in #philosophy4 years ago


image credit: Pixabay/

A common cause of personal and societal conflict among us is the double pulls of specialization and generalization. As humans, we are unlike many other animals, in that we have the potential to be proficient at many different activities simultaneously, and are capable of learning new things at almost any age. Conversely, cooperative society usually works best when the members of society are specialized and proficient at one or a set few tasks. In addition, to be very good at any one activity, any person must spend much time learning and practicing that activity, at the expense of learning or doing other things. Therefore, as individuals we are constantly torn between two strong drives; to specialize and to experiment.


image credit: Pixabay/

Because of this constant conflict that all of us feel, every society has had to come up with ways to satisfy both of these needs. In modern capitalist society, there is the idea that you should specialize yourself for the most part. You should be a doctor or an engineer or a cook or an athlete etc. and not try to become proficient in ways other than the ways you make money. On the other hand, most people are encouraged to some degree to spend their leisure and money in things that are not tied to your economic specialization. So you might be an actor, but during your free time you could compete in poker tournaments. In this way, modern capitalist society tries to let everyone have their cake and eat it too. But this is just an ideal situation that doesn’t usually reflect the average person’s lifestyle. Very often, individuals are forced to sacrifice most of their potential hobbies and non-economic activities because all their time is spent preparing for, doing, or recovering from their one occupation in life.


image credit: Pixabay/

So modern capitalism inadvertently forces individuals into being more and more narrowly specialized, and rewards specialization far more than being a jack of all trades. Although few and far between in the modern world, pre-industrial societies were often the opposite of what modern capitalism is. Take ancient Rome, for example. In the early days of the Roman Republic, a citizen was expected to be a farmer, to arm himself when the country was at war, to participate in politics and possibly run for office, and to know and be able to produce poetry/works of creativity. How many of us in the modern world say that we are simultaneously tradesmen, soldiers, politicians and artists! Almost no one obviously, but while the notion of a society where all or most are able to participate in all the activities of human life sounds appealing, it is also detrimental to progress in many ways. After all, the Romans became much more specialized as their state grew, and as we find ourselves in the highly complex and competitive modern world, it shouldn’t be surprising that that one person can't hold enough expertise to be a good politician and a good doctor at the same time.


image credit: Pixabay/

Neither one of these drives can ever completely do away with the other. While all people recognize that to achieve true ability in anything requires narrow focus, each individual person also has a longing to explore other activities.

Coin Marketplace

STEEM 0.22
TRX 0.06
JST 0.025
BTC 18816.67
ETH 1293.99
USDT 1.00
SBD 2.52