1. BALANCE - A healthy society balances a public sector that is respected with a private sector that is responsible and a plural sector that is robust.
The plural sector comprises non-government organizations, community associations, not-for-profit institutions, social initiatives and social movements. This sector may be huge, but it remains obscure, lost between left and right. This will have to change if balance is to be restored.
2. FORMS OF IMBALANCE - No society can balance itself on one sector, whether public (communism), private (capitalism), or plural (populism). And trying to do so on two sectors gives rise to pendulum politics (between left and right), or else paralysis in the political center.
Eastern Europe experienced imbalance of the three sectors in succession: plural sector fascism up to 1945, followed by public sector communism post-war, until some form of private sector capitalism arose after 1989. Now what? Balance!
3. IMBALANCE TODAY - The belief that capitalism had triumphed in 1989 has been throwing many countries, especially the liberal democracies of the West, out of balance ever since, on the side of their private sector interests.
The communist regimes of Eastern Europe were severely out of balance on the side of their public sector governments, whereas the successful countries of the West maintained a relative balance across the three sectors. But the failure to understand this has been throwing many of these and other countries, and the global world itself, out of balance ever since, on the side of private sector interests.
4. BALANCE TO FACE THREATS - Significant progress on the major threats of today—including warming, weapons, and the lopsided distribution of wealth—will be impeded so long as many societies as well as the globalized world itself remain out of balance.
For example, how can we deal with climate change so long as private interests drive conspicuous consumption, for the relentless increasing of share prices? Likewise, how can the imbalance of wealth be addressed so long as globalization is predominately economic, with the social and political forces too weak and unconsolidated to act as countervailing powers?
5. A FEW BALANCED SOCIETIES - Some countries, most of them small, have maintained a relative balance.
The Economist Democracy Index lists 23 countries as “full democracies”, most of which appear to be rather balanced. Together, they comprise just 7.2 % of the world’s population. Ten of them have populations under six million, many much less. The ten most populous countries of the world are not on that list.
6. REFORMATION - The restoration of balance will require neither revolution nor reform so much as reformation.
Revolution has often led from one form of imbalance to another, while conventional reform will not be able to render the changes that are necessary. The Reformation of the 16th Century, also the Quiet Revolution of Quebec in the 20th Century, offer interesting examples of how societies undergo major shifts in social behavior. These began with a groundswell, as many people who were fed up with the status quo pushed for substantial reform. As Franklin D. Roosevelt told an activist who asked him to support a cause: “I want to do it. Now go out and make me do it.”
7. PATHWAY TO DYNAMIC BALANCE - The pathway to dynamic balance can proceed in three stages: I. Declaration by concerned citizens the world over of common cause, II. Multiple actions by them, on the ground, to reframe, reverse, and renew, and III. Consolidation of these within the plural sector and across the three sectors.
Commitment can take the form of signing the Declaration of Our Interdependence, as a statement of common cause. Action can take many forms, beginning with the reframing our beliefs, to enable reversals of what is wrong and renewal of what can be made right. All of this has to be brought together, as a focussed force for social change, especially within the plural sector, which has to get its collective act together (as private sector interests do so ably), to drive reform in government and enhanced responsibility in business, also across the three sectors, in public-private-plural partnerships. Please see RebalancingSociety.org for the full picture.
Henry Mintzberg, May 2021