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Copyright Irish Journal of Sociology ISSN 0791-6035 Vol. 13.2. 2004, pp.


Has the informalisation process changed direction?: Manners and emotions in a Dutch advice column 1978-98
ARJAN POST University of Amsterdam ABSTRACT: The broad social changes that came about in Western countries during the 1960s and 1970s can be briefly characterised as informalisation; during the 1980s and 1990s this gave rise to something ofa moral panic in public opinion. In daily life today, many examples can be found ofthe ongoing 'emancipation of emotions' on the one hand, and ofa rising quest for law and order on the other. Is the interpretation of informalisation still adequate? To a large extent this interpretation was founded on Brinkgreve and Korzec's study of an advice column in the Dutch popular weekly Margriet between 1938 and 1978. This article is a follow-up to that earlier study. In the new material, focusing on sexes and generations, a shifl towards reformalisation can be noticed. No longer are social and psychic boundaries being explored, but once more being emphasised. An increasing unease ever since the 1980s - related to economy, criminality, but also disillusion with emancipation - is accompanied by a stronger a sense of belonging and mutual consideration. The material does not, however, indicate a restoration but rather a change in social habitus: a shift from psychologisation towards sociologisation. In terms ofNorbert Elias 's concept ofthe WeI balance of individuals, this indicates a shift towards 'we'.

Introduction For many years now it has been a popular idea that most capitalistic bureaucracies have increasingly been suffering a decline in manners and morality. Over much the same period, a trend towards declining power differences between social classes, generations and sexes can be perceived. Ever since the 1980s, the latter trend has scarcely ever been welcomed as a major achievement or as a longawaited emancipation. The voices of those who viewed it favourably have been drowned by nostalgic sounds of moral alarm. To sociologists who consider manners as the reflection of human relations, this carries a problem. It would seem that what has occurred is a break or reversal in the age-long process of more demanding social standards of self-control, as Norbert

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Elias depicted it in The Civilising Process. Yet it is an optical illusion to take this as a recent problem. As far back as the early 1970s there was actually a remarkable contradiction: it was in Amsterdam that Elias's theory found acceptance, more than anywhere else in Europe. Amsterdam was at that time the scene of battles during the 'cultural revolution' - the self-proclaimed 'magical centre ofthe universe'. In their study of the Dutch advice column 'Margriet Weet Raad' (Margriet's Advice) in the popular weekly Margriet between 1954 and 1974, Christien Brinkgreve and Michel Korzec (1976a) noticed diminishing power differences, a shift from 'moralisation' towards 'psychologisation', and the widening range of conduct and feeling expressed in readers' letters and, principally, in Margriet's answers. In the context of what still seemed rather unsettled times, Brinkgreve and Korzec asked themselves whether these results could be interpreted as 'a process of decreased (self-)contror. If it was, did this 'loosening of morals' confiict with Elias's theory? Had the civilising process changed direction? A fundamental discussion followed with Cas Wouters (1976), who denied the decline of self-control. Instead, he elaborated his 'informalisation' thesis: the broadening of the range of altemative pattems of behaviour and the ' emancipation of emotions' had not so far led to the attenuation of the pattem of self-regulation, but involved on the contrciry an intensification. He referred to a lecture on youth culture in Amsterdam in 1970 by Norbert Elias, who pointed to a 'highly controlled decontrolling of emotional controls', especially in sports and leisure (see Elias and Dunning 1986: 44). Wouters applied the idea ofa 'controlled decontrolling' to the broad sweep of social and psychic processes in twentieth century. In response, Brinkgreve and Korzec (1976b) raised the question of whether the civilising process could change direction at all: if both 'loose' and 'tight' morals can be part ofthe same process, at least its criteria must be 'vague'; there was a risk that the theory was being 'immunised' against falsification. In their second, more comprehensive siwAy Margriet Weet Raad {\91%), spanning from 1938 up to 1977, Brinkgreve and Korzec more or less sided with the informalisation interpretation. Although the pace of many socio-cultural changes was slower than during the 1960s, the results indicated the continuation of emancipation, individuaiisation, greater openness in matters of sexuality, and the rise of a psychotherapeutic idiom. Together, the end of 'austerity and frugality' was accompanied by the shift from extemal to self-control. Others have focused on similar processes. As Johan Goudsblom (1989: 722) phrased it: 'More people are forced more often to pay more and more attention to more other people.' Abram de Swaan (1990: 150-61) pointed to the shift from management by command to management by negotiation, which requires people more frequently to take more aspects of others into account. Likewise Paul Kapteyn (1980) considered 'detabooisation' as a process of increasing self-control: to get rid of taboos means to internalise their psychic restrictions. The apotheosis of the 'direction debate' came with the insertion of the informalisation concept into the civilisation theory by Elias himself. This is done profoundly in the chapter


