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The Fool of Sociology (Part II)

[The Berkeley Free Speech Movement]

         Early in 1966, shortly after my review of the books on the Berkeley Free Speech Movement had appeared in Ramparts, I received a letter from the chairman of the sociology department at Brandeis, asking,

"Did you mean it literally when you said that all the essays explained nothing? I thought I was closer to the movement than that, and that I had caught at something which Savio and others had communicated face to face. Perhaps not. But if that really is your considered opinion, the implication for me would be that I should do a great deal more study, since I regard the events at Berkeley as the most important to happen in American higher education in the last ten or twenty years.
         “My warmest good wishes in any case,
         "John R. Seeley"

         His letter was itself of sociological interest, as it is not the custom for sociologists to solicit judgment of their understandings from the people they study. Indeed, the question of to whom the students of society ought be responsible was one of a cluster of moral issues raised by the FSM, and sidestepped by the faculty as they detoured from their accustomed lunchtime routes to avoid the congestion of our rallies. Even the customary academic virtues failed the conflict: despite this convenient placement of a unique historical event and social laboratory, not one faculty member attempted the responsibility of direct, systematic study of the FSM's process. All this was an intellectual betrayal in some ways deeper than the differences of politics that divided the campus, and I took it personally. If soon after, in leaving the house which did not honor its purposes, I felt somewhat an orphan in the absence of fathers I could respect, it was as young men often do, and for good reason.

         So I was curious about this perverse sociologist Seeley, and wrote him the truth, that I had not had space to detail the few exceptions, and that his essay indeed spoke to what I thought was the core issue: the moral legitimacy of authority as deriving from the genuine consent of the governed. He wrote back,

“I had begun to say that only that deserves recognition as authority which authenticates itself from moment to moment in terms of the living experience ... even where it is in one place for any length of time, it is only there for limited purposes. It therefore lies all around us more particularly as we legitimate and authenticate and in a sense bring into existence each other's authorities.
“I am sorry this sounds probably all very square. I should tell you, however, that we are so desperately engaged here in a war to give at least partial effect to these ideas, that it is almost " my power to write anything. Indeed my capacity to teach and think in the ordinary and theoretic sense is substantially invaded. As soon as I can get down off our version of the police car, I will try to write you more fully.
“Meanwhile, if I may put it so, I draw strength from the fact of your very existence.
“Sincerely, (etc.)."


         When the Free Speech Movement exploded on the Berkeley campus in October 1964, Seeley was thirty miles away and naked to its impact. His engagement with the Brandeis students had brought him into contact and sympathy with the Civil Rights movement in America as it swept the northern campuses; and the Berkeley administration's attempt to suppress its campus movement, which touched off the FSM, offended him deeply, coming as it did not out of mistaken yet principled decisions but from simple pliancy to outside pressure.

         The issue of how far student political involvement should be allowed to penetrate the campus was subsumed in larger issues of educational governance, raised by the FSM and echoed on a thousand campuses during the next few years. Who was to decide what learning should be furthered and by whom, how it should be undertaken and how judged, in whose service it should be, and what was of service to it, and how were these to be decided? Fresh from his York experience, Seeley was swept by a more than intellectual compassion as we struggled with the same issues of governance, of how power would be distributed and whether its use would be democratic, moral and truthful, or authoritarian and immoral; as the bureaucracy paraded deceits and betrayed crucial agreements, and we sought fruitlessly for persons who would take responsibility for their acts; and as we finally took responsibility for our own, as the York students had been too polite and unready to do, creating the first campus sit-in and strike and securing what Seeley himself was not to manage for a decade or more -- one small clear temporary moment of victory in a moral cause.

         And there was a larger issue yet, which struck Seeley more deeply in mind and heart. The FSM was a watershed: in it, for the first time, members of the privileged and dominant class in America came to recognize en masse their own oppression at the hands of the institutions that favored them, rebelled on their own behalf, and began the struggle to develop new institutions to reform the mainstream of their society. Elsewhere (*), I have discussed the way the FSM's impulse manifested in the Haight-Ashbury, the subsequent broadening of the political movement to the "counter-culture," and the present legacy of alternative political and institutional effort. Two observations seem pertinent to Seeley's perception of the event. First, it was no accident that the FSM occurred among the best students of what was then accounted the best all-round university in America; it was rather a deep contradiction come to surface, an announcement of our starvation in the midst of apparent plenty.

         Second, the university was indeed our parent institution, inculcating and monitoring the final stages of our preparation for adult citizenship. To turn our anger against its benevolence was shocking to many, who dismissed us mainly as ungrateful children, and shocking to us as well, for in our action we endured a profound psycho-social transition. Within the family, the adolescent's break with the parents is partly an assertion of independent identity. For many individuals, and for us collectively, the FSM was a similar rite of passage. And if, alone and together, we have not fully passed on to anything, and in many ways have fallen back, it is because no completion for the passage yet exists. For as the university was our surrogate parent, then the other institutions of society, which it so deeply resembled, governed us paternally also. Truly to leave the family, to see ourselves no longer as the dependent extension of their personalities, was to enter an unknown space -- to face the task of creating a new adulthood in a changed society, without ritual, tradition or example to guide us, nor any supporting structures.

