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“There is No Perfect System”

“There is No Perfect System”

By Dennis Loo (5/14/14)

The title of this article is taken from a student’s recent comment. It is not unique to this particular student, however, but echoes comments one can hear frequently within and especially outside of academia.

His statement is true in the sense that no system produces 100% the desired outcome. But what is incorrect in the statement is his terminology. He is confusing the concept of utopias with the reality of systems

I agree with his assertion (reworded) that there are no utopias and that there can be no utopias ever, perfect societies in which all social problems have been completely eliminated such as crime and everyone lives happily ever after.

But utopias and systems are very different animals.

To say that no system is perfect reflects a lack of understanding of how systems work and to object to the idea that change is in dire need of happening. It's a claim that if you can't make a 100% perfect world through revolution then you're better off continuing to live with the existing one.

This comes from a position of privilege: my life is not so intolerable so I'm not going to support efforts to make a different world on behalf of those for whom the existing system is intolerable.

Does the planet get a say in this? If the planet Earth could speak, would it be saying right now: SAVE ME! I'm being destroyed!

Systems are ways of organizing human interactions based on mutual expectations. Human existence would be impossible without systems. We have from the beginning lived in groups in which the rules of interaction are understood. In sociology we call these rules of interaction social norms.

Norms are what the vast majority of people understand (by being taught them while growing up and learning the specific norms of specific situations and conditions such as how to function within a school, club, association, place of worship, or workplace’s specific culture and norms).

Not everyone necessarily abides by norms and there is a spectrum in society regarding how faithfully people follow norms and how important they see those norms to be. Some people are particularly disdainful of at least certain norms and they either don’t abide by them or they do so only reluctantly and only some of the time. But norms are norms because the majority of people are aware of them (either consciously or unconsciously) and the majority abide by them. If we had no norms then social life would become so problematic as to be impossible because we would not know what to expect from others around us and they would not know what to expect from us. Social life would be like driving your car in traffic in which no one was abiding by any rules at all, including rules such as taking turns driving through intersections where there are no operating lights. There would constantly be car wrecks if people operated wholly as individuals and had no regard for others and the need to co-operate.

If a majority were to stop abiding by certain specific norms, then those norms would correspondingly change. For example, prior to the US civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, it was normative for black Americans to be discriminated against in public and private settings. Not everyone in white America agreed with and not everyone in white America abided by that norm, but it was the norm nonetheless since by law and by conduct most Americans accepted the second-class status of blacks as “the way things are.”

Systems are governed by system logic. Systems function at a different level than individuals and the system logic in play overall determines how individuals within those systems will behave. Individuals’ behavior, in other words, is not primarily determined by their own thinking, personality, and individual choices. People do all have free will to some extent in that we can choose at any point in time to either go along with or resist system norms. Most of the time, most people take the path of least resistance, which is what gives systems their continuity and coherence. The decision to abide by social norms is not something that people do for the most part consciously. For most people, norms are something they spend little to no time thinking about and most of their behaviors are taken for granted as the proper thing to do without most people even knowing exactly why. One has to take a sociology or anthropology course for them to look with new eyes at behaviors that we take for granted as “the way things are.”

When people take the path of greater or greatest resistance they are violating the norms and in most cases when they do so, unless they’re young children or people who are mentally compromised due to drugs or other factors, they are doing so aware that they are risking social ostracism when they do so, which is why most people don’t depart from the path of least resistance because of the possible consequences. (Note that I said most here and not all.)

In contrast to this, however, what most people are taught and brought up to believe, primarily through popular culture and the dominant ideas propagated through media and public officials but secondarily through schools (especially K-12), is that we are all first and foremost individuals and that we can do what we want.

Identifying the preeminent role played by systems over all individuals is something that most people are never taught. Yet we all understand the importance and impact of systems through experience, even if most people don’t tend to think about them as systems. We know, for example, that criticizing or worse still, ridiculing, your boss at work is a virtually certain recipe for getting fired or demoted, even if what you are saying is absolutely true. People who witness corrupt or criminal behavior by those they work with are less likely to report these things than to stay silent because they know what the unofficial system rules dictate: don’t break ranks or you could suffer the consequences. If you are in the military you do not really have a choice as an individual to only follow the orders of your superiors that you feel like following. You can ignore or countermand a direct order from a superior, but you will surely be punished for doing so.

The founding figure of sociology, Emile Durkheim, laid the basis for sociology when he argued that society is a “thing” that can be studied scientifically. There are two notable bases for his conclusion. First, society is a thing because it is a system and it operates based on system logic, not individuals. Second, human existence is collective in nature. We all live and have always lived co-operatively and can only live as such in order to survive. Most people abide by that system logic or they are quickly ousted or marginalized from the system. The exception to this is that there are sometimes individuals whose skills are so highly valued by others that their idiosyncratic or even anti-social ways are tolerated.