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'Civilisation and Informalisation' in The Germans (1996: 21-44). Here Elias, like Wouters, takes the position that informalisation requires at least a higher degree of self-regulation. In this view, increasing 'external' restraints exert pressures towards 'self-restraints'. Thus, informalisation does not conflict with the civilising process, but is rather a new phase in it. Yet in public debate, beneath topics from the rise of incivility and crime or the loss of national identity, much the same message is audible: 'morality' has declined. Calls for a 'moral revival', 'new virtue' or the 'restoration' of older values heard during the 1980s in the Netherlands and other countries strongly resemble those for 'decency' and 'a sense of standards' during the 1990s and up to the present day. These debates often take the form of a deterioration discourse. Opinion polls indicate a rising quest for control, strict rules and rigid enforcement by the authorities (NIPO 1998; SCP 1998). This implies that the resistance against social inequalities and the prevailing social structure associated with the 1970s has died down, in favour of the sense of belonging, nostalgia and 'hominess'. Simultaneously, an emotionalisation of public opinion can be recognised, not only in the way views are expressed, but also in the subjects being discussed. Feelings, desires, fears: personal problems have become commodities which appeal to people's imagination in an expanding emotion market - colourfully illustrated by magazines, television programmes and intemet sites. The reassessment of law and order is often viewed as separate from the ongoing unfettering of emotions. However, with a more distanced view, two different but intertwining trends can be perceived, in which this 'controlling' and 'decontrolling' face both ways. Indirectly, Elias (1996: 42) took the blind side of this paradox into account. Evidently, he states, in less than a hundred years a 'really radical change' has been accomplished, yet the structure of the change often still remains obscure in public discussion. According to many, this is precisely what characterises so-called postmodem societies: the lack of any structure at all (Bauman 1997). This widespread intellectual confusion, in particular the subject of culturesociology (Wilterdink 2002),' gives rise to asking a new question, based on the earlier discussion on the direction of self-controls: has the informalisation process changed direction? In this article I will explore the validity of the interpretation of informalisation for recent years. Therefore I pose the question of whether and how informalisation has taken place from the end of the 1970s onwards, through a follow-up of the qualitative analysis of 'Margriet Weet Raad' by Brinkgreve and Korzec.^ Advice written in name of Margriet, mainly by social psychological experts can again indicate common codes and ideals of a wide readership.' If sources such as these letters may be viewed as 'ego documents' of a particular period, the answers can be regarded as 'superego documents' (Gomperts 1992: 51). In this, one might say, an emotive variation on C. Wright Mills' famous 'intersections of biography and history' (1971: 7) is found. In the advice column and in the original study, relationships between men and women, and between parents and children

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are given priority. In this article, based on a concise selection from a more comprehensive study (Post 1999), I will also restrict myself to these topics. Changes in parent-child relations In 1978, advice on the independence and self-development of children prevails; Margriet identifies herself largely with children. She defends the 'freedom' they have gained when it appears under threat. A 17-year old boy writes that the parents of his girlfriend of the same age will not allow them to be alone in her room. Margriet's answer is typical ofthe spirit ofthe 1970s: What a tyrannical affair in that girl's home. [...] The only thing your girl has to do, is to resist as hard as possible and refuse to be intimidated. Even 17-year old people have their own responsibility and they must have the opportunity to go where they please. [...] Set about it drastically and stick to your guns! (1978) In general the advice is aimed at increasing children's self-esteem. The way of arguing as well as the use of words can reveal this: they point to the right to be 'independent', 'happy', to 'live your own life', to 'develop oneself. When children hesitate to move into lodgings, because they don't want to 'let their parents down', the advice reads: 'Now it is time to think of yourself, instead of your parents.' Margriet often stresses the fruitful effect of parental patience. To a mother of a daughter, brought up with much attention but 'ungrateful', she writes: 'The first mistake you make here, is that you think you deserve your daughter's transitory gratitude. [...] Recognise young people's right to go their own way.' Time after time great store is set in asking 'in-depth' psychological questions, which are valued substantially more highly than just drawing lines or saying how it should be. Parental empathy is, in sum, the key word. A son of almost 18, who according to his parents drinks too much, is in Margriet's vision 'fighting with his own self. His parents should help him, not admonish him. At first glance, the advice in the following decade pays similar attention to 'mutual trust' between parents and children. Yet over it falls the shadow of material uncertainty at the beginning of the 1980s: there is more to life than just individual 'well-being'. The 1980s volumes that were examined - of which 1982 is the first one - show rising worry about social services, unemployment, 'the future' or 'life' as such. In this, the perspective in letters and answers expands. The advice to a mother's pedagogical problem can illustrate this. She writes that she has to keep her young daughter 'hard at it'. Margriet however does not make so much use of psychological notions, but refers especially to social relations: 'Such a problem is never a problem of only one person. It's always a problem of all the people involved, because they interact, affect each other's conduct [...].' This growing 'social' awareness can particularly be noticed in the suggested connection between the bad economy and the necessity of more 'involvement' in family life. In 1982 a girl complains: 'Once in a while my parents say I'm more a


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boarder than a housemate. [...] But can't I have my own life?!' The answer illustrates a stronger emphasis on showing consideration: 'From your parents' point of view, one can understand that they don't like you to be out that often. [...] Of course you have the right partly to have a life of your own, but this doesn't mean that it has to be at the expense of family relations.' Although Margriet frequently states that children should be able to 'experiment' during their childhood, she repeatedly urges parents to 'forbid' or to 'set borders'. All this firmness is in the 1986 volume accompanied by a somewhat increased attention for love and care - a precondition for a 'successful' life as well as a 'balanced identity'. However, 'self-development' seems to have lost its substantive value against the background of security and frugality; more and more this term is used to indicate such virtues as 'attending school consistently', aiming to have a 'good career' or gaining 'a place in society'. Fairly often a veiled longing for more formal codes and a longing for decisiveness can be recognised; listening to children is not enough. Now and then Margriet writes: 'It's certainly not recommendable to think the matter over and to wait and see.' A girl of at least 18 thinks of her parents as 'ofthe old school', since she is not allowed to wear make-up. She is told: This refusal to indulge, as it were to prove you by now can decide what is right and appropriate, this doesn't have to be so consistently kept up that it spoils the atmosphere? When your parents can see you are willing to show consideration with their feelings, they for their part might do the same. (1986) The 1990 volume, refiecting economic developments of that time, displays a reduced focus on (in)security and frugality. As a result, both letters and answers are less desolate and bitter. As a whole, the column is shortened, and the tenor of advice is noticeably more businesslike or professional. Not only do phrases like 'according to [other] experts ...' or 'normally speaking one can say ...' indicate this, but so too do the appearance of experts' names and portraits. Although many of their answers are rather drenched in psychosocial notions, they are more concrete and 'no-nonsense' than before: they take the form of stating solutions. The answer to a mother of a 'short-tempered' son can illustrate this. Margriet urges her to take things in her own hands: 'To teach yourself the leader's role, you could make a list of those rules that in your house absolutely should apply to your son.' Other answers also contain this 'reasonable' straightness, included in questions like: 'Did you really make it clear to your son that you really won't accept it?' Regarding the choices of children, some leniency pervades the advice - in this too, Margriet is reasonable. An illustration is not so much her emphasis on love but, more specifically, on taking children's 'phase of life' into account. Likewise, Margriet maintains that children don't have to go on holiday with their parents for ever; that they should be able to find out for themselves how they relate with contemporaries; and that the use of contraceptives as such should no longer be discouraged. With regard to the choice of school, parents are^ told to follow their children's preference as much as possible, as long as they make a choice.

