Recognizing the existence of social integrative power as a means of creating sustainable social justice and social change is a primary objective of this blog. To do so, we need to enlarge the perspectives of our ongoing debates at the local, national, and international levels. For it is this social power that allows us to see new possibilities, and to formulate the societal change we need. And it is only with this power that we can create the necessary social justice that must accompany these changes. I describe this in Social Justice and Deep Participation in the following manner.

Deep Participation is a term that I have adopted to signify a newly identified category of participatory dynamics. In contrast to ordinary participation, this more profound type operates only in the context of rapid social change and instability, and it is available to every society in highly culturally mediated forms. Using existing social organizations by which to access this dynamic, deep participation offers the capacity to reinvent societal institutions that are out of sync with today’s tangible realities. …These more profound dynamics—inclusive, complex, and interactive—create a stabilized and sustaining social energy allowing collective social learning and a social integrative power to emerge (emphasis added).[1]

Despite the above quote, it is not my intention to use this blog to discuss what deep participation and social integrative power are, how they work, or the participatory social theory underwriting them. The afore-mentioned book does that. What I do want to discuss is the new and different perspective that these concepts and theory provide. The emphasis is on the social, on connectedness, on the altruistic acts that accompany this deep participation process, and on the legitimation for change that only the social itself can offer. As a result, social integrative power gives a perspective that is quite different from that to which we have become accustomed. Deep participation research also indicates that social integrative power not only exists, but that it may well be a natural dynamic of the world—instead of just one more ideology.

So what is different about this perspective? Let’s take some examples. Two superb books in very different fields were published in 2013 and 2014, but they both suffer from the same treatment. Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century garnered well deserved rave reviews from the moment of its publication. Its documentation and analysis of wealth concentration over 200 years, allowing us to better understand the phenomena of increasing inequality, gives a greater and necessary depth of knowledge. In particular, Piketty’s well documented analysis that we are in a situation of ‘public poverty/private wealth’ is of critical importance in solving problems of inequality. However conservatives, as well as some middle-of-the road economists, immediately wrote off Piketty’s suggestions on how certain policies could curtail this exploding inequality. In other words, the move from Piketty’s analysis of the problem to criticism of his proposed solutions was immediate, if not instantaneous.[2]

Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate finds itself in a similar situation. It too has collected well deserved rave reviews. Numerous books have discussed the difficulties of impending climate change, but none with the clarity of Klein’s proposition. According to Klein, “what the climate needs to avoid collapse is a contraction in humanity’s use of resources; what our economic model demands to avoid collapse is unfettered expansion”. As Klein points out, “only one of these sets of rules can be changed, and it’s not the law of nature”.[3] A harsh analysis to be sure, but one that many of us suspect is truer than we would like it to be. But similar to Piketty, Klein is praised for her analysis, but immediately criticized for her “fuzzy” solution. In this case, a New York Review of Books reviewer claims that Klein ends up in exactly the same place as the “warmists” —and thus Klein’s analysis is diminished.[4]

Actually, the real situation is quite to the contrary of what our pundits and reviewers offer us. The immediate jump to criticism of the solution is a product of the two powers that we rely on in our current competitive world—‘political threat power’ and ‘economic coercive power’. And neither one of these leave any room for collaborative critical thinking–thus the immediate focus on easily disputed solutions, and blindness to the value of the critical knowledge and analysis that is offered. Even worse, continuing like this condemns us all to unending nattering—about anything but the problem itself!

However, moving from these competitive political and economic processes—useful and necessary in their own arenas—to social integrative power offers new potentialities. But please don’t jump to conclusions and mistake what is under consideration here. This is not compromise—which actually demands a base of shared values, beliefs, and worldviews so that priorities and strategies can legitimately differ. Here we are talking about the necessity of changing—in depth—societal institutions, along with the individual’s socially constructed worldview, to be more compatible with the laws of our natural world. We can do this by rooting our discussions and actions in social institutions, value and take advantage of critical thinking and thought, and finally use inclusion which creates altruistic action and deepens connectedness.

It is only deep participation processes and social integrative power that can accomplish this. But at this point in time we are, for the most part, sadly unaware of this potential power. And because of this lack of awareness, the alternatives that we perceive as available for problem solving are grossly constricted. But if we understand that deep participation and social integrative power are available, particularly in times of rapid social change, the odds for success are immediately altered for the better. It makes sense then, to further explore how this new perspective can change, in a positive fashion, the numerous difficult situations that we currently face in our world today.

[1] See Donnelly Roark, (2015) Palgrave Macmillan Publishers, London, p.4

[2] See Piketty (2013) The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, pp.466-467 and p.540

[3] See Klein (2014) Simon and Schuster, NY, P.21

[4] See Elizabeth Colbert (Dec. 4, 2014) “Can Climate Change Cure Capitalism”, New York Review of Books, p.16