Smashing Context

It seems to be common knowledge that there is something (or many somethings) wrong with our society, but how would you fix those issues?

Perhaps one issue is that of poverty – that some people have so much while others have so little.

Perhaps another is systemic injustice – that some groups of people are systematically ignored, disempowered, or afflicted by the very institutions that make up or society.

I could go on, but I’ll pause there to ask again, how would you fix those issues?

No, let me ask differently – how would you go about fixing those issues? What types of things need to change?

When thinking of poverty, for example, do you think of solutions such as a progressive income tax or increased welfare benefits?

If those are the the types of solutions you’re coming up with, social theorist Roberto Unger would say you’re thinking too small.

Unger decries most social theories as presenting “man as the product of an evolutionary logic, or of deep-seated economic, organizational, or psychological constraints, that he is unable to alter.”

But what if we can alter those deep-seated constraints?

Instead of making the income tax more progressive, what would happen if we got rid of income?

What would that look like? How could we try to make that work? If that doesn’t seem like a good solution, maybe there’s something else we could do. Get rid of property rights and inheritance? Ensure that economic benefits are provided to everyone by the government?

To be fair, Unger is possibly a little too radical even for me. He pushes changes to the system more deeply than I’ve had time to think through and the examples above are quite probably examples of terrible ideas.

But I think it’s good to ask those questions.

Rather than just accept that we live in a capitalist, commercial society where supply and demand and the invisible hand quietly dictate all that we do, we should push ourselves to think deeper. To think differently. To “smash context” as Unger would say.

We should really ask ourselves, what is possible?


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