Dream of a Social Theory, Part 1

I dream of a theory that doesn’t exist yet.

It’s a dream that goes with me everywhere and animates all of the work that I do. It’s a dream that will horrify or at least provoke most of the theoretically minded people I know, including some dear friends of mine.  I’m not trying to provoke, though. This is just how I perceive things.

When I was twenty years old, in my second year of university, I briefly joined an activist group called the Toronto Disarmament Network. We held a protest against NATO holding supersonic low-altitude training flights over Nitassinan in Labrador, the sonic booms from which disrupted life for the Innu people and for the Caribou herds in that region.  We stood at Dundas & Yonge holding signs and marching and chanting on a shockingly cold November afternoon. People walked on by, going about their business. I remember thinking, “just how is this supposed to work, anyway? What chain of cause and effect will lead from my standing here, to NATO discontinuing this practice?”. That’s the question that made me a social theorist.

Every political program, from the most moderate to the most revolutionary, makes me wonder: how is this supposed to work? How will consciousness-raising engender practical action? How can the working class seize control of the means of production without giving rise to a new form of alienation? How can decentralized networks of spokescouncils supplant all mechanisms of the state, lastingly and effectively? There are answers, of course. But I always seem to find gaps in the answers.

“How will this work? How can we make change, knowing in advance that our efforts will succeed and that the change we make will be the change we want?” The theory I dream of would answer that question.

Occupy-Oakland-protesters-007

(Part 2 tomorrow)

3 thoughts on “Dream of a Social Theory, Part 1

  1. “I dream of a theory that doesn’t exist yet.” That could be the motto of my intellectual life, it’s a tough one. I love what you’ve done with it as a blog topic though. For me, the unfortunate realities of “the attention economy” are the only thing keeping me from trying to do something similar. My ideas just don’t hang together densely enough to justify trying to write about a topic this large myself yet. But well done on the blog series here. Thanks for sharing.

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