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U.N. today, or in the U.S. relationship to the U.N., if there were not a general crisis in industrial societies. We must understand this general crisis.
Industrial societies have not always existed. Our industrial civilization is only about 200 or 300 years old. It sprang from the Industrial Revolution at different times and in different places. But all industrial societies share certain fundamental characteristics. They are based on mass production and mass distribution. They all develop mass education systems, mass media. They are all part of an integrated money system. They all develop a materialistic value system. They all, by and large, rely on the nuclear family system. And they are al dependent upon fossil fuels.
Moreover—and, as we shall see, this is crucial to the U.N.—they are all based on the nation-state and on bureaucratic forms of organization. In short, industrial societies are made up of certain common parts and processes. They form a system.
What is happening today is the crackup of this system. When I say that the system is breaking up, I am not talking about the capitalist system or the socialist or Communist system, but the larger system that includes both—the industrial system.
This breakdown is evident not just in terms of energy and resource dislocations or in dislocations and upheavals in technology. It is also evident in the breakdown of the nuclear family system, in changes in the value system in the society, and many other upsets and malfunctions.
The wild oscillation of the global economy is also related to this orerall historic breakdown of the industrial system, the general crisis of industrialism.
Senator SYMINGTON. Excuse me. You are reading from notes. I have no copy. I am very interested. You say it is not a breakdown in capitalism, it is a breakdown in the industrial system? Mr. TOFFLER. Yes. Senator SYMINGTON. Would you expand on that?
Mr. TOFFLER. Yes. I think that industrial societies, whether they are capitalist or Communist or any intermediate form, all make use of certain fundamental technologies and social procedures. As a result, the guy who gets up in the morning and goes to work in the factory in Kiev is not that different from the guy who gets up and goes to work in the factory in Detroit or Pittsburgh. Their daily routines and experiences are not so different.
Certainly, there are profound political, cultural, and historic differences, and certainly we would rather live here, and they might or might not prefer to live there—but these underlying life-support systems of all industrial societies are basically the same. For example, none of them could function without mass education or mass communications. They all, regardless of whether they are capitalist or Communist, rely on a certain form of family structure. They all share the assumption that economic growth or economic development is the primary aim of the society and of the individual, by and large. They all develop similar internal procedures. They all organize huge bureaucracies—pyramidal hierarchies. That is the dominant form of human organizing in all industrial societies, whether the United States or the Soviet Union.
So that, I believe, there are fundamental similarities between industrial societies quite apart from their political differences. And it is these underlying arrangements that are now out of gear, that are now beginning to come apart. Of course, when I speak about the breakdown of industrial societies, that can be taken as a Spenglerian vision of doom. But the transition out of industrialism can also be seen as the birth of a new civilization.
What is happening, I think, is some sort of fundamental historic transformation. The system that we have grown up in-most of us are products of industrial societies—is now transforming into something new, and that new society is likely to have quite different characteristics. It may very well be based on advanced technology, but not any longer, for example, on traditional assembly-line mass production. It may no longer be based on very large scale bureaucratic forms of organization, but, rather, on decentralized self-managing forms, and so on.
CHANGES IN FAMILY SYSTEM RELATED TO INDUSTRIAL TRANSFORMATION
Similarly, the family system in this country is rapidly changing. Something like one-fourth or 25 percent of all Åmerican kids in urban areas today are no longer raised in classical nuclear family households, they are raised in single-parent households. That's a key indication of the breakdown of industrial society and its transformation into something new.
Senator CASE. What is there that makes the family system so much a part of the industrial system? We had families before the industrial system. What is peculiar about that?
Mr. TOFFLER. The family system is very closely linked to the nature of the technology that the society uses. Before the industrial revolution, several generations lived in the same household and economic production was carried out by the family as a unit. People worked in the fields near the house.
