, " as he recommends, he might have more hope--realistic hope that incites to action.


Marilyn Ferguson is author of The Aquarian Conspiracy: Personal and Social Transformation in the 1980s (Tarcher. 1980) and publisher of Brain/Mind Bulletin and Leading Edge Bulletin.



End of  Marilyn Ferguson's Reply




Michael Marien' s Reply  to Ferguson


Further Thoughts on the

Two Paths to  Transformation:

A Reply to Ferguson

By Michael Marien


Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Vol. 23 No. 4, Fall 1983 127-136

Association for Humanistic Psychology []



MICHAEL MARIEN is founding editor of Future Surveys, a monthly abstract journal of trends, forecasts. and proposals-transformational and otherwise--published by the World Future Society.




"The Transformation as Sandbox Syndrome" (JHP, Winter 1983) is restated as two paths. Transformation I, the utopian/puerile path, is the prevailing "Way of the Sandbox." Transformation II attempts to grow up politically and deal effectively with the real world. An evolution from T-I to T-II must take place to realize any progress toward a genuine transformation of society.


Editor's Note; I invited Marilyn Ferguson to respond to this piece by Michael Marien. She declined, saying that she did not believe it was worthwhile to prolong the exchange. Also, in her capacity as a member of the JHP Board of Editors, she recommended against publishing this piece, and decided to resign if I Choose to publish it. I certainly did not want to prolong what some might regard as a fruitleless controversy,  nor did I want to lose a valued member of the Board of Editors. Such are the decisions that make an editor's work difficult. After several readings of Michael Marien's piece, and after careful consideration of other opinions, I decided to publish it, and to risk erring in the direction of continued open discussion. I hope that readers will see Michael's critical analysis of the alleged Transformation as a valuable part of a dialectical transformational process, rather than a counter-productive attack on it. I regret losing Marilyn Ferguson as a member of the Board of Editors, and wish to acknowledge her substantial contributions to JHP and humanistic psychology in general.

I am pleased that Marilyn Ferguson was able to take time from her busy globe-hopping schedule to respond to my exploratory essay on "The Transformation as Sandbox Syndrome" in her reply, "Transformation as a Rough Draft." Unfortunately, the Great Conspirator offers no evidence that she has actually read the essay, or, if she did, that she understands it. Although I am tempted to ignore her seemingly hasty response, Ferguson's empty claim that I have "missed some important points and jumped to a few unwarranted conclusions" should not go unanswered. There may be some truth in the statement, in that my paper was originally prepared as a mere ten-minute presentation and the subject is highly speculative, but Ferguson fails to introduce any point that I missed or explain any unwarranted conclusions (which are really only hypotheses). Moreover, she serves to illustrate my main arguments, as I shall demonstrate, although this surely was not her intention. This occasion also provides an opportunity to extend slightly my inchoate argument, and to state it in an alternative "straight forward" dimension, in that humor is sometimes not seen as the mask for utter seriousness that it often is.

My essay, in brief, attempted to outline two "paths" to a transformation in values, perceptions, and institutions, leading to a society that is sustainable, decentralized, ecologically conscious, peaceful, healthy, just, and oriented to human needs of all people.

The first path (or Transformation I or T-I, to try a new labeling) is characterized as the utopian/puerile path, or the prevailing "Way of the Sandbox." The sandbox is an enclosed area where children safely play, while adults carry on their usual activities undisturbed. Children volunteer to play in the sandbox because it is fun, and adults seek to place children in the sandbox to get rid of them. Politically, much of the behavior now associated with "The Transformation" can be described as the sandbox syndrome: it has little or no impact, and is not taken seriously. Examples of this childlike behavior includes a religious belief in imminent success (e.g., to cite Ferguson, "A leaderless but powerful network is working to bring about radical change in the United States" 1), the confusion of goals and results, an acritical stance toward "transformational" efforts, hubris and exaggeration (to cite Ferguson again, "Broader than reform, deeper than revolution, this benign conspiracy has triggered the most rapid cultural realignment in history"2), an incapacitating dialect, pseudo-holism, self-centeredness, and middle-class egalitarian blinders that ignore the growing gap between rich and poor. In sum, it is much well-meaning noise but little result, or, to cite Marien's Iron Law of Cosmic Balderdash, actual change is inversely correlated with the heat and height of the rhetoric.