The famous Stanford Prison Experiment illustrates the importance of systems and system logic perfectly. Stanford students readily and quickly adopted the role of prison guard and prisoner in the basement of a Stanford building even though their backgrounds and personal characteristics are antipodal to what people generally assume about guards and prisoners and why they behave as they do.

Some people, in fact most people, especially outside of the academy, take the notion of science somewhat loosely at best and incorrectly at worst, some saying that theories are only theories (and therefore not real), that interpretation is what matters, not objective reality, that interpretation is all that there is, or that sociology is no better than a matter of faith. Among some postmodern sociologists and among sociology students you can find those who regard society and history as things that cannot be studied scientifically.

These views are very prevalent in the current societal climate. They are in fact the dominant ideas, which is why you hear people state them so often as they are essentially repeating things that they have heard from numerous sources. But these views are incorrect and they are quite harmful to humanity’s effort to come to grips with crises such as climate change and grave injustices that we face. They would in essence leave us helpless against that famous admonishment about the failure to learn from history condemning us to repeat those same grievous results.

Systems’ logic is what produces the human behaviors and system outcomes that we see everyday. There is “no perfect system” (and I will get into why in the part 2 of this article series) but systems ARE governed by system logic. In other words, system outcomes are not due to human credulity, stupidity, or venality. System outcomes are the result of systems, not the characteristics of those who occupy those systems.

In a capitalist system the governing system logic is the relentless pursuit of profit. Social needs and environmental needs are treated as externalities to the pursuit of profit. That is as one could expect since profit seeking is the sine qua non of capitalism. Profit seeking isn’t the result of individuals’ greed. Individual greed isn’t what created capitalism in the first place and it’s not what sustains capitalism. Greed is epiphenomenal to capitalism’ dictum of expand or die. If as so many people incorrectly believe, greed and selfishness is an essential human characteristic, then capitalism would have not only existed in the last several hundred years but would have been in existence since the beginning of human societies, some 200,000 years ago. Indeed, if selfishness and individualism were essential human traits, then human society itself would never have existed and humans would have not been able to reproduce and survive.

There is a reason why the first time the word “individualism” appears in the English language is in the1800s and not before. If you are getting a degree in sociology and you think that humans are fundamentally selfish then you are not basing your studies on the most fundamental aspect of sociology itself, a premise of sociology in the absence of which, sociology would never have come into being and has no reason to exist as a social science. If every individual were truly autonomous and not basing him- or herself commonly on social norms and social facts, then we would not be able to probabilistically predict human behavior at all and we could therefore not be a science.

You cannot change the system logic of expand or die within the system since this is precisely how capitalism works. If it worked in a different manner it would not be capitalism; it would be a different system altogether.

Let me give an example.

Imagine a new Walmart CEO who decides that she will make a change that will benefit Walmart employees and suppliers. At the next shareholders’ meeting, she announces that Walmart is expanding its employee benefits program to include a living wage, pension, and medical insurance so that Walmart employees will no longer have to seek government assistance to make up for Walmart’s niggardly benefits package. (Half of Walmart’s full-time employees now seek government assistance, explicitly encouraged to do so by Walmart itself.) Walmart, this enlightened CEO declares with much fanfare, will also cease driving down suppliers’ prices ruthlessly.

“We will henceforth pay suppliers enough,” she announces with great pride, “so that their workforces will be able to live decently and have bathroom breaks and meal breaks. Walmart has a social conscience.”

“This will promote goodwill among our employees,” she continues, “and improve the living and working conditions for those who have been working for the subcontractors supplying Walmart products, elevating living standards in Third World countries and promoting better lives for multitudes of people.”

Imagine the stockholders’ shock at this declaration. Let us suppose, nevertheless, that this CEO is unbelievably persuasive and charismatic and that she convinces the shareholders that this is a good idea. She successfully fends off their first impulses to fire her, even though implementing her daring plan will cut into shareholders’ dividends and profit shares. After the shareholders’ meeting the financial press and the rest of the media report the dramatic developments at Walmart. How does Wall Street react at the next day’s opening to Walmart’s amazing initiative? The answer is obvious: Walmart’s shares would get clobbered.

Walmart, after all, is not only competing for money from those who invest in retail businesses. Walmart is also competing for the investment monies for all possible investments, retail or otherwise. The new Walmart CEO would lose her job unceremoniously; perhaps she would become the inspiration for a feel-good Hollywood movie, but she would be finished and would likely be treated as insane in the corporate world.

