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Communication systems are structured by economic forces which use them to optimise sales, and politicians who increasingly live by slogans and repeated sound bites. Both…
Communication systems are structured by economic forces which use them to optimise sales, and politicians who increasingly live by slogans and repeated sound bites. Both want people to act without much reflection, and may threaten to turn human beings into imitiations of the computers they use. Theorists first noticed that communication systems channeled goods and services, structured political geography, and created their own pictures of the world. They went on to describe communications devices which act as extensions of human senses. Now communication systems try to structure our inner lives. This paper examines reflective consciousness and its relation to civilisation. It suggests countervailing forces which make for thought and turn the ordinary aspects of life into art.
Perhaps the greatest peril to civilisation is the fragmentation of knowledge. Science often lends itself to easy application to technology and our economic systems are the result of applying this knowledge to our resources. But our knowledge of how societies work lags significantly, and the economic system frequently multiplies our social problems. At the heart of the problem is the distinction between knowledge of universals – scientific laws for example – and knowledge of people, who are unique particulars. The paper examines some recent disputes in the social sciences and suggests how the gap might be filled and economic systems made more responsive to social problems.
The fragmentation of knowledge poses serious threats to a survival when scientific and technological know‐how constantly outrun understanding of societies and individuals…
The fragmentation of knowledge poses serious threats to a survival when scientific and technological know‐how constantly outrun understanding of societies and individuals. A significant problem associated with this state of affairs is the unquestioned separation of facts and values. This paper has two immediate aims. The first is to argue that there is knowledge of values. The second is to look at some issues in the social sciences and to show this conclusion bears on the possibilities for the reunification of knowledge. Issues in economics, sociology, and anthropology are examined kin terms of detailed examples.
The globalisation of the world economy has left governments less powerful and threatened cultures with homogenisation. The Huntington thesis – that the world is now divided into rival civilisations and that they are likely to be the source of the next round of world conflicts – may seem weak in the light of this. In fact many people fear that economic efficiency will produce a single culture and, because it will be dominated by hotly competing corporations with little restraint, will threaten civility itself. R.G. Collingwood even argued that economics as a practical science threatens civilisation by its very existence. This paper argues that, if one takes seriously Collingwood’s own distinction between wealth and riches, and if a co‐operative economy can be made to flourish, civilisation can readily survive. Wealth in these terms is a community resource which frees up human possibilities, riches are personal barricades and a source of power, and we can understand how to maximise wealth without creating unnecessary riches. In these terms the three main competing civilisations – that of the West, that of Islam, and the Chinese civilisation which is exemplified, for instance in Taiwan, may well survive and remain distinct. They represent basic human choices. For one can have societies in which the major focus is on individuals, societies in which it is on the community as a whole, and societies in which it is on families, social groups, churches and other institutions which comprise civil society.
The influence of ideas is a central but puzzling problem in the social sciences. Parsons insisted that ideas play a central role in social continuity as well as in social…
The influence of ideas is a central but puzzling problem in the social sciences. Parsons insisted that ideas play a central role in social continuity as well as in social change. Basic ideas that organise experience become embedded in the public mind and structure the ways in which issues are tackled. Through much of the twentieth century, Darwinism, Freudianism and Marxism are central clusters of ideas. On a smaller scale, ideas that begin in academic settings can quite quickly spread into politics. Voegelin has detected very general notions that may structure whole eras, calling one of the most powerful in our time the “new gnosticism”. It draws on our ideas of knowledge and leads to the search for a universal ideology that dissolves all problems into demands for a totalitarian society. This paper argues that there is always an underlying basis for the power of ideas. Many ideologies of our time have been twists and turns on the Christian tradition. The form they take depends on the challenges of the hour and the nature of the surrounding cultures.
Time has run out for the “Vanguard Party”, but the growing disparity inwealth between the industrialized world and the less‐developed world andgrowing problems of income…
Time has run out for the “Vanguard Party”, but the growing disparity in wealth between the industrialized world and the less‐developed world and growing problems of income distribution and public order still give life to the “Dream Economy” proposed by Marxists and others. If the dream is not kept alive and made more rational, confrontations in many parts of the world will continue to increase. Argues that potential rational solutions do exist, but the danger in the present situation is compounded by the fact that there is a great temptation to revive what Eric Voegelin called the “new gnosticism” – the array of authoritarian Governments, of which the Marxist State was one, which were based on claims to special knowledge which provided all‐purpose solutions. Current disparities of wealth provide rich feeding grounds for such ideas.
Hegelian ideas are used to explain the success of Lenin. Hegel′saccount of the World Historical Individual may be especially relevant atthis time because the dialectic…
Hegelian ideas are used to explain the success of Lenin. Hegel′s account of the World Historical Individual may be especially relevant at this time because the dialectic between decentralised grassroots politics and the need for strong central authority not only figured in the rise of Napoleon (an example Hegel had much in mind) but seems to be at work in the affairs of Mikhail Gorbachev as well. But one must beware the paradoxes associated with ideas of historical necessity. One can avoid them by talking of probabilities, and conceptualising the formation of leaders as a response to a market which has a tendency to match supply and demand. But this does not wholly explain the tendency of Marxist systems to produce leaders like Lenin, Stalin, Ceausescu, Hoxha, Tito and Castro. It is argued that such figures become surrogates for the free man of the future, and that the masses are also encouraged to live vicariously through them; but it is also argued that revolutions produce the kind of chaos which creates a demand for authority.