If not civilizational paradigm, then what?


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Imprint, Impress, Imperium

Therefore, very different strategies are required to handle each type of change successfully. Sadly, this point is not well or widely understood. I am suggesting that we must not focus only on the evolution of different cultures as if this is the most important game in town. Such a focus systematically misses a good deal of the length, breadth, depth and drama of the challenges and opportunities we face in the 21 st century.

To ignore the larger game of civilizational transformation is to ignore the key changes and dynamics on which our future hangs. It may be that our future hangs on understanding and operationalizing this difference. If it does, the distinction matters. Put bluntly, in my view we must sustain success not only as a culture, but as a truly new form of civilization. As I consider our history as a species, I find it useful to distinguish five forms of civilization. I will list them in the order in which they emerged. Only the first four are now exemplified in actual human cultures and societies.

First, Small-group Nomadic forms. Then roughly 10, years ago Settled Regional forms of civilization emerged. These were followed in a few places by Settled Empires. Fifth, we may now be in a long transition to the next form of civilization.

I call it the Consciously Co-Creative form of civilization. This understanding implies that any given form of civilization is not static and forever. If the conditions are right, a new form of civilization can emerge from an existing form.

In This Article

If this were not so, there would still only be one form of civilization on Earth. For good and ill, this is obviously not the case. Consider for example, that the French, among many other Europeans, have lived in the first four forms of civilization, although, of course, they did not know themselves as French 20, years ago. This evolution suggests that we may well find traces of prior civilizational forms in any culture that is no longer Small group Nomadic. By the foundation was well laid and much of the edifice already designed, if not yet embodied.

Does this account, in part, for our frequent misreading of and impatience with those who still know and live by earlier forms? Those who would challenge this frame are marginalized, not lionized. One policy implication is clear — we should stop promising persons in any existing culture, including our own, that they have the right to maintain their present form of civilization forever. Whatever our intentions, this is a promise we simply cannot keep.

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Régis Debray, Civilization: A Grammar, NLR , September–October

Given the actual dynamics of human life on this planet, no way of life as either a culture or a form of civilization is non-negotiable and forever. On this point, those who continue to claim otherwise are not only wrong, but wrong-headed.


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This short piece is not the place to respond to these questions. However, I note three things. First, this question has been at the centre of my life as a futures-oriented societal researcher, policy wonk and activist for five decades. Second, these questions are not yet securely in our minds or on our lips.

As far as I know, no significant organization or research centre in any sector is dedicated to raising and exploring the above questions. Third, the frame of civilizational paradigm change changes almost everything. It makes sense of the fact that our normal patterns of sense-making no longer enable us to make reliable sense of our world. It allows us to face, rather than deny, the facts of the long-term disintegration of the world as we have known it. Most important, it changes the story we are in from one of either outright denial or the embrace of never-ending decay to one of facing a challenge that no other humans have had to consciously embrace — their conscious and active participation as agents in the emergence of a new form of civilization.

This understanding provides a firm basis for a call to active service that is the psychological equivalent of a call to arms. Yes, the odds are long. One may be pessimistic about the chances we have.

Advanced Ice Age Civilizations That History and Science Forgot Until This Evidence Proved They Exist

But hope is warranted. Hope is also conditional. It is justified only if we are willing to pay the price of learning to see our situation and our role within it for what they are and then respond to what we are coming to know. This will take degrees of courage, insight and love that are truly rare.

Yet we know that to call us to any other response is a betrayal of all that we hold dear. Having an adequate grasp of who we have been and mostly still are is a necessary, if not sufficient, condition for a successful transition to a truly new society that exemplifies a new paradigm of civilization. The reason, as noted above, is that, openly and consciously, we must come to be able to distinguish between those new things that are truly new and those that merely reinforce our existing habits, if with greater subtlety. Reflexive consciousness is required because as we have learned from every liberation movement imaginations we do not know we have, have us.