You are not compelled to pursue greater and greater profitability within capitalism, but if as a businessperson you do not pursue profitability aggressively, then one or more of the following will likely occur: your business will remain relatively small, even marginal; you will be taken over by a bigger company; your company, or at least you, will go bankrupt. Even companies that have understood this, as did and does General Motors, are also always at risk of being surpassed. (GDS, Pp. 70-71)

If you want different outcomes, then you have to change the system that is in charge now. You cannot change systems from within. They have to be overthrown and replaced with a new system. Changing the individuals in charge of systems without changing the system is useless because if you don’t change the system then the new individuals in charge will simply reproduce what was done or worse than that done by their predecessors. This is why Obama’s campaign mantra of change was such a deceit. He has in fact done the opposite of what so many people erroneously expected of him. They were misled by what Obama looked like and were not closely enough listening and instead heard what he wanted them with his liberally sprinkling good sounding abstractions like “the rule of law” and “transparency” in his speeches rather then their paying close enough attention to what he was actually saying

Will a radically different system from the present one of capitalism-imperialism, which is the overall system now, produce a utopia? No, certainly not. Utopias do not exist and will never exist. But will a radically different system produce a qualitatively and radically different set of outcomes from the present system? Yes.

I will go into these matters in greater depth in the next segment of this series.


+1 # Marcos1 2014-05-16 17:32
"If you want different outcomes, then you have to change the system that is in charge now."

To try and better understand what you've been trying to teach us, I have a few questions I'd like to ask.

1. Is violent revolution the only way to change a system?

Second question, suppose Bob Avakian (the spearhead of this movement you've introduced us to) is as effective to bring forth change as the Walmart CEO was in your scenario, what would communism really be like? When I asked Ray Lotta if Bob Avakian would get "paid" more, because he would basically be a type of president, his response to me was, "Well naturally. We have to capacitate leadership." Communism says there shouldn't be social classes. Is a salary related to social class? In this capitalistic society it is. Are there any problems in the new system that you have been able to foresee? Learning from what happened with president Obama and his transparency, will there be any broken promises?
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-16 18:39
I'm in the process of writing and completing an article in response to your first question above. As to the second question, what's important to understand is the main point of the article you're commenting on which is that systems have specific system logic that drives them. This means that what is key in the outcomes of those systems (and in the way that they operate) is that system logic. In other words, in the Walmart example, the abilities of the hypothetically compassionate CEO to do what she wanted to do were stymied by the system logic of profit-making. She could not do what she wanted to do because of the system.

I didn't hear the question and answer you cite about whether BA would be paid more, but I suspect that what Ray was saying was that under socialism that not everyone would be paid exactly the same, which is true. The gap between the highest paid and the lowest paid, however, would be hugely different than it is now under capitalism.

