Exploring the Social Imagination

Monday, November 2, 2015

Generation to Generation ~ What is Change and is There any real Change?

Some people think that the social imagination is some endless and creative collective entity. It is and it isn't. Of course, we see vast amounts of technology in our life changing the way we live but does it really? Maybe it has and maybe it has not. After all, people are basically the same today as they were yesterday. In appears that in every generation and every society, young people have built into their unbridled imagination the idea that they are the 'new' people, the group that would change the world. No one before them could have ever imagined what they do. Yet, in order that they imagine anything at all, they have to stand on the shoulders of those who have imagined before they were even born.

Cornelius Castoridas wrote about social change. He said that people in their social reality, are always the same as they were yesterday, today and will be tomorrow. It just looks different but it is only an illusion, a shift in perception or just a rearrangement of what was imagined before. To be sure, in our social reality, we can never imagine anything that we have never yet seen or experienced in some way. Aliens in movies have elements of what we have experienced, humans and animals, insects... If a true alien appeared, it would have to use those things here so that it could be seen by us.

If life were a computer program, certain elements as constants would have to exist so that we don't have to re-imagine them every morning when we wake up. The sun is a star, it rises in the east and sets in the west. Solomon wrote that there is nothing new under the sun. Was Solomon contemplating an eternal truth? Perhaps, he was. We can read historical accounts of generations in which change is not a 'good' thing and other accounts in which change is constantly present. But, again is there really anything new under the sun. Is there anything even in change that never happened before or ever changed as we think it did. Just because Henry the VIII had six wives and became the head of the Church in England does not mean that such change or social unrest never happened before. In the Bible, we can read that King David as his son Solomon had many wives and both were effectively the 'head' of the 'church' in their times, both thought that they could control social reality and change it for their benefit. Did Solomon finally realize that he could not? There is nothing new under the sun ~ Ecclesiastes 1:9

     "What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place, the streams come from, there they return. .. there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say "Look! This is something new?"~ Ecclesiastes 1:3-10. 

Some argue that it is preservation of the past, of tradition, of customs, and beliefs which are not really necessary. they argue that hanging onto the past inhibits change. Hillary Clinton made such a statement. She told attendees at the sixth annual Women in The World Summit that “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed." She made this statement in regards to women's health care but it actually implies much more than just a concern for health care. Keep in mind, Clinton was not just speaking to Americans, this statement was made at a world summit. With that in mind, one should question if Clinton can speak for everyone's social imagination. Her's is western and should be regarded as different.

Of course, from a birds eye view of people, there is nothing new under the sun in terms of what we can imagine for our well being. People everywhere do this. We cannot imagine living any other way, seeking peaceful living and happiness in the place where we are. And, in saying that, there is nothing new under the sun. Yet, sociologists recognize that the social imagination of western civilization is different from other civilizations. In fact, what we in the west think of as change is foreign to other cultures. Western civilization is recognized for its change - the new world with new ideas about individual liberty/choice. But, where was that actually birthed? Yes, that is the question. Perhaps the question should be why does the west think that change is good? And, in asking that, we would still have to ask is it really change or re-arrangement? After all, isn't that is what Hillary Clinton is asking for... re-arrangement? But whose?

It was mentioned that young people everywhere have this notion of being new. Is it that young people have a different social imagination? Perhaps, one could then argue that that is why they are reined into the conforms of the established social imagination for preservation of it. Interesting is that no one asks, if those conforms are actually good and that changing them would be bad. The Constitution is not a lengthy document yet it stands for all generations. That is likely because there is a common social imagination among all people including all young people which is largely in respect of their living conditions and their ability to work it out for themselves. In saying that, one recognizes the thread of western civilization with its Judeo-Christian social foundation. Young people do not always want to turn the world upside down. They just want to experience life, to live in a socially imagined world of their own yet one which has its rules that allow them to do that, as in social perimeters/ boundaries that provide a sense of security and a sense of belonging.

In this instance, you might think that change is good, isn't that what new generations want a socially imagined world that is their own with its rules that allow them to exist in some sense of security and belonging. The problem is that they also live side by side with others who are no longer young people who live with their socially imagined world, the one they created when they were young. Isn't that what Clinton is seeking to do, bring her socially imagined world to everyone else. Maybe some will consider hers theirs. Maybe some will not and then what? We have to ask then whose change, whose socially imagined 'changed' world is really being offered to young people in light that all people yesterday, today and tomorrow are looking for stability in their own socially imagined world with necessary sameness that they think belongs to their newness.

In that sense, there really can't be anything new under the sun and nor does there have to be given the aim - necessary sameness that belongs to newness.


  1. Sadly, western intellectuals worship at the altar of re-arrangement. I am not convinced they are correct. If something works - and most things actually do - why change them at all? Leftists seek to rebuild the world the way they think it should be run, but what of many of us who don;t want that world? the answer is simple - persuade us, then cajole us, then force us then exterminate us.There is nothing so wrong with reality that it requires the use of deadly force to achieve something different... unless one is hoping to achieve personal power and wealth from it. That being the case,their aggressive desire for change can be explained.