Friday, 18 January 2013


In an eloquent work entitled MORAL MAN AND IMMORAL SOCIETY, Reinhold Niebuhr, a theologian, responds to the interwar crisis of the Western World confronting a political, economic and social crisis. Rooted in Judeo-Christian values and Western Liberalism, both archaic and victims of Western secularization, the arguments Niebuhr raises address how society can maintain harmony between the individual and institutions. The same question can be asked in the early 21st century when the capitalist political economy necessarily promotes capital concentration and structural socioeconomic inequality, depriving the current generation of young people of the prospects for upward social mobility that their parents and grandparents enjoyed.

In my view, the West is currently experiencing a crisis not because of 'The Decline of the West', as Oswald Spengler argued after WWI when Europe destroyed itself and proved that the value system of the Enlightenment was finished, but owing to a crisis that is largely due to the systemic flaws in the capitalist political economy (under a neo-liberal model accompanied by aggressive globalization), simultaneously facing intense competition from China, India, Russia and Brazil, and subject to bloc trading groups - EU, NAFTA, ASEAN, etc.

There is the debate currently that society's salvation rests with the elimination of any form of statist model. I would agree that statism under Fascist or authoritarian states as well as crony/mercantilist capitalism entail greater concentration of capital and greater parasitic activity in the economy - capital not geared toward productivity intended to create horizontal economic growth vs. vertical growth within the same elites.

From the ashes of this early 21st century crisis will emerge a new synthesis and therein will rest its values. In short, values do not fall from the sky to enlighten humanity, but emerge from society itself thus molding the culture and individuals. Free will and its limitations notwithstanding, and free will vs. determinism debate aside for now, individuals do not fall from the sky and come to earth with their own pre-molded value system, but are born, live and die within society and its institutions. Whether in the form of crime, protests and demonstrations, revolts, social fabric disintegration, the elites that largely mold society's institutions inevitably pay a price for creating privileged hierarchical systems that cater to the few at the expense of the many.

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