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To most people, the term ‘conventional wisdom’ is familiar to them because of john Kenneth Galbraith’s book, The Affluent Society, published in 1958. According to Galbraith, this wisdom was something that affected the adoption of new ideas.
“It will be convenient to have a name for the ideas which are esteem at any time for their acceptability. And it should be a term that emphasizes this predictability. I shall refer to these ideas henceforth as conventional wisdom. “
– John Kenneth Galbraith
However, conventional wisdom has been around since 1800, 1838 to be exact. Several authors previous to Galbraith have used the term in their work. Sometimes, it was used in a neutral or positive sense but most times it was used for criticism. Nonetheless, previous authors used it as a synonym for ‘commonplace knowledge’. While Galbraith added ‘the’ to the phrase to demonstrate its individuality and improved upon its meaning to narrow it to those commonplace beliefs that are also accepted by society’s standards and comforts. Hence, further augmenting their ability to withstand facts that might weaken them. He repeatedly referred to it throughout the text of The Affluent Society, invoking it to explain the high degree of resistance in academic economics to new ideas. For these reasons, he is usually credited with the invention and popularization of the phrase in modern usage.
Conventional wisdom refers to all the conventional ideas and professional opinions that are commonly true. This type of wisdom is the type that most people are likely to agree upon, excluding a few exceptions here and there. People use it to make everyday decisions. Whenever new ideas arise in society, people compare said ideas to conventional wisdom before deeming them correct. In other words, consider conventional wisdom as the base ideologies of any society.
Why conventional wisdom sometimes is not useful?
As the years passed we have begun to notice the faults of conventional wisdom. And that it should only be used in a certain situation- which we will discuss later on. However, you need to be aware that going against Conventional wisdom would affect your social image and may even result in social ostracism, job loss, and severed relationships. That being said you should always go with what your gut tells you and stick to your beliefs. You shouldn’t do something you don’t believe is right just because everyone else is doing it.
However, sometimes society’s words drown your thoughts and beliefs. Hence making you doubt yourself as well as every minor decision you make. If you ever feel lost or unsure about the rationality of your decision, talking to someone who is an expert on thought development is very helpful. By doing so, they will help you evaluate your thoughts and determine their root source, whether they’re from society or your mind. Then if you aren’t pleased with your thoughts and thought process, they’ll help you think of something that suits you. You might find a variety of people with whom to discuss your troubling ideas. One opportunity you have is to talk to a licensed counselor for this or other mental health issues. You can engage in online therapy at the time that works best for you.
When is conventional wisdom beneficial to us?
Sometimes you find yourself in situations where there is conventional wisdom in abundance. Some of these situations are:
- When you are in a rush to make a minor decision and don’t have time to come up with or learn about new ideas, conventional wisdom would be your best option as it won’t be frowned upon in society.
- When you require everyone’s approval.
- And When considering all the other options, conventional wisdom remains the truest.