         For Seeley, the FSM and its quick evolution made it seem as if the world had been set afire by the children he had dreamed of, whose energy would. spring unbounded from humanized families and schools. He had never expected them in his own day, Yet here they were, moving spontaneously and en masse, with style, humor and joy in the midst of suffering; attentive to the realities he had come to perceive, seeking to deal with their inner dynamics as well as the external situation, and fiercely and appropriately moral. Moved partly by wish and partly by recognition, and fully by love, he thought that history had been short-circuited: not simply that the war he had foreseen some generations after his death had been declared and engaged, which may be true, but that these struggles would so shock the conscience of the nation that there would come a massive de-legitimizing, and perhaps an overturning, of those who had claimed power on a moral basis but were now to be shown as morally naked. Time since has reminded him, with us, that it is a long march with no assurance; but I think it is still better to be staggered by hope than by weariness, even, or especially, in one's fifty-first year.

         Some decisive success seemed to hang in the balance; for a moment Seeley believed there were more adults hanging on the verge of redemption than there were, and that our actions would help many in forcing their decision. Later he was to recognize those who were held by the moment's crisis in the shell of their perceptions yet opened to slow kinds of growth in the years that followed. At the time, he was most furious not with the Feuers who used their intellectual gifts as open enemies, but with those of his colleagues who stood on the sidelines, whom he saw in transformed light as cowards, thinking only of their own security and a narrow vision of preservation of social life as it stood.

         To dismiss his anger as partisan is to evade its line of thought and the evolution of his socio-logos; for he had come to ask now of them, "The students betrayed and beaten in the streets are your friends and colleagues; how then does that inform the meaning of what it is to study society?" and to tell them that an academic who studies institutions and does not then act on what he finds is a counter-model to hold up to students, and one who chooses not to understand what he is involved in is worse.

         This line of thought, transposed to educational governance, led Seeley to see as atrocious the refusal of Clark Kerr, then President of the University of California, to make any comment on the students' rough arrest after inflaming the press with remarks about their "Communist domination" and keeping mute on the genuine educational issues at stake. Seeley's opinion was amplified on learning from me that, after three months and our arrests, Kerr still had not taken the trouble to understand precisely the substantive issue of advocacy, but had to have it explained again by his lawyers. A mediator in a quite different modality than Seeley, concerned with brokering among power-groups and serving a different class interest in his mediation, Kerr seemed consumed in a mini-max game, seeking the saddle-point of least risk. That Kerr would not perceive the issues as moral, even to justify himself, did more than infuriate Seeley: it opened his eye to a vision of how deeply a merely Eichmanesque mentality reigned in high places.


         The FSM was a Rubicon for Seeley, Before 1964 he had spoken mainly to his colleagues; after, he tried to speak to the world. Earlier, he had come to understand and say that social science is concealed advocacy; now he became an overt and. deliberate advocate, understanding this as the only just role for a social scientist in our time and attempting to translate to colleagues and world alike the brief, not simply of the FSM, but of the many-branched movement for social justice that was rising in America -- not as a mere propagandist, but as one who could interpret what was latent and still undeveloped in its message.

         In polite quarrel after polite quarrel, as he tried to bring home to his colleagues the intrinsic relevance of the movement's brief to their deepest concerns, Seeley threw away his academic assets, the substantial material security and the respect and acceptance as "one of us" that he had retained even while he was troubling the meta-sociological foundations. His lifetime base of association was undermined as old associates accused him of trying to contaminate with ideology a science that was settling down to peace, and implied that Seeley had made himself the enemy of order and ally of Fascism as well as a traitor to the profession. The irony of the imputation lay not simply in Seeley's coming to a kindred vision of them in turn, albeit a subtler one, but in his having come to understand that only a passionate commitment to genuine democracy as the frame of advocacy could render advocacy just, once the illusion of an "objective, value-free" frame had been discarded.

         Against this chosen disfavor, Seeley enjoyed the friendship and loyalty of an eclectic, growing circle, which was to him a family, of cohorts, colleagues and students, of people with whom he worked in service, and who trusted the meaning of his words. This circle had been growing slowly for a decade in Seeley's professional world. Now it grew explosively, as he cast himself into broader service, and as the growth of his own blood family, which he had tended until this time with all the quiet fierce devotion one might expect from a man so dedicated to reversing the unhappy circumstance of his childhood, swept him up in return, as the adolescence of his four sons led him into a thousand places and lives.

         For as Seeley had felt himself joined by the children of his dream in the FSM, so he joined them in return. As much as his children's studier and tutor, correcting the world's misinterpretation of them and advising their growth, he became their student in turn, the educator integral at last. He had lost the intimate defense of paternalistic authority, which protects the self from change by enforcing the protocol that the older, the teacher, the empowered, be above learning from the younger, the student, the subject. Unconcerned with his dignity, and for the sake not of educational ideology but of his naked self, he followed his children into all the experiences and cultural byways of the time, and a great joy opened in him as his vision altered.

[Stanford, Brandeis]

         The quiet year Seeley had planned at the Center for Advanced Study was perturbed by the FSM. He went up to Berkeley at times to hang out around high circles and low, from Kerr and Glazer to Mario Savio, and brought the issues back to chew with his colleagues. Still more of his energy was bound in the unsanctioned organizing he was engaged in with Christian Bay and the Graduate Student Organizing Committee on the Stanford campus. This was the first dedication of his mature socio-logos to political issue, and the shape of its intervention had a characteristic integrity.

         Seeking to help catalyze a supportive and parallel response to the FSM, Bay and Seeley initiated the Association of Stanford Scholars to create a forum to explore the genuine differences and similarities of interest among the subgroups of student, grad student, TA, faculty, in preparation for the political issues that were coming up and to bring the Administration to account. The A.S.S charter was precisely to the time's point, and yet Bay and Seeley were surprised when seventeen eminent faculty joined in their call.

