(In DC briefly, for a class at Georgetown Law School) Are there fictional stories–novels, movies, long poems, or works in other formats–that depict networks or other large groups of people who improve the world?
There are fictions about individuals improving the world: heroic teachers making their inner-city kids into academic stars, whistle-blowers overthrowing evil corporations, and good cops achieving justice in bad cities.
There are true stories about networks and associations that improve the world, like the excellent historical narratives of the abolitionist movement, the American Civil Rights Movement, and the Indian independence struggle. (The scholarly studies do not attribute excessive importance or originality to individual leaders, Martin Luther King or Gandhi. When the good side wins, it is always because of the whole network.)
There are fictions about groups of people in difficult and unjust circumstances. For example, The Wire is a brilliant depiction of a whole network of people trapped in a heartless system. It is realistic, but it is not a story of agency. Characters in The Wire who try to improve the world fail.
There could be realistic fictions about groups of people who succeed in changing institutions and systems. But are there any? Does the failure to envision such success tell us anything about our art, or our society?