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Ethics in the Conflicts of Modernity: An Essay on Desire, Practical Reasoning and Narrative

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Alasdair MacIntyre, Ethics in the Conflicts of Modernity: An Essay on Desire, Practical Reasoning and Narrative , Cambridge University Press, 2016, 322 pp., $49.99, ISBN 9781107176454.

Reviewed by Richard Kraut, Northwestern University

This work continues to develop the project of the author's celebrated and path breaking book, After Virtue (1981) -- a project extended in Whose Justice, Which Rationality ? (1988), Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry (1990), and Dependent Rational Animals (1999). A second edition of After Virtue appeared (with a new postscript) in 1984, and a third edition (with a new prologue) in 2007. But this volume can be fully understood by readers who have not read MacIntyre's previous work. Many of the themes that readers of his earlier books are familiar with emerge anew, re-worked and integrated with further thoughts.

After Virtue paid special attention to the emotivist theory of the meaning of "good," as developed by C. L. Stevenson and R. M. Hare . This volume updates MacIntyre's encounter with this line of thought by focusing on a successor to emotivism -- the "expressivism" of Simon Blackburn and such allies as Alan Gibbard and Harry Frankfurt. A further development is that the work of Bernard Williams plays a central role in the overall argument. MacIntyre, like Williams, rejects what he calls "Morality" (always with an upper case "M"), and draws on Williams's critique of it. But for MacIntyre, Williams is also a foil: the principal goal of this work is to defend a Neo-Aristotelian and Thomistic approach to ethics. Although Williams's critique of Aristotle in Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy (1985) is one that MacIntyre treats with great respect, his new work aims to show how a Thomistic neo-Aristotelian can respond to Williams. (MacIntyre writes in the prologue to the third edition of After Virtue : "I became a Thomist after writing After Virtue in part because I became convinced that Aquinas was in some respects a better Aristotelian than Aristotle" (p. x.)

The methodology of contemporary moral philosophy is almost as important an issue for MacIntyre as the substantive ethical theory he defends. He thinks that much of what we produce in the academy, in the field of moral and political philosophy, is sterile and insignificant. That is because it (a) ignores work in such disciplines as sociology, anthropology, and psychology, (b) reflects a narrow experience of life and is removed from the everyday world outside the academy, (c) ignores cultures beyond those of advanced Western capitalism, and (d) is ahistorical, exhibiting little engagement with the major traditions and figures earlier than the twentieth century. Williams receives his attention in part because he takes him to be an exception to these professional deficiencies. He cites an obituary of Williams that calls him "arguably the greatest British philosopher of his era" (p. 152), and laments that "the vast majority of those now at work in academic moral philosophy continue to write as though Williams had never existed" (p. 152).

No one could accuse MacIntyre of sterile isolation from philosophical traditions, or the social sciences as they bear on philosophical issues, or the everyday lives of non-philosophers, or the political and social structures that shape our lives. His intellectual range and reading are vast. Nearly every page gives expression to his sense that our lives are poisoned by the fractured way we think, by the way our desires are shaped by capitalist acquisitiveness and ambition, by the subservience of the state to market inequities, and by the mystification produced by Morality, with its impersonal, unconditional, burdensome demands. Marx and Marxism play a central role in his critique of what he calls the "dominant modes of thought" in late modernist capitalism. One section of this discussion of the failures of "Morality" is devoted to the works of Oscar Wilde; another to several novels of D. H. Lawrence. The last of his five chapters depicts the lives of four exemplary twentieth-century figures: Vasily Grossman, the Jewish Russian novelist; Sandra Day O'Connor, the American jurist; C. L. R. James, the Afro-Trinidadian historian, journalist, cricketer, and socialist philosopher; and Denis Faul, the Irish priest, teacher, and social activist.

