The Different Drum Analysis

The Different Drum (Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

M. Scott Peck has hitherto been familiar to readers through his self-help books, which have presented a series of stages to which persons desiring maturity are urged to conform. To attain the “transformative movement” after which the path to mental health is safe and sure, however, isolated action is insufficient. Therefore, Peck advocates the formation of communities: These need not be long-lasting groups, however, as the word “community” suggests in ordinary usage. Instead, they may arise in one to two days when a small number of people exchange views in a way unbound by conventional social pieties. Peck claims that talk of this type achieves remarkable results: Participants often undergo a conversion experience that enables them to bid their problems a relieved farewell. The radical potential of these interchanges is, however, curbed through the author’s support for a conventional, if vague, version of religion.

What has all this to do with politics? In the author’s opinion, it bears a direct relationship to politics. Just as small communities have aided individuals in coping with the problems of their lives, so will they also enable the blight of the arms race to be lifted from our shoulders.

If the reader on completion of the book remains in the dark as to how the communities are to carry out their Herculean task, it is not for want of trying on Peck’s part. He sets forward in some detail the proposals for reform that he favors. Among these are a collective presidency, in which the role of single individuals is downgraded, and a world government of real though limited powers. Once again the author’s religious views come to the fore, and he indicts the majority of American Christians for ignoring the social implications of their creed.

Whether one agrees with him or not, every reader must recognize that Peck has to his credit a rare accomplishment. He has succeeded in thinking about a vital political issue in an original fashion.