Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Sleepwalking over a cliff?

Exploring the state of society with colleagues in Oxford, David Marquand gave a presentation describing the drift from a market economy to a market society. This has produced an increasingly problematic order in which a myriad of individual choices has brought about, not the promised land, but a state of affairs nobody actually wanted. The decay of civil society and rampant inequality produce what he called this paradox of choice. The aggregate of small scale desirables is large scale breakdown. We become trapped in our own choices. Meanwhile, central government stuffs the books with new statutes, limitations, controls and defensiveness, and communties die. He signed iff with a slightly dread warning from John Stuart Mill’s essay On Liberty:
The worth of a state, in the long run, is the worth of the individuals composing it... A State which dwarfs its men, in order that they may be more docile instruments in its hands -- even for beneficial purposes -- will find that with small men no great thing can really be accomplished...
Just logging other interesting quotes I’ve heard on this event that say anything potentially significant about the Church’s calling in our present fragmented and often despairing context, I also noticed this, from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry:
If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.

1 comment:

Giles Smedley said...

Is this market society a consequence of the Labour belief that the state should be large ? If people were encouraged to participate in building society by empowering the voluntary sector, people may see things differently.

Odd how an ex-Labour MP ( as Marquand is ) should criticise a natural consequence of what his party has been striving for.

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