Has the informalisation process changed direction?


Four years later, in 1994, the advice takes on a growing tone of general unease. By then, the economy was again undergoing a modest recession and unemployment had grown. Yet Margriet shows the greatest concem about youth crime. In response to a letter in which a mother writes that she caught her son on shoplifting, Margriet almost delivers a sermon: 'Taking a position as a parent against stealing cannot be straightforward enough. It is not allowed. It is not permitted. It won't be tolerated.' Such answers continually appeal to the public debate on 'norms and values', terms which are used frequently. Especially when it comes to family values, the answers are pleas for morality. Margriet underlines that 'children's chances of success' depend on 'whether they grow up in a harmonious family or not'. Letters in the 1998 volume, which contains no advice, are less concemed with relationships between parents and children. They often represent a general, indefinite unease; people - mainly adults - frequently refer to abstractions, like 'everything that people do to each other'. At the same time, these letters are more individual and personal, both in the way a problem is presented as well as in the form and direct style in which they are written. Paradoxically this is not at the expense of 'collectivism', so to speak; rather, it shows the other side of the coin. Now and then the unease is given a name: the growing number of divorces, or the lack of 'quality time' for children who grow up in two-income households. Between the lines, a revaluation of old educational ideals can be read. A grown-up woman describes why her children loved her deceased mother so dearly: 'Because she unconditionally loved them, but also dared to be slightly strict when needed.' Changes in relations between men and women In the advice column, the relationship between men and women is a constantly lively field of discourse. In 1978 Margriet refrains from adding fuel to the fiames, by making use of militant rhetoric and dramatic exclamation marks - which wrongly gives the impression she does not identify herself with women. This is all meant to inspire women to greater assertiveness. They are blamed if they write that they are feeling 'subordinated' or 'a superior kind of household drudge'. According to Margriet, they have let themselves be walked over: 'That your husband has developed into a potentate, is your own fault!' Women should actively oppose: 'It is about time that you freed yourself from either your husband or his mentality!' Margriet's advice frequently contains encouragement to what can be called domestic disobedience: You write: 'I don't have to become their slave,' but madam, this is what you have been for years! [...] You have to tackle your husband and children firmly. [...] And then you have to be plucky, no matter how hard this must be: just leave it all there. Don't do the dishes, don't mop up, certainly do not clear away the others' clothes, and leave their beds unmade. [...] You have been the servant long enough. [...] Be brave, standfirm,let them complain and chatter. You are right! (1978)


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These are battle cries in the formal 'you' form ([/ in Dutch); even in the 1970s Margriet is fully aware of her responsibility and her wide public. What she wants is to help her women readers to make a step towards more awakening; she does not meddle with radical feminism or partner-swapping, nor does she bum bras. Yet serious breakthroughs are needed, regarding the division of care and housekeeping, more paid employment and above all 'self-development'. Here, the advice represents obvious examples of psychologisation. It attempts to incite women to selfrefiection and to express their wishes, feelings, 'self-appreciation' and 'identity' though within the borders of a monogamous relationship. In the 1982 column, the replies are notable for the absence of militant language. The appeal to push a relationship 'to the limit' is no longer heard; 'tact' or 'a subtle hint' can now in Margriet's view 'give a better result than overt annoyance'. Advice regarding the unequal division of household tasks is characterised by a certain resignation. No longer are women told that it is their 'own fault'; principally in other advice it appears to be blamed on the collapsing economy ('by now everyone is feeling the pinch in their pockets'). This is why the answers no longer condemn a priori housekeeping as such: 'It is a tiring, demanding job, which requires many talents, much patience, love and self-control.' This could not possibly have been a rationale in the 1970s. From time to time understanding is extended even to men. A woman writes: 'My husband is nice and sweet as long as I do my duty, and by "duty" he means sitting at home and running the house.' Margne/ disapproves of this subordination as such, but ripostes: 'Many who have read your letter with me, would think of course: what a short-sighted man. That's why what I'm intending to do is very dangerous, but I'll give it a try: I'm going to try to win a little bit of sympathy for this husband.' Then a pacifying and historicising argument follows, in which, as in other advice, terms like 'industrial revolution', 'changes in man-woman relationships (since the 1960s)', 'role model' and 'role confiicts' dominate. This societal perspective goes with a consciousness of the 'slowness' of changes - Margriet's way of legitimising resignation. Accordingly, advice contains fewer 'searching' counter-questions, probably in response to readers' lack of interest. They no longer seem to expect any good to come of psychological self-help; they give the impression of having lost their temper, as a desperate woman puts it, with the 'open sandals and woolly socks types'. The 1986 volume shows the slowly increasing participation of women in the labour force. Margriet applauds the chance this offers women for self-development, since it enables them to 'stand in the centre of society again'. Despite this enthusiasm, the advice is concemed more than once with the other side of the coin: a growing psychic burden. When women come home from work, their relationship, children's upbringing and education, and housekeeping are waiting, states Margriet - but without her earlier calls for domestic disobedience. Women are nlainly urged to reorganise their work and responsibilities, and to play down their expectancies. Margriet: 'Not only do you demand a lot from yourself, but it has