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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-16 18:43
Under a genuinely socialist system, the guiding logic of that system would not be the pursuit of profit but social need. Because it's a hybrid system in transition from capitalism to communism, it would have aspects of both systems, but the overall function of the system would be radically different because the system logic would be radically different. See for more on this The questions you raise are good ones and are quite involved to answer so I would recommend reading closely the article I am referring you to because there are a lot of aspects involved and complexity. (The real answer to real issues will always involve complexity and anyone who claims to be able to give you a simple answer is lying to you and perhaps to themselves as well. For ex., Obama's claims that he will be transparent).
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0 # Sadiez Moreno 2014-05-17 00:12
Do you think that it would be possible to change the system with a revolution but not the violence? Or do you think that violence is crucial to the adoption of a radically different system? I have contemplated both scenarios, but I cannot determine which would prove to be more productive and effective. Although I know neither would create some perfect utopia, because those are nonexistent, however I was just curious which would be more practical in ensuring that we successfully adopt a new system.
"If a majority were to stop abiding by certain specific norms, then those norms would correspondingly change."
Perhaps it's just my naive mind, but I feel a though if enough people just stopped doing what society says they should do, then the system would collapse and thus a new system would need to be put in place. I know it's probably not that simple, I'm just trying to grasp the entire concept.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-17 02:15
For a majority to stop abiding by certain norms it would require a movement with leaders of that movement to bring this about, as was the case for the civil rights and black power movements. Activists sparked these movements. These leaders and that movement were embattled in that the gov't and others who opposed them fought viciously back, including assassinating leaders. Whenever you try to do something that's really a change, the system will try to stop you and they will use violence and calumny to do so. This is why no real change has ever occurred without some level of violence accompanying it, even when those engaged in the movement for change were entirely non-violent. In India when Gandhi led the movement there, he actively opposed a revolution. He therefore had to go along w/ Britain's insistence that India be partitioned which produced huge numbers of deaths. Without a real revolution, you see the abominable conditions that many people (esp. women and the poor) in India and Pakistan face to this day.
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0 # Marisol Parra 2014-05-17 21:14
Sadiez, agree with your perspective that it is possible to change the system with revolution. Dr. Loo stated, “Utopias do not exist and will never exist.” We have to break the habit of doing what we have been accustomed to if we truly do not agree with such system. In order to change the system it needs to go away and implemented with a new system but we must want change first in order to have it replaced.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-17 02:46
The fundamental lesson from social and revolutionary movements from the past is this: if you are actually trying to do something that WILL REALLY CHANGE THINGS and not just something cosmetic, then the system you're up against will not and cannot tolerate what you're doing and will respond with a combination of violence and suppression (e.g., spreading lies about what you're doing and for, railroad you into court on trumped up charges, character and physical assassination. etc.) Look at what the gov't did to Occupy. Here was an entirely peaceful, widely popular movement that a majority of Americans based on numerous polls supported. The gov't couldn't tolerate it and a nationally co-ordinated effort from DHS was carried out to evict them violently over the course of about two weeks.
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0 # BBalty 2014-05-18 05:29
After I read this article, I gained a better understanding of how systems function and how they influence individuals' behaviors. The following sentence in Dr. Loo's article, "Systems function at a different level than individuals and the system logic in play overall determines how individuals within those systems will behave," makes me realize that no matter what you do to try to change the system, change will never actually occur. This is because systems do not function based on the individuals within it but rather on its own logic. This logic is what defines the system. In order to promote a revolution, we need to change the system. In turn, by changing the system, we can change how the individuals within it behave, and this is the only way to do so. Trying to propose radical ideas within the existing system will not work, because this system was not made nor intended to use these ideas.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-18 14:22
Quoting BBalty:
Trying to propose radical ideas within the existing system will not work, because this system was not made nor intended to use these ideas.
I know what you mean, but there's a qualifier that should be attached here or people could misread your meaning as that radical ideas are worthless.

First, radical ideas that are directed at mobilizing people to take up these ideas and make revolution (a system level change) based upon the fact that those ideas actually reflect reality that exists in embryonic form in the existing system (e.g., that co-operation if made the explicit guiding principle of the society would mean a radically different world) WILL work.

Second, the objective basis for ideas that challenge the existing system is present in the existing system because all systems have their dialectical nature. That is, within capitalism, for ex., there is ongoing struggle btw different modes. Cont.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-18 15:05
Radical ideas originate within systems that overall oppose those ideas because systems contain contradictory elements within them. The values and morality of those who uphold the public interest as opposed to those who value private interests are both in evidence in capitalism, but those in authority and the system as a whole privilege private interests. In slave societies there were those who believe in and defend slave ownership and those who stand for and with the slaves that they should be free and equal. There is more to say about this, but it will have to be in a more fully fleshed out way in a subsequent article.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-18 15:10
One more thing: to put this in a concise way - science has the understanding and ability to solve the global warming crisis but capitalism is premised on pursuing profit irrespective of its consequences. So capitalism's destroying the earth but we have the ability to solve this but we will only be able to rescue the earth if we succeed in making a revolution. If we do that, then the ruling doctrine will no longer be expand or die but protection of and respect for the environment and the species, including human species, who are part of it. We could, for ex., rapidly wind down use of fossil fuels thru wind energy. There is enough energy from wind generation that if we moved to it could provide 4-5x the amount of energy the US now uses.
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0 # Natalie Rivera 2014-05-19 00:34
So true! Yes, when you change your own behavior, those around you will adapt to your new behavior. The same can be said about our system. Trying to make a change within a system that is not equipped to handle the change, is just like putting a band-aid on a bleeding wound. The problem needs to be pulled by the "root," in order for true grow to take place.
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0 # giovanna serrano 2014-05-22 02:29
True about what you said about when you change your behavior people around you wil change theirs, like monkey see monkey do. I do not know if this is necessarily a good thing because a lot of people can adopt bad behaviors too. In order for change to happen like you say, it needs to change from where the problem comes from "the root".
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0 # giovanna serrano 2014-05-30 03:08
Also going off on norms of our society, we view these norms as something that cannot be changed, because they have been around for so long they almost seem nearly impossible to change, however, change is up to us as a society, but it is within our socially desirable hunger to fit in, that we follow the norms that have pre existed before us and are bound to follow them because of our desire to fit in.
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0 # CamouflagedWife 2014-05-18 20:11
As i look at the comments after reading the article i wanted to comment directly on your portion that states "If you want different outcomes, then you have to change the system that is in charge now."
As we have talked about in lectures in both the classes i have with you, it seems that if we don't change the system we have now, then we will be too late to save the corrupt world we live in now. It's sad, but true. I really think revolution is the only action that will save the people from continuing in this downward spiral supported by out chaotic government. We need a new system and we need it now rather than later. There are plenty of things our government does behind our back, so i don't see why it isn't okay for the people to rise up and stand for change that NEEDS to occur. We need to come together for that change to be possible before it is too late.
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0 # Christine Lopez 2014-05-18 20:23
Quoting from the section that stated," System outcomes are the result of system not the characteristics of those who occupy those systems".
I am a bit puzzled on this section we are social beings we copy and mimic what everyone is doing we follow social norms that come natural to us. Then why is our systems outcomes not our characteristics ?Norms are created because we tend to accept that norms. Norms are part of our system.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-19 05:17
Quoting Christine Lopez:

