Bummer, We Can’t Change Society After All

We can only reflect and act on communications that are already part of our system. It’s important to reflect on how dis-empowering that is. There is absolutely nothing I can do to change a system I’m already part of. Period.

As I’ve been exploring what this could mean in terms of creating and hosting spaces of learning and systems design, it might not be clear the possible alternatives into changing systems. So here we go.

There is No Changing Society

According to this view, it is indeed not possible for members of society to change society. Because of us being communicators born and made within society, no one has the privilege to oversee our whole societal system. This can’t be done neither practically nor theoretically, as both are, in this case, communications all the same.

It is the end of saving-the-world type of activism. Society will only change as we adapt to changes from the environment. Environment being everything we don’t talk about and therefore don’t see, don’t acknowledge in our daily conversations.

Contributions for Real Change

On the other hand, there is a lot for us to do in influencing the classical sub-systems of society. Sub-systems are systems within society such as the economy, schooling, healthcare, etc.

Society as System
Society and Some of Its Subsystems

But what exactly can we do if we are part of the sub-systems of society as well?

Not much from within the system itself: economists won’t do anything but react and refract what happens outside the economic system, translating the environmental change in economic language and adapting accordingly.

The same is true for other sub-systems, frequently represented by institutions like business organizations, hospitals, schools, governments, NGOs, international bodies, etc.

They all speak their own language and re-structure their conversations based on outside perturbations. If the environment does not change — or change is not perceived by the system — nothing happens.

Different Words Create Different Worlds

I believe that possibilities of change come from stepping out of the sub-system you find yourself into. This does not mean creating an alternative sub-system or institution like alternative schooling or alternative healthcare. It means to create a space that is clearly de-institutionalized.

In order to avoid the alternative institution, one hint is to invite conversations where people are not in the same sub-system of society. The remix and re-creation of systems come from a dialogue between different worlds, not necessarily too different, just different enough.

The remix of language that comes from this dialogue is the true spark of creativity that can change things. To see the new language in action we need to host spaces where different worlds can come together to learn/re-create.