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to be good too. By claiming that much from yourself, you will be suffering from overstrain.' The 1990 volume seems less worried in spirit, if only for the gently tightening part-time labour market. In both the letters and answers, qualitative problems come to prevail over quantitative problems. 'Post-material' aspects of life are particularly translated into giving great importance to a harmonious relationship. In parallel with Margriet's stress on love and care for children, she repeatedly points out the value of relational 'warmth' for individual 'happiness'. Here it seems Margriet is especially concemed not with affection as such, but firstly with women's safety. A single mother who is uncertain about her relationship, is told: 'If you are uncertain whether to go further with him, remember that raising a child on your own with only social security is very difficult both financially and emotionally.' The answer to a woman who calls herself 'advanced', can also illustrate that this advice attests to concealed dependency. The woman writes she has broadened her horizons, takes courses, wants a job and dares to speak her mind all to her husband's 'great dissatisfaction'. Desperately she asks: 'Am I doing wrong?' Margriet praises her energy, but admonishes her to certain modesty: 'Now it seems you are in a rage. And then you may indeed be working up to a divorce.' Four years later, in 1994, it is still more strikingly self-evident that women increasingly have a (part-time) paid job. Paradoxically, from the - more argumentative - advice, it cannot be inferred that women are being correspondingly freed from housekeeping. Many letters are concemed with the question of whether housekeeping can be divided equally. In one of the answers, Margriet states that men are unable to work less (read: put their shoulder to the wheel at home) since most of them have 'made more progress in their career'. As a result, having children by definition implies 'a step back' to a 'more traditional division of tasks'. Moreover, Margriet stresses that women are more experienced in housekeeping anyway. Thus, equality between men and women would not automatically bring relief: 'If he [a man] takes things out of our hands, we would not infrequently have an invincible impulse to correct him.' With respect to love, Margriet points at a certain modesty too. She values a 'nice' and 'harmonious' relationship over 'romantic excitement'. Similarly, elsewhere she asserts: 'Sometimes, a little bit of uncertainty can't be too bad.' Her suggestions for 'boosts to the relationship' now and then contain veiled calls to be obliging: If you are critical of a fault in your partner, try to think of at least four of his fine qualities. [...] It is important to get to know more of his daily work. [...] Think up what he would like and try it out (sexually too). [...] It is nice to make his homecoming a special moment; grant him the time tofirsttake a seat nicely and to settle down, and only then bring up everything that went wrong that day. (1994) Although this advice might seem to be a call for accommodation, it is meant above all as a way of solving problems. Other examples can indicate that women's ideals more or less moved to equivalence. In general, both in letters and answers, high


Irish Journal of Sociology

value is attached to women's 'own identity' and, according to Margriet, they don't have to take 'injustice' all lying down. Nevertheless, these remain principles to which above all lip-service is payed; the seventies urges to 'confront' are left behind, just like the advice to get divorced ('That you can't possibly ask us'). In case of distress, women should rather make themselves 'stronger' by discovering their 'own qualities' or they could consult a Life and Family Agency - as long as they don't make 'rushed decisions'. Advice directly or indirectly with respect to sexuality is noteworthy. From the 1970s onwards, it shows an ongoing liberalisation in monogamous relationships. The advice contains an unalloyed ideal of equality. This may not apply to household tasks or a harmonious association, but, as Margriet stated in 1982, 'in the way of making love this surely holds true'. Many pieces of advice can be viewed as tokens of progressiveness. A letter in 1990 of a 'bored' woman can illustrate this. She writes she wants to go 'further than just the usual love-making'. Margriet recommends her to tell her husband plainly 'what pleases you' and to discover together 'new points of view'. Such frankness goes even further when it applies to one's imagination. To think of and fantasise about adultery is never reproved. To Margriet this is 'understandable' and 'very human', as long as these emotions are not put into practice. Later on, advice, among other things, indicates the 'disappearing taboo' on discussing the subject of incest. In 1998 this growing 'openness' is also marked by a small number of letters in which themes like bi-sexuality or transsexuality are cautiously broached. Interpretation of the changes The tenor of the 1978 volume corresponds with Brinkgreve and Korzec's findings from their investigation, in which they notice a phase of informalisation. In the following volumes, from 1982 onwards, this characterisation seems no longer unequivocally effective. In general, the material refiects a different period - if only for the growing sense of time, in which a seemingly endless, peaceful, feeling and searching era had in fact come to an end. These changes above all represent the way people perceive each other and themselves, the way they think and judge the situation they live in. This is clearly marked by the changing use of psychological notions. In the 1980s and 1990s that idiom as such did not disappear, but changed its character. No longer is the strengthening of self-examination the primary goal partly because, one may assume, this has to a certain extent been realised, but also more importantly because of a growing sense of time fiying (cf. Peters 2000; Hochschild 1997). Here can be seen the germs of Richard Sennett's 'new regime of time' in modem capitalism (1998: 27), which affects emotional life in a restless way. Instead of 'in-depth' introspection, there is an urge to 'solve' life problems in a more concrete and practical way, together with the aim of achieving what is 'wise' or 'normal'. Thus, psychologisation loses ground to 'realism' and modest moralisation.

Has the informalisation process changed direction?


