The Alternative Society

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Dr James Hemming
Dr James Hemming (1909 – 2007)
Professor Herbert Lionel Elvin
Professor Herbert Lionel Elvin (1905 – 2005) by Elliott & Fry, 1950. Copyright: the National Portrait Gallery.
1969 James Hemming.fw
Conway Memorial Lecture
Moncure Conway photo by Edward Steichen, 1907. Courtesy of Dickinson College.
Delivered at Conway Hall 14 October 1969. Chaired by Professor Herbert Lionel Elvin and presented by Dr. James Hemming.

World society is at a cross-roads. The long and gradual historical process by which more and more people have challenged autocratic authority is now reaching an unprecedented level. There is a groundswell of opinion that a society can only fully thrive when everyone has a chance to participate in deciding how it functions and develops. This participation means a maximal input of individual ability, intelligence and creativity. What is being envisaged is an alternative society in the form of participant democracy, in which the old forms of power and inequality of opportunity have been done away with.

As participant democracy hopefully develops in particular societies, there should be co-operation between these societies, so that they can collectively pursue a common global goal. However, none of the most powerful existing states, e.g. the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R., is conducive to the growth of participant democracy. The best hope therefore lies with small-scale democracies such as those in Western Europe, and with small, independent communist states such as Yugoslavia.

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