         At the first meeting, 700 students showed up, and during that Spring the A.S.S. was a major force in energizing the Stanford campus. One project was to study the whole of the process by which a given plot of grass came to be turned into a parking lot for the faculty's convenience, tracing the structures of power behind each step of decision. When the Scholars invited the university's planning officer to instruct them on how such things were done, the president grew nervous.

         Such active sociology has considerable potential, but takes discipline to pursue; the A.S.S. fell apart after Seeley left, yet it had a broader influence in the society of the campus. An awakening energy had found in the A.S.S. a form to rouse itself more and to focus consciousness on values, interests and issues; and moved on -- in the first student election in memory at Stanford that was not just a popularity contest -- to elect David Harris and crew as president on a platform emphasizing government's reorientation to the educational and social issues of the day. Harris went on to local anti-war organizing in the fertilized climate and was the key organizer of The Resistance, which soon spread to become the major nonviolent vehicle of the national anti-war movement. Such distant reflections of small interventions were a frequent grace of Seeley's work.

         When Seeley returned to Brandeis in 1965 as chairman of the sociology department, he called a meeting of the department -- inviting students before faculty -- to discuss the issues phrased by the FSM and attempt a different approach to educational community. The issues were vital, their resolution unclear. Seeley insisted that nothing in the nominal status of any person should exclude him or her from entering into their determination, and that the test of authority should be people's agreement as to who bore the burden of wisdom on each given matter at each given moment. All structures, all processes of mutual resolution were possible: common meetings, scholarly exchange, arenas of fair fight. What mattered was that what they did together should be determined not a priori, but by the unfolding history of their relationship.

         Seeley recalls it as his most joyous year in academia. The department went wild, becoming in effect an educational commune. As one group's demonstration of what could happen when relations were freed for motion, six paid graduate assistants began meeting to consider their relative exploitation. They soon got down to the heavier issue of the peculiar responsibilities of the persons who could learn by teaching in their niche on the career ladder, and to what happened to this impulse as people attained professorship. In time their regular meetings came to involve voluntarily almost all the department's faculty and graduate students and then as many undergraduates, and began producing excellent reflective documents on educational issues.

         Seeley encouraged his faculty to receive these student papers as serious scholarship and to write scholarly responses and followed a strict protocol himself in relation to this group, as to others. When any policy issue came up that related to any of its concerns, he sent them notice and questions or wrote papers to which he asked them to respond. In this way, after the group had begun struggling with the question of whether and how students should grade professors, Seeley triggered the events that led Brandeis to become the first university in the nation to struggle with the question of its relation to the Selective Service System.

         For Seeley, attentive to anything that would compromise the moral foundations of educational relations, the issue was luminous. Only custom compelled the university to furnish grades to the Selective Service System; the university had never provoked public debate on the issue, nor court test. Yet by what right was such private information published without student's free and genuine consent? The faculty could not safely offer the opinions students needed for their growth, for to do so increased the probability that the students would become either corpses or murderers. Seeley drew the conclusion that the faculty should cease to issue grades, and offered his notions to the study group in a paper.

         Such interventions are not the work of supermen, but elements of field situations, yet surely Seeley had good taste in picking his occasions. Soon the group issued its own study paper and brought about a meeting of most of the student body, which published alternative formulations of what the university should do, and issued a call to the faculty to meet and discuss the matter. A quarter of the faculty responded immediately, a majority soon after, reaching the conclusion that grading was impossible in the circumstance and that the university should at least provoke a court test.

         By the time the engaged faculty could bring the matter before the Faculty Council, the higher levels of administration were able to respond. President Sacher ruled not only that a decision was not within the faculty's power, but that the matter itself was inappropriate for the faculty even to discuss, and ordered it struck from the agenda. Seeley simply circulated the correspondence among the entire faculty, observing that the issue had now shifted to the President's illusion that there were things a faculty should not discuss. Sacher sent Seeley a delegation to tell him that, though he might be right on the issue, it would be disastrous for Jewish relations in America if the only Jewish university should appear to take a disloyal stance. Seeley publicly quoted Sacher's declaration that Brandeis was not a "Jewish university" but a Jewish gift to the nation. It was the routine operation of his style, to take people's high rhetoric seriously and try to hold them to it; this was in many cases the most one could do, and at times had a powerful organizing effect.

         As usual, Seeley's moral suasion was outgunned. The administration parliamentarian succeeded at the senate meeting in sidetracking the matter into committee for six weeks. During this more leisurely time Sacher was able to put teeth in the thought that university policy was beyond scholarly purview, in part by convincing senior faculty that irresponsible action would lead the local bankers to call the major, short-term notes and thus plunge Brandeis into fiscal disaster. Despite continuing student pressure, the issue was dead -- although the raised issues of faculty power and student rights continued to reverberate on campus -- and the project of testing the SS regulation's justice was left to another university to attempt.


         Seeley recalls his decision to leave Brandeis as clean; he had announced to his colleagues at the year's beginning that he had a competing potential engagement, and that if their united efforts to democratize the department and university were sufficiently successful he would stay, and otherwise leave to pursue the general rather than the particular battle, Had his efforts been confined within the department, he might well have stayed to enjoy its familial life. But beyond the rich lesson in institutional power which the SS coflict afforded Seeley, I think it struck him in deep ways. He still identified with the faculty, who through his efforts had been led by and led the students to a pitch of expectation, and to challenge the mother-institution's brutalization of family. The effort failed, owing to what he saw again as the cowardice of his colleagues. How then could the faculty, or he, continue to be seen as credible defenders of the young? Surely the ghost of his own father, who had returned at times to object weakly to his mother's reign of injustice and then departed without effecting change, worked live within Seeley at this time, inclining him to flee the painful recreated scene and, in fleeing it, in some ways to recreate it yet again.

