First posted 7/28 on The Doctor Weighs In
Most of us are in a funk right now. We are involved with two wars which most of us don’t really believe in, we are slogging through the worst economic wreckage since the Great Depression, there is a pervasive sense that America is rapidly losing its optimism, its enthusiasm, its can-do attitude. It wouldn’t be a big stretch to conclude that we are losing our hope. On the individual level hopelessness is a hallmark of depression. Can our society suffer from the equivalent of depression? And what would the consequences be?
Research on environmental and cultural impact on societal behavior is hard to do. The main difficulty is to tease out causal connections from the incredibly rich fabric that affects society. For example, did religious institutions shape societal behavior, or did the latter provide fertile ground for the rise of religion? Or was it a two-way relationship, one affecting the other? All one can do is make observations, and observational studies are rarely conclusive.