Big, unexpected changes are here to stay
Slow, incremental change has become a relic of the past. Today’s shifts come fast and big. They are what Darrell West calls megachanges, in which dramatic disruptions in trends and policies occur on a regular basis.
Domestically, we can see megachange at work in the new attitudes and policies toward same-sex marriage, health care, smoking, and even the widespread legalization of marijuana use. Globally, we have seen the extraordinary rise and then collapse of the Arab Spring, the emergence of religious zealotry, the growing influence of non-state actors, the spread of ISIS-fomented terrorism, the rise of new economic and political powers in Asia, and the fracturing of once-stable international alliances.
Long-held assumptions have been shattered, and the proliferation of unexpected events is confounding experts in the United States and around the globe. Many of the social and political institutions that used to anchor domestic and international politics have grown weak or are in need to dramatic reform.
What to do? West says that we should alter our expectations about the speed and magnitude of political and social change. We also need to recognize that many of our current governing processes are geared to slow deliberation and promote incremental change, not large-scale transformation. With megachange becoming the new normal, our domestic and global institutions must develop the ability to tackle the massive economic, political, and social shifts that we face.
August 30, 2016
Praise for Megachange
Centuries from now, when the historians of the future identify our time as the great inflection point in human history—the moment when the pace of change began to accelerate dramatically in the inter-connected spheres of technology, politics, international relations, religion, health, the environment, and gender roles—they will say one forward-looking American intellectual understood exactly what was happening at the time, grasped its larger meaning, offered wise counsel for how to manage it, and encapsulated his insights in a short, timely, and eminently readable book. That scholar, they will say, was Darrell West, and that book was Megachange.—James Rosen, Fox News chief Washington correspondent
West’s Megachange is an extraordinary study of a world in unpredictable flux, an exploration of every headline-catching change, and a bracing plea for understanding a future we still have a chance to control and build. Hooray for a book every policymaker should read, also every citizen concerned about tomorrow’s peril and promise.—Marvin Kalb, a former network correspondent, is author of Imperial Gamble and senior adviser to the Pulitzer Center
This wide-ranging account identifies and analyzes today’s disorienting transformations with uncommon acuity. Its power lies not only in fascinating accounts of difficult and vexing instances, but in showing how the constellation of these diverse but reinforcing occurrences is generating fierce and profound uncertainty.—Ira Katznelson, Columbia University and the Social Science Research Council
Darrell M. West is vice president of governance studies and director of the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution. He is the author of twenty-one books on contemporary politics, including, most recently, Billionaires: Reflections on the Upper Crust (Brookings, 2014).