January 20, 2016 at 12:15 pm #45785
from a book by David L. Cooperrider. It’s called Appreciative Inquiry: An Emerging Direction for Organization Development. You can read parts of it at Google Books: http://tinyurl.com/4ssacnn. It’s on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/4ortvfu.
In his sweeping study of Western civilization, the Dutch sociologist Fred Polak (1973) argues . . . [that] the positive image of the future is the single most important dynamic and explanatory variable for understanding cultural evolution: “The rise and fall of images of the future precedes or accompanies the rise and fall of cultures. As long as a societys image is positive and flourishing, the flower of culture is in full bloom. Once the image begins to decay and lose its vitality, however, the culture does not long survive.”
For Polak, the primary question then is not how to explain the growth and decay of cultures, but how to explain the successful emergence or decay of positive images . . . His conclusions, among others, include:
1. Positive images emerge in contexts of “influence-optimism” (belief in an open and influenceable future) and an atmosphere that values creative imagination mixed with philosophical questioning, a rich emotional life, and freedom of speech and fantasy.
2. The force that drives the image is only part cognitive or intellectual; a much greater part is emotional, esthetic, and spiritual.
3. The potential strength of a culture could actually be measured by the intensity, energy, and belief in its images of the future.
4. The image of the future not only acts as a barometer but actively promotes cognition and choice and in effect becomes self-fulfilling because it is self-propelling.
5. When a cultures utopian aspirations die out, the culture dies: “where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). Of special note here, anthropologists have shown that certain tribes have actually given up and allowed themselves to die when their images of the future have become too bleak. Ernest Becker (1971) notes the depopulation of Melanasia earlier in this century as well as the loss of interest by the Marquesan Islanders in having children. In the second case it appears that the islanders simply gave up when, in the face of inroads from white traders and missionaries, everything that gave them hope and a sense of value was eroded.
On this final point, Polak was intrigued with the following conclusion: Almost without exception, everything society has considered a social advance has been prefigured first in some utopian writing.
For example Platos Politeia opened the way, shows Polak, for a series of projections that then, via Thomas Mores Utopia, had an impact on Englands domestic and foreign policy.
Similarly, Harringtons Oceana had immediate impact on France through the work of Abbé Sieyès, who used Harringtons model as a framework for his Constitution de lAn VII (about 1789).
Later, these themes were “eagerly absorbed” by John Adams and Thomas Jefferson and emerged in a variety of American political institutions, not to mention the Declaration of Independence.
While the word utopia has, in our society, often been a derogatory term, the historical analysis shows utopia to be, in Polaks words (1973, p. 138) “a powerhouse”: “Scientific management, full employment, and social security were all once figments of a utopia-writers imagination. So were parliamentary democracy, universal suffrage, planning, and the trade union movement.
The tremendous concern for child-rearing and universal education, for eugenics, and for garden cities all emanated from the utopia. The utopia stood for the emancipation of women long before the existence of the feminist movement. All the concepts concerning labor, from the length of the work week to profit sharing (and sociotechnical systems design and QWL), are found in utopia. Thanks to the utopists, the twentieth century did not catch humanity totally unprepared.”January 21, 2016 at 1:12 am #45786
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