THE OCTOBER 1990 ISSUE of Sojourners carried several thoughtful responses to my long article, "Building a Living Democracy" (July 1990). A number of the questions are of fundamental importance -- and point to far broader issues which many readers have undoubtedly wondered about. These reflections are directed both to the responses and to the broader concerns, with the hope that they may advance a much wider dialogue on how to build an alternative vision and strategy for America's future.
In "Building a Living Democracy," I argued that progressives must confront the need to develop a coherent vision of what, specifically, we affirm if we reject both traditional socialism and traditional capitalism -- and that this question is now of overriding importance for political, moral, and spiritual reasons. It is not enough to urge "justice," for instance, but decline to say what this requires in terms of the structures and system that establish the larger terms of reference for our common life.
The structural proposals I sketched -- "elements" of a possible alternative vision -- center around a dual notion of radical decentralization to nurture community values and individual liberty, combined with sufficient (largely regional) planning, to make this and ecological sanity a realistic possibility.
Considered from this perspective, the responses were both heartening and (in several instances) problematic. They were heartening because each of the respondents added important insights, ideas, perspectives, and creative suggestions that can help us develop a more richly developed vision.