The idea that enlightened leaders can steer a society in desirable directions. As attempted, for instance, by Vladimir Lenin and by many autocratic leaders and democratic reformers before and since. This is not in all cases a fallacy: leadership and foresight can in principle do some good.

The point made by critics such as Friedrich Hayek is that culture and civilisation are not, in fact, consequences of deliberate human design, but the products of society’s gradually evolving institutions; civilisation depends on behaviour, not on goals. Hayek saw Keynesian economics as a form of constructivism, because it appears to establish governments in effective control of the economy.

Constructivism teaches “-isms” (see “The Sea Cucumber” sidebar)—supplying answers, rather than the grammar which enables a person to think things through and work out her own answers. You are told the destination, but not given the map. And the rightness of that destination is likely to be defended strongly, because no one knows how to navigate to another one.C253


The sea-cucumber is a sluggish beast,
Lumpy, contemplative, and very slow.
So stiff and dull is he, that one deceas’d
Is so like one alive, you’d never know.

Yet, with full complement of harps and choirs
A cloud is ready for his final phase.
With airs to while away the tranquil hours,
And sunny slopes to feed his languid gaze.

The reason is, he has not specialised
In ’ologies, and ’ists, and ’isms vast.
With good and bad and sloth precisely poised,
To God of good and bad he’ll come at last.



Related entries:

Anarchism, Assent, Calibration, Democracy, Ideology.

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David Fleming
Dr David Fleming (2 January 1940 – 29 November 2010) was a cultural historian and economist, based in London, England. He was among the first to reveal the possibility of peak oil's approach and invented the influential TEQs scheme, designed to address this and climate change. He was also a pioneer of post-growth economics, and a significant figure in the development of the UK Green Party, the Transition Towns movement and the New Economics Foundation, as well as a Chairman of the Soil Association. His wide-ranging independent analysis culminated in two critically acclaimed books, 'Lean Logic' and 'Surviving the Future', published posthumously in 2016. These in turn inspired the 2020 launches of both BAFTA-winning director Peter Armstrong's feature film about Fleming's perspective and legacy - 'The Sequel: What Will Follow Our Troubled Civilisation?' - and Sterling College's unique 'Surviving the Future: Conversations for Our Time' online courses. For more information on all of the above, including Lean Logic, click the little globe below!

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