MacIntyre's biographical sketches of these individuals are meant to give concrete expression to his thesis that the practical reasoning of real people always has a narrative dimension -- a sense of what they have been and what they want to become or remain. Further, they are meant to illustrate in concrete terms his thesis

that agents do well only if and when they act to satisfy only those desires whose objects they have good reason to desire, that only agents who are sound and effective practical reasoners so act, that such agents must be disposed to act as the virtues require, and that such agents will be directed in their actions toward the achievement of their final end. (p. 243)

We do well only if our actions flow from desires for objects that we have good reason to desire. How, according to MacIntyre, should we determine which of our desires are directed at desirable goals? Following G. E. M. Anscombe in "Modern Moral Philosophy" ( Philosophy , 1958 -- cited in After Virtue but not in the present work), he gives the concept of flourishing a central role to play in his Aristotelianism:

Just as wolves, dolphins, gorillas, foxes, and rabbits flourish or fail to flourish, so . . . it is too with human animals . . . When we compare future courses of action or states of affairs as better or worse, our standard is that of how far and in what ways each will contribute to or frustrate our human flourishing. (p. 25)

MacIntyre also speaks of human flourishing as the "development of our powers."

Another major theme is the common good, which, MacIntyre insists, is not to be confused with the idea, often encountered in economics, of public goods. Public goods (common examples are roads, banks, schools), as MacIntyre thinks of them, are "to be enjoyed by individuals qua individuals, while common goods are only to be enjoyed and achieved . . . by individuals qua members of various groups or qua participation in various activities" (pp. 168-9). He illustrates his conception of common goods by discussing the form they take when sought cooperatively in families, schools, and workplaces. These are social organizations that flourish by fostering the development of the powers of children, students, and workers. Teachers, for example, "achieve their good qua teachers and contribute to [the] common good by making the good of their students their overriding good" (pp. 172-3). The good of students, he adds, does not consist only or mainly in the mastery of economically valuable skills, or in becoming "autonomous preference maximizers" (p. 173), but in having "a sense of the ends that should be theirs as contrasted with the ends that others for their own purposes impose on them" (p. 173). Similarly, MacIntyre proposes that workplaces ought to be organized around the goal of excellent products and services, achieved through shared deliberation among workers. Market forces and governments subservient to capital are, he points out, powerful impediments to the existence of schools and workplaces in which individuals flourish.

I do not take MacIntyre's notion of the common good to commit him to the idea that communal flourishing is an additional goal beyond the flourishing of the individuals who belong to a community. Families, for example, should seek the flourishing of each of their members; what it is for a family fully to flourish is simply for each of its members to achieve the goods that are specific to family life. What I take him to be saying is that there are shared activities in families, schools, and workplace -- activities that no one can engage in as a solitary individual, and that these joint activities must go well for individuals to flourish.

I noted earlier that expressivism plays an important role in MacIntyre's defense of neo-Aristotelianism, just as emotivism had done in After Virtue . He is fully aware that questions about what a good life is -- even whether there is such a thing -- are not settled matters among philosophers or ordinary people, and he takes expressivism to draw much of its strength from this seemingly interminable disagreement. The superficial appeal of expressivism, as he sees it, lies in its thesis that there is no fact of the matter to be settled. As Hume, a source of inspiration for expressivism, insists, passion underlies our moral disagreements; we cannot reason our way to the vindication of one conception of the good as opposed to another:

There is no fact of the matter about human flourishing, independent of the various accounts of human flourishing that are in contention. . . Whatever particular view of human flourishing is presupposed by or expressed in the actions of this individual or that set of individuals . . . is, so the expressivist will insist, the expression of a prerational endorsement of the valuations and normative judgments that constitute a particular view of human flourishing . . . (p. 39)

Yet MacIntyre regards expressivism not just as one more failed metaethics, but as a stepping stone to philosophical enlightenment. It is, he thinks, a salutary reaction to the dominance of Morality in our culture. Morality tells us to honor our obligations because they are the dictates of reason -- but does not reason also tell us to maximize good consequences? The conflict between utilitarian and Kantian conceptions of Morality is not going to be resolved through further philosophical subtleties and complexities, and so it is natural to infer that moral reasoning is merely an expression of pre-rational attitudes, lacking any basis in facts out there in the world. We need not be puzzled about why philosophical disputes between the competing normative theories of modernity never end: for the expressivist, there are no moral properties that these competing theorists can get right. If one's only options were to buy into Morality or be an expressivist, we should choose the latter.