I refer to the deeply-held sense that ultimate reality is timeless and changeless; that truth, if reliably known, is the same for all persons in all places in all times; that the logic of contradiction and contrariety both hold; and that certainty is a mark of true knowledge. The practical reason is that for large scale purposes someone must be in charge. The ultimate reason, of course, is that in order to get organized as humans we must assure ourselves that we have reliable access to eternal truth, even if only through a great chain of being, with a god-king as the key link between heaven and earth.

It follows that the whole point of human life is to learn to live on earth in the ways that best reflect and reinforce our knowledge of the unchanging eternal. As above, so below. Obedience to the eternal is also built in.

Dialogue Among Civilizations: Contexts and Perspectives

Given the presupposition of static reality and timeless truth, this claim is reasonable and to be expected. Finally, I note that a sense of hierarchy is not Western or Eastern. While we kept the sense of static reality and the hierarchy that goes with it, over the last 1, years the West has cut a new swath in history. It is pieces all the way down. Further, the pieces are ultimately more real than the wholes they, when taken together, constitute. The roots of this journey run very deep.

It can be seen in 11 th Century architecture. By the thirteenth century time was fragmented enough to demand mechanical clocks; reality was fragmented by Aquinas who authorized us to think about the earth apart from God. Once on the path of fragmentation, we soon learned to think of physics without philosophy or even the history of physics, fact without value, the secular apart from the sacred, commerce without ethics, nations as sovereign entities, and solipsistic individuals as sufficiently primordial to require a social contract in order to have any relationships with or obligations to each other or to a common societal authority.

Most would pay it no heed if we did not have more money and better weapons as an outcome of our sensibility. We would be well-served to reconsider the rebellion of some parts of Islam against the West in these terms. We would learn things about ourselves and our situation that we need to know. This evolution from wholeness to fragments can also be seen in Western art, architecture, weaponry and philosophy. Two, that reality is made up of and can be known by individual persons as separate pieces — pieces which then can be added together to result in some form of wholeness?

This space can be seen in the bottom left quadrant of Figure 1. I have facilitated this exercise for over 30 years. I note that no well-trained Jesuit would be surprised or bothered by this assertion. You will see the slow transformation that marks our journey as a form of civilization along the left hand side of the above figure, from top to bottom. For me this is not a random list. Rather the following features are entailed in the interaction of the two deep assumptions that underlie our way of being in the world.

Given variations in time, geography or among cultures these features will not all show up to the same degree or in the same ways. In the public realm, the same rules must apply to all without discrimination. The price that must be paid for each of us legitimately to have an idiosyncratic private life is that our subjectivity cannot be taken into public space as if it belongs there.

In public space, we are functions, not persons.

If you want to hire me it is illegal to ask me what schools I attended. The reason is that I may have gone to St.

The Civilizational and Ethnological Paradigm in Geopolitics

I will conclude by dealing with a matter that may be arising within you. This is a good and important question. My reading of the data suggests the following sketch of a response. Apparently, there is evidence that we are already growing, at least to some degree, into something that is not just a new culture, but a new form of civilization. This, of course, is one of the possibilities to which I want to point.

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By investigating the human-nature dynamics of these past cases of collapse, the project identifies the most salient interrelated factors which explain civilisational decline, and which may help determine the risk of collapse today: namely, Population, Climate, Water, Agriculture, and Energy. These factors can lead to collapse when they converge to generate two crucial social features: "the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity"; and "the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses or "Commoners" [poor]" These social phenomena have played "a central role in the character or in the process of the collapse," in all such cases over "the last five thousand years.

Currently, high levels of economic stratification are linked directly to overconsumption of resources, with "Elites" based largely in industrialised countries responsible for both:.

If not civilizational paradigm, then what? If not civilizational paradigm, then what?
If not civilizational paradigm, then what? If not civilizational paradigm, then what?
If not civilizational paradigm, then what? If not civilizational paradigm, then what?
If not civilizational paradigm, then what? If not civilizational paradigm, then what?
If not civilizational paradigm, then what? If not civilizational paradigm, then what?

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