Moral crisis/moral critique?

Soundings - ISSN 1362-6620
Volume 2022 Number 80

Moral crisis/moral critique?
Adam Standring, Matthew Donoghue pages 51-64
DOI: 10.3898/SOUN.80.04.2022


The crisis of neoliberal capitalism and liberal democracy has a genesis stretching back a decade or longer. Why is it that, until now, socialists and those on the left have struggled to articulate a coherent counter-hegemonic discourse? We argue that at least part of this failing comes from an ambivalence about making the moral argument for socialist transformation. Both a moral critique of the existing order and the articulation of socialist future grounded in a distinct moral order are necessary components of transformative change: they are able to fix substantive policy initiatives - whether a green new deal, universal basic income or the nationalisation of essential services - within a broader vision of how society and the state should function, and on whose behalf. Morals are important in the functioning of any socio-economic order - communicating meaning, providing rationale and generating expectations regarding the practices of ourselves and others. They construct and stabilise contingent social orders and hierarchies. The current social contract is characterised by increased individualisation, responsibilisation and the moral imperative towards competition and consumption. Morals are what allow people to tolerate current conditions. But as contemporary capitalism becomes increasingly uninhabitable, a moral critique - that is the ability to both unpick what stabilises the current conjuncture and offer an alternative - becomes all the more urgent. We look at a number of initiatives and movements, most but not all lodged in the anti-austerity protests of the past decade, for examples of such political strategies. In such movements we see how material criticisms of capitalism are grounded in concrete struggles for justice and emancipation but framed in a counter-hegemonic moral framework that explicitly challenges the status quo.

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To cite this article
Adam Standring, Matthew Donoghue (2022) Moral crisis/moral critique?, Soundings, 2022(80), 51-64.

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