Capitalism and Social Progress: The Future of Society in a Global Economy

Capitalism and Social Progress: The Future of Society in a Global Economy

Capitalism and Social Progress: The Future of Society in a Global Economy

Capitalism and Social Progress: The Future of Society in a Global Economy


Why, when America and Britain are wealthier than ever, do millions of children live in poverty, neighborhoods want for basic amenities, and the middle classes fear for their families, jobs, and futures? The historical legacy of the "golden era" and the ideology of market individualism are obsessions that the New Democrats in America and the New Labour in Britain have failed to exorcize. Yet the forces of knowledge-driven capitalism provide an unprecedented opportunity to build societies more equitably based on the individual and collective intelligence of all. Capitalism and Social Progress shows how this change can be achieved.


To live in North America or in northern and western Europe at the dawn of the third millennium is to live in a world of historically unprecendented prosperity and of expectation at birth of an average length of life thirty years longer than that of our grandparents. During the twentieth century this advanced one-third of the world lived out two contending political agendas inherited from the nineteenth century–two competing projects for the transformation of society along the lines of prosperity and progress. They were Liberalism and Marxism. in retrospect we now see them as having shared historicist features–the abolition of the working class and the liberation of humankind from 'the kingdom of necessity' into 'the kingdom of light'; the lifting of 'the curse of Adam' and the attainment by all of an educated share in an enlightened democracy.

What my younger colleagues, Phil Brown and Hugh Lauder, present to us in this book is a sober analysis of the successes and failures of this inherited economic, social, and political agenda and an inspiring guide to further progress in the twenty-first century.

In an earlier work published in 2000 by Macmillan I tried to sum up British social trends in the twentieth century:

It has been an eventful century of progress and barbarism throughout
the world, with paradoxical movements towards both a longer
and fuller life and towards unprecedented genocide and slaughter,
towards democracy and towards dictatorship. For the aristocrat
perhaps a century of dispossession. For the old and the ill, perhaps
a rather more comfortable hundred years. For the homeless and
dispossessed, a time of persistent degradation accentuated by sur
rounding opulence. For women, the young, and the fit and ordinary
citizens, perhaps the greatest century in the whole history of human

In the Soviet Union the Marxist version of the project had failed in both its economic and especially its political aspects. in America and Britain the liberal version had been apparently triumphant. and yet, as A.B. Atkinson pointed out, the distribution of income and wealth, having shown a tendency towards less inequality for the first three-quarters of . . .

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