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The Social Nuturance Gab Published: Sunday, November 19, 2000 By: Dr. Manuel Angel Morales

A kind of a new social phenomenon seems to be emerging, and it is a tendency for going beyond a mere focus on profit and other material values, to focus on ethical, social and ecological values. Accordingly, the productivity, efficiency or rationality of any given strategy, policy or program is to be judged by these criteria.

To ensure for ourselves that we are on this path, organizations of all kind will have to institute a new social consciousness. The goal of this new social psychology is to determine in advance the likely consequences of an institution, a policy or a piece of legislation on the social well-being of the society, organizations and individuals within them. Requiring ourselves to think and act about these goals will contribute to renew on a daily basis the connection between specific projects and a sense of the common good. The purpose is to question in advance the predictable objective and subjective outcomes of any initiative; as for example, whether the prevailing emotional climate that takes place throughout society makes it more likely for people to feel safe to trust one another, and to act in a mutually carrying or socially sensitive way.

From a more profound standpoint, the goal of an economy is to reproduce what the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein called a particular human form of life. An economy must have mechanisms for producing essential goods, but must also sustain human beings, both physically and socially, with all our complexities and desires.

The goal of any new social architecture should be to produce and sustain human beings who are capable of realizing their highest capacity for love, creativity, intelligence, mutual recognition, solidarity, productive work, nurturing, commitment, trust and ecological sensitivity. This is a kind of social paradigm stated by Dr. Celia Cintrón in the sense that the higher the standard of social and organizational peaceful living, the stronger the economy and the society.

As the distinguished economist James Ronald Stanfield has postulated for more than a decade, the problem with the productivity imperative is that it has failed to take account of the nurturance needs upon which the economy and the society are necessarily based. Thus, the technical or iron age economy has to be strongly complemented with reciprocity as a central ingredient of social life.

The fundamental aspect of reciprocity is that the long-term social relationship should be strong enough to allow reciprocation. Without a relationship there are no chances for reciprocity. A transaction that is embedded in a permanent relationship, at least in the perception of those involved, can contain a large measure of indefinite reciprocity. When there is no expectation of reciprocal benefit, people bargain in adversarial ways. It turns out that within the narrow definitions of economics and mercantile activity, the quality of moral commitments among participants should be central and enlarged for establishing how successful the economy and organizations will be.

The future economic success of any society will depend on its ability to create a climate of nurturing and carrying. When groups become very invested in demeaning others, they will have a very difficult time in building a robust society and its set of institutions. Because of this kind of nurturance gap, people are willing to act as cannibals, destroying the common good, and destroying their long-term interests. People need to see themselves as related to others in a trusting and significant way.

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