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New Social Compact

Hegemonic Power and Varieties of Neoliberalism

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In a lecture delivered in Vienna in 1935, the German philosopher Edmund Husserl expressed an anxiety concerning the contemporary predicament of European humanity in the times of science. Despite, and indeed in view of, the undeniable progress in the natural sciences, Europeans were becoming increasingly resistant to a sense of history as something other than an “unending concatentation of illusory progress”.

Before saying something further about this predicament, I want first to pick up on the major assumption in his discussion: namely, that overcoming this predicament requires recovering “a teleological sense” of the history of “man”.

Although I do not really think it is restricted to political liberalism, for reasons that will emerge, I will call the sense of history that Husserl regards as being lost to as one belonging to classical liberalism. Such liberalism draws on this sense of history in what can be described as a three step response to the question of human flourishing.

First step: a satisfactory account of the conditions for human flourishing must acknowledge the variety of rational interests, interests which are, that is to say, uniquely characteristic of “man” conceived as a rational animal: science, art, commerce, politics, religion, etc..

Second step: With this variety in view, just power should aim to organise the social world in such a way that each person’s capacity freely to perform in each of these domains is optimised.

Third step: human history is the movement of increasing progress in realising such a society; it is the movement of the emancipation and progress of “man” in time: from its origins in primitive human animality, human societies are moving in stages towards the optimal realisation of man’s rational capacities in a properly civilised society, with Europe at the head.

Husserl’s remarks about the predicament of modern European humanity suggest that what I am calling the classical liberal view is in crisis. Suddenly the movement of our history seems not to be taking the path we thought we were on.

I want to propose the following hypothesis. Hegemonic conceptions of human flourishing in Europe have rarely been classically liberal. Instead, hegemonic power has been established and held by more than one neoliberal community of ideas.

The thought here is that efforts to optimise opportunities for leading a life proper to “man” have given rise to movements that attempt to achieve the hegemonic domination of the norms that belong to only one of the domains of human life.

I define neoliberalism in general, then, as the outlook of a community of ideas that seeks the limitless extension of the norms of conduct of one domain of life to the whole of life. Its emancipatory claim is that it will achieve the optimal flourishing of the whole of life by co-ordinating and controlling it in terms dictated by the norms of that one domain.

Anachronisms are piling up. The liberal conception I am describing will have only recently taken that name, and the term neoliberalism is of even more recent vintage, and passes for many today as a kind of catch-all for ‘everything bad about capitalism’. However, conceptually speaking the two terms together are well suited for this discussion, particularly if we accept that behind the various appeals to the idea of neoliberalism made today, there is a basic conception of it as a hegemonic movement that seeks the limitless extension of the market model to all spheres of life. Proponents of it might say: the aim of applying market-orientated reasoning everywhere is to optimise the conditions for human flourishing in general.

However, there is a feature of our time that Husserl is alive to that fundamentally interrupts this a-historical conceptual contrast: namely, the absence in our time (unless we are Marxists) of the kind of substantive philosophy of history through which the classical liberal conception, in its third step, had understood our lives.

This is profoundly connected to the progress of science itself: in particular through the radically decentring blows effected by the Copernican and Darwinian revolutions. In our time, we are more resistant than Europeans of former times knew how to be to theological (eschatological) or metaphysical (teleological) conceptions of human nature and history.

And then into the space left open by the falling away of classic eschatological and teleological discourses of human flourishing the community of ideas that champions economic neoliberalism has been able to occupy the field virtually unchallenged. It all seems despairingly hopeless, making our existence fundamentally pointless.

But the situation only seems despairing if, with Husserl, you think that the only way our lives could be regarded as meaningful is against the background of a vision of human history as the progressive movement of our forms of social life towards distant, ideally just, condition. But one does not have to have such a vision in view to affirm that making the future better matters to us: one can simply want to make it so that what one makes of what has been passed down to us will have been some kind of (by one’s lights) progressive preface to what remains to come, without any vision of a distant final end.

This can be illustrated with reference to the unease that many feel about modern factory farming, intensive livestock rearing, and the extinction of innumerable animal species. Without presuming a substantive conception of human nature or history, the unease is that these developments show us modern men and women, as in a mirror, as at certain points akin to a form of life we might well think profoundly alien: akin, that is, to an animal with, as David Wiggins has put it, “no non-instrumental concerns and no interest in the world considered as lasting longer than the animal in question will need the world to last in order to sustain the animal’s own life”.

Such a life, “functioning” to such a destructive end, is not just depressing but runs totally against the grain of a participant’s sense that the temporal “here and now” of an ordinary human life is one in which “the dead and the unborn are also present”. The world in which we live out our lives is one which “connects us to worlds before and after us”. Our lives, our lived sense of who we are, is conceived out of and within that temporal stretch. “Functioning to no end” might describe, in objective terms, the infrastructure of a presently operational life-support system, but from the inside of a human life this “presence”, the milieu of our “spiritual worlds”, is already a “present” that is fundamentally linked to those who are not there.