This can scarcely be understood, however, as a 'restoration'. It rather indicates a shift in orientation or identification a shift in mentality. To set 'boundaries' gains in importance, as problems and strivings are more and more viewed in a societal 'context'. Letters and advice in the popular Dutch weekly Margriet show that the way people get on with each other and themselves has gained in complexity and become less unconscious in its operation. Together, these changes can be conceptualised as a shift from psychologisation towards sociologisation. The following is an attempt to elaborate on this. To a large extent the changes in Margriet's advice column between 1978 and 1998 refiect radical tums in the social-economic tide. It has been said before: the transition from the 1970s to the 1980s was marked by a severe economic downtum after the second oil crisis, of which the declining growth and employment opportunities in the late 1970s are the first indications. The tum of the decade was characterised not only by declining chances of collective emancipation, but also by a change in a common state of mind: spirit and optimism were outstripped by unease and anxiety. After the 'democratisation spurt', feelings of despair, uncertainty and being 'out of control' came to dominate and with that, less store was set on social equality and the fight against deprivation: the boundaries of the 'permissive society' came into view (SCP 1998: 151). As Elias (1994) pointed out, the less people have to worry about the naked struggle for life, the more they are sensitive to immaterial aspects of life. And vice versa, one could reason: if material uncertainty increases again after a period of relative welfare, economic as well as social and psychic sensitivity rise. This can illuminate why the transition from the 1970s preoccupation with individual wellbeing to the 1980s preoccupation with welfare and certainty do not simply imply the retum to the old era of 'austerity, frugality and moralisation', which so clearly disappeared during the period of Brinkgreve and Korzec's examination. Rather, the sense of the intertwining of individual well-being and social welfare has increased. At the beginning ofthe 1980s, most Westem countries showed a tum in political economy: the old national Keynesian consensus was abandoned in favour of a trans-national market economy, which in the Netherlands was introduced by the govemment of Prime Minister Lubbers in 1982. Against the background of severe cutting back, the tightening eligibility for social security, and the lowering of social security benefits, institutional transitions resulted in a sharp decline of the 'equanimity ofthe welfare state' (Van Stolk and Wouters 1983). Such changes went with a 'conservative tide'. In most European countries the Anglo-Saxon model of 'Thateherism' and 'Reaganomics' came to prevail, in terms of reorganisation ofthe welfare state, family values and deterring crime. Christian politicians in the Netherlands called for a 'moral revival'; in Britain, in the 1990s, John Major proclaimed the slogan 'back to basics'. By then the state had been withdrawing, the prestige of politics kept on waning, and a new doctrine of selfreliance spread - concisely encapsulated in Margaret Thatcher's dictum that 'there


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is no such thing as society' (Keay 1987: 8). At the same time a rising dissatisfaction with the 'erosion of citizenship' could be heard, in political and public debate often viewed as an example of 'declining morals'. Yet it rather indicates, as an unintended shift from 'facts' to 'values', a stronger moral sensibility: as the expression ofthe govemmental impotence to manage social problems. What used to be just 'impossible' became, through reformulation in terms of citizenship, 'morally undesirable' (De Haan 1992). Tilting power balances, combined with declining expectations, led to the end of the spurt of informalisation. The earlier phase of emancipation and resistance gave way to a phase of accommodation and resignation, or reformalisation. To covet status and power was no longer taboo; in formerly rising groups an 'upstairs perspective' retums, an 'identification with the established'. With that, dominant regimes of manners and emotions tended towards greater strictness, hierarchy and consensus (cf. SCP 1996: 468-471). This longing for more formal manners, is also indicated from the early 1980s by growing attention to books about manners, in most of the Westem countries (Wouters 1986; 2004). In 1982 and 1983, after a period of fifteen years in which no new manners book had appeared, the typical 1970s literature on 'self-help' declined in popularity and nine new etiquette books were published in the Netherlands. This newrestrictivenesstowards what had been expanding behavioural and emotional altematives does not imply a retum to the regime of strict and unquestioned morals, to the subordination of women and children, nor to the old Gemeinschaft society. All in all, the quest for more stability and harmony indicates a transition in orientation and identification, a change in social habitus - a shift from psychologisation towards sociologisation. This trend indicates an increasing awareness ofthe ongoing interweaving of relations in widening networks of interdependency, increasingly to the global level, together with growing sensitivity to situations or 'spheres', a sense of 'connexity' (Mulgan 1998), of being dependent on others: partner, family, economy, state, world. As Margriet's column testifies, this is accompanied by a wider view, expressed in terms such as 'future', 'life' or 'the world'. This orientation goes beyond the former social-democratic philosophy of 'constmctible' societies and individuals, as well as beyond the orientation expressed in the 'collective' revolt ofthe 1960s and 1970s against 'the system'. Despite the social references, the orientations of this era express a rather different habitus - they motivated the spurts towards exploring psychic limits and selfrefiection: politicisation and psychologisation.'' Against the more desolate background of rising fears and declining or even vanishing chances for upward social mobility, sociologisation coincides with an intensified longing for a stronger sense of belonging to the prevailing social structure rather than of fighting it. This is why it is to some extent redolent of the nostalgic phase of moralisation which, as Brinkgreve and Korzec (1978) have pointed out, was so unambiguously abandoned in the phase of psychologisation. Accordingly, the emerging call for harmony and stability can be understood as a

Has the informalisation process changed direction?


