Society can be imagined as a huge orchestra playing a never-ending symphony. At any moment all the sections are playing but one can be dominant for long periods with the other heard only faintly or in short bursts. Using the categories of cultural theory, I have argued in earlier posts that roughly between rearmament in the 1930s and the oil shocks of the 1970s hierarchical solutions were predominant. This was a time of large corporations, national planning, a relatively structured global politics and a faith in technological expertise.
This period was superseded by the long era of dominant individualism which may finally have come to an end with the credit crunch and subsequent downturn. Individualism fostered a remarkable era of innovation and freedom but was already subject to powerful critiques, especially from egalitarians emphasising growing inequality, high levels of social and individual pathology and, most of all, the dangers of climate change.
This week I want to explore what may now be possible. Who knows what new ways of thinking and behaving will emerge from these new times. For at least the next year things are going to be very tough, we will be open to accept solutions from any quarter, but in the longer term different ways of thinking about human progress and how to secure it will fight it out. Progressives, who I define as enthusiastic believers in the capacity of human beings to collaborate to achieve qualitative advances in individual and social welfare, have an opportunity not only to develop new ways of thinking but to have their ideas heard by people who might previously dismissed or ignored them.
This week, starting later today, I will attempt to lay out key planks of a new progressive platform. These combine enduring progressive values, new insights and innovations not available to previous generations and a view of the urgent demands posed by today’s world. I intend to do this at different levels, starting with the individual and working up to the global. It will all be very rough and ready, but as the New Year dawns it would be great to get a debate going.
We shouldn’t underestimate how far our societies have pulled apart. Yet there is hope for renewal, says Anthony Painter. The question is not whether we come together – but how.