Darrell West – Megachange – and Transformation

Oct 11, 2016 by


An Interview with Darrell West- Megachange- and Transformation

Michael F. Shaughnessy

1)   First of all, tell our readers about yourself, your education and experience.

I am vice president of governance studies at the Brookings Institution. I have written a number of books on American politics, technology innovation, and public policy. Prior to coming to Brookings, I taught at Brown University.

2) Now, tell us about your new book on Megachange- and how it seems to be transforming government, business and society.

In my book, I argue that we live in an unusual time period where large and dramatic events are taking place. Domestically, we can see megachange at work in new attitudes towards same-sex marriage, marijuana legalization, Trumpism, and border security. Globally, we have seen the extraordinary rise and collapse of the Arab Spring, the spread of ISIS-fomented terrorism, the surprising Brexit vote, and criticisms about globalization itself.

3) Let’s start with government—is the average American angry with the government for failing to keep peace in the streets, deal with illegal aliens and illegal immigration, and failing to stop crime, rape, and murder ?

Americans are upset at bad performance. It has taken a long time to recover from the Great Recession, and many people still are suffering the ill effects of that downturn. There is concern about chaos abroad and terrorism attacks at home. This has upsettled the entire political landscape.

4) What are some of the most massive megachanges that you have observed and how have they impacted business- for example, the Internet?

Technology is a big factor driving megachange. The internet has disrupted virtually every sector and affected many people. Some businesses have been destroyed and people have lost jobs.

5) Years ago, Alvin Toffler wrote a book entitled “Future Shock”. Are we in some type of shock where everyone is unhappy and people are trying to cope with an impersonal society?

We are in a period where everyone is anxious. The middle class is worried that their kids won’t have a bright future. And even people at the top worry that other people are blaming them for bad trade deals and income inequality.

6) Let’s talk expectations—I believe it was Arnold Toynbee who indicated that when citizens expectations are high, and the government fails to deliver on those expectations, that chaos and revolution follow- your thoughts?

We are in a period of chaos in many parts of the world. The old regime based on globalization and international trade is giving way to some new formulation. No one is quite sure what it will look like and how it will operate. But there already have been major changes and more alterations are likely in the future.

7) Specifically now, we have had 8 years of President Obama. We had the “audacity of hope”. Have those hopes and dreams of change been dashed? And specifically how have the last 8 years impacted the African American community?

Hope has given way to despair and anxiety in many places. Even though the economy has come back and the national unemployment rate is at five percent, people worry about the future. They are concerned that it is becoming harder to earn a living and make a better future for the next generation.

8) Globally now- Great Britain has pulled out of the European Union, and apparently several other countries are considering this also. Is this part of your megachange and transformation?

Old alignments are fracturing and the British vote is just the latest example. People fear the loss of national identity and feel that new configurations such as the European Union are not performing the way they should. Europeans worry that faceless bureaucrats in Brussels are controlling their future and not understanding the situation very well.

9) ISIS—the so called “J.V. team” has begun to wreck havoc in the Middle East. Are terrorist groups part of this change that the world has to deal with?

The rise of ISIS surprised all the foreign policy experts. No one foresaw that the vacuum left in Syria and Iraq would spawn this hate group. It took a long time for the West to wake up to this threat and it has been difficult to take back the territory occupied by ISIS. That group has created fear in many places because of its ability to inspire terrorists to engage in violent actions.

10) How can you get people to change their expectations in this fast food immediate gratification society? People want the violence in the streets and bombings to stop now- how can our society address these issues?

People have to understand that the forces that used to limit domestic and foreign change are weak and we are likely to see new tidal waves in the future. The era of megachange is unsettling because our governing institutions are not designed for rapid and large-scale change. Improving governance is going to be necessary in order to address the many challenges that we face.

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