I am a bit puzzled ... we are social beings we copy and mimic what everyone is doing we follow social norms that come natural to us. Then why is our systems outcomes not our characteristics?

Norms do not principally originate from the people IN systems. Norms principally originate through the logic of systems. Most people, not everyone, tend to follow norms.
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0 # Christine Lopez 2014-05-25 22:39
Society is a system that exist and Systems run by governing logic they are not run by the individual.
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0 # thatdude 2014-05-18 23:28
The Interesting thing about social norms, to me, is that they seem like such a concrete idea or notion but when in reality they are able to be changed by society. Quoting the article, "if a majority were to stop abiding by certain specific norms, then those norms would correspondingly change". In general, I also believe that it is human nature to take the path of less resistance and that's also why I feel that certain systems stay around for longer than they should. Society doesn't like quick and abrupt change but if a system is corrupt or is failing to do its job then revolution might be necessary. It is our job as society to keep systems accountable
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0 # giovanna serrano 2014-05-22 02:39
I can agree with you, that even if social norms seem to be unchangeable they are indeed changeable, it is just that society has to dictate the change of the norm. Like you said it is our duty to maintain systems in check, of course also change scares society and therefore, it might be less prominent to happen and that is why some systems have stayed around for so long like you mentioned.
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0 # Natalie Rivera 2014-05-19 00:23
I agree with Dr. Loo when he says, "If you want different outcomes, then you have to change the system that is in charge now." He used Obama as an example, and if the system were different perhaps Obama could have fulfilled his "promises." Either way, the system itself must be changed, not just the characters. It would be like cutting off a snake head, and immediately after another snake head appearing. The entire breed of snakes would need to be vanquished.
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+1 # Viceless 2014-05-19 02:25
From a very young age in our American school systems we are taught that essentially you will be a cog in a system and maybe one day you can work your way up to be a very important cog in someone else's machine. If you try to do something that works against the machine you will be punished until you become a good little cog again. Metaphorically speaking we are essentially tied with a big chain that is unbreakable when we are in school and once we graduate and actually have freedom all it takes is a tiny rope which in our minds is still a giant unbreakable chain. The tricky part is getting people to see this and decide to make change.
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0 # Daniel Gomezz 2014-05-19 02:47
Tying in with the previous talk given in Los Angeles on the 17th, this article displays the dialectical nature of the capitalist system that gives rise to the ideas who by nature are aimed to end the contradictions and oppression of that particular system. The material basis (contradictions of capitalism) will always be there as long as capitalism exists. Yes, it will not inevitably mobilize people, that's on us, but we have a basis to go off of when we challenge the ideas of the elite. Not like the seemingly endless array of varying "Illuminati killers" or conspiracy theorists or Chris Hedges of the world who do not completely see the problem but merely a feature of the problem.
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0 # LA305302 2014-05-19 03:06
We have talked about systems before, and how it is objective in its being. It is not in relation to how people live, therefore if its flawed, my understanding is that you have to dispose of it. IS there parts of a system you can just change without having to change the whole thing? Examples such as working on making the income gap smaller in a way that it works with current policies about consumerism in place. We are in a system that is very flawed and in its very own foundation was only placed to oppress others. The reason I asked this is because if there is no utopia, what if we come across yet another set of problems that people do not like in the current system (post revolution)
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0 # Slovebee 2014-05-19 05:03
This was really interesting. It reminded me of my HST 324 class where I am learning about Europe during the 17 and 1800's. And we have just started talking about the different ideologies that appeared during the time of the French Revolution and Industrialism. One thing that my professor kept saying is that the philosophers we were discussing were asking the question, "What makes a good society?" I was asked this question in class and I'm not going to lie it was actually kind of difficult. You would think the answer to making a better world would be spreading peace and having everyone get along. Which deep down, yes I wanted to answer that. But I had to think about what in particular was I going to enforce in order for at least most people to "get along." I ended up saying something along the lines of cooperation and delegation of civil responsibilitie s. I think this is a question we have all been trying to answer for quite some time now, "What makes a good society?"
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+1 # Sherlock 2014-05-19 05:08
We need to relax. Grey is a real color. Being a progressive, means we work towards a better future.
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0 # flr9d 2014-05-19 05:08