But, of course, MacIntyre's ultimate goal is to convince the reader that there really is such a thing as human flourishing, just as there is such a thing as the flourishing of an owl or a lion -- and that it lies in the development of our powers, as Aristotle held. Having worked our way out of Morality with the help of expressivism, we will be ready to give full weight to the obvious fact that, just as other animals flourish in some conditions and not others, so too we. MacIntyre's appropriation of the work of Bernard Williams has the same structure: he too can help us demystify Morality, and once the weaknesses in his critique of Aristotelianism are recognized, the way is open to our becoming neo-Aristotelians.

Goodness plays a central role in MacIntyre's ethics -- just as it does for Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, the utilitarians, and G. E. Moore. He writes: "To act for a good reason is to act for the sake of achieving some good or preventing or avoiding some evil" (p. 8). "To justify an action just is to show that the good to be achieved by so acting outweighs the good to be achieved by any alternative course of action open to the agent" (p. 9). But suppose someone, having recently read W. D. Ross's The Right and the Good , challenges these statements in the following way: "Yes, one kind of good reason is the achievement of good or the prevention of evil. But why do you say that this is the only kind of good reason? If an act is morally right, is that not also a reason in its favor; and if it is morally wrong, is that not also a reason against it?" MacIntyre might respond by saying: "You have misunderstood me. I am using the word 'good' so broadly that any act for which there is a reason counts as an act that achieves some good." But I very much doubt that this is what he has in mind. Rather, I take him to mean that being morally right is not one way for an act to be good. Some things, he seems to assume, have the property of being good, and ultimately all practical justification must show how an action has that property or leads to something else that has it.

For Moore, the concept of goodness, which he takes to be central to moral philosophy, is not to be confused with the defective concept of being good for someone. By contrast, for other sorts of utilitarians (sometimes called "welfarists"), the good to be maximized is well-being -- which consists in whatever is non-derivatively good for an individual. MacIntyre of course is no utilitarian (it is the common good, not the maximum good, that we should seek). But I do not find in this book a commitment to either a welfarist or a Moorean conception of goodness.

That makes me uncertain how to understand some of his claims. Return, for example, to his statement that teachers "achieve their good qua teachers and contribute to [the] common good by making the good of their students their overriding good" (pp. 172-3). We might take this to mean: (A) When teachers give their students the benefits of a good education, those teachers achieve their good in that they have done a good thing; they have done well by their students. But we might read MacIntyre's statement to be saying something stronger: (B) when teachers give their students the benefits of a good education, that not only makes their students better off, but it makes them better off as well -- the quality of their lives is better. If MacIntyre holds (A) but not (B), it is not clear how much he differs from someone who says: "When teachers give their students the benefits of a good education, those teachers have done the right thing, whether or not they themselves benefit." On the other hand, if he does hold (B), we are left wondering: precisely how is being a good teacher good for teachers themselves? A larger question looms: how is being a good human being good for a human being?

As the word "conflict" used in his title suggests, the existence of rival schools of moral thought -- their inability to agree upon the one right theory -- is a recurring theme of MacIntyre's work:

Each party finds its own objections to the other rival standpoints compelling, and no party finds the arguments advanced against it persuasive . . . New arguments have been advanced, new distinctions drawn, new insights developed, but this in general without bringing any of the contending parties any nearer to agreement on the major issues, whether substantive or metaethical. (p. 66)

I take MacIntyre to be implying that deep disagreement is a lamentable feature of the current and past philosophical landscape. It is, in other words, a collective failing of those engaged in philosophical disputation that although each party, again and again, proposes new arguments meant to persuade others, those others are seldom if ever convinced. The debates seem interminable and perhaps therefore futile.

