Religion, Theology, and the Human Sciences

By Richard H. Roberts | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
Religion and the 'enterprise culture': the British
experience from Thatcher to Blair (1979–2000)

The events of 1989–90 marked a historic transition which was represented by Francis Fukuyama in mythopoeic terms both as the 'End of History' and as a contingency requiring in response a global shift in consciousness.1 Fukuyama's macroscopic vision implied an outflanking of the out-worn ideologies of Christianity and socialism by the inevitable victory of 'liberal democratic capitalism', which, in turn, demands universal global acceptance. This new order supersedes all alternatives, thus 'ending' history as a conflictual narrative comprising any fundamental disagreement about alternative resolutions. In the ensuing decade the brutal actualities of human conflict have proved that the assertion of the 'End' was nugatory not least as regards nationalism, which has proved to be far more resilient and vigorous than the harmless cultural atavisms of French wine and the German sausage envisaged by Fukuyama. Where, however, a sense of ending is genuinely detectable is the point at which the 'triumph' of capitalism inaugurates increasingly managed — and managerialised — forms of governance legitimated periodically by 'liberal democracy'. The global discourse of the 'End of History' did indeed suggest a loss of dangerous human grandeur and pretension, but when attention is directed away from the level of world-historical discourse and to the investigation of key individual examples of societal evolution, it would appear that important changes have taken place. A multiplex closure or ending is apparent as management and surveillance displace agency and dissolve residual trust.2 Seen thus, the 'End of History' is a specific encoding of the 'end of the human' as regards both

____________________
1
I am indebted to James Beckford's comments upon an early draft of this chapter, which was first presented as a plenary paper at the biennial Conference of the Société Internationale de Sociologie des Religions at Maynooth, Ireland, 19–23 August 1991. This chapter is a substantial revision of the published paper 'Religion and the “Enterprise Culture”: The British Experience in the Thatcher Era (1979–1990)', Social Compass, 39/1 (1992), 15–33.
2
Francis Fukuyama, Trust: The Social Values and the Creation of Prosperity (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1995).

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