Democracy  &  Nature, Vol. 7, No. 1


Postmodernism as the decadence of the social democratic state

Arran Gare


Abstract: In this paper it is argued that the corresponding rise of postmodernism and the triumph of neo-liberalism are not only not accidental, the triumph of neo-liberalism has been facilitated by postmodernism. Postmodernism has been primarily directed not against mainstream modernism, the modernism of Hobbes, Smith, Darwin and social Darwinism, but against the radical modernist quest for justice and emancipation with its roots in German thought. The Social Democratic State, the principles of which were articulated by Hegel, is construed as a partial triumph of this radical modernism, realizing a higher level of reciprocal recognition and overcoming much of the brutality of the Liberal State. Postmodernism is shown to be a manifestation of the decadence of the Social Democratic State, characterized by the disintegration of cognitive and ethical developments which have been the condition for people to form communities based on reciprocal recognition. In this regard it parallels the decadence which took place in ancient Rome, for similar reasons: both the Roman Empire and the Social Democratic State reduced people to passive recipients of the benefits of their societies. The implications of this are twofold. If Social Democracy is to be revived, it will require a struggle for ‘strong’ democracy; that is, for a major role for participatory democracy. On the other hand if people opt for the creation of confederations of genuinely democratic communities to replace the State, this will not be achieved by postmodern decadence but through the developments of cognitive forms and communities through which the recognition of people as free agents is instititionalized.