Jacques Derrida has argued that it is only within this participatory sense of the deep connectedness of our “living present” to others who are not present (the essential historicity of our historical existence), and not in view of a distant horizon of an ideal end of history, that issues of justice, emancipation and progress can come into view in the first place:

It is in the name of justice that it is necessary to speak about ghosts, inheritance, and generations, generations of ghosts, which is to say about certain others who are not present, nor presently living… No ethics, no politics, whether revolutionary or not, seems possible and thinkable and just that does not recognise in its principle the respect for those others who are no longer or for those others who are not yet there, presently living, whether they are already dead or not yet born.

In the struggle to organise a response to economic neoliberalism today we may be inclined to think, like Husserl in the 1930s, that we need to rediscover a teleological sense of human history – a new grasp of and heading towards a form of social life that is finally (and objectively) proper to “man”. Emerging out of the Christian eschatological tradition and its hope for final redemption, political neoliberalism aimed to realise regimes without evil by forging a community of brothers, citizens, or comrades that would finally be, in a strong sense, one. Economic neoliberalism arrives in the wake of that dream’s ending in the horror of Stalinism and Nazism. However, as the site of (let’s not say an atheist but) an atheologised recognition of “the finitude of present functioning”, it also frees the space for a radically decentred, non-mystical and non-metaphysical, participatory vision of that finite presence. Derrida concludes:

In the same place, on the same limit, where history is finished, there where a certain determined concept of history comes to an end, precisely there the historicity of history begins, there finally it has the chance of heralding itself – of promising itself. There where man, a certain determined concept of man, is finished, there the pure humanity of man, of the other man and of man as other begins or has finally the chance of heralding itself – of promising itself.

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New Social Compact

The Social Innovators of the Year 2022

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Mikaela Jade. (Image: Veuve Clicquot New Generation Awards)

The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship announced today 15 awardees for social innovation in 2022.

From a Brazilian entrepreneur using hip-hop to turn Favela youth away from crime, a Dutch nurse revolutionizing home healthcare and a park ranger turned tech founder using Minecraft to revive Australia’s Indigenous culture, the 2022 Social Innovators of the Year includes a list of outstanding founders and chief executive officers, multinational and regional business leaders, government leaders and recognized experts.

The awardees were selected by Schwab Foundation Board members, including Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Prime Minister of Denmark (2011-2015), and social innovation expert Johanna Mair, Professor of Organization, Strategy and Leadership at the Hertie School of Governance in Germany, and H.M. Queen Mathilde of Belgium, Honorary Board Member, in recognition of their innovative approach and potential for global impact.

“The Social Innovators of the Year 2022 represent a new ecosystem of leaders who are driving change and shifting organizations and systems towards a more just, inclusive, sustainable future,” said Hilde Schwab, Co-Founder and Chairperson of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship.

The Schwab Foundation’s unique community of social innovators dates back more than two decades to 1998 when Hilde Schwab, together with her husband Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, created the foundation to support a new model for social change, combining often-overlooked values of mission, compassion and dedication with the best business principles on the planet to serve the most disadvantaged people on earth and build a better society.

Today, the foundation has a thriving community of 400 global social entrepreneurs that have impacted the lives of 722 million people in 190 countries. They offer access to healthcare, education, housing, finance, digital skills and advocacy networks resulting in job creation economic opportunity, improved health and stability.

To help the social enterprise sector increase its reach in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Schwab Foundation established the COVID Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs early 2020, representing 90+ members and an estimated 100,000 entrepreneurs as the largest collaborative in the sector.

“This year’s Schwab Foundation Awardees demonstrate that through values-based approaches centring on inclusivity, collaboration, relationships of trust and long-term sustainability, we have proven ways of changing institutions and mindsets, and disrupting traditional ways of working that hold systemic barriers in place,” said François Bonnici, Director of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship.

The 2022 Schwab Foundation Awards are hosted in a long-term partnership with the Motsepe Foundation, founded on the philosophy of “Ubuntu”, the African concept of giving and caring for your neighbour and other members of your community.

“I strongly believe social entrepreneurship, combined with local innovation and technology, can create meaningful change and recovery in Africa and many developing nations. At its core it is about bringing together the best of business discipline and efficiency with the best of human and social values. We need this synergy, now more than ever,” said Precious Moloi-Motsepe, Co-Chair, Motsepe Foundation and Chancellor of the University of Cape Town.