Even at the beginning of the industrial revolution the whole family moved into the factory. The father would go to work with his kids. That broke down because industrial society required a new kind of mobility on the part of the workers. It required workers who would go where the jobs were. You couldn't do that if you were dragging grandparents, uncles, aunts, and poor relatives along with you. So social pressures arose to “streamline” the family unit down to just the father, mother and the kids—what sociologists call the “nuclear" family.
In addition, fundamental functions of the family, like education, were taken away from the family and given over to specialized institutions like the schools. The care of the aged was taken away from the family and given over to State enterprises or welfare institutions of one kind or another. The family structure underwent a fundamental change with the coming of the industrial society. Today, as industrial society breaks down, we see, in turn, the breakup of the nuclear family, too.
However, this enormous revolution in the family system is only one little detail of the canvas. The technological revolution is another detail. We are simultaneously changing our social institutions, our
logic, our philosophy, our treatment of science, our religion, and many other aspects of the culture as well. All of these are part of the decline of industrialism and the emergence of a new, quite different, superindustrial society.
This, then, is the background against which the crisis in the international system and in the United Nations needs to be understood.
EMERGENCE OF TRANSITIONAL TECHNOLOGY AND INSTITUTIONS
The most obvious new fact to grow out of this historic shift is the emergence of new technology and new institutions that are simply too big for the nation-state-institutions or technology that span the planet, institutions, or technologies that are not national but transnational.
For example, we now have what is, in effect, a new transnational currency, Eurodollars, with an estimated 180 billion of these rattling around the world last year and no transnational agency capable of regulating or controlling them.
We have developed transnational banks. We have, above all, created transnational corporations and trade unions. And the scale of some of these new transnational institutions is enormous.
The multinationals, for example, are so large that, according to the International Trade Subcommittee of the Senate Finance Committee, on a given day at the end of 1971, these multinational corporations held $268 billion in short-term liquid assets. This pocket money, as it were, was “more than twice the total of all international monetary institutions in the world on the same date.” How can the present regulatory institutions hope to regulate such vast new entities?
These great transnational institutions are, in turn, based on powerful technologies, some of which endanger the biosphere we all share, from the ozone layer to the ocean floor, and many of which produce problems that are beyond the control of any one nation. This is why national leaders are increasingly helpless to stem the powerful external waves that jolt national economies.
In short, the transition to superindustrialism has raised the stakes in the game of survival to the transnational level.
WHERE DOES THE U.N. FIT IN TRANSNATIONAL SYSTEM
Now where does the U.N. fit into this picture and why is it so widely regarded as a failure?
To understand the U.N. we must first recognize that the U.N. is only a tiny piece of a swiftly emerging transnational mosaic or network of institutions which are part of the new superindustrial system.
This network consists of thousands of organizations and millions of individuals around the world in continually shifting relationships with one another. It consists not only of multinational corporations but also of transnational communications-satellites, computer banks, telecommunication systems. It consists of transnational transport systems, ranging from supertankers to supersonics. It even includes transnational religious and cultural movements. Thus, a wave of Eastern mysticism reaches into the United States just as a wave of
American culture, in the form of blue jeans, rock music, and transistor radios sweeps through Europe, or, for that matter, the Middle East. This transnational network which is springing up also includes swiftly proliferating political and economic institutions, more and more intergovernmental organizations, regional common markets, multinational research centers, and development projects.
This profusion of intergovernmental institutions is matched at the nongovernmental level--a critical point to which I will return in a minute. For now it is only necessary to note that there are already some 2,600 nongovernmental organizations or NGO's whose activities reach beyond national borders and who themselves form a key network within the larger network.
Only when it is observed against this very large, rapidly changing background, can the U.N. be seen for what it really is. It is only one small component in a very large, rapidly developing system. It is a microchip in a highly charged interactive network. This U.N. chip or component is important because it has certain positive functions that no other part of the system can perform and the case for the U.N. rests heavily on this fact.