gentle shift in the We-I balance of individuals towards 'we' (Elias 1991; Wouters 1999: 2002). As no I-identity can exist without a we-identity, what changes is the pattern of their relation or, as Elias puts it: the 'shuttle stroke of the balance'. Thus, in phases of informalisation I-identities have gained strength in comparison with we-identities, whereas in phases of reformalisation we-identities and weideals did become stronger.' These 'we' orientations are motivated in two ways: as an attempt by the newly established to protect their privileges, and equally as an expression of once-rising social groups whose ascent has come to stagnate and who experience the loss ofthe warm bath of tradition and religion, the loss of old 'Durkheimian' bonds in membership of a political party or in belonging to a labour union. Taken together, these reorientations and fears show at once why a rising 'social consciousness' does not automatically bring about greater solidarity: without the support of an ubiquitous welfare state, 'widening circles of identification' remain fragile and can lose ground in favour of more pressing problems and concems (De Swaan 1995; 1988). Without this backing, in actual daily life resignation usually prevailed, as Margriet's advice column shows. The slow increasing prosperity of the 1990s, especially experienced by the middle class, did not lead to a new phase of informalisation. Owing to economic and political scaling-up - and after the apparent safety from the Cold War people's material security became more and more dependent on the prosperity and power divisions elsewhere in the world. Changes to the existing labour order, characterised as 'fiexibilisation', lead to growing uncertainty, inequality and insecurity (Sennett 1998). The fact that the standard of living rose created its own rising needs, resulting in a constricting perpetual pattem of eaming and consuming (Peters 2000). Together, this has paved the way for a stronger quest for safety and normality, more order and control. This also can explain why manners and emotions, or the degree of informalisation as such, never are just the derivative of material relations in society - or, in other words, why the feeling of 'freedom' can never be freed from interconnectedness (Mulgan 1998: 1). Together, the wobbling pillars of inner calm - physic and psychic safety did result in a more vociferous quest for 'morals', and sometimes even in an actual 'tightening of morals' (SCP 2000: 164). However, the feelings of unease and vulnerability came to be expressed particularly by a public focus on crime and public debates on its rise. These have been perceived as ranging among the main problems in Westem society from the 1980s onwards (SCP 1998; Dahrendorf 1985). Especially from the early 1970s to the mid-1980s, crime rates in most Westem countries rose markedly.* And yet, the condemnation and search for 'decisive' solutions did not arise in the 1970s but only in the 1980s. This demonstrates that the change in collective consciousness as expressed in a rising sensibility to crime did not run parallel with the rise in crime rates (Wouters 1999). Similarly, neither the end of the strong upward trend in crime rates in the early 1980s, nor the more stringent punishment climate (Franke 1994), resulted in declining feelings of


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insecurity. Instead they coincided with an increased focus on deviant conduct and its disapproval. This asymmetry, this delayed anxiety, not only points to a growing preoccupation with 'the common good' or 'normality', it also shows how strongly social perception was based on feelings of unease, of being unsafe, and a longing for a sense of belonging. According to Randall Collins (1982: 109, 111), the collective disapproval of crime carries a 'ritual of punishment', which confirms 'faith' in laws and creates 'the emotional bonds' that 'bind members of society together again'. Since the mid-1990s, what was formerly an indefinite feeling of unease has become more and more focused on crime. In the Netherlands, there has been a renewed concem about so-called 'senseless violence', especially among young people, and again this has given rise to calls for a moral revival or even a 'civilising offensive' (Van den Brink 2001). In Margriet's column, with respect to relationships between men and women the rise of a 'we' orientation was clear. Ideals regarding justice, equality and 'selfdevelopment' remained strong - as may be expected from a women's magazine but in the early 1980s the will to realise them evaporated. The urge for stability and harmony became stronger. This was first shown in a small study of Dutch women magazines including Margriet in the year 1983 (Wassenaar 1984): the magazines had fallen back to their old formulas of 'glorifying motherhood' and 'romanticisation of being a woman'. Another conclusion is that 'granting equal rights has suddenly become a luxury which we no longer can afford' {ibid.: 40). This chimes, among other things, with the absence of Margriet's earlier appeal to domestic disobedience. These observations again illuminate how people's ideas and ideals are constituted by changes in their 'social circumstances', that is, in their collective and individual perception ofthe chances and dangers of life in their particular network of interdependencies. These observations also support Arlie Hochschild's diagnoses of a 'stalled revolution'. In various ways the 1980s saw a concem with the beauty of relational virtues, a 'revaluation of feininine care', not in a submissive way but rather in ways that radiated something close to moral superiority (Brinkgreve 1989). Accordingly, motherhood in the early 1980s is perceived as an opportunity for 'selfdevelopment': motherhood in service of the mother (Knijn and Verheyen 1983). Such sentiments are the partly intentional, partly unintentional consequences of the new economic obstacles to women's increased power chances since the last phase of informalisation. With their irregular work and little security, many of their strivings and wishes have eventuated in clashes of interest and disappointments, as Brinkgreve (1982) set out in her inaugural lecture 'The commandments of the new freedom'. In the 1980s this often led to resignation, and if women still decided to get a divorce they had to put up with the cutbacks in Social Security. This can also explain why marriage, love and fidelity in monogamous relationships received more praise in the 1980s and 1990s - 'a decline of permissivity' (SCP 1996: 504; 1998: 153). Nevertheless, despite the disappointing degree of

