chapter  6
12 Pages

Self-Actualization and Culture

The second assumption that has hindered the development of a sociological theory of self-actualization has been what Hewitt (1989) calls the "pessimistic" view of self and culture found in sociology. This perspective involves the belief that the evolution from traditional to modern societies has led to unbridled individualism and self-absorption. This assumption, shared by authors such as Schur (1976), Lasch (1978, 1984), and Yankelovich (1981), has led to the view that quests for self-actualization are nothing more than narcissistic attempts to withdraw from a sick culture. Although these

Since Maslow's death a number of alternative theories dealing with selftransformation have emerged and have been received by the wider public with some success (see Miller, 1991). Of these newer theories, Ken Wilber's (1984) is the most sociological in that it is not based on the assumptions mentioned above and acknowledges that the evolution of consciousness is linked to sociocultural evolution. Wilber suggests that for individuals to be transformed to the level of consciousness representing self-actualization, they must "accept the death of the present level of adaptation" (p. 53), which in today's culture is characterized by rationality and self-reflexivity. Wilber's scheme seems to suggest that the symbolic death of an identity grounded in rationality and self-awareness can be initiated by cultural changes, bur he does not specify how or why this occurs.