Guest post by Ted Malloch author of Renewing American Culture

Lists… We all have our own lists.

To-do lists, action lists, shopping lists, lists for this and lists for that.

Whether it is Ten Commandments, seven habits or nine suggestions, people have been making lists to keep score or form culture since time memorial.

Some lists nailed to cathedral doors in the form of Luther’s, Ninety-five Theses actually changed history.

What’s on your list?

In the mid-1980’s Peter Berger, the renowned sociologist took on the Marxists and provided a tough-minded, provocative analysis of how capitalism, as the great engine of change, had revolutionized modern life.

His empirical findings laid a basis for a powerful and testable new idea that was shaping what he termed “economic culture”.

The core idea was simply that the modern market economy we call ‘capitalism’ transforms every other aspect of society.

In his final analysis, Berger postulated Fifty Propositions about prosperity, equality, and liberty.

Marxism was proved conclusively — wrong.

The purpose of the stated propositions was, “to take a look at these propositions as a whole and then to ask what practical uses emergent theory may have.”

In a similar vein but not nearly so theoretical, it is time to forge a large argument, a case so to speak about the need to renew American culture while keeping very much to the framers’ intention about their central concern — “the pursuit of happiness”.

Here then are THIRTY-FIVE PROPOSITIONS that taken together could do nothing less than bring about the renewal of American culture.

  1. The Pursuit of Happiness is a uniquely American dynamic and outlook that continues to shape our destiny and now also effects people around the world.
  2. This transcendent right is not derived from any government, institution, or individual and is unalienable.
  3. The Founders’ bold wager that the purpose of society is supporting each individual’s definitive right to live freely and happily is the most monumental experiment in history.
  4. It follows that the central purpose of government, culture and work is to put power in the service of human flourishing.
  5. The rapid, interlinked dynamics of technology, the growth of knowledge and globalization have created a perfect storm of change—all unleashed by the American experiment.
  6. Trade in ideas and products and the movement of people, are leading the way to a more global and integrated, yet complex technological civilization. The world’s operating system is in effect being rewritten today.
  7. Moving through this global economic transition, a new Schumpeterian cycle of “creative destruction” and intense entrepreneurial competition and repositioning is sweeping through like a tornado.
  8. The prospects for civility are grounded in notions of human flourishing and conditioned on the premise that private, public and social sectors each have something unique to provide the future.
  9. The humanities are being rethought to become the keystone to hold together the converging forces of globalization, technology, the explosion of knowledge, as well as the interaction of different cultures and religions.
  10. As moral animals, humans are inescapably interested in and guided by normative cultural orders that specify what is good, right, true, beautiful, worthy, noble, and just in life, and what is not.
  11. Human beings, in distinction from physical, biotic and psychical entities, function as active agents in the entire range of fundamental dimensions: they think; they speak; and they believe.
  12. As liberty, leadership and happiness all depend on a well-developed self-regulating system of character, so creative intellectual and artistic work requires self-delineation.
  13. The world is now akin to a series of local area networks that form a cybernetic wide area network, accessible through the World Wide Web. Being outside the loop is to be cut-off from the forces shaping the future.
  14. Humanity needs to befriend technological change and tame its darker side, since technology advances the prospects for human flourishing, empowers individual learning and innovation, places learning at the core of economics, and the humanities comprehend and record that fact, including the all important human dimensions.
  15. The old, traditional gulf between the spiritual and the economic can be bridged, as there is a spiritual basis for economic activity, a “spiritual form of capital” which is linked to human and social capital.
  16. Genuine economic growth is creative management of endowed resources by stewards acting on their commitments, guided by normative laws, character, principled habits and practices.
  17. Markets influence and are influenced by the moral character of culture. Put simply: markets matter.
  18. The State alone is no longer able or willing to fund the arts and humanities. Publics, as customers, are being asked to pay for services and goods on a contributory basis or in competitive, real markets.
  19. The humanities must be re-engaged with intellectual renewal and re-engagement with science, the arts, and religion in a constructive effort to envision and articulate a positive vision of a future of human prosperity and flourishing.
  20. In a robust knowledge economy driven by innovation, the not for profit sector needs to be rethought and the humanities should play a critical role in helping to define both purpose and strategies.
  21. Leaders in the private sector must articulate the larger humanistic goals of commerce, and leaders in the social sector and humanities must come to understand the practical methods and rationales of knowledge-based economics.
  22. If personal happiness consists of well-fitted energies of individual character, then social happiness or justice consists of well-fitted arrangements of a differentiated society and the skills and actions made possible through the humanistic mechanisms of finance and money.
  23. The integrated knowledge economy of global proportions is free the conflicts and shackles of the past. It is becoming more and more boundary less.
  24. As global dynamics in economic, knowledge and culture become increasingly powerful, a complimentary power develops for localities that understand their role in the global order. Ironically, globalization results in an enlarged value for the local.
  25. Humanities-rich communities that succeed in linking leadership, education, and cultural assets are more competitive and offer the prospect of a greater state of well-being and wellness for citizens.
  26. Cultivating the potential for enlightened and responsible leadership appropriate to the new context of action means envisioning and designing curriculum for a diverse leadership.
  27. Victimhood as a model of social/political analysis is a variation on the same ideas of “conscious detachment” that created rationalism and romanticism, and, like them is an intellectual dead-end. Victimhood as a universal model paralyzes action and hope for some future good.
  28. In the past decade the plethora of new laws, rules, and practices have made all organizations more accountable. The spread of higher standards for governance is laudable, worldwide.
  29. The future of democracy and civil society depend on the success of corporations as key structures through which people freely associate and work together in a highly diversified and productive society. Corporate organization, in the for profit and nonprofit sectors is the primary organizational structure to create free and diverse societies.
  30. The public humanities are a critical source of social capital. The adage that societies with an abundance of such are: healthier, more democratic and more prosperous, is proven.
  31. As the wellspring of civic mindedness, humanities will achieve their intended purpose when they help to build more and lasting social capital.
  32. If the humanities are to flourish and regain their rightful place in public life, thereby influencing public discourse for the good, they must be based in a philosophy of the good.
  33. There is an urgent cry for humaneness, civility and a restored sense that human persons and the cultures they form and interact in should be rooted in a theory of development anchored not just in ever growing material wealth, necessary as that may be, but also in a philosophy of human flourishing.
  34. Practical people may disagree about virtue or which virtues to exalt but religion is the keeper of wisdom and personal narrative that allow and encourage such dialogue and contain it in the public sphere.
  35. More than ever in a complex and technological setting, and on a lonely planet, we seek wisdom, a dialogue grounded in the good. Only then we can renew our culture.



Ted Malloch is author of Renewing American Culture

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