         The question of Seeley's exits involves not only such childhood roots but also the issue of how the sociologist should continue to relate with the community he serves, once he has lost the safe separation of profession and man which permits him to sever relations surgically.

         In general, Seeley left when he perceived his major opportunity as catalytic agent to be blocked, to serve this function elsewhere. Only in Toronto, where his various engagements led him to help train a whole generation of applied social scientists inhabiting several institutions, did he pursue his involvement in any one place for more than a few years. Yet the true place in which he worked had no one location, and in its decentralized familial enfoldment, the continuity and persistence of his effort was remarkable. As for local staying power, I myself watched what happened as Seeley stayed on at Cal Arts after the purge in 1970, to salvage what humanity was possible in the scene and cover the retreat of those he loved, and know it cost him dearly.

[The Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions]

         During his first stay in California, Seeley had visited the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions in Santa Barbara. There he returned in 1966, to accept Robert Hutchins' offer of a tenured, lifetime post as the Center's Dean. Retirement was on Hutchins' mind; he intended Seeley to inherit leadership of the moral and political thrust of the enterprise, and for the next three years Seeley, in consultation with him, oversaw the entire non-business operation, from staff organization to the choice of Center topics and collegial invitees.

         Seeley had come to conclude that there was little point in losing, or even winning, local battles. He wanted to stand at a distance to strategize the general social war. He saw in the Center not only an ideal base for himself, but an enterprise that might live up to its name in the terms in which he had come to understand "study" and "democratic institution" -- that might become internally a genuine community of learning rather than a debating society, and externally a place of passionate advocacy, an organizing focus for perspectives that might enable revolution.

         To this end, as Dean he worked to lower the age of the Center's Fellows, to bring into their discussion a great array of minorities, the young and other subjects and deviants of society, and to focus attention on the issues affecting them, which the Center had scanted. Beyond fresh directions of intellectual thrust, he wanted the Center to become a place that would legitimize lives which, like his, oscillated between thought and activism in an integral way. His pet internal project was to generate the constitution that would make a genuine self-governing institution rather than what Hutchins himself saw as a house of democratic centralism or, less politely, an autocracy. Ironically, the penultimate stage of this process produced the occasion for the purge of Seeley and most of the "Permanent Senior Fellows."

         The role of distant advocate and intervener, for which Seeley chose the Center, in some ways contradicted the understandings he had come to and threatened to recreate the split between person and professional. But by now many such splits in Seeley's life had been dissolved beyond redemption, and even the flow of his writing bespoke his inability to contain himself. The constant stream of his in-house essays, which focused largely on the metaphor of education and through it on institutional structure, function and governance, spilled out into his series of publications on his professions' foundations, into encyclopedias, yearbooks, Our Generation and other issue journals, the local town press and campus paper, etc., in a running polemic on schools and students. Seeley also went abroad as advocate, speaking on some fifty campuses -- spreading his institutional analysis and indictment, and discussing the range of issues which together he saw as configuring the collapse of Western civilization, failing the prevailing of certain terms he saw sketched in the various branches of the Movement. And he moved out informally, to explore the nature, warmth and tribulations of the broader family whose member he had found himself.

[Seeley afield]

         During 1966, our correspondence developed; at Thanksgiving, Karen and I drove to Santa Barbara to meet him in family. How can I recall the progression of mutual love? We found a small man, with a scrawny beakish face above a surprisingly strong body, who did not fear, as most men do, to share a true embrace, The civilized arabesques of his prose had been misleading, disguising rather than gilding the force of his personality: he was present, tender, and surpassingly sweet. His conversation was shaped by the intellectual's impulse to play in the heights of abstraction, and the raconteur's to digress in Chaucerian anecdote, yet was instantly ready to respond to the hint of another's feelings or needs. Above all, perhaps, he met one genuinely as an equal, with an active caring.

         To meet Jack in his immediate family was to witness the intimate core of love that surrounded and sustained him. The boys were as quick with their affection as he was, and became independently our friends over the years. Together they were a formidable troupe, unusually close and mutually respectful, and we saw in the family as a whole a reasonable approximation to the commonwealth of mutual nourishment and growth and autonomy within a framework of shared governance that Seeley sought in the world.

         As for Margaret herself, the mysteries of conjugal love are too delicate to treat here. She deserves full share of credit for the boys, not only for accomplishing the herculean tasks of base-making and coping to which our sexist culture assigns women (a division far from reconstructed in the Seeley family) and for the imprint of her person in them, but because she had a unique impression and perception of Jack that functioned as corrective for his own and others'.

         In later years, I came to appreciate more broadly the uniqueness of Seeley's character. He had, among my fairly broad acquaintanceship, quite the most sensitive and penetrating understanding of the young and what was happening to them in our society, a capacity to stretch ideas to their abstract limits and to take them absolutely personally, and a sense of delicacy and tact which led him to be unfailingly civilized even in his bitterest disputes, to the point, I sometimes thought, of self-defeat.

         Indeed, Seeley was perverse, the sort of man who, at a routine meeting to decide whether classroom chairs should be red or blue, would insist on asking what was meant by "red" and "blue" and whether there should be classrooms at all. The quirk of his mind led him consistently to recognize the distance between what people thought they were doing and what they did, and the effects of the contradictions. Beyond his grasp of the articulation of values, he had a stunning knack of choosing issues, cognitive and social, with a therapist's or psychotic's sensitivity to the presence of buried charge, and an equal knack of choosing the intervention that would bring out the true resistances and feelings beneath them. All in all, it was easy to see why trouble and violent polarizations surfaced wherever Seeley meddled, and why many who had not faced his personal. displeasure found him nonetheless a danger to society -- an evil, nagging, petulant gnome, the agent of chaos.