This article gave me a better understanding on a societys functions. I find it very interesting on how Dr. Loo explains peoples outlook on how the system will never be perfect and therefore they believe that there is no point of making the effort for change. Because the imperfections of the system are not effecting them directly they choice not to do something about. In till then the system will not change, it has to get to the point were a large portions of individuals are being affected in order for a new system to take place.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-19 05:44
Most people do not choose to not do something about the imperfections of the system. You are mistakenly assuming that the system is the system because the people make it that way. There's a big difference between how systems work and what individuals see and do in those systems. Systems aren't made by the individuals in them. That is the key point in this article about the difference between systems and individuals.
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0 # zzchi 2014-05-19 05:14
If we are to overthrow the system in charge, what type of system would replace the current one? Systems are important as Dr. Loo pointed out in the article, but what system could benefit all people, places and things? Capitalism has become the dominant system, yet our planet is being destroyed. Consumerism is at an all time high, but people fail to realize the horrific working conditions one faces for the new i-phone in their pocket. These are simply systems inside of systems. They have their flaws and they have their perks, but at the expense of who? After coming to terms with what is important to people, I believe a revolution must take place in order to change the system for the greater good.
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0 # SecretSeaBridges 2014-05-19 05:27
The only way the system can change is if the people no longer become oppressed and start to think for themselves. A revolution is the only way that will let the people speak for themselves and have a voice. There will never be a "perfect utopia" but maybe with a revolution there will be a less corrupt government.
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0 # Princess Peach 2014-05-19 05:28
I agree when Dr. Loo states that systems are governed by system logic. Members of society are pressured to follow social norms because they fear exclusion. People fear exclusion because we are naturally social beings. Hedonism is something that common in society because every individual does have free will to either go along with the systems norms or resist them. However the majority of people in society seek pleasure and avoid pain, therefore they will go along with the systems norms.
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0 # Monique V. 2014-05-19 06:12
I believe the current system of capitalism will continue as long as people remain unaware. It will take a lot to make a change in the current way that things are ran. People are comfortable, and remain unexposed to whats really going on. A lot of the news that matters isn't ever broadcasted and one has to dig to find things out. Unless the news and important matters are put on prime time television I think people will continue to remain unaware of the problems we are facing in the world.
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0 # Guy 2014-05-19 06:21
In the Walmart example the CEO tried to implement too radical of a change that from the eyes of people in the system did not see needed changing. They don't see the positive long term view of such a radical change in the system. What I think she should have done was to slowly implement the changes. She could have put the change on a division table to divide it up into sections and implement the change in steps. Have some kind of immediate reward for the people in the system so that it is beneficial to both sides. I think time is one of the constraints because there isn't enough patience to wait out the time it will take for the system to change.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-19 10:17
Quoting Guy:
In the Walmart example the CEO tried to implement too radical of a change that from the eyes of people in the system did not see needed changing. They don't see the positive long term view of such a radical change in the system. What I think she should have done was to slowly implement the changes.
The point of the Walmart example is not that "people" saw the change as too radical. The point is that the system of capitalism will NOT ALLOW this change. You're confusing what individuals THINK with HOW SYSTEMS OPERATE and what LOGIC dominates AND DETERMINES a system's operations. This, as I've been saying throughout every article on this site and in the courses I teach, is a fundamental principle of sociology. If you miss this you're missing the essence of sociology. The stock market operates according to the logic of "expand or die" - i.e., the relentless and endless pursuit of profit. This is true even if hypothetically someone high up wanted - cont.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-19 10:22
(cont.) to do the "right" and compassionate thing. No system operates as it does because individuals in those systems choose certain things. Systems aren't governed by individual or group opinions. 'Systems are governed by system logic. Systems function at a different level than individuals and the system logic in play overall determines how individuals within those systems will behave. Individuals’ behavior, in other words, is not primarily determined by their own thinking, personality, and individual choices."
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0 # Brandon Vildosola 2014-05-19 06:40
It is true that some people think that since the system isn't intolerable then they shouldn't really have to change it. the problem is that usually the only change that will happen is when a situation finally becomes intolerable, such as the civil rights act that you mentioned. Any change in the system will have to be spurred by a lot of people finally saying "enough" and will start a revolution to change something. That being said, right now there is not enough oppression by the current system to make anyone really want to work hard to stop the system from becoming too powerful. The whole NSA spying tactics right now is a start to what may seem like a revolt, but it has not gotten to that point yet.
