Two developments are currently damaging the social and moral foundations of the West. The first is the liberal market faith of the conservatives, which began its triumphant march across the Western world and beyond from Great Britain in the 1980s and is commonly referred to as neoliberalism. The second is the adaptation of this worldview by the political left after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War. It adopted the basic features of this ideology and subsequently used them not in the field of economics but in the field of social issues. This approach created a disastrous convergence of interests that continues to this day and threatens to usher in a new era of barbarism.
When Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister of Great Britain at the end of the 1970s, her policies represented a sensible reaction to the stagnating effect of the economically more left-wing zeitgeist of those days. Somewhat later, Ronald Reagan used this policy in the USA to “make America great again”. While this may have been seen as a success for the first few years, the situation changed dramatically after the end of the Cold War. The moral and argumentative preponderance of this neoliberal logic became visibly overwhelming, and economic policy in times of globalisation led to a merciless struggle for cheap labour and large sales markets.
The left, on the other hand, was hardly in a position to take serious action against this development and had to look for new ways to deal with it. In this phase, the modern left-liberal culture, including its emphasis on biological characteristics such as skin colour, gender or sexuality, was able to assert itself. Also interesting is the over-emphasis on individual freedom of choice in all aspects of private concern. Gender is selectable without any dictates from biology, marriage is open to all possible combinations, and families are at best an unfair advantage in the struggle for career, at worst a patriachatic apparatus of oppression.
What is remarkable in this development is the similarity between the neoliberal view of the economy and the left-liberal view of human relations. The buzzwords here are interchangeable and can be adopted almost one-to-one. The lack of stability and the absence of an orderly framework is reinterpreted as freedom to do whatever one wants. And if a medium-sized company can no longer keep up in the international concert of global players, then the market in its wisdom has decided so. And if some people feel lost in a society that no longer promises any stability, they simply need a little “positive thinking” and the issue will soon take care of itself.
This erosion of the foundations of our societies has hit us hard and it will take time before they are repaired. In the process, a number of formerly important institutions have been broken. The church has lost much of its integrative power, associations can hardly find members any more, citizens’ initiatives are becoming rarer and rarer, and even the parties are now wavering from election to election and have to fight off various “movements” everywhere. Surprisingly, until the beginning of the Corona pandemic, it was mainly the weakening of the states that was predicted, which seems strange in view of the ever degenerating bureaucracy. No, the worst hit were not the states, and certainly not supranational institutions like the WTO or the EU. The worst hit were the institutions that stand between the state and its citizens. Institutions that shape and hold society together, organise it and convey an ethic.
A society without a moral, ethical and spiritual superstructure will eventually succumb to barbarism, in which the former supra-individual instances break down and man must be left on his own. At present, the West is moving in this direction, and the pandemic has probably exacerbated the tendency. Between God as man and God as state, a system of values and institutions is needed, and we should quickly set to work to re-establish them.