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emancipation and 'excessive expectations', neither women nor social development as a whole reverted to earlier stages of formalisation (Elias 1996: 41). An even wider explanation can be found in the broad longing for an I-identity that is firmly embedded in a stronger we-group. In the 1990s, increased participation in the labour market and declining confiicts regarding the balance of power between the sexes did not soothe the feelings of unease. In fact, they were continued by the new and rising burden of expectations, demands and ambitions. As Margriet wamed her readers: 'Not only do you demand a lot from yourself, but it [the result] has to be good too.' This threat of suifering from a psychic overload is quite the opposite of the previous burden of women that stemmed lrom a lack of opportunities, as seized upon by the feminist movement. The new unease stems from women feeling obliged to work and to take care of her family, her children and her husband, develop a sexually gratifying relationship with the latter, and display continued advancement in refinement and leaming. This more recent burden explains why more protest against unequal division of tasks of care and domestic work remains absent. Although many households have become 'one and a half-eaming', the old breadwinner model is still rather 'resistant to change' (Nieborg 2000). Emancipation has capricious sides, and is hardly the consequence of individual or collective efforts alone (Brinkgreve 1982). This is in an ironical way illustrated by the ongoing liberalisation of sexuality. As is shown in Margriet's advice column, the 'emancipation of emotions' and the desire to explore social and psychic limits is evident regarding sexuality. But the ongoing decline in social approval of adultery and extra-marital affairs (SCP 1996: 504) in fact implies an intensive search for 'good sexuality': a 'joint self-development' or 'mutual other-pleasing' (Schnabel 1990: 38-40). The 'lust-balance' of the two sexes, the tension of their longing for enduring intimacy - love - and for sexual gratification did become less divergent and more bound up with each other (Wouters 2004). In contrast to the tensions stemming from ideals and expectations regarding social and domestic inequality, women are able, as Margriet puts it, to develop an 'erotic identity' to their heart's content. Here they may achieve a satisfying equilibrium both in their lust-balance and in the balance of their I- and we-ideals. In the relationship between parents and children a stronger call for stricter rules is observed. Owing to growing unemployment between 1979 and 1985 in the Netherlands, children were obliged to attend school longer, resulting in a devaluation of the lowest levels of educational qualification. However, as the social importance of solid education continued to rise, the power chances of young people decreased (De Vries 1992: 38). Their deteriorating economic position and increasing dependency on caring parents created new ground for parental infiuence. This is explicitly demonstrated by the lowering acceptance of children being allowed to choose the school they want to attend and whether they finish their education (SCP 1998: 143). Increased importance of 'the social ladder' went hand in hand with rising pedagogical responsibility of parents.


Irish Journal of Sociology

Despite the new emphasis on setting mles and boundaries, children's selfdetermination has evidently increased, in particular from the 1990s onwards when the economic gloom gradually vanished. This tended to be at the expense of parents' authority and in favour of that of children's peer groups (Du BoisReymond et al. 1990). Parents do not want to force principles and rigid rules upon children so much as to persuade them to do the right thing (De Regt and Brinkgreve 2000). Yet this is also the point where tensions originate; persuasion and negotiation carry the risk of what Margriet repeatedly calls 'upbringing uncertainty'. Because of social unease and 'relational doubts' negotiating can encounter a 'counter movement' (Du Bois-Reymond et al. 1990: 72). Whether or not this tendency can be dismissed as an aberration, as a moral panic, it is unlikely that parents will actually tum back to a rigid code of upbringing - if only for the structural reason of their lack of time (Peters 2000; cf. Hochschild 1997). Yet simultaneously it would be a misunderstanding if these modem attachments were taken as a token of 'moral decay' or as a neglect of upbringing (De Regt and Brinkgreve 2000). Although more and more families are characterised by restlessness and busy-ness (Sennett 1998), an almost opposite and to a large extent unintentional - development can be perceived. As social and psychic lines between generations gradually diminished and the sense of living in a 'big bad world' concurrently intensified, relations between parents and children have gained in intimacy. With the ongoing decrease in fertility from the 1970s onwards, children generally receive more attention and affection. This implies both an ' intensifying of upbringing' as well as a rise of expectations and demands for children (Van den Brink 2001: 62, passim). Taken with the previously mentioned collective worry about family life, this plausibly indicates the rise of not only a 'we' identity, but also of family ambitions. Despite the alarm, most research on upbringing demonstrates that parents set a great store in their children's development of feelings of responsibility, consideration for others, and good manners (SCP 2000: 165). Therefore, increased stress on boundaries and consideration, and higher demands on conduct, have in general led to the new explanations and legitimations for already existing manners in parent-child relationships. The old regime of discipline has not retumed, but reminiscences of it became stronger. Some civilised implications What are the theoretical implications of the described shift towards sociologisation? On the basis of the changes in Margriet's column, especially in the tenor of her 'superego' advice, a short-term change in the spurt of informalisation is noticed: the phase did not unequivocally continue. To a large extent this corresponds with a phase of reformalisation as described by Wouters (1986; 1999; 2002; 2004). What does this mean for the long-term process of informalisation since the end of nineteenth century?

Has the informalisation process changed direction ?


