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RunawayGregory Bateson, the Double Bind, and the Rise of Ecological Consciousness$
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Anthony Chaney

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781469631738

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469631738.001.0001

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Double-Bind Generation

Double-Bind Generation

(p.133) Six Double-Bind Generation

Anthony Chaney

University of North Carolina Press

The narrative setting for this chapter is Bateson’s 1966 visit to Northern California to speak at the “Two Worlds Symposium” – a student-oriented event dedicated to an exploration of the “generation gap” and its relation to social and political unrest. These students, inspired by the Civil Rights Movement, an emerging counterculture, and a New Left, were representative of a "double-bind generation" torn between postwar affluence and a hard-to-articulate discomfort with how American power was being expressed domestically and internationally. In his speech, Bateson offered an explanation for their unrest and psychic pain that mixed 20th-century historical interpretation and cybernetic theory. He used the Treaty of Versailles as an example of a transnational double bind. Bateson’s message was informed by his family’s experience of World War I, at the heart of which was a tragic generational conflict analogous to the one bearing down on 1960s-era youth during the escalation of US involvement in the Vietnam War. Bateson offered hope to his discontented young audience, but by framing their current crisis in terms of his new, cybernetic natural history, but it was a hope that challenged commonplace solutions and modes of change.

Keywords:   generation gap, Civil Rights Movement, New Left, counterculture, cybernetic theory, double bind, Treaty of Versailles, World War I, Vietnam War

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