Transformation II (or T - II) is an attempt to grow up politically, and to deal effectively with the real world. In terms of the inner-directed lifestyles described by Arnold Mitchell,3 it is the difference between the immature "I-Am-Me” group along with the youthful “Experiential” group, and the mission-oriented “Societally Conscious” group combined with the psychologically mature “Integrateds.” A more mature or pragmatic approach does not abandon ideals, but teaches us to work effectively toward these ideals ideals in a society of massive institutions, modern technologies, information glut, and many competing interests.  T-II behavior would acknowledge both successes and failures in “the movements,” insist on measures of performance rather than confusing goals with results, consistently engage in constructive criticism, learn from the arguments of those with whom they disagree, communicate concise in proper English, and promote effective organization.

There are several ways to present this notion of two paths to transformation. I chose at the outset to make a humorous analogy, imagining what a ClA agent might do to stop the Green Menace—go with the flow and promote the thoughtless and unproductive behaviors of the sandbox syndrome—and what a counteragent might do to work for a genuine neo-Jeffersonian vision of America. Another way to present this idea would be to proclaim that a profound and historic transition from Transformation I to Transformation II is taking place. This prophetic stance would be hypocritical, though, because such hortatory statements are characteristic of the T-I style. Still another form of presentation which lam now employing, is to state cautiously that a transition from T-I to T-II may take place and certainly ought to take place; however, there is hale or no evidence to suggest that such a maturation is taking place yet. This would reflect T-l1 style, which does not assume that progress toward the goal o transformation is necessarily being made by those individuals who claim to be working for peace, justice, humanity, etc.

Consider another analogy of swimming to China. At the risk of seeming idealistic about human potential, I believe that it is possible to swim to China—if one is in superb physical condition, if one has the necessary support team, and if one punctuates the journey with appropriate periods of rest (that’s cheating a bit, but lets put this matter aside). The problem with the T-I worldview is that it has no sense whatsoever of the task at hand, and it
ignores history. It is as if a swimmer steps into the California surf, swims out for a hundred yards, and proclaims that, "I’m swimming to China?" This is followed by mastering an additional 150 yards, and the progress statement that, “I’ve more than doubled the distance traveled. Yet the swimmer soon drops into the murky depths, similar to the countless movements in American history that have pursued cosmic ends with miniscule means. And new swimmers continue to step into the surf without asking whatever happened to the previous swimmers.

The T-I approach planning for a long and rigorous trip, and would require actual cooperation rather than merely talking about it. As argued by Theodore Caplow, 4 a greatly improved society might be within our present grasp if projects of social improvement involved a recognition of seven essential parts: a description of existing conditions, a careful and honest statement of the end condition to be achieved, dividing the project into successive stages, designing methods for getting from one stage to the next, an estimate of time and resources, devising procedures for measuring goal attainment, and attempting to detect unanticipated results. A similar formulation is offered by the Resource Manual for a Living Revolution,5 which advocates developing a theory of change, acquiring a sufficient understanding of the workings of our economic and political system (otherwise, actions may go wide of the mark and even aggravate problems), planning a strategy, building communities of support and organizational strength, preparing for action, and evaluating action (a necessary beginning that is often forgotten). Such a thoughtful approach, however, appears to be the exception rather than the rule. And this is why I think that it’s important to distinguish between 1 and T-II behavior.

With these comments as an introduction. I will now proceed to consider each of the Five points that Ferguson purports to make.

(I) Who has What Image of the Future? Ferguson begins her response to my essay by throwing the book at me, or in this case the pair of books: Polak’s The Image of the Future and Boulding’s The Image, which both emphasize the importance of a society’s dominant image of the future. Obviously. The important question that Ferguson does not consider is who has what image of the future, and how the alternative images are changing relative to the dominant images of society. I suggested in my article that the "transformational" image of the future is fragmented into "the world-crisis solution with a hundred names," and I have since documented all one hundred of them,6 although there are doubtless more. Even if this babble of banners is not divisive--if those who follow the Green Perspective, the Solar Age, the Conserver Society, the Communications Era, etc. can all easily relate to each other's titlings--how many people in all does this entail? Is this group of Aquarians, Decentralists, Greens, or whatever growing (as we are led to believe), remaining essentially the same, or shrinking? My entire essay was addressed to what is needed to make the alternative image dominant. So where is the missed point or unwarranted conclusion?