But this book will not bring those conflicts to an end, as its author must realize. And, in any case, would not philosophy lose a considerable part of its value if every philosopher became a neo-Aristotelian, or a Kantian, or a utilitarian -- and similarly if the main divisions of opinion in other branches of philosophy also disappeared? Philosophical uniformity about the most fundamental issues would still leave room for disputes about subsidiary matters and details, but even so the subject would be more cut-and-dried, less distinctive as a mode of thought, less challenging, and less fascinating. It is certainly not the ultimate goal of the philosophical enterprise to pave the way for the day when all philosophers basically think alike.

It should nonetheless be clear from these remarks that Ethics in the Conflicts of Modernity is an essential addition to MacIntyre's distinguished body of work. no longer supports Internet Explorer.

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Gandhi, Morality and Modernity

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2015, GITAM Journal of Gandhian Studies

Mahatma Gandhi’s thinking about religion and modernity both continued and broke with the Hindu tradition he inherited. His seminal work Hind Swaraj presents a radical moral critique of modernity, a position he explicitly continued to affirm for the rest of his life. Many (including some of Gandhi’s admirers) have found his views on these matters deeply unpersuasive. I seek to argue, however, that there is rather more to be said in favour of Gandhi’s views than is generally admitted by showing how the nature of modernity does indeed threaten to undermine morality in ways that Gandhi saw quite clearly and to which he offered some interesting responses.

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In both Iran and India, many social and cultural obstacles to authentic and humane social development are often traced to complexities caused by an encounter with Western modernity. In this essay, I explore what the Iranian reception of modernity might gain from the Indian conversation on Hind Swaraj. I show that Gandhi's thought contains two different critiques of modernity. The first radical option entails the rejection of modernity and its core institutions such as the nation-state; the second proposes adapting traditions, including religions, within the framework of a pluralistic democracy so as to craft alternative versions of the nation-state. The objective of the essay is to examine those aspects of the latter strand of Gandhi's thought that may be compatible with Iranian realities. A further goal is to put Iranian and Indian voices together in a constructive dialogue with one another. In Iran, as in India, the categories of 'modernity' and the closely linked notion of the 'West' continue to draw the attention of social scientists, philosophers, historians and social commentators from across the ideological spectrum. The implicit justification for this focus is the claim that because the dislocating and distorting effects of the encounter with Western societies over the last few hundred years Social Change 48(1) 1–17

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's reputation as the Indian spiritual and political leader who coordinated and led a successful national struggle for independence against British imperial rule on the strength of a non-violent movement survive largely intact (Zachariah 1990, 3). For a long time Gandhiji holding up the batten of Indian freedom movement against the imperialist British government. Along with this identity Gandhiji was an influential figure in the history of India and modern Indian political theory who gained international fame for his effective ideologies. Gandhi acknowledged traditional concepts and symbols but without reluctance introduced interpretations and ideas from foreign to Indian culture that shows the importance of Western humanism in his approach. Gandhiji was a national leader, prophet and a teacher of a high order. He laid emphasis on some original ideas for the reconstruction of society and for the uplift of human beings. In this way he is considered as a moral and political thinker. In fact he was like the Buddha and Socrates, who experimented with truth and preached those truth to the common people. Gandhiji's greatness lies in the fact that he had a high moral character. Gandhiji emphasized different moral concepts of human life in his political ideas, like Ahimsha, Satyagraha etc. Criticism of modern civilization is a very important area of Gandhiji's political philosophy. In his own way, Gandhiji had been a critique of modern civilization. He criticized almost each and every aspect of modern civilization. Whether it was the machine, profession of Doctors layers or various political structures like State/Parliament, Gandhiji could never confirm his appreciation of these signifiers of modernity. He contrasted Western technology on the basis that the machine civilization brought with it the mistreatment of men and the concentration of power (Lal 2009, 281-313). Gandhiji did not reject the western civilization per se, rather his grouse was only against western civilization as it was developed in the wake of four major European intellectual revolutions viz. Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment, and Industrial Revolution. He indicated modern civilization by saying that it had made material comforts and bodily welfare as prime values of human life. In the process it has neglected the higher spiritual goals of human existence as if human being is made only of the body and not of the soul. He looked upon human