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0 # aplopez 2014-05-19 06:54
Yes, when behaving a certain way, rather then the "normal way" it gets people's attention and they look at you differently. Many people like standing out. I do. Well of course, we all have different perspectives on norms, but we all understand that there are norms for us individuals and there are norms for society. Now, system norms are what we all tend to follow, that's just the way it is.
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0 # Karen Cornejo 2014-05-21 04:07
I know several people are against the system but so many are comfortable in it too. So how can you try and make a revolution when people are not willing to stir things up. If one person starts to ask questions they might seem crazy but when a group forms people will start to look into the problem and that is how you get known. Just like trying to move a petition one persons signature is not enough you need multiple signatures to even have your petition looked at.
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0 # jnc 2014-05-21 05:00
Staying with a system is very comfortable to people. Many do not like change in things that they believe work, but in reality does the system really work or were we just brought up to use the system and assure ourselves that it works and it is right. In order for a revolution to happen, a vast majority of people need to point out the flaws in the system and come together as a group to change it. I think having a huge support system behind a revolution is the only way that it can ever occur.
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0 # Susan Torres 2014-05-21 19:41
I am wondering Dr. Loo, in your years of teaching, is it your hope that you will instill in us this need for a revolution and to change our current system?
Is that what we have to do as well in order to bring about this change? Spread the word the best way we can to enlighten those around us. Being that many of us come from a working class and are hoping to move up to middle class, there isn't much we can do at an individual level. All we can do as you stated in other articles, I believe, is change the way we act thus changing the norms around us, correct?
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-21 21:52
Quoting Susan Torres:
is it your hope that you will instill in us this need for a revolution and to change our current system?... there isn't much we can do at an individual level. All we can do as you stated in other change the way we act thus changing the norms around us, correct?
Let's start at the end, yes, by changing the way you act, even as an individual, you can change the norms around you. This won't necessarily always happen nor will it necessarily always be easy, but yes, even one individual can impact the social situation considerably if they understand why social situations are the way they are and how the dynamics operate. Cont.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-21 22:05
As to what my goals are: As a teacher I feel strongly about imparting to students sociology's essence and rigor and key to that is students' seeing the nature of systems and overcoming the misinformation and mistraining that societies are just a product of individuals. Understanding the difference btw systems and individuals is central to knowing how to think and act scientifically re: society. To be cont.
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0 # Ch 2782 2014-05-24 18:06
Obama is just part of the jigsaw puzzle, part of the whole that comes along with the system. Obama was president long after the bureaucratic system was established; however, that still does not excuse his wrong doing from his part nor it is justified. Weber advocated for individuals to think rational, we (individual) are being detained from expanding our knowledge. Even Marx wrote in The Communist Manifesto that if the upper class gives the working class resources and the material they need to expand their knowledge, it would be the same thing as giving them the weapon to fight against them and start a riot. Less information the working class knows, the better it would benefit the upper class that holds power.
People follow the law because that is the only thing most of the public has been taught to do, follow the system and the norms of society. Durkheim wrote that deviance will most likely exist because social norms are too strong to prevent rule breaking.
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0 # Ch 2782 2014-05-24 18:07
Part 2:
Deviance brings people together in unity. If we did not have deviance, there would be no freedom of thought.
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0 # Lomonaco 2014-05-25 21:46
We have economic ebbs and flows. The stock market crashes and slowly things build back up, but the system did not change. Eventually it happens all over again. The government needs a new system; there are too many leaks in this one. However, I am skeptical that it will last and stand the test of time. Things might start off good, but what is going to keep the transparency in place? Who can we trust? We are all socialized in this society and are influenced by what is around us. I see society has changed a lot just in the last 50 years in regards to family structure, women in the workplace, education in America, etc. however, there is still male dominance, racism, sexism, and white male privilege. The capitalist class is not going to want to give up their wealth and power. There will still be lazy people. There can only be so much equality. Is all of mankind willing to go back to being hunter and gathers? This is where things were more equal.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-25 22:12
Quoting Lomonaco:
The government needs a new system; there are too many leaks in this one. However, I am skeptical that it will last and stand the test of time. Things might start off good, but what is going to keep the transparency in place? Who can we trust?

