Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Searching for a culturally unifying notion Along comes a recession, and maybe the political advantage goes to the first to come up with a compelling and uniting conceptual framework. Except, 'big society' hasn't quite engrossed or convinced enough of us. OK keep thinking. Here's a new collection of papers (via Will Davies) about associational democracy, asking questions about approaches to governance and economics that can 'increase the flow of information, accountability, trust, inclusion, choice, as well as enable individual empowerment and freedom.' And noting in passing that part of the problem is that 'we have become too constrained by an individualised, abstract and largely economistic set of beliefs and practices. So how can we become more collaborative and human, to improve our wellbeing, increase the effectiveness of what we do and manage the processes and tensions of both desired as well as unavoidable change?' (More useful stuff about la vie associative and associationalism on the Infed site here). I wonder whether searching for some all-encompassing culturally unifying ensign is ever again likely to be fruitful. Where it seems to work in its own terms ('God Bless America') its consequences seem, er, questionable at best. Big society won't be the last ever attempt of its kind, because we humans don't give up so easily, but it could be that western civilisation has outgrown that sort of large-scale cohesion. Ah of course, what we need is a culturally integrating notion that accommodates the sense of cultural disintegeration (or diversity, if you prefer). 'Small society' could be a good starting point. Let's see what happens.

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