LIMITS: A Search for New Values by Maxine Schnall

LIMITS: A Search for New Values

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An interesting, if occasionally too-neat, wrap-up of where we're coming from and where we're going--from the narcissism of Thirties' parents determined to make their offspring into the successes they couldn't be themselves, to the more recent narcissism of ""shuttling [children] back and forth between divorced parents like contraband."" After lengthy descriptions of each decade's shortcomings (conformity in Thirties, Forties, and Fifties; out-of-hand rejection in the Sixties; distrust in the ""Selfish Seventies""), Schnall suggests--hopefully--that we're in for a spell of moderation in the Eighties, marked by true fulfillment, concern for the needs of others, self-directed goals and values both as individuals and as a society. She cites as evidence the emergence of new directions in education (more emphasis on vocational skills), marking an end to the ""upward mobility"" myth (thanks to harsh economic realities); the ""wearing off"" of drug fads that represented flight from our true selves; and the turn toward what she calls ""rational love"" (romantic love not far removed from reality, hence rational) as an alternative to sexual permissiveness. There is, however, a non-sequitur aspect to all this. Schnall's exploration of each decade's failings is marked by the theme of a search for unconditional love: the conformity kids wanted approval, the rebellion kids had been victimized by permissive parents whose refusal to set limits left their children, paradoxically, excessively dependent. But extending this theme of search into the Eighties, what marvel of parental discretion in the Sixties and Seventies was able to produce children so immune to the lure of unconditional love that they will be able to transcend the search in the next decade? Schnall, a psychologist who founded Wives Self-Help for troubled women, is better at delineating the years past than the years to come, which she invests with a filmy quality. Still, the ""search for new values"" does continue, and it doesn't hurt to have the future grounded in the failings of the recent past.

Pub Date: May 8th, 1981
Publisher: Potter--dist. by Crown