LOSS AND CHANGE by Peter Marris


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British sociologist Marris' book is a trenchant challenge to prevalent notions of social change. He writes of a ""conservative impulse,"" a need for confidence and predictability in our ""habits of feelings, principles of conduct, attachments, purposes, conceptions of how people behave"" to provide ""consistent patterns of meaning."" He finds a paradigm for the psychology of change in bereavement. A radical disruption of life, a severe loss, provokes contradictory, incoherent responses: denial, apathy, withdrawal, random hostility, guilt -- always ambivalence. If a structure for mourning is provided, these conflicts become a constructive search for a continuity of purpose, a reformulation of identity. Marris sees spontaneous innovation as an outgrowth of this impulse -- as an extension of existing structures, as a protection against greater disruption, or as a response to a loss of meaning. While Marris is at times heavy on theory and light on facts, he draws on myriad instances of social loss (many of which are analyzed in his previously published studies): widowhood and student adjustment in England, slum clearance and tribalism in Nigeria, entrepreneurship in Kenya, community action in the United States. Marris argues that reform, to be managed, must expect and encourage conflict, allow time and patience for adjustment, and respect the autonomy of different experiences. At times one feels that Marris' bereavement model is somewhat forced. Nevertheless, this is an articulate, knowledgeable study of a human need which perhaps we have been only dimly aware of.

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1974
Publisher: Pantheon