After 1989: Morals, Revolution and Civil Society by Ralf Dahrendorf

By Ralf Dahrendorf

The essays assembled during this quantity are a considerate and energetic remark on Europe after the revolution of 1989. needs to revolutions fail? definitely, the open society has its personal difficulties, now not least that of voters looking for that means. the nice Society has to sq. the circle of prosperity, civility and liberty. Social technological know-how can assist us comprehend what has to be performed, and intellectuals have a accountability to start up and accompany swap. All this increases questions for Europe which expand a ways past the all too slender confines of the ecu Union.

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What are the deep structures which appear to give meaning to people's choices? In the United States one is reminded of that civic religion, or perhaps the role of religion in civil society, which Tocqueville has pointed out to such effect. The social conformism of religious nonconformism is, or was, one of the bonds which held the country together. In the older small towns of New England, half a dozen or more churches would be lined up in the same street, with different denominations but the same openness for visitors, the same sense of community responsibility and probably much the same liturgy.

For a fleeting moment Keynes entertains the idea that there may be a great collective 'nervous breakdown'; but then another vision gets the better of his realism: 'We shall once more value ends above means and prefer the good to the useful. ' A lovely world - or is it? I cannot help thinking of the useful irony with which Immanuel Kant, over two hundred years ago, mocked the human desire to 'live an Arcadian, pastoral existence of perfect concord, self-sufficiency and mutual love' . This would mean, Kant argues in his 'Idea for a Universal History With Cosmopolitan Intent', that 'all human talents would remain hidden forever in a dormant.

Once anything is claimed on behalf of others the probability must be high that some of the others do not feel represented by the leader or the agency making the claim. There are, fortunately for liberty if not always for those concerned, dissidents, minorities. What happens to them if a formerly dependent people claims selfdetermination? What happens to Russians in Estonia? 'Sociological research shows [I heard an Estonian MP say at a conference on nationalities] that it takes two generations for minorities to be absorbed into the majority culture.

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