[SoL] Alain de Vulpian on the Process of Civilization

de Vulpian provided a 25-page paper, Listening to Ordinary People,” in advance of the conference (Word doc). It lays out the main arguments of his book, “A l’ecoute des gens ordinaires. Comment ils tranforment le monde,” (Paris, Dunod 2003).
Here is one of the introductory paragraphs from the paper:

I have reached the conviction that we are in the epicentre of a developmental process of civilisation that is carrying us elsewhere, transforming western culture in depth and possibly preparing the way for a worldwide civilisation. What do I mean by a developmental process of civilisation? Norbert Elias, the great German sociologist, gave body to this concept of a “chain reaction of chain reactions” that involves power holders, institutions, organisations, communications, ordinary people, manners, customs, the social fabric, technologies that are emerging or becoming established, and so on. It transforms a civilisation and gives life to a new society. No-one has designed, desired or piloted this chain reaction of chain reactions. It has occurred spontaneously, it is continuing and is now spreading to other regions of the planet.

He goes on to discuss four major areas affecting civilization in the 20th century:
* Ordinary people become more autonomous and in touch with inner resources.
* An extremely complex social fabric is self-organizing.
* Scientific and technological innovations synergize with other transformations.
* New forms of governance begin hesitantly to emerge.
He looks at each one of these in depth (summarized in the paper, complete exposition in the book), and wonders if we are engaged in a new stage in the evolution of man and society. I will quote the final paragraph of the paper:

There is an opportunity for human progress whose birth we can try to facilitate. But it is very clear that nothing is yet decisively acquired. Our hypercomplex and living society is also, like all living things, the seat of pathological processes. The therapeutic procedures, regulators or immune systems that are spontaneously developing are not yet properly effective, in particular because many governments and old-fashioned but still powerful enterprises are not playing the game of a living society. They display ideologically partisan, hierarchic or predatory attitudes, rather than therapeutic, interactive ones, and accumulate mistakes and maladaptations that encourage the appearance of perverse effects. Instead of participating in concerted, adaptive regulation, they throw oil on the fire and accentuate the turbulences. Beyond a hypothetical (because unmeasured) threshold of turbulence, the entire anthropo-sociological process could bifurcate into disastrous directions.

This work deserves a significantly longer treatment than I have energy for at the moment. Perhaps even a study group to digest the main ideas. In short, he surveys 50 years of social science and develops the main threads of societal changes that have occurred. He summarizes several different societal aspects that I had noticed, but hadn’t named. He describes societal shifts that have affected both my work and my family. He provides a hopeful scenario, which I had not been able to generate based only on my own observations.
I highly recommend the paper, though with the caveat that I don’t read much sociology, so I don’t have much context for the work. I found it engaging, insightful, and worthy of discussion.