Thursday, March 7, 2013

Social change: How we got here, how we get there

    Today I'm presenting two extraordinary lectures with overlapping themes. Both involve theories of co-evolution specifically in development of our social relations, our technological advances, and our place in the natural world . The first is a 25-minute commentary by David Harvey. The second, much longer one is from Jeremy Rifkin filmed at the Ross Institute.

"We have masses of capital and masses of labor, unemployed, side by side in a world full of social need. How stupid is that?"
    In this film Mr. Harvey comments on the importance of bringing together a mental conception of the world that includes understanding our relations to each other, the technology we use and the natural world order. He suggests we consider how these correlate and form an evolutionary theory of social change. Mr. Harvey, a scholar of economic history, notes that Marx understood these connections, and if we want to imagine a way out of the current crisis we need to investigate this "dialectical configuration".

    Don't be put off by his academic rhetoric. You'll hear some very important concepts brilliantly woven together.

"Nature changes in its own way. We have to cope with that, even as we see that the natural things that seem to be occurring are partly a consequence of what we do."
     For a much more granular look at human history and the progression of consciousness and social organization, listen to Rifkin's lecture. He lays out this chronology in terms of how humanity has evolved socially in ever increasing levels of awareness. For example, during the time of foragers, hunters, and centralized agriculture, theologic consciousness formed the bonds of family through religious affiliation. When a greater convergence of communication came about through the invention of the printing press, an idealogical consciousness emerged. This in turn brought about a fictional domain known as the nation state. Presumably, the connection with a larger social identity known as my country, my nation, is more powerful than the limits of family. However, the key ingredient to Rifkin's talk is empathy and he asks if we are capable of evolving to a level of biosphere consciousness within the next 25 years. In other words, can we care about ourselves and each other enough to extend that empathy to the earth.
"When energy and communication revolutions come together they change consciousness, they change temporal/spatial orientation, they change dwelling habitats."


I occasionally find Mr. Rifkin hyperbolic, or over extended in his reasoning, but I cannot argue with how he characterizes how we got here and the ways in which it may still be possible to get "there".


  1. An internet explorerAugust 1, 2013 at 12:34 AM

    Hello, Marcella,

    I recently found your site and just wanted to tell you that your reviews are wonderful! You express your insights and opinions concerning what passes for civilization these days concisely and eloquently, and you have a wicked knack for calling BS in a delightfully snarky way when the occasion calls for it. Your passionate dedication to improving our little corner of the Universe and the lives of its inhabitants is truly admirable, and I wish you all the best! Looking forward to your next post!

  2. Dear internet explorer,
    Your words mean a lot to me! Thanks. I haven't posted in recent months because I've turned my head toward writing a book. This is every bit as arduous a task as you might imagine. Still, I'd like to keep my hand in the blog from time to time and it is comments like these that give me the spark.
    Best regards,

  3. An Internet ExplorerAugust 29, 2013 at 11:46 AM

    I replied the other day and could have sworn it posted, but maybe I accidentally hit “Preview” instead of “Post”. Wouldn’t be the first time. Anyway,I just wanted to say that sometimes it can get mighty lonely in the wilderness of the blogosphere, so I like to offer encouragement when I can to people who are trying to make a positive difference in this crazy world of ours and let them know that their voices are being heard.

    Good to hear you haven’t given up the fight. Best of luck with your book! What’s it about, or that a secret?

  4. *smile* One can't offer up one's soul and pretend that anything will be secret for long. My work will have many overlapping themes as are presented in my blog. However, the taproot of my book will be more focused on the consequences and nature of life as an intermittently employed adult living in the US. I want to frame this not as just a personal story, but take a wider look into how this changes the outlook and assumptions for anyone living in a world where the messages from the first quarter of life are so profoundly different from the realities of adulthood in the here and now. It is a topic rich with possibilities--some comic, some depressing, and hopefully by the end some signs of intelligent I am always looking....

  5. An Internet ExplorerOctober 1, 2013 at 10:08 AM

    That's a great premise, especially the part about how the messages we receive early in life (if you get an education, work hard, don't rock the boat, and eat your peas, everything will be hunky dory) don't necessarily work in the real world.

    Of course, the good news about a book such as yours is that it already has a sizeable audience who can relate to it from personal experience. However, the bad news is that many of them won't be able to afford it. ; )

    Best of luck with it!