The following is from the introduction to a book of essays I recently bought. It is troubling to me, because it has a ring of truth to it and I’d prefer it not to be true.
What do y’all think? Does the autonomy and prosperity that comes from capitalism come at the expense of human community and solidarity? Is it is impossible to have both a deeper sense of community and the prosperity and autonomy of capitalism? Is there no third way? Must we choose between a premodern standard of living or an alienated but “prosperous” capitalistic society? Is “mild moralism and religiosity” just a superficial way to scratch the itch that is hard-wired in us?
Here’s the excerpt:
“Like Marx, (Hayek) believed that liberal capitalist society has a tendency to produce alienation, insofar as the impersonal rules of conduct upon which it rests necessarily eschew any reference to a common social end or purpose, and thus cannot satisfy the deepest human yearnings for solidarity. Unlike Marx, he also thought we nevertheless simply have no alternative to capitalism if we want to maintain the level of individual autonomy and material prosperity that are the most prized characteristics of modernity, and that it is naive and dangerous to pretend otherwise. For Hayek, those who would like to combine the autonomy and prosperity with a deeper sense of community are trying to square the circle. We cannot have our cake and eat it too: tragic as it is, we must either choose to follow out the logic of modernity to its conclusion and forever abandon the hope of satisfying those communal desires hardwired into us while we still lived in bands of hunters and gatherers, or we must return to a premodern form of life and therefore also to a premodern standard of living. There is no third way. Hayek’s promotion of a mild Burkean moralism and religiosity would seem to be his way of taking the bite out of this unhappy situation, as far as that is possible; a stolid bourgeois allegiance to what is left in the modern world of the traditional family and the church or synagogue would seem in his view to be all we have left to keep us warm in the chilly atmosphere of liberal individualism and market dynamism.”