         I came to see him instead as the Fool of Sociology, as over a decade I watched him return battered from engagements and each time sally forth again, with not his optimism but his innocence and wonder undaunted. In perpetual naivete, he sought to extend justice and reason in a world in which, though he grasped the facts of malice and insanity and despite his experience of them, he could never quite comprehend their nature and force. The cowardice and betrayal of his colleagues continued to surprise him; time and again he foretold the routine bureaucratic disaster, yet was always amazed when it came. Totally involved in cultivating an integral sensibility, he could not grasp how others not so committed could escape the obviousness of its conclusions, nor what a genuine rarity was his way of being in the moral world.


         Seeley came to our tiny cottage in Berkeley in return, not once but many times; it was always like having some marvelous fragile butterfly descend to sip from our garden, even when his wings were crumpled and torn, Always there beat in the space between us the sense of wonder, appreciating impartially the qualities of ideas and herbal teas, of our kinships and crazy friends, and of the social dynamics of struggle and atrocity as the war went on and the decade ground our lives in its turbulence.

         As the Haight-Ashbury blossomed in San Francisco in 1967, I brought Jack into its swirl. The Haight was besieged with social researchers as well as journalists, and paranoid about their parasitism; yet this old imp found himself accepted without question among the weird children, not simply for the receptive grace of his presence, but because he had lost the safe distance of the observer to become, as we were, a person living on the existential edge, open to all its passion and terror. He made perhaps twenty visits to the Haight, disappearing for days at a time, passed along from friend to friend in the communes and enterprises of an extending family, and following its movers as they dispersed to seed the small towns and foothills of California, He was also, during this period, involved with Joan Baez, Ira Sandperl, and circles of non-violence and community action in Palo Alto, as well as with the growth of the Isla Vista community in Santa Barbara and all the "counter-cultural" involvements of his sons.

         I often wondered how he kept his balance; for to see him at the Center was to see him in a different world, urbane and vaporous, a Platonic academy where old men sat at table to chew as dry abstraction the profoundest human suffering, with never a tremble of rage or anguish in their voices. However ideal the post may have been, Jack had too much juice in him to deserve its mummification, and would likely have exploded or withered there had he lacked the outlet of richer engagements. As it was, the remarkable range of his associations among the younger movers of politics and culture enriched at least the mental life of the Center, and brought the breath of passion at times to the dry deliberations where it was received not always with gratitude.

         When Karen and I finally married in rich ceremony among our people in the foothills of the Sierras, the Spring of 1969, Jack was there. With him and the few others of his generation and the children in the meadows, we felt ourselves completed as a people in the time of generations. Some weeks later, as the protests spread in Berkeley over the People's Park, he shared with me the equally rare experience of standing under a government helicopter as it began its gassing run.

         As he was received in the intimate ceremonies of our lives, so Seeley shared in their public cusps. In 1967, as the anti-war movement spread East, he joined the March on the Pentagon. For a quarter century, since his army days, he had been an advisor to high seats, spending even more time in Washington than in Ottawa, and declining offers to serve as an executive assistant to the Director of the Peace Corps and the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity, But by now he had cut tie after tie, excluding himself from the charmed circles of policy and power, ceasing to be in any sense even nominally a loyal American. The day before the March he went to stand outside the huge federal buildings, tiny and alone in a space that seemed both prison and free, realizing how thoroughly he had become an outsider and that there was no way back, no forgiveness. Then a car pulled up, disgorging a horde of hippies from the Haight who embraced him in the glad recognition of lost children and whirled him off to spend the night at a meeting of underground press people that grew into the founding of the Liberation News Service, before they marched, together in the morning.

         The next summer 1 stopped in Santa Barbara en route to the Democratic Convention. We walked on the beach as I salvaged the skeletons of pelicans killed by oil and we shared reports on the proliferation of our network of alternative institutions and our dread of what was gathering in the dark air of a culture that had come to be terrified by its children. When I saw Jack again, it was at 3 A.M. outside the Hilton Hotel in the streets of Chicago. If we cried as we embraced, it was not alone from the teargas and terror. He had brought a friend to bear witness in the moral commune of our presence; my slides of the occasion record the ritual. Arc-lights glint off the barbed wire and serried ranks of rifles; the Episcopal Bishop looms resplendent in gold miter and scarlet cassock, in one hand staff raised high, in the other the thin, wine-dipped wafer of communion he and Jack offer in turn to guardsman after guardsman who refuse, their boyish faces uncertain and grim beneath the helmets, until at last one accepts and is led away to jail by his officers; and at the Bishop's elbow the small figure of Seeley the meddling gnome, Seeley the farmboy dragging the minister by his conscience, Seeley the Fool still believing in the face of evil evidence that one gesture of moral meaning might resonate in the heart of society and lead the parents to redeem themselves.

[Seeley exiled]

         The purge called "reorganization" came at the Center in 1969 when a multi-million dollar windfall brought to a climax the strains accumulating from Seeley's effort, with a few others, to turn the Center to a less academic relevance. Unable fully to recognize himself for the irritant he was, or to expect skullduggery in the community of ideals, Seeley courteously consented to the business manager's veto of the planned open election among the Center's Fellows, and agreed to a proposal that the permanent staff be chosen instead by an expanding consensual process, beginning with Hutchins, who chose the business manager, who blackballed Seeley and others of the Center's core of twenty.

