Sunday, 4 November 2012

Which great reconstruction?

Suppose we accept Francis Fukuyama's story that starting in the 1960s, the developed world has seen a "great disruption" - a collapse in traditional norms and informal institutions. The second part of that story is the "great reconstruction" - that society will find ways to reconstruct norms, institutions and moral authority, perhaps on a more democratic or rational basis. The argument here is basically functionalist: we're going to do it because we have to. Question, then: would you expect this great reconstruction to happen on a national basis?
So, behind every norm there is a group that backs it - enforces it, gives it moral sanction, teaches it, and/or whatever. In the West, our existing, slightly dilapidated moral norms mainly are backed at national level. But if normative order will be reconstituted, is that going to happen at national level? By a kind of "revivalism", like a more earnest version of the vintage movement? Another possibility is that norms start in small, intense groups, then spread. Of course, not all of the norms promoted by small, intense groups are very morally attractive.... (Indeed, the top headline on Hizb Ut Tahrir's website is currently: "The Jimmy Savile Scandal: Time to take an honest look at the values that underpin society", an open letter to non-Muslims. Let me give you a flavour:

"Since the 1960s society has seen values that encourage marriage, fidelity and self-restraint abolished – in favour of values that encourage ‘free love’ (aka promiscuity). These latter values are usually celebrated as the result of a social revolution that empowered women in respect of their bodies.
But the only revolution that really occurred was that women became economic commodities on an industrial scale used in marketing, ‘art’ and ‘entertainment’. Eventually this led to ‘lads mags’, ‘Page-3’ and lap-dance clubs becoming ‘normal’ in society rather than an immoral aberration.... ")