<aside> 🐦 This FAQ is for people who’ve already watched Joe’s talk and Ellie’s talk, and still have doubts about our theory of change, and want EVEN MORE DETAILS.
It is a work in progress!
People often put us in some kind of corner because of our focus on meaning. They aren’t seeing the whole picture—which is admittedly quite complex.
Often they have some other foundational framing (”what we need isn’t meaning, but personal growth.”, “Meaning won't solve all the coordination failures!” Etc, etc, etc).
What they don’t know is: we got to our focus on meaning via an exhaustive search for what would help with things like coordination failures and personal growth.
This may seem counterintuitive: why would we focus on concept X, to help with concept Y?
That's the real story. We believe that the hardest part of social change is coming up with a new, workable self-reading or articulacy, that transforms social institutions. You can't make arbitrary changes to society: for instance, you can't make coordination-failure-related changes to society.
The way that you change things at a social level is through social imaginaries. And only certain social imaginaries are workable. So you have to search for a social imaginary that—when it catches on, has the intended effects.
We did such a search, and the workable social imaginary we found, that had the intended effects, was one about sources of meaning.
So, if you want to criticize our choice, you have some options:
We’d be happy to talk with you, or even publicly debate with you, if you choose one of these paths.
First, familiarize yourself with the theory of social imaginaries. The quickest read is Nothing to Be Done (where I call them “design cultures”). You might also like to read Ellie’s essay on social imaginaries, or go to the source, Charles Taylor’s books “Modern Social Imaginaries” and “Sources of the Self”.
If you have another potential imaginary that’s not ours, check if it passes the following tests: - (a) have you observed many people learning this self-reading? (b) does it change their sociality in significant, positive ways? (c) Does it quickly lead them to a wide variety of redesigns? (d) Is the internal object that’s the focus of your imaginary comparable with preferences in terms of robustness as an information source? (e) Is it comparable in terms of usability in arguments to legitimate or de-legitimate?
If the answer to all those questions is yes, then you may have actually found an alternate workable imaginary, and we’d very much like to know. (Or, if you have questions about whether ours really passes those tests, we also welcome them.)