If we are ever to solve the problems of society we must understand how humans function as both the creators and creatures of an evolving culture. Only by viewing socialization as the ongoing product of social interaction in the context of a hierarchy of dynamic, self-organizing, feedback systems will we begin to build the scientifically reliable knowledge that can provide us with the conceptual tools necessary to ensure our survival and the health of our ecology.
Pat Duffy Hutcheon stresses the importance of culture in human development, along with our collective responsibility for the direction in which that culture evolves. From the perspective of an evolutionary-systems model, she explains the ongoing interaction between nature and nurture, while identifying the devastating consequences of allowing nurture to occur in the absence of sound scientific analysis and proactive intervention, guided by universally applicable values and reliable knowledge.
Hutcheon proceeds from an exploration of humans as creators and creatures of culture to a consideration of the key role of agents of socialization in cognitive development and character formation. Culture is presented as a hierarchy of nesting systems feeding into the socialization process from birth to death—beginning with the subcultures of the family, school, and peer group which are, in turn, influenced by their relationship to larger, enveloping systems. The most worrisome forms of the latter are identified as the culture of violence—that terrifying product of our modern electronic media; the destructive mirror images of the cultures of affluence and poverty; the incompatible cultures of pluralism and tribalism; and the culture of fantasy, with its seductive appeal of simplistic certainties in response to the threat of wholesale social breakdown. Hutcheon's message is far from pessimistic, however, in that the analyses of current problems are clearly seen to point the way to practical solutions.