The Nature of True Freedom III: Creating A Shared Image of the Future

The Nature of True Freedom III: Creating A Shared Image of the Future

The New Postmodern Narrative

The new, postmodern narrative or vision of the future will and must be a hybrid of old and new forms. The failure of communism in Eastern Europe was the failure to impose a grand narrative based on the primacy of the economic sector of society and the state as the final arbiter of truth. The message from the fall of communism is the need for hybrid forms (Feher, 1992, p. 110). This, in tum, requires tolerance for (even enthusiastic embracing of) ambiguity. What Frederic Jameson (1991) calls the “troubling ambiguity” of postmodern society offers a major challenge for any striving toward true freedom.

The new narrative or vision of differentiation and integration must blend the best of both free market and socialistic systems, especially an emphasis on shared welfare. It must effectively incorporate the arts, humanities, and social sciences with economics and politics. Such a model will be challenging for both the right wing and the left wing (Feher, 1992, pp. 113- 114). The central remaining question is: will the new narrative or vision be coherent and sustainable, or will it as the postmodernists suggest be more of a process than an enduring product? We (Bergquist and Weiss, 1994) concluded from our observations and interviews in both Estonia and Hungary that in these two countries the new vision would be expressed primarily as an ongoing dialogue among many divergent forces in each country. This would be both the strength and the challenge of the experiences of freedom in Estonia and in Hungary.

Our extension into the future appears to be at least partially valid given the complex and often turbulent clash of ideologies in both countries since the early 1990s. Both countries have thriving economies—but remain a bit distant from the economic and political narrative offered by the Unites States—especially as this American narrative has fallen into disarray and polarization. The Estonians and Hungarians, like many other citizens of the 21st Century throughout the world, have witnessed what occurs when the rampant individualism of American society has led to violence, political extremism and a failure for Americans to engage a successful transition in national leadership. The future for both of these societies may have to contain a mixture of perspectives and elements—as will also be required in American society.

Polak’s Image of the Future

What would a more diverse future look like in Eastern Europe or America? I seek to provide a particular answer to this challenging question and conclude this essay (and this series of essays on the nature of true freedom) by looking to the guidance offered by Fred Polak (1973). As a Dutch sociologist, Polak published a remarkable book about images of the future that brings to a focus the diverse perspectives I have already offered in this essay. As in the case of Harmony of Interest, written by Anonymous (1849) during the 19th Mid-Century, Polak’s The Image of the Future has been quite influential in the writing of many observers of contemporary societies (notably Kenneth Boulding, the Nobel Prize winning economist). While being influential, the writings of Fred Polak have not been widely accessible to the American reading public—as was also the case with Anonymous’ Harmony of Interests. I have been fortunate to obtain an English version of his book, which was translated and edited by Elise Boulding (after she spent an entire year learning Danish, so that she could prepare this English version). Both Elise and Kenneth Boulding are to be thanked for their enduring efforts to make Polak’s book more accessible—and for Ken Boulding (1956) to build on it in his own book: The Image.

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About the Author

William BergquistWilliam Bergquist, Ph.D. An international coach and consultant in the fields of psychology, management and public administration, author of more than 50 books, and president of a psychology institute. Dr. Bergquist consults on and writes about personal, group, organizational and societal transitions and transformations. His published work ranges from the personal transitions of men and women in their 50s and the struggles of men and women in recovering from strokes to the experiences of freedom among the men and women of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Bergquist has focused on the processes of organizational coaching. He is coauthor with Agnes Mura of coachbook, co-founder of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations and co-founder of the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations.

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