From close up, modem societies show many signs of informalisation: increased behavioural and emotional altematives in all relationships but particularly for women and children, informal relations of the shop fioor, the playful erotic references with which people interlard their language. Nevertheless a broader perspective reveals how this 'permissiveness' is to a large extent a product of the earlier spurt of informalisation. Since then, the relaxation of manners has been largely standardised and formalised to become a new normality. To use Christian names in a relationship, for example, is no longer a priori an act of resistance or 'indecency': it depends on 'situations' or 'spheres' whether it is appropriate (read: informal) or not. Other manifestations of informality have continued in the same direction - like the liberalisation of sexuality. In the 1980s and 1990s, however, this continuation ran in tandem with setting limits and stressing boundaries. Shifts in political economy, and a general change in the balance of powers and fears have given rise to a new phase of reformalisation. Just as Elias (2000:430-4) mentioned spurts and waves in 'civilising processes', Wouters points to short-term waves of informalisation and (re)formalisation. What the letter column in Margriet demonstrates is not only how these two phases melt into each other; it also shows how they coexist as current and undercurrent. From the 1980s onwards, the 'emancipation of emotions' came to run in tandem with the call for law and order. This presents the paradoxical situation in which the one development - informalisation - still continues while the other- reformalisation gains momentum. Apparently, in accordance with the nature of processes, there is no historical point where the exact end of one phase coincides with the start of another. Here it seems useful to introduce a somewhat different 'phaseology' (Goudsblom 1996). After the old regime of moralisation, in which the acceptance of the rules and restrictions was largely automatic, equalisation of power ratios firstly led to a collective quest for self-examination and new forms of self-respect: a phase of psychologisation. This phase was enabled and fuelled by a collective social emancipation from hierarchical social relationships, balances of power and fears becoming less uneven. In the early 1980s, when collective emancipation was blocked, psychologisation did not simply come to an end; rather it was continued through an overall increase of sensibility to the societal 'context' - a change in social habitus towards sociologisation, in which manners and emotions came more and more into social and psychic spotlights. As Brinkgreve and Korzec (1978) argued, the change from moralisation to psychologisation indicates the shift from 'extemal' social controls to 'intemal' social controls or 'self-restraints'. Obviously, from the 1980s onwards, hardly any explicit 'restoration' of old hierarchical relationships occurred, nor many explicit reversals from self-restraints to extemal restraints. The spread of video camera's, for example, even emphasised that self-controls have remained both the focus and the locus of social controls (Wouters 1999). But how then does sociologisation lead to psychic regulation - how does 'we' fit into T ? As broad social transitions go hand in hand with changing manners, they easily lead to confusion or


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desperation (Elias 2000). During the transition towards reformalisation extemal controls are tightened via an increase of - stricter - laws, cameras and fences: people have increased confidence in authorities, mainly the authorities ofthe state, whereas their confidence in each other's internal social controls declines. The rising fear of crime may illustrate how the louder call for strict authority coincided with declining confidence in others. Thus, expectations of automatic self-control have decreased. This implies a decline in the level of 'mutually expected selfrestraint' (Goudsblom 1986: 173; Wouters 1999).' Strictly speaking, this can be viewed as an unintended result of the new habitus itself: the more conduct becomes explicit, the more its absurdities and inexpediencies might come to light. This appears to constitute the legitimacy for even more control. And yet, the assumption that law and order will be able to push the genius of 'emotionalisation' back into the bottle is not very plausible; nor is the popular diagnosis of a general decline in self-control. Intensified competition in social traffic requires a mounting level of self-regulation, and the growing necessity for empathy and consideration will continue to fuel the trend towards 'controlled decontrolling of emotional controls'. The social and psychic requirements ofthe 'sociologisation habitus' are quite demanding: the obligation to make the right choices among the increased altematives in feeling and behaviour sometimes bring people to experience a 'tyranny of freedom' (Schwartz 2000). This tyranny can be taken as an expression ofa longing to be taken by the hand of more unambiguous social bonds and a clear-cut code of manners. From this perspective, the advice column in Margriet explicates how this quest for law and order comes down to, in her idiom, the longing for love and social order. Notes
This article, based on the author's master's thesis at the University of Amsterdam, first appeared in Dutch in the Amsterdams Sociologisch Tijdschrift 27 (4) 2000: 446-76. The author prepared a draft English translation, which was revised by Stephen Mennell. I wish to thank Cas Wouters for his stimulating comments on the earlier version, and Stephen Mennell for editing the text. 1. As Nico Wilterdink (2002) has set out in his inaugural lecture, in postmodemism confusion is 'officially approved'. Culture-sociology has an important part to play in diminishing the intellectual confusion people live under, because of its ability - in opposition to the tendency of specialisation - to trace interconnections between areas of culture that usually are discussed separately. Thus, it can make evident how culture evolves from and is embedded in people's relations. 2. The method that is used here corresponds with Brinkgreve and Korzec's (1978): every fourth year a volume was submitted to a qualitative analysis of the content. Special attention was paid to regularities in the tenor of the advice. Qualitative research has several advantages, of which the most important is keeping distance from irregularities in the column, such as the varying number of letters over time, the selection of themes, the length of letters and advice, and the length of the column itself. These oscillations

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first of all refer to editorial interventions, yet this hardly applies to the content of the column. These 'emotion letters' are, when necessary, only shortened and linguistically revised; advice is written on behalf of the editorial staff by independent (psychosocial) experts. However, the material is not just an unproblematic representation of social reality; the contents refer to a social discourse of which they are simultaneously part. Thus, the content reflects common problems, codes and ideals. 3. At the end of the 1970s Margriet reached 3.5 million readers, mainly from the middle class; at the end ofthe 1990s it was 2.2 million. The 'focus group' contains mostly women: more than 65% (1982) to more than 81% (1998). Almost half of the readers belong to the age group of 25 to 50 years. More than half of them are members of a multi-person household with children. In 1998 more then 40% ofthe readers had a paidjob, of which roughly half were part-time. 4. In the 1970s the emancipation issue is in government note's often described as an individual problem: as a matter of role taking and mentality; in the eighties the focus has moved to the structural level of emancipation and areas (Nieborg 2000: 120). 5. The shift towards sociologisation is also observed in Dutch novels. The genre of the 'team novel' has developed, in which no longer only individuals are at the centre, but also groups and networks (Stiller 2000). 6. According to Wouters (1999), the 'drastic' transition in social and psychic dividing lines, from 'rather rigid discipline' to a flexible regulation, can explain in general the rise of crime: as integration conflicts between social groups and between psychic functions which Freud recognised as Id, Ego and Superego. 7. This largely corresponds with the personality type Wouters (1999) conceptualised as pertaining the long-term process of informalisation: the third nature, indicating a more reflexive and calculating self-regulation.

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