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Living Well Now and in the FutureWhy Sustainability Matters$
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Randall Curren and Ellen Metzger

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780262036009

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262036009.001.0001

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Complexity and the Structure of Opportunity

Complexity and the Structure of Opportunity

(p.89) 4 Complexity and the Structure of Opportunity
Living Well Now and in the Future

Randall Curren

Ellen Metzger

The MIT Press

This chapter critiques three categories of institutions that are basic to personal and collective well-being: epistemic or knowledge-producing institutions, educational or personally formative institutions, and workplaces as institutional settings in which personal qualities are expressed in activity that is more or less characteristic of living well. It addresses the ways in which these institutions should ideally contribute to the creation and sustaining of opportunities to live well, and it goes on to consider how these institutions actually do function in increasingly complex contemporary societies. Joseph Tainter’s model of growing social complexity and declining marginal return on investments in complexity is examined and discussed in connection with equal opportunity, credential inflation, academic specialization, and the structure of educational systems. This extends and deepens a critique of existing institutions that runs through the entire book. The chapter ends with proposals for reforming selected institutions to make them more conducive to sustainability. Ideals of flourishing, transparency, social reciprocity, the inherent satisfactions of good work, and problem-focussed collaborative research play important roles.

Keywords:   institutions, complexity, growth, social stratification, credential inflation, equal opportunity, good work, transparency, collaborative research, Joseph Tainter

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