Sometimes it is difficult to see things as they are, or indeed as they could be.
We become accepting of the world as we find ourselves within today. The yester years become forgotten lands buried within time. The future is very rarely ours to imagine differently.
It’s a shame, the past has much to tell us.
The future everything to give.
Maybe the past can help illuminate tomorrow’s opportunities?
A Cultural Transition
I don’t mean to set myself up as a historical expert, nor an economist or a business person. I’m not, believe me I’m not.
I do keep my eyes and ears open though.
I do connect the dots.
I read quite a lot, mostly online. There have been a few extracts from authors that compelled me to buy the book. Recent examples being ‘The Uses of Literacy: Aspects of Working-Class Life (Richard Hoggart)’ and ‘The Sociological Imagination (C. Wright Mills)’.
I find these authors useful as each of them offers critique, reason and insight into society, ethics and morals over a specific period of time.
They each seem to straddle a transition that they are experiencing and enquiring into at the same time.
They are not just intellectual as well as being subject experts. They are socially aware, committed and cognizant of what is occurring around them.
Through their work you can see and feel aspects of society changing.
These are singular pieces of a larger truth and I’m sure there are many other works within every field (Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring might be an example) which when brought together create a complete picture of historical and social importance.
During the period that their work spans — Culture was changing. Business was changing. The environment was changing.
But all these were set into motion by political decisions on how the system should work.
There were choices made to reduce everything down to a singular lens and system of money and finance.
As we know now — ‘the purpose of a system is what it does’ so we shouldn’t be too surprised at how this set of decisions and resulting actions played out in the long-term.
In effect every aspect of society became reshaped and co-opted to this economic cause.
These were powerful forces at play and they were able to shift cultural, national and international moral and ethical bases onto an economic playing field whereby social progress would, in theory, walk hand in hand with economic development.
This was the key decision and it led to a larger ‘cultural shift’ within which we can perhaps look at the post war period with a common understanding for the phenomena and events which then took place.
The economy took centre stage in all decisions and actions.
Politics too I feel were shifted from their previous role and I would suggest that when political choices are limited by a narrow economic model that all that you are left with is a sham system.
The options on the table become reduced to moving things around to suit ideology. There is no vision. There is no society.
Morals, ethics and values be damned. But without these acting as a central point for us to anchor ourselves to, in time we become adrift and lose our meaning. We would do well to recognise this.
So, how could this knowledge and position be useful to us today?
It’s probably easiest to explain through pictures.
Let’s forget about the problems and see if we can identify the opportunities.
Here’s a very quick example.
I’m no expert and this is crude and simplistic work at best but you should get what I’m trying to illustrate.
If you look at society and the economy in this way it begins to show up a clear picture of difference over time and I would argue that many of the actual needs of the public have changed very little.
What has changed is the organisations we are dealing with and I would propose that these organisations are going to continue in the direction of travel they’re on.
They are stuck in a ‘feedback loop’.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing for innovative newcomers or to community/social businesses.
It is this space which I’m highlighting which may present opportunities to establish a local and social economy which centres itself upon more sturdy and long lasting foundations.
It’s not like morals, ethics and values ever went anywhere.
It’s just that they took second, third and fourth place for about 50 years.
It might be time to place them back in the centre.
Defining ‘The Next System’
I’m very interested in the various elements which together could be described as ‘the next system’.
Examples would be Participatory Society, Social Business, Sustainability, Environmental Stewardship, Local Economic Development, Community Wealth Building etc.
It’s a long list which covers every aspect of society, education, politics, business and the economy.
Socially Enterprising offers a way in which these distinct and separate elements can brought together into a more coherent whole.
Together they would form an interconnected network of common interest.
This network would help to separate out and coalesce ‘the next system’.
As far as I am aware there currently does not exist any form of common agreement between the organisations and movements other than a desire for social progress in some form.
I’m not too sure what the correct language would be. A constitution? A charter?
What I am suggesting is that there should be a moral, ethical and values based centre to ‘the next system’.
My fear being that without a bold central statement, a framework of thought and intent — of purpose, everything just drifts back into the same behaviour exemplified though today’s system.
The only reason the examples given above have not been co-opted is that they are new and not yet established.
Give them time and business decisions and economics will move in. Everything is just too tightly coupled to the old system for any other credible outcome.
Create an alternative system without recognising this and it would just be a repeat of the post war period but with the greatest danger being that the very escape routes we put in place today would lead us back to a square one where they would be unable to work a second time.
We only get one shot at this.
‘The Next System’ may need a way to separate and define itself in order to defend and protect itself.
This is not a physical defence. It is social and intellectual.
‘The Next System’ should not become subservient again to economics and finance. It should hold its ground and know what it stands for.
To do that we may need something that we can all agree upon.
If the purpose of a system is what it does.
What purpose should we place at its heart?