David Korten and Cornel West both setup possible societies that include within them a moral ideal Essay

David Korten and Cornel West both setup possible societies that include within them a moral ideal. These two ideals have many similarities to each other, but also a few key differences. A conglomeration of prophetic pragmatism and Korten’s moral ideal is possible, but not necessarily desirable. The key differences are in the area of environmental sustainability (which prophetic pragmatism does not deal with), and with cultural reciprocity.

Korten’s moral ideal focuses on equality of opportunity, the fulfilling of basic needs (food, shelter, health care), environmental sustainability, small units of government and business, and the necessity for love to control human interactions. Korten puts most of his emphasis upon environmental sustainability. He argues that through a reduction in consumerism, and everyone accepting the responsibility for the environmental cost of their consumption a balance could be reached that would guarantee sustainability of the environment in perpetuity. This would require that everyone agree upon a maximum amount that each individual can consume based upon the total resources available, not how much money they make or how valuable they are to society.

Envision a world were no one was hungry or lacking in shelter, health care or education. Individual consumption would be extremely limited; very little travel, consumption of foreign goods (such as fruit, or expensive French perfume), or basically anything would have an individual consuming more than the ecosystem can provide. Large corporations would be few and far between; instead, they would be replaced by small locally owned business producing all the goods necessary for the surrounding community (this being defined as an area were goods can easily be transported without high cost). This is the world that Korten envisions for us, he sees it as a utopia, and perhaps it is.

Prophetic pragmatism values equality of opportunity, limited socialism, embracing of one’s own culture and the values espoused by it, cultural understanding, and love as the key ingredient to hold society together. West’s main emphasis is on strengthening culture and upon equality for the races; he, unlike Korten and Dewey, wants cultural understanding but not cultural reciprocity. West does not want all the cultures to feed off of each other and form into a conglomerate culture that will work together. Instead he envisions a world were each group as an individual cultural identity that strengthens that group and guides it with a strong moral compass. When conflict inevitably arises between groups West advocates understanding and compromise to resolve conflicts. West’s society of love is one were through understanding and cultural strength the ability of everyone to be happy and successful is guaranteed.

The main element of Korten’s ideal that is not in prophetic pragmatism is environmental sustainability. In this aspect West’s views do not necessarily exclude environmental sustainability; he just does not mention it. Environmental sustainability could be incorporated into prophetic pragmatism without difficulty, if Korten’s argument is correct.

Two areas were prophetic pragmatism and Korten’s moral ideal do not mesh are in the areas of socialism and cultural reciprocity. West advocates socialism to limit the divide between the rich and the poor and the black and the white. He sees socialism as the best avenue for equality and eliminating conflict. Korten would not agree with this judgment. He states clearly that capitalism is, in his opinion, the only effective system for production and distribution of wealth. He is against corporations, but not against the type of local capitalism advocated by Adam Smith.

The second area of conflict is in cultural reciprocity. Korten does not deal to much with this issue, but he appears to agree with earlier pragmatists such as John Dewey, that cultural reciprocity is the best way to achieve universal peace and understanding. West does not agree with this, since it would involve the eventual destruction of every existing culture into a form of mass culture universally held.

Korten’s moral ideal and West’s prophetic pragmatism could work together. There differences are minor, but they are there. But surely through love and mutual understanding they could both work it out and come to some sort of agreement.

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