The 2022 awardees are:
Social entrepreneurs

Founders or chief executive officers who solve a social or environmental problem, with a focus on low-income, marginalized or vulnerable populations.

Ashraf Patel, Co-Founder of Pravah and ComMutiny Youth Collective (CYC), India: For almost three decades, Patel has nurtured inside-out youth leadership with collective organisations. This ecosystem has co-created the right space, context and narrative that has reached over 15 million young people.

Celso Athayde, Founder, Central Unica das Favelas (CUFA) and Chief Executive Officer, Favela Holding, Brazil: One of Brazil’s best-known social entrepreneurs, Athayde founded the nation’s largest social enterprise focused on favela communities, using music and sport to transform their lives.

Jos de Blok, Founder, Buurtzorg, Netherlands: de Blok is revolutionizing nursing around the world with buurtzorg, meaning neighbourhood care, which puts nurses and patients at the heart of its social enterprise model.

Kennedy Odede, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, SHOFCO (Shining Hope for Communities), Kenya: Passion, 20 cents and a soccer ball were the building blocks for Odede’s social enterprise SHOFCO, which is transforming urban slums and providing economic hope.

Marlon Parker, Co-Founder, Reconstructed Living Labs (RLabs) and Rene Parker, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, RLabs, South Africa: Marlon and Renee Parker grew a Cape Town community project helping ex-convicts into a global social enterprise that has helped around 20 million disadvantaged people by offering tech skills, training, funding and workspaces.

Mikaela Jade, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Indigital, Australia: From park ranger to tech founder, Jade founded Australia’s first Indigenous edu-tech company using augmented and mixed realities to preserve and teach Indigenous culture and history.

Rana Dajani, Founder and Director, Taghyeer/We Love Reading, Jordan: Dajani sparked a global reading revolution, training female volunteers to read to kids. We Love Reading now operates in 56 countries, benefiting nearly half a million children.

Wenfeng Wei (Jim), Founder and Chief Executive Officer, DaddyLab, People’s Republic of China: “Daddy Wei” is a social media champion for safer consumer goods. His enterprise DaddyLab is a one-stop shop for trusted product testing, consumer rights advice for families.

Corporate social intrapreneurs

Leaders within multinational or regional companies who drive the development of new products, initiatives, services or business models that address societal and environmental challenges.

Gisela Sanchez, Corporate Affairs, Marketing, Strategy and Sustainability Director, Bac International Bank and Board Member, Nutrivida, Costa Rica: Nutritional food firm Nutrivida, the brainchild of Gisela Sanchez, combats a lack of vitamins and minerals in the diet, known as hidden hunger, that affects 2 billion people.

Sam McCracken, Founder and General Manager, Nike N7, USA: A member of the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes from the Ft Peck Indian Reservation in Montana, McCracken founded Nike N7 20 years ago with a vision of using the power of sport to promote cultural awareness. It demonstrates Nike’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion with the Indigenous populations of North America. Today, N7 has benefited more than 500,000 Indigenous youth.

Public social intrapreneurs

Government leaders who harness the power of social innovation social entrepreneurship to create public good through policy, regulation or public initiatives.

Pradeep Kakkattil, Director of Innovation, UNAIDS, Switzerland: Kakkattil founded global platform HIEx to link innovators, governments and investors and find solutions to global healthcare problems, from COVID diagnosis to the cost of medicines.

Sanjay Pradhan, Chief Executive Officer, Open Government Partnership (OGP), Global: Pradhan has been a tireless champion of good governance and fighting corruption, leading a partnership of 78 countries, 76 local governments and thousands of civil society organizations that are working together to make governments more open and less corrupt.

Social innovation thought leaders

Recognized experts and champions shaping the evolution of social innovation.

Alberto Alemanno, Professor of Law, HEC Paris and Founder, The Good Lobby, European Union, France: Alemanno is passionate about overcoming social, economic and political inequalities. His civic start-up, The Good Lobby, kickstarted a movement for ethical and sustainable lobbying.

Adam Kahane, Director, Reos Partners, Canada: Kahane is a global leader in helping diverse teams of leaders work together, across their differences, to address their most important and intractable issues. He has facilitated breakthrough projects in more than 50 countries on climate action, racial equity, democratic governance, Indigenous rights, health, food, energy, water, education, justice and security.

Hahrie Han, Stavros Niarchos Foundation Professor of Political Science, Inaugural Director of the SNF Agora Institute, Johns Hopkins University, USA: Han is a leading academic and author on collective action and the way citizens can collaborate to solve public problems and influence policy, from immigration to voting rights.

