Monday, 23 July 2012

Roller coaster - which way now?

To my mind social inertia is increasing. As we become more prosperous, our appetite for change seems to diminish so social inertia increases. Prosperity appears to have sated our appetite for change.

We’ve already seen an effect of social inertia in the extraordinary growth of bureaucracy. Levels of regulation and new things to regulate have long passed the point of diminishing social returns. We now find ourselves in a situation we would once have classed as extreme.

Ours is turning year by year into a static society. Yes there are changes still going on, but as far as I can see, there is something deeply peculiar about it all.

Take modern family life. Modern parents are much like their children – they have the same background and much the same tastes. Of course this situation was once normal, but for a few generations it wasn’t.

For much of the twentieth century, while social, political and economic progress were in full swing, children were not like their parents. Their lives, tastes and expectations were different. Now this process of rapid change from generation to generation seems to have slowed, or even stopped altogether.

Although a similarity between generations isn’t new, the situation as a whole certainly is new. Prosperity and bureaucratic stasis make it new and I’m not sure we have any idea how to deal with it.

For a few generations during the twentieth century, people didn’t bring up children to do the things their fathers and mothers did, they brought up children to do more. To be the first members of the family to go to university, the first to take up a profession such as doctor or lawyer, the first to have managerial ambitions.

Now the pace of generational change seems to have slowed and parental aspirations have abated. The future is as ever unpredictable, but I do wonder where we are on the roller coaster of life.


Anonymous said...

"I do wonder where we are on the roller coaster of life."

Near enough to the point where I throw up!

A K Haart said...

David - don't look down, that's the key. David Cameron doesn't even admit there is a "down", so it must be the right approach.