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This paper seeks to provide a renewed meaning to the idea of truth by enclosing it within Gandhi’s rhetorical use of the term religion. The religion that he seeks to present to us as Hinduism is absurd on all fronts, it is argued here. It is through such absurdity that he infuses notions of validity and obeyance on his own terms to take us to profuse criticisms of not only colonial but civilizational modernity as well. Further a newer meaning is given to Hinduism in a rather unexpected manner even in the context of the Indian national movement. The point about political conservatism, the element of exoticism and God takes us to adventures around truth by a thinker-activist speaking as a colonial subject.

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Having put an end to his first great movement of non-cooperation following the First World War, Gandhi sat down to learn the lessons of this early experiment in mass politics. In 1926 he went on to impart these lessons to his fellow workers in the Sabarmati Ashram by way of a series of lectures on the Bhagavad Gita. Gandhi was interested in exploring the relations between violence and non-violence, which he thought were so intimate that one could very easily turn into the other. Seeking out the Archimedean point that made such a turning possible, the Mahatma had occasion to criticize any ethics that would divide good from evil on the basis of a moral calculus. How, he asked, was an ethics possible that recognized the intractability of ignorance and compulsion? Any ethical system that relied upon knowledge and choice, he thought, was either deluded or true only for a very small elite. A common ethics, then, had to be one which recognized ignorance and compulsion not negatively, as posing limits to moral life, but rather in the form of positive virtues like duty and obedience. Gandhi's commentary on the Gita was therefore an attempt to think about moral action in the context of ignorance and compulsion, which he did by focusing on the integrity of the act itself divested of the idealism lent it by any moral calculus. The story has often been told of Gandhi putting an end to the first and arguably most successful experiment with civil disobedience across India in 1922, after some of his followers burnt to death nineteen policemen trapped in their station at a place called Chauri-Chaura. Explanations of why the Mahatma should have called off a movement that was enjoying extraordinary success include, on the one hand, his fear of losing control over its potentially revolutionary drift, and on the other his realization that the Indians who took to all manner of violence during the satyagraha were not quite ready for their freedom. I am interested neither in the communist theory of Gandhi as an agent of some bourgeois nationalism desperate to rein in the people's revolutionary impetus, nor, for its part, in the liberal theory of a people too immature for independence. Such explanations cannot account for awkward details like the fact that no situation could be very revolutionary that was stopped by a man to whom no police or military force was available, or the fact that Gandhi had consistently demanded immediate self-rule and always rejected the claim of India's being unprepared for independence. 373

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morality and modernity essay

Free-Market Economics: A Critique

When it comes to the free market of free market economics, the market is not truly free. It is free of government regulation, yes, but it is not free of the personal interests of individuals, which in Smithian theory would increase both the efficiency and the social benefits of the market. At the center of a capitalist system is the profit motive, which is described by Arthur Melzer in his essay, The Moral Resistance to Capitalism , in the collection “Are Markets Moral?” Melzer describes it as a constant need for increasing wealth and growth, regardless of what one already has in hand. The profit motive, while being beneficial for the growth of materialism and consumer economics, is generally subject to two major criticisms; it has a negative effect on others, who must deal with one’s constant search for increasing profits, and it has a degrading effect on oneself in the constant rush for material gain. This, in turn, causes the most disadvantaged of society to become victims of capitalist competition as those with wealth rapidly accumulate it ever further, and in the words of the old adage, “the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.” While examples of global capitalism causing the poorest within the Global North to grow richer persist, this can easily be explained by the globalist system of capital and exploitation. While the richest countries maintain and even improve the quality of life for all of their citizens, the poorest countries remain on the periphery of economic growth and ultimately see their populations fall prey to exploitation under global capitalism. In this sense, the profit motive is maintained not just on an individual level by people within a capitalist system, but also by entire nations, which then apply it in their ever-searching rise to the top of the metaphorical money pile.    

