What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close

18 - The world à la Leopold Kohr

October 24, 2006, 7:06 PM
Cropped-18

“Small is beautiful” is an aptly brief summary of the thinking of Leopold Kohr (1909-1994), an Austrian philosopher influenced by Anarchism and influential on the Green movement. In his best-known work, ‘The Breakdown of Nations’, he applied his theory of size to nations. Why? “There seems only one cause behind all forms of social misery: bigness…” Or, put differently again: “Whenever something is wrong, something is too big.”

The main question for society, therefore, is “not to grow, but to stop growing. The answer: not union but division.” Not your average, run-of-the-mill centrist political position. Kohr wrote about half a dozen other books in all, also wrote one titled ‘Is Wales Viable?’ – probably thinking Wales too small (paradoxicaly) than too big (unlikely). Here are some maps he designed:

(a) Europe à la USA

As Kohr saw it, the problem with Europe’s geopolitical makeup was the fact that its states were not equal in size, allowing the ‘big ones’ to dominate the rest. Or at least try to, hence the endless series of wars in Europe. One way to solve this, would be to chop up the continent into rectangular chunks of territory, disregarding most existing cultural, religious, linguistic and natural boundaries.

 

  • Some of these Europeans states à l’américaine would be culturally homogenous and correspond fairly well to existing nations or nation-states, whether by accident of geography (e.g. Iceland, Ireland) or by apparent design (e.g. Catalonia, Scotland, Portugal).
  • Others seem created purely for the sake of geometry (e.g. the south of Italy, where the border nearly isolates the ‘heel’ from the ‘nose’ of the shoe or the pair Norway-Sweden ‘sliced’ north-south rather than east-west).
  • But in many, if not most cases, even these crude geometric forms correspond to some real nation or state (e.g. Austria, Switzerland).

 

(b) The US à la Europe

According to Kohr, the division into many states of roughly equal size is what made the USA strong as a nation. Should America be organised into states of unequal size, disaster would be bound to happen. States such as:

 

  • Coastal State The four westernmost of the 48 contiguous states: Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada.
  • Montana Seven states adjacent to the ‘Coastal State’ and dominated by the Rocky Mountains chain, constitute the state of Montana. These are, apart from the original eponymous state: Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico.
  • Isola Short for ‘isolated’, or Italian for ‘island’, this state is made up out of 14 Mid-Western states: North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.
  • Atlanta Includes all 6 New England states (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut) plus New York and Pennsylvania.
  • Southland A resurrection of sorts of the Confederated States of America, this super-state combines all the original states of the Confederacy, minus Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. But plus Kentucky – which was claimed, but never occupied by the original CSA. It comprises these 7 states: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi.
  • Mini-states Six states remain independent, apart from Texas all too small to be taken seriously by the ‘big boys’: Louisiana, Virginia (formerly West-Virginia), Maryland, Delaware and Rhode Island).
  • Washington DC The federal capital would be as purely decorative a centre as Geneva was for the League of Nations. To enforce its authority it would have to ask the support of one or more of the powerful members. Wars would be as frequent as in Europe.

 

These maps are taken from Leopold Kohr online, which hosts 10 essays either by, about or inspired by Kohr.

 

18 - The world à la Leopold...

Newsletter: Share: