Citations on Social Change

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Collected by Jose Ramos in the dissertation: Alternative Futures of Globalisation‎


“The utopia recognises no necessity, no destiny, no automatically functioning social mechanism. It places all faith in human self determination through the fullest possible unfolding of the highest human capacities. The utopia recognises no static end of time, but only stages in a dynamic process of development toward the future. It does not demand heaven, but seeks a “hostel”. And each successive wayside inn must be other and better than man’s previous resting places, but it must also be located as a landmark on an earthly road, where man can build with his own tools. This is not paradise miraculously regained, but a better world remade within the scope of human power.”

- Fred Polak (Polak, 1961, p. 424)

“It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarmness arising partly from fear of their adversaries, who have the laws in their favor; and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have actual experience of it.”

- Machiavelli (Machiavelli 1947, p105)

“The search for authenticity of a civilization is always a search for the other face of the civilization, either as a hope or as a warning. The search for a civilization's Utopia, too, is part of this larger quest. it needs not merely the ability to interpret and reinterpret one's own traditions, but also the ability to involve the often recessive aspects of other civilizations as allies in one’s struggle for cultural self discovery, the willingness to become allies to other civilizations trying to discover their other faces, and the skills to give more centrality to these new readings of civilizations and civilizational concerns. This is the only form of a dialogue of cultures which can transcend the flourishing intercultural barters of our times.”

- Ashis Nandy (Nandy, 1992, p. 55)

"The distance between our inklings of apocalypse and the tenor or business-as-usual is so great that, while we may respect our own cognitive reading of the signs, our response is frequently the conclusion that it is we, not society, who are insane."

- Joanna Macy

More Citations

Various sources:

"We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high."

—Frances Moore Lappé, Time for Progressives to Grow Up [1]

Someone who has been immersed in orthodoxy needs to experience a figureground reversal in order to gain perspective. This can’t come from encountering just a few heterodox thoughts, but only from a new encompassing architecture of interconnected thoughts that can engulf a person with a different worldview.

- Jaron Lanier [2]

There are periods in human existence when the inevitability of a great upheaval, of a cataclysm that shakes society to its very roots, imposes itself on every area of our relationships. At such epochs, all people of good will begin to realize that things cannot go on as they are; that we need great events that roughly break the thread of history, shake humanity out of the ruts in which it is stuck and propel it toward new ways, toward the unknown . . .”

- Pyotr Kropotkin [3]

Other Added Citations

“What is needed is structural change. Nothing else will do. . . . The more I reflect on these facts, the more I perceive that the evolutionary approach to adaptation in social systems simply will not work any more. . . . It has therefore become clear to me over the years that I am advocating revolution. Do not let us have our revolution the hard way, whereby all that mankind has successfully built may be destroyed. We do not need to embark on the revolutionary process, with bombs and fire. But we must start with a genuinely revolutionary intention: to devise wholly new methods for handling our problems.”

- Stafford Beer. October, 1970