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
With rendition switcher

Transcript

Question: What is your philosophy?

Howard Zinn: I believe, I suppose, in what could be called democratic socialism. I believe that we need a society where the motive for the economic system is not corporate profit, but the motive is the welfare of people, health care, jobs, child care, and so on. But that is dominant. Where there is a greater equalization of wealth and a society which is peaceful, which devotes its resources to helping people in the country and elsewhere.

I believe in a world where war is no longer the recourse for the settling of grievances and problems. I believe in the wiping out of national boundaries.

I don’t believe in visas and passports and immigration quotas. I think we need to move toward a global society. They use the word “globalization,” but they use it in a very narrow sense to mean the freedom of corporations to move across boundaries. But what we need is a freedom of people and things to move across boundaries.

When I talk about socialism in our jails, I mean greater societal intervention into the economy, but without deprivation of civil liberties. Dalton Trumbo, the Hollywood writer, put it very simply. He said, “Socialism without jails.”

 

Question: How do you blend anarchism, socialism and communism?

Howard Zinn:  I like to think of taking the best elements of all of them.  If you separate communism from the Soviet Union and from those bureaucratic and totalitarian countries that call themselves Marxist or communist, and just treat communism as it was envisioned by Marx and Engels, ultimately a society where there would be a freedom of the individual and a rational use of the world’s resources.  That’s something to take from communism. 

From socialism I would take what I just described and that is the use of a democratically-elected government to equalize resources and help people. 

I would take from anarchism the suspicion of authority and suspicion of all governments and the readiness to criticize and rebel against any government that may have started out in a humanitarian way, but they can easily become ossified and dictatorial.  Anarchism has as its goal the idea of a decentralized society where individuals are free from the oppression of government and corporate power and the church. 

I think there are elements in all three that are useful.

 

Question: Is that a practical way of thinking?

Howard Zinn:  It’s certainly not practical in the sense of something that’s immediately achievable.  But I think it’s very important to hold as a goal.  It’s philosophical, but not in a utopian sense that makes it simply theoretical and unworkable.  It’s philosophical only in the sense that it’s long term.  So although it’s not an immediate possibility or probability, I think it’s very important to have an idea of what a good society would be like so that you can measure what is happening today and what the policies are today against that goal.

Recorded On: July 5, 2008

 

 

 

Howard Zinn's Personal Phil...

Newsletter: Share: