Dr. Philippos Nicolopoulos - PhD, assoc. Professor of sociology
at the University of Indianapolis and at Uindy,
Athens, Greece

The responsibility of political leadership
in the contemporary economic crisis,
the issue of value orientation and the contribution
of radical humanistic philosophy

Philippos NicolopoulosThe contemporary economic crisis cannot be understood only in terms of particular economic structures of the particular Nation States. The crisis is global and multifaced and is not connected only with the particular economic subsystems. It is associated with structural characteristics of the global capitalism which periodically has crisis because of its inherent tendency for profit reduction. In addition its political parameters are very critical and always associated with concrete policies adopted by powerful political circles. The characteristics of the operation of political systems are involved, and especially the effectiveness of the responsive ability of the above systems, as well as the so-called process of political progress. That's why we talk about the responsibility of political leadership and we do not accept that the crisis has emerged "automatically" in a mechanistic way, in which any intervention of political agency would be in vain.

Behind the contemporary crisis there exists a value crisis or a wrong value policy based on the prevailing economic interests, which are the interests of the upper bourgeois class in global terms or much broadly the interests of the prevailing groups connected with the established industrial development model or the model of post-industrial consumption society. The issue of values has a primary position in social arrangements and always is connected with human needs. Much more I believe that values (in individual and collective cultural terms) have a relative autonomy against the class- economic structures and processes.

Even in the case of the former Communist regimes the industrial development model and the economic competition, in terms of world capitalist system, was not doubted. Homo Economicus, in terms of a profit-oriented society of exploitation, was and is still very strong (especially from the standpoint of big developing countries e.g. BRIC). Homo Economicus has created and creates a corresponding ideology and much more culture. Within the bounds of that ideology and culture the principles of “adoration of production and technocracy”, of economic competiveness, of work intension has developed in parallel, as well as the necessity of a large market for consumption became bigger and bigger.

Thus, to an extent, the Marxian thesis, according to which the prevailing ideology is the ideology of the predominant classes, is right. The mistake of the aforementioned theory was that it considered the relationship between ideology and predominant classes and more generally economic basis (social infrastructure) with one-side structural way, i.e. relationship structural determined with “depending variable” always the former. The Marxian insistence on the priority of the economic-class structures and processes (which value world and the social conscience depend on), to an extent, is exaggerate (although K. Marx himself did not exclude mutual influences between the so called infrastructure and overstructure). The political and social agency and the values adopted by it play many times an equivalent role with the structural influences, regarding the formation of value world and social conscience (social overstrucrure) and more generally the emergence of social and political phenomena. The political leaders and other leading individuals and groups, with their choices and decisions, are capable of changing or influencing socio-economic structures and processes. Marxism (much more the Marxist theoreticians which followed the so called orthodox versions of the theory than K. Marx himself) could not see the ideology and value world as factors able to slow down or to accelerate the developments of the infrastructure”( economic basis ) with an independent way, so it underestimated the role of activated individuals, groups and social movements (agency) and their potential influence.

The idea of development and of industrial-rational achievement society born in 19th century in Europe always associated with the predominance of bourgeois class. After 2nd World War this idea has been “exported” in the Third World while the western industrial and rational value patterns tended to be imposed in the so called developing countries. But much more since 19th century onwards one can observe a kind of “materialistic turning point“ of man, independently of class predominance and the structure of economic basis. We mean more a kind of “anthropological turning point” for which the causes were many. The adherence of man to material goods, needs and pleasures obviously increased. In any case the “materialistic” adherence is associated with the negative repercussions or applications of some parameters of Enlightenment spirit or with a kind of its initial (liberating) value system.

We can not understand and be confronted effectively with the contemporary economic crisis, if we do not search for its deeper sociocultural and value roots. And the responsible PL is called to face the crisis as a whole (adoption of the spirit of holism according to which many factors are conducive to the creation of a phenomenon)in its historical perspective. The responsible PL of the particular Nation-States must undertake a real mission against the tendencies of economic oligarchic circles and in favor of economic prosperity and much more of qualitative social and cultural life of the majority of citizens (inspired by the concept of Aristotle’s « ευ ζην » as it should be applied in public affairs). For this purpose it must define and clarify the initial values which it believes and should determine its duties according to them. The values should be in correspondence with social needs and should work for their gratification.

That’s why it should be in a permanent dialogue with the “society of citizens” through many channels of communication. The ultimate criterion is the cultural enhancement of people, the quality of Aristotelian « ευ ζην » (and not only the establishment and the stability of democratic processes as the libertarians believe), the gradual intellectualization of citizens. The economy and technology are only the material means. The responsible PL should prove in action that has autonomy (at least relative), as steering mechanism of Political System, against the pressures of interests of the predominant classes and groups.

First Pl should accept the social conflicts among classes and particular groups as an inherent characteristic of the social system. Those conflicts are not necessarily negative processes identified with an assumed "social pathology". They are process in which the developing new classes (working classes in the broad sense of the term) fight the established bourgeois classes in the capitalist system and may change the socioeconomic structures and make them fairer. Through conflicts the "new" in social terms is emerged and the "old" (and the so-called "establishment" that is connected with that) is put apart.

Second, PL should accept the social conflicts as processes which shake or even may break up the harmonious relationships of various parts of social system. The latter is not always in a balanced situation, but sometimes is in an "far-from-equilibrium" situation, which may give birth to new structures of more complexity and better quality.

Third, PL should have an accurate perception of the social conflicts and should interpret their meaning in terms of "demands" and "support» of people towards the political system. The demands of the developing part of the social system (the large mass of working people) have priority against the interests of the economic oligarchy.

Fourth, PL should give priority to the values of civil liberties and social equality. All citizens should have equal opportunities in their lives and to take the same benefits from the political system. Structural arrangements or adaptations should be made towards those value guidelines and against the interests of the established classes and groups (R. Dahrendorf's theoretical views, J. Raul's theory of Justice, Critical Theory of Frankfurt School – and not only the orthodox views of Karl Marx and Fr. Engels – can be taken into consideration). The aforementioned value guidelines and priorities are not arbitrary, but connected with existing historical–social tendencies.

Fifth, PL the duty of PL is to resist all the attempts of the organized interests of the public and private sector of economy to save their privileges and to maintain the socioeconomic inequalities in favor of them. It should resist the domestic, as well as the international powerful economic circles, because today capitalism is globalized. All the arguments of those circles based on simple calculations (marginal approach), according to which , in the case of an economic crisis, the deficits of the budgets of the particular Nation-States and the public debts should be made up (e.g. the measures that the EU, the Central European Bank and the IMF imposed upon Greek economy and other European countries) at the expense of the incomes of the working people (limitation of purchase ability, reduction of public expenses, limitation of social state) can and should be reconsidered in social and holistic terms. The latter reconsideration, in turn, can overturn the monetaristic and neo-liberal views and guidelines, for it is not exclusively determined by the criteria of market economy and by the “isolated” economic (in capitalist terms) factors. The social holistic approach to the problem opens the range of alternatives and questions the stability of profit of the oligarchic circles. The stability of social and economic advantages of working people (it is a value priority and not only an instrumental economic one) has priority compared with the profit of the aforementioned circles and the neo-liberal criteria of some international organizations, as IMF. The neo-liberal views are views of a neo-slavery imposed upon people through invisible economic bonds in combination always with the manipulation mechanisms of consumption and show society.

Sixth, the responsibility of PL is to reveal to people the whole field of conflicts and pressures of the economic oligarchy and its institutionalized powerful centers (included the analysis of their real causes) and to start to organize its defense against the pressures. The main argument is that the economic numbers do not work for themselves, but they should serve the needs of people and their prosperity. The maximum is the prosperity and the cultural quality of people and the minimum is the profit of world economic oligarchy. The maximum is the sustainability of every kind of development and the minimum the economic goals of self-interested circles of the development process. The maximum is the social control “from below” against any measure and guideline coming from the aforementioned INO and the minimum is the obedience to those organizations.PL ought to build sincere and creative bridges with people based on the aforementioned prevailing values and to pass in all sectors of political and economic subsystems the social holistic approach , according to which the economic factors can not work “isolated”( and especially isolated from the social conflict between the powerful economic circles and the working classes), and all the parts of social system are mutually influenced and may contribute to the effective confrontation of any kind of crisis, if it (i.e. PL) can promote a coherent correct policy.

Seventh, PL should not neglect the world of the individuals (Human and Civil rights, Civil Liberties), although it adopts the Holistic approach. It is impossible to create a real free society, if the particular individuals do not feel free.

Finally the PL should fight the battle dominated by the spirit of Radical Humanistic Philosophy (RHP). Humanistic philosophy is this one which gives priority to the intellectual and moral values as features of a real qualitative and robust man (authentic search for the truth without vulgar utilitarian applications of it, intellectuality as self-purpose, active and creative social solidarity, freedom and justice, individuality). From this value point view the tradition of Ancient Hellenic Culture and Philosophy, the spirit of Renaissance and Enlightenment, the Humanistic Dimensions of Marxism and other Socialist theories and any other cultural tradition and philosophy which believe to the superiority of inner man and of intellectual and moral wealth are included in its meaning. The Humanistic Philosophy is Radical when it tries to spread its content with an accelerated rate, while in parallel it fights and is intended to overthrow another established value world that, in association with concrete social structures, constitute an obstacle against the prevailing of its values.

The contemporary economic crisis has to do with the structure of entire world capitalist system, that's why the world system theory (I. Wallerstein, S. Amin, A.G. Frank, F. Cardoso, A. Papandreou et al.) based on the structural differences between center (core capitalist system) and periphery can contribute to its explanation. It has to do with the world tendency of the decreasing of profit and the new organized attempt of the world capitalism to stop that decreasing and to maximize (even with tricky and non-productive ways) the profit in some cases, when the circumstances may allow it. The latter tries to catch up with the former, but its social formation itself (as it has accepted the economic and political pressures of the former and has been influenced by it) includes (structural) impediments for which it can not reach the economic level of the former. But on the other hand, the value patterns of the former (abandoning the traditional morals, industrialization, rational utilitarian assessments, participation in consumption society, material and “hedonistic” pleasures for the masses independently of intellectual counterbalances, absence of hierarchy based on intellectual meritocracy, predominance of instrumental knowledge and dependency of incomes from that) have passed, so the latter gradually is sinked in very difficult situations with many asymmetries and contradictions.

The prime movers of some economic and mass cultural guidelines are not the governments of particular Nation-States, but the powerful centers of the world oligarchy and its specialized branches, which try to impose their policies (mostly neo-liberal) upon the Nation-States through international organizations (INO) or international circles of creditors (who extremely exploit the mechanisms of free market economy) or other institutions (e.g. some institutions of EU). Nation-State loses sometimes a part of its sovereignty and remains dependent on the funds and the policies of the INO and circles of that category.


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