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New Social Compact

Grace and a Tennis Celebrity

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image source: Wikipedia

Among the character traits we cherish in fellow humans, grace is often more noticeable in its absence.  The recent saga of a Serbian tennis player and his manner of entry into Australia and subsequent events come to mind.  A champion athlete cannot help but serve as an ambassador for his country, and in Serbia’s case, after the horrors of the Yugoslavia civil war and its prominent role, it is a country that needs all the help it can get. 

Novak Djokovic is ranked number one in the world and is in Australia to defend his title.  He appears to have lied on his Australian entry form:  False declarations are grounds for revoking a visa, and immigration officials acted.  But as world number one, he is a draw for the tournament … and money talks — he is already scheduled to play his first match as this is written. 

Mr. Djokovic’s lawyers went to court which overturned the immigration officials’ order against him on the grounds they had not followed proper procedure.  Then the immigration minister, Alex Hawke, who had been thinking about canceling his visa actually did.  So it’s back to court.

But it gets worse:  Djokovic has not been vaccinated.  He claims that having had the illness, he is immune.  Scientists have found that to be of short duration.

He also broke isolation rules after he had tested positive, particularly by not isolating himself, thereby endangering his contacts.  Cavalier his behavior maybe, perhaps careless but possibly a sense that rules are not for celebrities, only for lesser mortals.

That it caused a sense of outrage is apparent.  A leaked video has a couple of news anchors discussing Djokovic in not very flattering terms:  “Novak Djokovic is a lying, sneaky asshole”, says one.  Yet the comment also is evidence of a coarseness that has gradually pervaded language.

In the meantime, Mr. Djokovic’s father has his own take on the affair.  He calls it a conspiracy to prevent his son from breaking the previous record of 20 Grand Slam title wins held by Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer because they are all against Serbia.  But Serbia, which still believes in little Jesus and is thus protected, will prevail.

Would aphorisms like ‘a storm-in-a-teacup’ or ‘mountains out of a molehill’ be descriptive?  Not if it’s news across the world.  Yet, if he continues to rant on the tennis court and win, it could be his way of getting rid of nerves, an eternal bugaboo. 

He must have another crucial concern:  the biological clock.  At 34 going on to 35 in five months, and with much younger rivals snapping at his heels, it has to be a race against time to win that 21st major title.

Just like grace notes relieve tedium in music, perhaps Djokovic’s rants relieve the boring baseline game that modern tennis has become.  No more a Frank Sedgman or a Pancho Gonzales charging up to the net to put away a dramatic volley, tennis now needs a grace note, or two, or three …  

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New Social Compact

Age No Bar: A Paradigm Shift in the Girl Child’s Marriageable Age in India

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Image source: indiatoday.in

India is a country known to have diverse culture, languages, social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, belief system, religions and their personal laws. With personal laws governing succession, adoption, divorce etc, one of the most important aspects governed by the personal laws is Marriage. Indian society has a deep-rooted belief of marriages being the most sacred bond between two people. Every religion of the country gives utmost importance to this sacred bond. Since this bond is of such great importance to the Indian society and to the people of the country, the legal system and the personal laws have made efforts to legalise the sacred bond. There are conditions and requirements laid down for the marriage to be solemnized and get a legal sanction. One such important condition is “age”. According to most of the personal laws and The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 the legal age for a man should not be less than 21 years of age and a woman 18 years of age. Recently the government introduced The Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021 to raise the age of marriage for women from 18 years to 21 years

Introduction of this bill shall prove to be a ray of hope for people struggling to curb the evil of child marriage in our country. One cannot claim progress unless women progress on all fronts including their physical, mental and reproductive health. The Constitution guarantees gender equality as part of the fundamental rights and also guarantees prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of sex. This bill would bring women equal to the men as far as the legal age of marriage in concerned. Under the National Family Health Survery-5, it is stated 7% of the girls aged between 15 and 18 years were found to be pregnant and nearly 23% of the girls in the age group of 20 to 24 were married below the age of 18 years. There are researches to point that from 2015 to 2020, 20 lakhs child marriages have been stopped.

In my opinion, increasing the age of women from 18 years to 21 should not be seen solely as an equal opportunity for them to choose their life partners at the same age as that of men, but this is a step taken by the government to eradicate child marriages that still find way in to our society. It should be seen as an effort to bring down maternal mortality rate and infant mortality rate. It shall also try and curb the teenage pregnancies, which are extremely harmful for women’s overall health as well as the infants born out of it. We also have to take into consideration that a large part of our society still lack basic education and awareness about these laws and the advantages attached to it. We as educated citizens of the country should take extra efforts in making people aware and to make them understand about the disadvantages associated with child marriage and the overall consequences their children would face in the future. We should appreciate the efforts taken by the government to tackle gender inequality and gender discrimination adequate measures taken to secure health, welfare and empowerment of our women and girls and to ensure status and opportunity for them at par with men.

*The Views Expressed are Strictly Personal

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