See here for some of the response to your good questions:
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0 # Lomonaco 2014-05-26 04:45
thank you for your feedback. I will look into the answers.
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0 # MarieB 2014-05-26 05:52
I agree with this article that nothing in a society of many people can be perfect to each person. Sacrificing specific individual desires & compromising is the only way some people can at least be partly happy in a society, at least in the US democracy. The idea of choosing between either Democrats or republicans reminds me of choosing "the lesser of two evils" and exemplifies how either one or the other can be better.
If the best system is the most logical one, then it can be explained that the systems that are abused and manipulated by selfish authorities are illogical and much less perfect. I think people still brush off major problems like the gap in economic class because "it could always be worse" and blame the democrats or republicans, and not the essence of our polical system.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-05-26 13:50
It's not primarily a question of whether someone abuses one's responsibility and therefore supposedly distorts a system. Systems are not monolithic but they lay out paths of least resistance and most people will follow those paths of least resistance (i.e., norms). We know that that is inevitable. Distortion of a system, in other words, isn't the question. The fundamental logic of s system is the point.
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0 # Karla Garcia 2014-05-30 07:13
I agree that individuals loss their individuality when in a system because the norms are made by the system i also agree that you can't change a system with in and that you have to change the whole system not just one system but all of them. is a revolution the only way to change things? and how will this be accomplished? I think that the people hold the power to change the norms.
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0 # Marisol Parra 2014-06-02 00:34
Karla, agree that we as individuals lose our sense of ideology ,because we are afraid to break the norm. In order to make change we must first learn how to understand change in order for our systems to be changed. Revolution may be the answer to change.
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0 # Sinnerman 2014-06-07 00:22
"This comes from a position of privilege: my life is not so intolerable so I'm not going to support efforts to make a different world on behalf of those for whom the existing system is intolerable."
Statements like this one above have been sticking out a lot to me, and I can't help but feel like it is a bit of a generalization. If someone uses the impossibility of a Utopian society as an excuse to not for work for chance then that is a completely accurate statement, but there are a surprising amount of people who don't let the idea of the impossible stop them from working towards it. In that sense I feel like there are many people out there that don't believe in a "Perfect System", meaning Utopia, that will still actively work to better the one we live in anyway. It isn't just this line I've noticed it in the other articles too. In many of these cases I can agree with the sentiment, but I don't like how it is automatically assumed to be used as an excuse not to strive for good.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-06-07 01:52
It's true that there are quite a few peo who believe that they can make the existing system a better one. And it's also true that on a very small scale that peo can improve the conditions for others without making any macro level changes. Good intentions, while necessary because bad intentions can't get anything but bad results, are not enough because intentions are not necessarily based on an accurate understanding of what you face. Systems have a particular logic that governs them, which is why they're systems. If your actions aren't based on really coming to grips with the fact that the capitalist system is governed by exploitation, then there is a huge difference between thinking that you're doing some good, and perhaps even doing a little bit of good, and dealing with the macro fact that capitalism is destroying the planet. And I mean that literally, not as hype. That sys is responsible for terrible things like massive unnecessary deaths (e.g., > 1 m. Iraqis & >60k American soldiers by suicide).
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0 # karen cornejo 2014-06-09 06:37
The system will not get better until all hell breaks lose. I think we might all know that and no one is truly prepared for that yet. As soon as the system realizes things want to be changed they will panic and make it impossible for people to try and make a revolution. They will threaten the people and keep them quiet as long as they can.
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0 # Karen Cornejo 2014-06-10 03:32
Although social norms are very common and we live by them everyday, not everyone agrees with them. We learn 'social norms' from where we come from. This can be seen in households, if a child is brought up around a parent who uses foul language all the time, the child will think it is ok to use it wherever. Just like the article used an example about traffic, my first time in Mexico no way falls under the 'social norm' category as it would in California. In Mexico the street lights and pedestrian crossing sings do not mean anything to the people who live there and if for some odd reason someone follows the traffic signals they get yelled at. So my question is, is a social norm not a social norm anymore when it is not accepted by everyone? Or is a social norm something of different meaning to whoever is living by it? For example stoping for a red light or not stoping depending on what part of the world you are in.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-06-10 03:35
In NYC pedestrians cross against the light all the time. In every city you go to you will find different car and pedestrian cultures in terms of what peo in their majority do. Norms are wider than laws and if a lot of peo are not following official laws, then those norms are not really the norm.
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Elaine Brower 2

Elaine Brower of World Can't Wait speaking at the NYC Stop the War on Iran rally 2/4/12