Each of the three essays suggests a contemporary social crisis. For Mesthene, it is the result of demands caused by realizing that we could do more about our manifold problems than we are doing. For Miss Taviss it is essentially a reflection of the transition from ‘late industrial society’ — characterized by a relatively small amount of social control of individual behaviour and a low level of social solidarity — to a (hopefully) emerging society in which individuals continue to be free of intense social determination of what they do, but both individuals and society are much more conscious of their collective interdependence and need for solidarity. Schelling describes an engrossing collection of problems involving serious conflict between individual choice and collective interest — all generally displaying both the feature that they cannot necessarily be resolved by adaptive processes and the feature that they could be solved by government intervention or by some other form of social regulation, but only at the cost of serious compromise of traditional liberal values. These values, for example, claim that an individual’s choice of where he lives is no one’s concern but his own. Schelling shows how a system of free individual choices in such matters may, however, have destructive social consequences; and so on.
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