What I Do as a Social Critic


What kind of job title is "social critic"?

"Critic" sounds so negative, bossy, even finicky. You might think I go around all day and yell things at people like, "Hey, you! Who dressed you today? And stop that slouching!"

No, I don't. Let me explain what social criticism is really about.

We are in the middle of a huge mess.

I'll be blunt: the USA, the West, and the human world as a whole are, collectively, a hot mess. Here are just a few highlights:

In the United States:

  • We desperately need more real jobs. The official unemployment figures leave out the long-term unemployed, the underemployed, and people working full-time at multiple jobs who still cannot support their families. 
  • America is in the middle of a Cold Civil War. Overt racism, race-based violence, and support for outright fascism are on the rise. In some corners, there are calls for what amounts to a shooting war between social and political factions.
  • We have forgotten some of the values we need to sustain a worthwhile society: compassion (rather than shoving kids into cages), equity (rather than voter suppression and partisan gerrymandering), and honoring the public trust (rather than the legalized bribery that political campaign contributions have become).

In the West:

  • The great rivals of the West since the end of World War II--Russia and China--are expressing strong expansionist ambitions. Each is using both overt means (grabs for territory) and covert means (cyber operations) to make those ambitions into reality. The political existence of the West is in peril.
  • The West seems unsure of how to define its value and uniqueness in the 21st century. A unified, believing "Christian Europe" is gone for good. The traditions of the European Enlightenment supported not just reason and democracy, but also racism and sexism. What does the West stand for, anymore?

In the world at large:

  • Climate change is continuing, virtually unabated, and the world is unprepared for the massive consequences in terms of coastal flooding, climate refugees, and problems with food production.
  • Despite official statistics to the contrary, economic production is down almost everywhere throughout the world.
  • We are seeing a rise in the emergence of truly horrific pandemic diseases--for which the world is essentially unprepared.

There are ways to build a better country and world

There are ways out of our current circumstances. We can build an American society that gives a fair economic chance to everyone, a society with both liberty and peace in our own land. The West can rise restrengthened. Humanity can not only survive, but thrive.

This is no utopian fantasy. It requires that we see our challenges for what they are, do the hard work of rebuilding ourselves, and recommit to the values that made America a powerhouse in the latter half of the twentieth century: fairness, compassion, innovation, and the opportunity to work.

What I'm doing about all this as a social critic

For years, I used the process of principled reasoning to address a wide array of problems, from the defense against terrorism (the subject of my address to NATO) to helping individuals set their personal and emotional lives in order (the bulk of my 16-year practice of psychotherapy). 

Now I apply principled reasoning to the problems that face us in society. I describe ways to build a better world in my writing and in my public speaking. (You can read more about principled reasoning at the tab on the Social Issues menu, above.)

That is the work of a social critic.


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