Some of these functions were mentioned at the table today. It is still clearly useful to be able to plant a peacekeeping force in Sinai and on Golan Heights. It is still necessary for certain global housekeeping tasks to be routinely performed, for instance, those quietly being carried out under U.N. aegis by the international telecommunication union, or the international civil aviation organization, the postal union, the copyright organization and the like.
Even the much-criticized “talk-shop” function of the U.N.—the provision of a truly global forum-is a valuable one. The rhetoric and grandstanding in U.N. debates and the passage of resolutions, 97 percent of which, by actual count, never result in action, makes this seem like an exercise in futility. Nevertheless, much useful communication is carried on behind the scenes. So the U.N. does have important functions. If it did not exist it would have to be reinvented to perform these functions.
Furthermore, in defense of the U.N., many of its failures are not surprising since it serves, as others have pointed out, as a hospital for last-resort cases, ultimate crises. Problems are dumped into the U.N. when all other efforts already have failed. It is like a doctor 90 percent of whose patients have terminal cancer when they walk in his door. So that the U.N.'s failure rate should not be evaluated in the usual
Finally, the dramatic failures of the U.N. should be measured against the giant scale of the problems and the contrasting size of the U.N. resources. Roughly speaking, as I calculate it, the total annual U.N. budget is in the area of $1 billion a year, give or take a bit. This means that the total U.N. budget each year is 1/268 of 0.0037 of the loose change available to multinational corporations on any given day. Our U.S. per capita contribution to that budget is, I believe, only about 16 cents per month-which is the cost of a package of chewing gum. It is as though we were trying to hold the world together with chewing gum. So we ought not be surprised if the U.N. so often seems ineffective, not to say bankrupt.
U.N. IS BASED ON ANACHRONISTIC ASSUMPTIONS
Having entered all of that into the record, however, I think we must be absolutely clear that the U.N. as it now exists, is dangerously ineffective. Arrogant, shoot-from-the-glands, get-tough attitudes won't help; but neither will liberal do-good defensiveness about this fact. The U.N. is overbureaucratized. It is badly and wastefully organized. It is based on anachronistic assumptions. It is, itself, arrogant.
The U.N. does not see itself as one chip or component, in a growing transnational network, but as an independent unit, just as nations mistakenly see themselves as independent units. It argues against national sovereignty but foolishly asserts its own organizational sovereignty. It does not seem to understand that it cannot function effectively until it is connected up with, or wired into, other parts of the transnational network. And because it isolates itself from the rest of the network, it has no roots among ordinary people, no basis or constituency, or direct contact with the everyday organizations and groups through which most of the work of the world actually gets done.
Finally, if it is bureaucratic, it is also rigid, confused and disoriented. It is, in the words of one Member of the U.S. Senate, "a basket case of future shock."
This brings us to the role of the United States in the United Nations. Within this already unstable organization, the United States faces a 'political crisis that is likely to intensify dramatically within the next 2 or 3 years. For this reason, it is important for us to look at some of the stages, some of the forms this crisis might take.
POSSIBLE FUTURE SCENARIOS
Here is how one well-placed observer of the U.N. situation sees the crisis developing. “The rapid U.S. retreat within the present structure of the U.N. system will be characterized by the formation of large temporary majorities from the developing countries which will be demonstrably hostile toward U.S. national interest. The United States and some of its allies will be placed in a defensive, isolated position, by virtue of almost prestaged proceedings which would constitute new emotional and collective brainwashing sessions rather than civilized, international, tolerant, rational forums.
“U.N. meetings will be transformed into revolutionary tribunals where perhaps even terrorist groups will be protected” while member states are abused. The United States may well find itself singled out for these humiliating outbursts." It is also quite likely, he believes, that a successful effort will be made to move the U.N. headquarters out of New York to Vienna or Geneva, or perhaps to Algeria or Mexico City.
If we play out this scenario, we might also very quickly find dissident groups within the United States—whether American Indians or Eskimos or blacks or other ethnic minorities or, for example, prisoners or small farmers or West Virginia miners-being invited to use the U.N. as a platform from which to influence the internal affairs of this country.