Free Market Economics: Citations

Melzer, Arthur M., et al. “A Brief Overview.” University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018, pp. 7–14. JSTOR , Accessed 19 Apr. 2023.

Lukes, Steven, et al. “On the Expanding Reach of the Market.” University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018, pp. 68–84. JSTOR , Accessed 19 Apr. 2023.

The Myth of Modernity

As previously mentioned in the sections on Nietzsche and particularly Heidegger, there is a general malaise about modernity within the writings of philosophers described in this collection. In Heidegger’s essay about the subject of technological development, “The Question Concerning Technology,” he describes his idea of modern production versus previous production and attacks the new system of “producing-forth” as a human corruption of the natural order, as opposed to the previous embrace of the natural order via “bringing-forth.” Heidegger, however, seems to approach production with a grass-is-greener mentality, and creates no substantial delineation between his conception of positive production and negative production. Take, for example, the writing of a book; has the act of printing that book made it any less worthy of consumption than a manuscript entirely printed by hand? When does the act of bringing forth, no matter how noble, cease to positively benefit society? To this, Heidegger argues that humans are now challenging nature by taking more than just an immediate aid from it, by building machines that can store energy from phenomena such as wind and then keep it for their own use. The concern, because of this human use of technology, is that our primary mode of interacting with the world is not through nature itself, but through the technology that we use to challenge nature and reveal it. Once again, however, Heidegger fails to consider the truth that technology is becoming part of nature through its use by humans, and that the natural landscape and the landscape created by humans are combining in a continuation from the earliest days of mankind’s inventive processes. From the earliest days of waterwheels and plows, humans have shaped the land around them to match their desires, and the development of technology is a natural extension of that behavior. The actions of people, in this sense, have brought about a modernity, but a modernity with humanity, not a modernity ruled by technology and hubris as put forth by Heidegger.   

morality and modernity essay

Myth of Modernity : Citations

Heidegger, Martin, and William Lovitt. The Question Concerning Technology: And Other Essays . New York: Harper Colophon, 1977.

Case Studies on Social Democracy

In light of the flaws in capitalism, and the new potential in a modernity built on human technology and use of the landscape around us, improvements must be made to our economic system to ensure the best life for all the people within that system. Social democracy, a system built on a mixed approach to the economy, is the best approach to reforming and improving capitalism. Social democrats, though they exist on a large spectrum of political opinions and policy approaches, generally believe in several major tenets; a large social safety net for the public, government intervention in markets to ensure competition and limit consumer exploitation and limiting income inequality through lawmaking. As described by Michael Rocard, the former Prime Minister of France, social democracy is a movement with a historical origin in mitigating the negative effects of capitalism. Workers’ unions, as well as consumer cooperatives, thereby sprung from this goal, and eventually developed into parties that built on pro-worker groups by introducing pro-worker policies. As a result, the ideological base for social democracy is the most adept at addressing the negative aspects of capitalism, as the very idea of social democracy originates with those aspects. Meanwhile, social democracy also doesn’t take actions such as government price controls on all industries that are trademarks of a socialist command economy, which allows for the positive aspects of economic competition and free markets to exist in tandem with the positive aspects of a socially provided set of benefits for citizens. To further analyze social democracy, and the ways in which it operates, I will analyze three major case studies.  

morality and modernity essay

The European Union

The European Union is an economic council of most of the states of Western and Central Europe, as well as some states from Eastern Europe. It serves as an interdependent economic and political entity that legislates, regulates, and moderates Europe, with recognized authority from all member states. The EU is also one of the oldest social democratic experiments in the world. Markets within the Eurozone, as it is called, are regulated by joint policies, and have some of the most stringent limits and requirements on products in the world. While prices are generally higher for this reason, the average purchasing power of consumers is also higher, and Europe enjoys some of the highest life expectancies and social welfare in the world. Another popular policy among EU countries is the adoption of universal public healthcare. The use of the higher tax rates and revenues to generate better social welfare improves lives in the EU, but the union still maintains the same system of market competition as many capitalist countries around the world. In the (paraphrased) words of Neil Kinnock, a British member of the House of Lords and a writer of an essay about the EU in “The Future of Social Democracy,” social justice and economic efficiency are combined in social democracy to create a system that implements both, and improves both market conditions and individual lives in the process.   