         Seeley had been careful about tenure from York on, for it gave him the freedom to further or to oppose, as justice demanded, even the administration that granted it. Yet what devastated him now was not so much the loss of an unassailable lifetime base, but Hutchins' conscious acquiescence in the process of the purge, which involved in the deepest sense the breaking of a paternal oath of fealty as well perhaps as outright fraud, Another purgee took the Center to court for the breaking of a lesser contract and obtained a whopping six-figure settlement out of court. For Seeley, the dimensions of betrayal were too complex for him to contest the matter on this superficial ground, or even to counter the Center's public whitewash of the affair.

         With the loss of a base went collapse of the support system which had enabled Seeley to publish over 440 books and articles. During the next five years, the thrust of his work was fragmented between three major involvements and a dozen minor lectureships, consuItantships and tutorial relations as he drifted looking for a home. The frequency of his being asked to stand as candidate for college presidencies dropped from four times yearly to one, and the schools grew more obscure. His wide net of respect and kinship continued to surface other likely engagements; yet most of these were far from the West Coast which his children came to inhabit, and he and Margaret were loathe to leave them.

         Nor were even these potential engagements unembattled; for by now Seeley's habit of conducting relations with those beneath and above him in power as he saw proper, rather than by the rules of the trade, had earned him enmity in many quarters. Perhaps the most interesting case was in Toronto where, during his several teaching engagements, Seeley had attempted to create systems in which students and younger staff were not ritually degraded in the processes and as the condition of their acceptance. By 1973, some people remembered his efforts one way, some another: when he was invited by the search committees of the Sociology departments at the University of Toronto and the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, the invitations to accept professorship were over-ruled, through threat and outright veto, by higher administrations, determining the real limits of departmental "autonomy." The flap extended to high governmental levels, as the Minister of Education revealed that he had "passed on" negative information to OISE's director clandestinely concerning Seeley, in an extraordinary impropriety. Indeed Seeley, even in absentia, had become a kind of charged particle, energized in the cyclotron sixties and revealing the hidden structure of social matter, the hierarchy of its tensions and forces, in the reactions attending his every penetration.

[The California Institute of the Arts]

         There remain three main engagements to complete this present sketch of Seeley's career and purposes; limitations of time and space keep me from dealing adequately with them here. From 1969 to 1972 he worked to help design and establish the California Institute of the Arts, and the School of Critical Studies within it. This next and bolder venture in educational institutions extended the line of praxis of educational governance and community which Seeley had developed through Forest Hills Village, York and Brandeis; it was also a compact and painful case study in failed change, particularly interesting for its light upon the psychodynamics of management of open educational processes.

         To say that Seeley moved on from the Center purge to design' a memorial for Walt Disney portrays him perhaps as fool indeed. Yet the attempt to found a new kind of school of the performing arts on $35,000,000 of Disney money had some real promise and was in the direct line of Seeley's work as educator; and the contradictions which undid it were, despite their madcap aspects, commonplace and instructive. The trustees of the California Institute of the Arts wanted a memorial involving not just a collection of autonomous Schools of Drama, Art, Dance, Music, Media and Design, in a high-quality version of the usual arts-school model, but also some way of giving the institution a unique character and cohesiveness. They promised a free hand in this to Maurice Stein, who had succeeded Seeley to the sociology chairmanship at Brandeis and was to head CIA's School of Critical Studies, and to Seeley, who was to help organize not only the planning for the entire institution, but the crucial organizing process within Critical Studies itself.

         Critical Studies was to be the vital core of CIA -- not simply a "general education" division to satisfy accreditation requirements, but a place where the most gifted of the culture's young dream-makers and prophets would be brought to confront the critical. thought of the social and behavioral sciences, and through this the human problems of the day, as a condition of their art. To accomplish this, Critical Studies was to involve not only a superior faculty, headed by Stein, Seeley, Herbert Marcuse and Carl Oglesby, and its own student body, but an innovative organizing process in which faculty and students jointly, as a self-governing educational community, would evolve both the content core and the process of its teaching. In this may be seen the progression of Seeley's educational thought: from York where he had tried to combine orthodox notions of content and classical teaching modes with a more democratic governance, to Brandeis where such governance had begun to be successful within a department, to CIA where such governance was to be integral to the entire institution and where, within Critical Studies, every aspect of educational content and process was to be radically open to experiment.

         I worked with CIA, both as a consultant in its design and within Critical Studies, drawn there by the confluence of my work with Seeley's. In their thirty faculty, mostly younger, Stein and Seeley had brought together a rich and eclectic array of scholars, the fruit of the excitement of thought of the sixties -- altogether, as strong and interesting an ensemble of talent as I have known to be convened in a new institution. In the following months I observed, and shared in, their first developments of curriculum and cooperation. The space of design and governance was genuinely open; given the canonical problems involved in Stein's handing over his titular powers to a community growing to receive them, and the problems of integrating the sheer energy and diversity of their efforts, the evolutionary process of self-governance went reasonably well, and might in time have realized the vision which brought its people together.

         But in truth, the trustees and president of CIA, and the deans of its other Schools, had had no real understanding of the implications of what they had consented to, nor commitment to its principles. The tone of conflict, at once absurd and fundamental, was established early on when the Trustees, on learning that Marcuse was not just an eminent political scientist but the controversial mentor of the black Communist Angela Davis, reneged on his appointment -- leading Oglesby to resign in sympathy. By the first week of school, a senior official of this Eden of the Arts, outraged by the bright mural someone had painted on a waIl of CIA's temporary quarters, had gotten the President to issue an edict forbidding such unapproved activities -- without a direct word of displeasure to the painter, who was not only on the Faculty, but who had been appointed explicitly on the basis of his work as a painter of public walls.

