How Does Social Change Occur?

social-change-how-does-it-occurRecently for my LMSF 602 Survey of Futures Studies course I was asked to reflect on my own ‘theory of social change’–that is, how does change occur? Some base their guiding narratives on power, others on progress, still others on ideas. As a friend and follower of Jesus, as well as a futurist-in-training, I offer some rough thoughts:

Being thoroughly postmodern and suspicious of neat meta-narratives, I don’t have much confidence in the Story of Progress as was propounded through the Enlightenment era. On the other hand, looking at the broad sweep of history, I cannot come to the nihilistic conclusions that some of my secular and religious friends have come to, that the universe is essentially meaningless or that we’ve all going to hell in a handbasket. There has been real change over the past several thousand years, and it is generally (sometimes very generally) positive. But there is no invisible hand guiding us to some inexorable destiny.

I suppose I believe in a realized eschatological world, where emergent nested creativity (which I see as a Triune God with real personality and kosmic-and-personal dreams) abounds, ready for humanity and creation to tap into. I am a realist. History has, in many cases, been guided by self-interest of a powerful few, hell-bent on maintaining and expanding their privilege. But in the midst of this, we’ve maintained humble, celebratory wisdom traditions that give dignity to individuals and communities—thus the spirit of innovation and adaptability continues.

I think social change happens when individuals and communities generate and tap into powerful new ideas rooted in the old. Taking from our store-houses treasures old and new, we can become truly conservative and progressive, preserving the best of the past while reimagining life together into the future. This will happen through humility, foresight, and imagination. It is a good time to be alive.

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