(2) Hope and Struggle. The second charge is "Marien assumes that people will quit struggling if they become hopeful that a new kind of society may be emerging." I am puzzled as to how Ferguson infers this from my argument, but it is not a statement with which I would concur. Some people devote their lives to a quixotic pursuit of the Promised Land. But most people will quit struggling if their expectations are set unreasonably high, and the resulting actions fall far short of this ideal. As noted by Hadley Cantril,7 "A vision of a brighter future will lead only to despair or will be given up entirely unless there are some ways to start making the vision come true." The awakening of hope can be the first step in social change, but too many of our transformational leaders seem to specialize only in the awakening of hope, rather than pointing to the entire range of needed actions. Might it be time for the transformers to transform themselves?

(3) Transformational Projects Are Raising Awareness ? Ferguson's third point makes no reference to my article, but simply states the goal that "transformational projects and writings are raising popular awareness of alternatives." This, of course, nicely illustrates the T-I trait of equating intentions with results. Some transformational projects and writings are doubtlessly raising popular awareness of alternatives, while others may have no result or the counterproductive result of turning people away from alternatives. I don't know which ones are working or are not working, although I entertain suspicions (i.e., hypotheses). Overall, I suspect that much of the transformational effort is preaching to the convinced, and thus a waste of scarce human resources exactly what the mythical CIA agent would seek to promote. Where is the evidence of any recent shifts in public opinion? And if there are any shifts, can they be reasonably attributed to transformational efforts?

(4) Other Spokespersons, Naisbitt's Success, and Ferguson's Travels. Finally we get to the "evidence," such as it is. To illustrate that the transformation is taking place, Ferguson offers the opinions of her fellow spokespersons for social transformation, the success of John Naisbitt's Megatrends, and the worldwide travels of Ferguson herself combined with the success for her book. But, alas, all are pseudo-indicators.
I thought that Ferguson was kidding when she pronounced that, after comparing notes of dozens of spokespersons, "without exception, they described a new openness in society" (whatever that means). I read the statement several times, wondering why she would provide such a splendid illustration of the inbred Sandbox mentality. I guess that she truly believes it. But there are many other believers in other beliefs. We could get unanimous consent from dozens of tub-thumping evangelists that Jesus is coming. And all of the advisors to the President would surely be convinced that Reaganomics is improving the economy. The generals in the Pentagon plan our future based on the belief that the Soviets are well ahead of us in the arms race. A convention of computer salespeople would fully agree that a worldwide information revolution is taking place. So why are the cheerleaders for the transformation any more correct than the self-interested adherents of any other cause?

The second putative indicator of success is the "advance excitement" about John Naisbitt's Megatrends, which has subsequently stayed at or near the top of the bestseller lists for more than half a year, where it still remains at this writing. Does this indicate "growing establishment awareness of changing values," as Ferguson asserts? Not necessarily. Naisbitt's nuffy book is a triumph of packaging, presenting an easily-digested upbeat collection of good news to a public that is starved for it.

Naisbitt doesn't tell us how a transformation can take place, but in typical T-I fashion proclaims in the subtitle of the book that the ten megatrends--and only this magic number--are New Directions Transforming Our Lives. Here are the new shibboleths to replace Mom, and apple pie: an information society (never mind our Age of Infoglut), high tech conveniently balanced by high touch (never mind any lags in humanized response), an interdependent world economy (never mind any imminent collapse), long-term planning, (never mind for what), decentralization in government and business (never mind unemployment and low wages), self-help and self-employment, (never mind lack of capital), egalitarian networking (never mind establishment networking), the trend to multiple options (never mind whether the options are meaningful), and the population shift from Snowbelt to Sunbelt (never mind the Sunbelt water problems).