         After this, matters went downhill into conflict, as each functioned after his or her kind. The main pressure came not from the Trustees, but from the President and other Deans, who had each day to face not only the considerable tasks of organizing their own domains efficiently, but the existential demands of life in a crucible. Dogs, skinny-dipping, child care, women's liberation -- the issues multiplied, as will happen in any open social space without prior conclusion and constraint, subjecting them to strains they found intolerable. Had Critical Studies offered an orthodox curriculum of strict requirements, it might have passed muster. But many students of the other Schools, accustomed to educational dependence, were disoriented at first by its variety and presumptions of autonomy, and by the slowness of its evolvement into coherence; and the Deans and President, beset not only by the strains intrinsic to founding a school, but by the tensions of mutual competition for funds in a situation of remarkable fiscal mismanagement, found Critical Studies a convenient place to park their anxieties. They could not accept a course for women in car repair as a legitimate embodiment of social thought; and saw, in the choosing of the Critical Studies governing council by means of zodiacal birth signs, not a mere device for the rotation of representative governance, but a lewd gesture of chaos.

         The pressure focused on Stein, to shape up his School. When he and they persisted in doing precisely what he had been hired to do, he was fired; the President's aide took over the School's governance; and a substantial number of the faculty were dismissed as of the year's end. This took six months, but from the start the denouement had been in the air. Faced with constant pressure from outside, rather than the unhurried time and open space needed for building, the faculty and students of Critical Studies found the organization of their own work increasingly strained and disrupted which redoubled the outside pressures. The bonds of community and mutual purpose were far too young to permit of effective resistance; in the end they could only huddle together, like a band of lost children adrift in the craziness of Los Angeles, awaiting the sweep of the wave that would carry their brief friendships and cross-fertilizations on to other engagements.

         Often during those months I walked with Jack away from the scenes of conflict and betrayal, and into the waiting hills, where we could digest our experience together. There was no narrow political point at stake in the conflicts, but rather an elemental one: it was indeed anarchy and chaos against the forces of "order." The chaos was the complexity which opens when new perceptions and old needs are allowed genuinely to surface; the anarchy was the condition of self-respecting autonomy and democracy necessary to govern such chaos justly; and the "order" was not an ideological conviction that some particular rigid way of ordering matters was ideal, but rather a metabolic reaction to the emotional strain and cognitive dissonance of this existential freedom: a low-tolerance response demanding the immediate security and release of dependable control, and foreclosing the development of a different kind of control, as well as of the social potentials which may go with it. The lesson, from CIA and many other places, is not simply that a constitutional tolerance must protect open social experiment, but that to carry it through there needs be a sufficiently high tolerance among its participants, gained from prior experience, of the peculiar and characteristic stresses and ambiguities of such situations -- else relapse into authoritarian forms is assured, not from without but from within.

[Further engagements]

         Following this, Seeley worked as director of the evaluation project for a massively-funded program of alternatives in the Berkeley public school system, and then as a special assistant to the director of the Neuropsychiatric Institute of U.C.L.A.

         I have mentioned the proposed Center for the Study of Violence, which the Neuropsychiatric Institute was to have spawned with federal funds from the Law Enforcement Assistance Agency, as a focus for the escalation of the uses of behavioral science in social control. The politics of this, and of the Center's temporary derailment by a process which Seeley helped orchestrate, deserve an essay by themselves, This engagement was in several ways a climax to the logics of Seeley's career. His critique of the psycho-sociology whose totalitarian implications the Center would extend had prepared his position as pivot-man for the resistance against the Center, even as the importance of the issues he had devoted himself to, and his intellectual probity, had earned him a key advisory post within the Center's planning group itself. In managing both roles with scrupulous integrity and without contradiction, Seeley brought to a delicate harmony the style of working both sides of the fence which he had cultivated since his adolescence. And in orchestrating the complex collective effort of campus, civic and professional groups and legislators to block the Center's establishment, Seeley found himself at last, after many undergunned and naive defeats, as a victorious journeyman in the rough-and-tumble of full-scale institutional politics.

         These three engagements spanned the first half of the seventies and reveal Seeley as a man of his time, incarnating the rhythms of his chosen allegiances in society, He experienced the profound lessons and failure of early experiment in independent alternatives; the retreat within the System and the insufficiency of the alternatives attempted there in response to the sixties; and the return to focus against the organized injustices which have meanwhile been extending themselves powerfully and persistently. This in capsule has been the collective experience of these years for the people of the Movement with which Seeley identified himself. For him, for us, it has been in many ways a rather depressed time, What is less noticed, publicly and in private perception, is the spread and deepening of alternative social vision, and the extent to which low-profile efforts to realize it, within institutions and at their uneasy bounds, have become rooted and ongoing. Working now at the Drew Medical School's Department of Psychiatry in Los Angeles, as well as with several alternative educational ventures, Seeley seems to me sometimes just another face in a patient crowd, a complex gesture still unfolding.

[The state of struggle]

         Looking back, it should be clear that more than personal reactions and timeless bureaucratic structures were at issue. During the sixties, North American society came increasingly unglued, as what had been repressed in persons and minorities sought social space for its legitimation, The symbolic theater of Kent State, of the young murdered for protest of an unjust war, ushered in the retrenchment of the seventies. In education as out, the funds and spirit for active experiment in fundamental change diminished abruptly. No social problem exposed had been solved, indeed the state of most continued to worsen, yet institutions and the individuals within them drew generally back from risk. The lines of social control, though strained, had not broken: in the face of alternatives which were more talk than substance and at best yet feebly rooted, the customary structures of reward still cast their charm, however tarnished had become its meaningfulness, and the processes of punishment continued against disorganized, and generally demoralized, local opposition. At almost every campus of significance in America, economic tightening provided the excuse for the dismissal of "radicalized" faculty in education and the social sciences, though many who would not carry their changed consciousness beyond the private fiefdoms of their classrooms were granted stay.

