Social Dynamics and Hope, for 2017 and beyond

Dr. Hanno Scholtz (Photo: Vera Markus)
Dr. Hanno Scholtz

The celebrations of December circle around the topic of hope. But it is not easy to hope this year. So many things are dark and make us worry.

Over the last years, I have compared the present to the early 20th century up to the 1930s. There are abundant similiarities: Terror, migration, economic crises, populism, and many more. These similiarities are neither random nor are they things that simple return cyclically. Instead, it makes sense to look forward in the past from the 1930s to the 1950s. At that time, stability, peace, and even legitimation and justice were regained, at least in the West.

And they were regained for good reasons. The industrial world worked, because it had created  and accepted “modern” responsibilities for political decisions and for skill-related decisions which lacked in the 1930s.

But from current view, they were incompletely modern. They were bases on groups with an internally traditional structure, with domination, hierarchies, strict rules and role assignments. But these traditional groups do not longer structure Western societies as they did.

Now a second step is necessary: To create responsibilities for political decisions and for skill-related decisions that work in the current world of individualized networks. This step is currently missing, and this is the reason for the problems we face today.

This second step is not a petty. It will change things. But it is possible, and it will come. And it will bring stability, peace, and even legitimation and justice, this time not only in the West but globally. I am convinced of this outlook, and I will work for it.

There is still a lot to do to go that way. And the bad news is: As long as this step is not addressed, the current problems will continue to escalate. But there is a positive perspective. And this fits well into the framework of December celebrations: Times are dark. But finally we see a light.

All the best for Christmas, Chanukka, and for 2017!

Trump, Zizek, and Irie

Some days before the U.S. election, Slavoj Žižek said that despite of fearing Trump, he saw Hillary Clinton’s “keep it up” direction as the larger danger. In a way, he is right. The idea that something is going really wrong in the U.S. has gained more ground today, and indeed Clinton would have brought more inertia.

But — to invest a last “as if” thought — she is not the blind Wall Street marionette some (including Zizek) see in her. She would have been interested in understanding and supporting change to the better. The chance that Trump as new president has any positive understanding for institutional change towards more inclusion seem, to me, much smaller. Hence if American people “return to basics, rethink themselves, and maybe some things can happen there” (Zizek), it will have to happen against the president and his understanding of what the American people really is, and this is no good news.

The shock that this election has caused will in fact drive people more towards understanding and supporting new institutions with individualized responsibility (and, necessarily, information efficiency). Trump’s main voters voted for him because most of them are kept in traps of unproductivity because no one helped them to develop their true potential. I do not know what kind of recipes the new president will plan to pursue, but defining property rights in individual’s welfare balances as in Irie support will be for sure a helpful (and in a way very American) way to cope with this problem.

Both the voters for Trump and many progressives, especially those who did not go to the polls, demanded more of having a say in politics. And Irie democracy is the best-reasoned way to overcome the oligarchy of elites in American politics. Trump’s sympathy for Putin nurtures fears that he will be more interested in keeping up a populist image of “the people” to his own best instead of giving responsibility to those people who are factually there, up to the danger that he may oppose and obstruct Irie democracy while Democrats (mainly regardless of who is at their top) would have let it go.

In the short run, however, the main message of this day will be that in fact the established institutions are coming closer to their very end. This is bad news for many Trump voters who implicitly cultivated a nostalghia for the good old 1950s when America was strong and every other nation was weak. The good old times of industrial society will not come back. But stable times when people have a say, and when people will know that their work is estimated, will come back.