If political ideologies are unrealistically Utopian then shouldn't we ditch them for something practical?

In answer to Quora question "If political ideologies are unrealistically Utopian then shouldn't we ditch them for something practical?"

Thanks for the A2A Arion.

This question creates an interesting tension. For the person who believes a particular "Utopian" proposal is achievable, "practical" solutions may seem cynical or overly compromising. For the person who is focused on short-term achievements within an existing system or context, viewing themselves as a Pragmatist, "Utopian" is dismissed as "pie-in-the-sky." For the person who believes they know what the Utopian is aiming for, and what the Pragmatist is aiming for, but has a plan to achieve those desired ends through moderating a different central assumption or tacitly accepted factor, proposing a seemingly unrelated approach that hasn't yet be considered - well, both the Utopian and the Pragmatist may take issue with this seemingly irrelevant approach (let's call this Outlier), and dismiss the Outlier as either not understanding the problem, or not appreciating the best mechanisms for resolution. Then of course we have the Radical, who is committed to disrupting and perhaps even destroying the status quo, because they view the ideas and efforts of Utopians, Pragmatists and Outliers as equally weak and ineffective.

Throughout history, we have also seen various combinations of these perspectives in a given person or movement - or phases of development in cultural or institutional changes that seem to parallel these positions. But really, it is incredibly difficult to persuade any of these positions that the other positions are attractive, possible or viable...and that amplifies polarization and gridlock in any polity. So what is the way out? One way out is facilitated by another type of person: the Political Genius. This is someone who can weave together disparate perspectives to create a working solution, a solution that appeals to each perspective as having the potential to satisfy their ideology in some way, but which is actually not aimed to satisfy them but something entirely unanticipated (by anyone but the Political Genius) - in other words, it aims for a much more surprising outcome that falls squarely into an entirely different, often undisclosed ideological bucket. And these Political Geniuses are understandably rare - and are usually not seen as Geniuses at all, except by those who have cultivated a particular lens of historical and contextual appreciation. Another way out is spontaneous popular uprising that operates entirely outside of the established system at first, but whose ideas are integrated into existing civic institutions. We saw this happen to a limited degree with the Occupy and Tea Party movements. Lastly, another way out is either self-induced or externally-imposed calamity, which forces everyone to reconsider their positions in light of a harsher reality with more limited choices.

From a global perspective, we seem to be approaching the point where, if a new Political Genius or popular uprising does not nudge the status quo into a amore sustainable trajectory, humanity will encounter the mandatory adjustments induced by global calamity. And of course this same inevitability seems to be echoed in smaller scale in many countries, cities and communities. Now IMO there are other mechanisms that can help create ongoing flexibility, so that neither calamity nor uprising nor special Political Genius are required to facilitate change. Among these are a combination of scientific inquiry, direct democracy, moral development, multidimensional education, and more egalitarian and participatory economics. But are these ideals Utopian, Outlier or Pragmatic? I consider them to be Pragmatic, but a Tea Party person might see them as Utopian, and a Statist Progressive might see them as Outlier...and so on. Thus we come full circle to the need for a Political Genius, popular uprising or disruptive calamity to set us on a different path...at least until these other mechanisms of advanced civil society can be fully operationalized.

My 2 cents.


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