         Nor was this diffuse purge the greatest brake to change. The opening of a Pandora's box could not, for the moment at least, be reversed; new notions of people's needs were abroad, demanding response. The design and leadership of responsive meliorative programs came overwhelmingly to be entrusted, not to those who had tested innovation to the point of conflict or "extremity" during the sixties, but to those who had pursued more orthodox apprenticeships of style and content within established structures of power, who were au courant enough to sound plausible yet proven sensible enough to threaten nothing, and to a few of more eccentric credentials who had reentered the fold convincingly enough.

         This process of social homeostasis has operated at every organized level of power's exercise, from school to state school district, city council to national government. But it has had a subtle and grim progressive component. As for social structure, so for the social science with which it is always conjoined, even in cultures which do not conceive of "sociology": the reconsolidation of power advances the hegemony of a particular mode of organization and a particular stylistic purpose. In our case the mode is "value-free" and instrumental, and the purpose, I believe, is control in the face of fear. Despite the newly dissident presence, in several professions of social and psychological science, of "beach-head" associations of radical faculty and practitioners -- and at times, indeed, unacknowledged in their very work -- an instrumental perspective continues not only to dominate the application of social and behavioral science to the governance of our society, but through this domination to advance its own development and hegemony.

         It is as if the managers of society, threatened by rising chaos, have sought, from those they still trusted, subtler tools, more bloodless and efficient, to reassert control in ways which would not disturb the existing balances of power; as if they have funded the forges of such tools, enabling their refinement, and have directed their use on a wide scale, ensuring their influence, while at the same time inhibiting in many direct and indirect ways the forging and use of alternative tools; and as if the employment of these tools in governing the very places of their provenance -- in track-oriented admissions screening, in hyper-technologized learning styles, in reductionistic and privatistic psychotherapeutic practices, in systems-analytic strategies for managing faculties and curricula, and in a score of other ways whose gestalt effect is to reshape not only those who are so used but their users to reflect the underlying spirit of employment -- has prejudiced conditions to produce more of the same, much as the needles of the pine forest, fallen to a thick blanket of acid humus, inhibit the sprouting of competing species while nourishing one to extend its dominion.

         What is at stake in all this, instrumentally, is the shape of human society and perhaps its continued existence on the planet. For the social and behavioral sciences find their place simply as a particular expression of humanity's consciousness of itself, and we are in all age of historical crisis in which the application of this consciousness self-consciously to its incarnation and further development in society has become necessary, not simply to serve the purposes of the noosphere with de Chardanian optimism, but to respond to the problems with which our social-psychological evolution, or at least its Western version, has confronted itself.

         The problems and their underlying contradiction mount towards crisis; what is being tested, most generally, is whether the authoritarian systems and dynamics which have evolved during this past human era and to which we tend to regress in dependence under the gathering strains, and the conceptual and practical. tools which they have fathered and depend on, will be sufficient to cope with the problems and secure at least for a while this era's perpetuation; or whether they will not, and will lead us then either into a disaster whose possible dimensions (beyond simple annihilation) cannot yet be foreseen, or instead into the development of responses of a fundamentally different nature, in their deepest essence and all their details democratic. The nature and use of social science as a tool of social governance has a precise place in this crux, reaching far beyond and yet identical with the question of whether it will be determined by and benefit the managed or the managers of society.

         Yet even this instrumental perspective reinforces the tendency it criticizes, for it neglects the moral dimension. People are not objects, to be managed and used, even with the best of intentions. What is going on is not a dispassionate choice between strategies of response to potential and crisis, but a war between irreconcilable senses of the human spirit, fought always in practice on utilitarian grounds but defining the deepest senses of human meaning, which we call "moral." In this arena of human meaning one chooses sides perforce through one's actions. And as we are all socio-logists, actively creating society through our understanding of it, perhaps the highest state of (meta) sociology is to choose to be conscious of this process, and morally responsible for the consequenees of each intervention, from personal intercourse to advice of governmental policy.

         In this light I see Seeley in the seventies, as just another aging rebel on the run, buffeted by the day's weathers -- suffering demoralization and doubt in his and our abilities to build, and perhaps even in the ultimate efficacy of the buildable; yet still holding to his purpose as the meaning of his life, and attempting to instantiate it so far as energy, opportunity and comradeship can avail. The five major projects he undertook in education, from 1960 through 1973, may each be said to have ended in turbulent failure; yet the failures are of interest for the spirit they sought to incarnate, as Seeley's life is exemplary not only in the way it reveals the nature and dynamic of a conflict of tools and perspectives, but also as a model of praxis, an example of a lived gesture of meaning in society, human enough (despite my description) to be real. Nor were they simply failures, but rather rich experiences which continued after his departure. The story of what happened afterwards at York, Brandeis, etc., becomes the broader story of all those who moved in various response to the impulses of the age, creating the context in which the fate of Seeley's work and life, and of the family of people influenced by him and sharing with him the development of a perspective of social thought and action, is still being decided, as unbalanced sides imagine weapons in an uncertain war.


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(*) Michael Rossman, The Wedding Within the War, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1971; On Learning and Social Change, N.Y.: Random House, 1972, chapter 4; and "How We Learn Today in America," Saturday Review, Aug. 19, 1973.    Back