- the occasional blog of André Hansson

The myth of a decaying society

Politics and SocietyPosted by André Hansson Thu, January 19, 2012 09:09:26
The idea that society is in constant decay, heading towards an inevitable collapse is rife in the human mind. The idea is proposed everywhere, from Marx on the left to Rand on the right (yes, there's a point to chosing these two "polar" philosophers! Check out this article). Each side of course blaming the other for taking us down that road.

Studies, like this fresh one (in Swedish) from Sweden, shows that people seem to prefer negative views on the development of our societies. 6 out of 10 believes that extreme poverty is worse today than in 1980, while in reality it is quite the opposite. The same goes for a number of environmental factors, such as the emissions from carbon monoxide and sulfer. Deforestations is, according the report, also on decline. In fact, there are countless studies that shows that our civilization is progressively becoming a better one each year. Johan Norberg's In defence of Global Capitalism and Greg Easterbrook's The Progress Paradox are just two examples. (The latter is reasonably free of libertarian bias, if that bothers you.) Another place to find optmisism about human development is in science fiction such as Star Trek. For a less naive and endlessly more nuanced account check out David Brin's Earth.

Why is it so hard for people to be optimistic about the development of our civilization? News media is often blamed for biasing news towards negative events but that's too simple an answer. The idea that society is decaying is as old as thought itself. In political science the idea can be traced all the way back to Plato who believed that change brought about decay. His solutions was to halt all change, preserve society in a status quo. The idea seems ingrained in the human mind.

Of course some things are getting worse in the short run, CO2 emissions being the obvious example today, but throughout history human being have shown an incredible capacity to overcome obstacles, and looking at our civilization as whole, things are getting better all the time. There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic. Keep that in mind next time you watch the news and get that "what is the world coming to"-feeling in your gut.

  • Comments(0)//blogg.andrehansson.com/#post35