morality and modernity essay

New Zealand

New Zealand is a fascinating case study for a country that has veered between social democracy and hardcore neoliberalism from its genesis as a state and has endured political and economic turmoil because of those changes in policy. In 1935, Keynesian theories in economics were applied to the state apparatus to address the Great Depression, and subsequently became enshrined in the country’s government for years to come. In an essay within “The Future of Social Democracy,” David Lange, the former Prime Minister of New Zealand, addresses his legacy as one of the eminent neoliberal voices within the social democratic movement. This legacy, he argues, is built off of the unique aspects of social democracy in New Zealand. Trade unions were mandatory, and regulation was the only real approach to dealing with industries within the Kiwi government. When a currency crisis took place and a new economic system had to be made in the 1980s, the government once again changed, and a new, far more neoliberal system briefly called “Rogernomics” after the popular American name ‘Reaganomics’ was put into place. State-owned companies became separate entities from the government, public-private partnerships proliferated, and government welfare became more sparse as revenues declined. In many ways, these changes maintained their way into the modern system of New Zealand, maintaining a far more economically liberal government than many social democracies.   

In Chile, there is no adult alive who doesn’t remember where they were when the Estallido Social , the outbreak of mass protests against perceived government corruption and failure to meet the needs of the people, began in 2019. As a result of this massive outcry by the public, important changes to the country’s constitution were made by a convention of democratically elected, primarily leftist delegates in 2021. In the wake of the Pinochet military junta’s collapse in the 1990s, very little had been done to change the Chilean political system; this constitutional convention extended voting rights, particularly to include the extensive Chilean diaspora from the junta’s years. This deeply shifted the political circumstances in Chile, causing the far-right candidate to lose to 35-year-old Gabriel Boric, a former student protester and notable social democrat. President Boric’s government has taken an approach that many social democratic regimes elected in the wake of protests do; it has attempted to create gradual economic and social change while ensuring the support of the groups that protested during Estallido Social . Particularly notable is the battle against economic inequality: Chile remains one of the least equal countries in the world for wealth, and stabilizing tools such as a wealth tax have been proposed by the new government with strong support from the public. Though Chile remains not fully a social democracy, recent changes such as the expansion of the public healthcare system to compete with private businesses and drive prices down has already worked in regulating the market through competition, as well as improving healthcare access for Chileans in the wake of the devastating Covid-19 pandemic. As a budding social democracy, Chile has served as an example of a new generation embracing forms of government that were previously limited in their reach, and thus creating a new political system for economic change.  

morality and modernity essay

Social Democracy Case Studies: Citations

ARIAS, OSCAR. "The Path to Democracy:; Latin America in a New Millennium." In The Future of Social Democracy , edited by PETER H. RUSSELL, 63-72: University of Toronto Press, 1999, .

Beal, Anders. “Social Democracy in Chile and Latin America’s New Millennial Left.” Global Americans, January 4, 2022. .

"Inequality - Income Inequality - OECD Data.” OECD. Accessed May 12, 2023.

KINNOCK, NEIL. "L’Europe Rose:; Social Democrats in the European Union." In The Future of Social Democracy , edited by PETER H. RUSSELL, 39-52: University of Toronto Press, 1999,

LANGE, DAVID. "Social Democracy in New Zealand." In The Future of Social Democracy , edited by PETER H. RUSSELL, 95-108: University of Toronto Press, 1999, .

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Ethics in the Conflicts of Modernity: An Essay on Desire, Practical Reasoning, and Narrative

Alasdair macintyre.

332 pages, Hardcover

First published November 17, 2016

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