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Why there is so much dissatisfaction in the West, and what we can do about it

The future of capitalism. A manifesto of social capitalism
Forfatter: Paul Collier
Forlag: Dreyer (Norge)

Professor Paul Collier is a heavyweight. He is often mentioned in the same category as economists Joseph Stiglitz and Jeffrey Sachs and was once singled out as one of the heroes of the then Minister for Development Aid Erik Solheim.

(PS. This article is machine-translated from Norwegian)

Boken The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done (2007) remain standing. But Collier is also controversial, and he has said a lot differently about nature and climate issues. Now his latest book, from 2018, has been translated into Norwegian.

I The future of capitalism Collier attempts a multifaceted analysis of why there is so much discontent in the West, and what we can do about it. It is a trend of the times. So what new can Collier bring to market? Through 260 pages, we delve into disciplines such as ethics, sociology, psychology, political science, geography and economics. The analysis results in Collier seeing the need for a new, more ethical state.

More political pragmatism

Collier is nostalgic and wants to return to the golden period he himself grew up in, in an average home in the north of England. The good years are 1945 to 1970. At that time, we had a common identity created through a uniquely successful national effort, Collier writes. Now, on the other hand, people fall outside the community, the working class people are finished by 50, and the young people do not know what to educate themselves for.

is not this like hearing Jan Bøhler?

Today, capitalism creates divided societies, and many therefore feel a deep anxiety. At the same time, capitalism is the only economic system that has been shown to prosper for the long haul, Collier writes, echoing Churchill's statement that of all bad systems, democracy is the least bad.

Colliers calls for more political pragmatism, and less ideology and populism. He wants to reverse the difference between the big cities (metropolises) and what he calls "destroyed" cities, which in England will be the cities in the north. In the big cities, the profits that are created go to the few, often those with a high level of education. We therefore need a strategy of "social materialism", ie practical assistance and guidance for young families who are at risk of dissolution, as well as guidance for children in school, so that they get a better education. In the international arena, we must get our own companies to invest in poor countries. In this way, everything will become more ethical – both the family, the state and the companies. We must move away from societies that are increasingly free to the individualistic – and back to one where we have a form of common identity as a basis for reciprocity obligations.

Yes, yes. But not as fiercely original as analysis, when we look at countries like the United States, France and England, as rice of economic differences and social exclusion. On the other hand: Such analyzes apply here at home as well. Isn't this like hearing Jan Bøhler? Former member of the Workers' Party.

(Photo: Pixabay)

Favorable patriotism

We have been given extremist religious and ideological identities as a social threat, maintained by the echo chambers of social media, Collier writes. The political threat is exclusive nationalism. We must rather strive for a common affiliation and what Collier calls a "favorable patriotism". This is the only force that can truly unite our society. Yes, this could almost have been a statement from Trygve Slagsvold Vedum.

The biggest division, Collier believes, is between the highly educated and the low educated. Secondly, the growing divide between rich, cosmopolitan metropolises and provinces in decline. Examples are London versus cities in the north of England, or Paris and what in France is called the province. On the basis of this, two types of politicians have developed
- the ideologues (from both left and right) and the populists – and both take advantage of the frustration that has arisen.

According to Collier, the strongest commitment we have is the need to provide care and love to our children and family. The weakest obligation is to people who are in need, but are far away. But it is still an obligation. We are not only driven by what we "want", but also by what we "should" do.

Back then everyone was kind

Collier describes the past of Great Britain as a society bound together by a network of mutual obligations, which in turn gave rise to a strong sense of a common identity. There was a "narrative" that made the citizens believe that the wealth created in cities and in the province was tied together. establishment and the wealthy were interested in educating ambitious young people from a poor social class, as Collier himself is an example of. In the same way, the many directors of the large companies were bound together in an unspoken joint commitment to society.

Today, the same companies are only connected to their shareholders. Where they used to be concerned with long-term prosperity in the communities of which they were a part, today they prioritize short-term profits.

We must also tax educated city dwellers more than their equally well-educated provincial colleagues.

In this analysis, Collier is probably nostalgic for me, and he ignores the hard political dividing lines that existed in the 1950s and 60s. He makes everyone sound just kind and good, but that was not the case. It was a tough class fight too.

But Collier holds on and calls the new society that has now emerged "the Rottweiler society." This is a society that is moving in the direction of aggression, humiliation and fear.

Ethical reform

He calls for an ethical reform that restores mutual commitment at all levels: globally, nationally, with companies and in the family. Collier believes that we must help people into the housing market, as owning one's own home is good for social morale. We must also tax educated city dwellers more than their equally well-educated provincial colleagues. Exactly that is a very radical thought.

I have absolutely nothing against a book that excites the good in us – and there is a lot to learn and to ponder in this book. But the book becomes too tedious, simplistic and well nostalgic. Collier wants a more inclusive capitalism, and that is fine and absolutely necessary. (Many years ago, Kåre Willoch wrote something similar.) But it also becomes difficult for a Scandinavian to take Collier's analyzes very seriously when he calls Bernie Sanders a Marxist, and in that way distances himself from him. Sanders calls himself a democratic socialist – and to us he appears to be a social democrat. That is exactly what Collier is unable to do.

Andrew Kroglund
Kroglund is a critic and writer. Also Secretary General of BKA (Grandparents' Climate Action).

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