the relationship to remote, impersonal institutions

Steven Welzer
2 min readNov 21, 2023

Since the rise of remote, impersonal institutions people have felt some degree of alienation from them.

Because they have authority and participation yields perks, some people participate … to varying extents. Some people feel unable or unwilling to participate. There is always a vast area of alternative commerce (or mere-survival strategies). But the lifeways of Western civilization have, overall, become based upon institutions. In fact, in our modern era of generalized hypertrophy, our lifeways have become based upon mega-institutions.

The reasons for increasing alienation should be clear.

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It’s hard to break from the current paradigm and return to a communitarian basis for our lifeways, but it’s a liberatory project to strive in that direction. Meanwhile: about the schools . . .

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/18/opinion/pandemic-school-learning-loss.html

Researchers have long known that American students grow more alienated from school the longer they attend — and that they often fall off the school engagement cliff, at which point they no longer care.”

Our lifeways paradigm being institutional, our conception of “education” is institutional. The critique of such started with Paul Goodman and A. S. Neill many decades ago.

How hard it will be to effectuate the paradigm shift from institutional to communitarian is clear from noting how very slow our progress has been re: deschooling, cooperative economics, the creation of ecovillages, etc. I talk about us having taken three steps along a journey of a thousand steps.

So for now most parents, and most of the society as a whole, must deal with schooling. The schools happen to be among the most communitarian of the institutions (along with churches). Dropping out due to alienation leads nowhere.

I don’t much like schooling, but I have to encourage my kids to hang in there.

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Steven Welzer

The editor of Green Horizon Magazine, Steve has been a movement activist for many years (he was an original co-editor of DSA’s “Ecosocialist Review”).