Thursday, November 21, 2019

The West’s Arrested Social Development — Helmut K. Anheier

In 1995, the sociologist Ralf Dahrendorf argued that developed countries’ “overriding task” for the subsequent decade was to "square the circle of wealth creation, social cohesion, and political freedom.” More than two decades later, most have not even attempted that feat....
The paradoxes of liberalism involve the incompatibility of social liberalism, political liberalism, and economic liberalism, in particular, a fundamental tension between accumulation and democracy. Enlightenment liberalism (not to be confused with enlightened liberalism) is bourgeois liberalism, the bourgeoisie being the owners of property.

The particle is strong on analysis and weak on solutions.

As Marx observed, the problem is property. Property is a social construct based on legal institutions. It can be addressed through institutional reforms that limit economic inequality, which leads to social and political inequality through status, networking and power. But that would involves modifying the concept of economic liberalism to bring it into balance with social and political liberalism. This requires more than surface alterations ("band-aids"), e.g., more progressive taxation. It requires revisiting the Enlightenment concept of liberalism, which was an advance at the time but an anchor to the past now.

Project Syndicate
The West’s Arrested Social Development
Helmut K. Anheier is Professor of Sociology at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin and at the Max Weber Institute, Heidelberg University.

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