Some of the megatrends are new and some are not, some are compatible with each other and some are not, some are reversible and some are not, and some are for real and some are not. In the chapter on long-range planning, for example, no evidence is offered that there is any shift from short-term to long-term thinking; rather, we are merely given repeated assertions that it is the proper thing to do. As Anthony Downs observes in his critique of "exagger-books" by Naisbitt, Ferguson, and Alvin Toffler, such writers are guilty of "mega-hyping the pseudofacts."8 (It might also be noted that, as an illustration of the acritical daisy-chain phenomenon among many transformational authors, Ferguson and Toffler both supply back-cover blurbs for Naisbitt's book.)

Although Naisbitt may be a tad weak in veracity, has he nevertheless been influential in changing establishment values? I doubt it, although I would welcome any real evidence to the contrary. Popularity in book sales is not necessarily related to veracity or influence. At best, we can say that Naisbitt is a good read, for people who like their nonfiction on the light side, with sugar.

Finally, we are offered the evidence of Ferguson's own book, translated into seven languages to date. and her worldwide travels to spread the good news of the Aquarian Conspiracy.

Doesn't this show that Great Things Are Happening? They are surely happening to Ferguson, but not necessarily to the wider society. So Ferguson is a hot ticket on the lecture circuit. But so are Art Buchwald, Henry Kissinger, G. Gordon Liddy, and James Watt. The important question is whether Ferguson and the Transformationals are any more influential among the world's movers and shakers than the spokespeople for other interest groups. Indeed, are they influential at all, or merely an entertaining curiosity?

(5) Think Globally, Act Effectively. Ferguson's final complaint is not a complaint at all; but hearty agreement that we connect some disconnected yins and yangs. She then goes on to announce that, "Everywhere I hear people quoting Rene Dubos: 'Think globally, act locally'," which may be a disconnected yin and yang, but might better be seen as a trendy cliche, and more evidence of the prevailing Way of the Sandbox. Of course we should try to think holistically in global terms (while recognizing the difficulties in attaining this ideal); however, we should act not only in our local community, but appropriately at all levels of the global community--and in the most effective way. Rather than evidencing attempts to transcend the cliche barrier, the widespread deification of the Dubos slogan suggests that we have not yet begun to move very far from T-I to T-ll.

Ferguson concludes with the wish that I could meet "the hundreds of thousands of hardworking visionary people" whom she has met in the past few years. I have little doubt that there are such numbers of fine people, just as I have no doubt at all that solar energy is abundant and could readily satisfy the world's energy needs. But we have not yet harnessed solar power in a cost-effective way, although promising developments in the price and performance of photovoltaic cells are in the offing. Similarly, the energy for widespread social change is abundant and widespread, but we have yet to harness it effectively-and the task of doing so is probably more difficult than that of harnessing solar energy, which is more readily measured and less subject to illusions. One indicator of the necessary evolution from T-I to T-II will be the moment when advocates of social change begin to speak in terms of outcomes, rather than merely the inputs of hardworking people.9


[Unfortunately the text of Marien's above Reply to Ferguson, was cut off at this point.  For the remainder please check pages 135 and 136 of  Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Vol. 23 No. 4, Fall 1983] S.G.




Notes  from other sources


1. Michael Marien was born in 1938.


2. Beside his from Syracuse University, Michael Marien holds an MBA from UC Berkeley and a B.S. from Cornell University. While at the Educational Policy Research Center at Syracuse, an early “futures think tank,” he began abstracting futures-relevant literature and, as he puts it, instantly became the world expert for lack of any competition. Since 1969, he has prepared some 20,000 abstracts of books, reports, and articles on all topics relevant to the future, including very long-term futures. Some 17,000 of these abstracts have been published in Future Survey (about 5,000 of the most recent ones are online to subscribers). Noteworthy compilations of abstracts (with commentary) include Societal Directions and Alternatives (1976), World Futures and the United Nations (1995), Environmental Issues and Sustainable Futures (1996), and The Future Survey Super Seventy: Best Books, 1996–2000 (2001). Marien has written about 80 professional articles, and co-edited one book: What I have Learned: Thinking About the Future Then and Now (1986).



3. For Michael Marien's 2001 notes on Sept 11th WTC attack and the ensuing Afghan War, visit