After Social Democracy: Politics, Capitalism and the Common by John Gray

By John Gray

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Some rights reserved. uk/openaccess 27 After social democracy: politics, capitalism and the common life social-democratic belief that there is, or may yet be, a single European model of market institutions, to which Britain could assimilate. French and German capitalism are not subtypes of a single European model with which Anglo-Saxon capitalism can be usefully contrasted. In what respects are the economic cultures of Sweden and Austria, say, similar to those of Greece and Portugal? The objective of ‘harmonising’ these market institutions is a rationalist utopia, since it involves ironing out cultural differences of which diversity in market institutions is a natural expression.

Concern with levels of economic inequality is dictated by concern for common life; but it does not mandate a strategy of equalisation; a strategy which the diminished leverage of sovereign states makes probably unworkable anyway. The unattainability of social-democratic ideals of equality does not imply that a stable society can do without norms of fairness. On the contrary, such norms are essential. 14 Such shared local understandings are by no means always conservative in their implications for policy.

10. 11. 12. 13. 48 useful borrowings and adaptations from other economic cultures, as Will Hutton has argued in his important and illuminating book. , 1995, The trap and the response, London, Macmillan. H. ’. , 1993, Beyond the New Right, London and New York, Routledge; 76–92. , 1986, The morality of freedom, Oxford, Clarendon Press. I remain indebted to the author’s critique of libertarian, rights-based and egalitarian political moralities. However I think that contextspecific principles of fairness are necessary in many areas.

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