Re – Inventing  Free  Institutions in  an  Era  of  Globalization

In a postmodern era that brackets God and perceives all values and norms as equally subjective, social bonds have attenuated. Already Daniel Bell pointed out in The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism (1976) that the contemporary crisis of civilization reflects a lack of a transcendentally grounded ethic, a public philosophy, and a sustaining religious faith. Science, technology, trade, and communications now drive all aspects of life in the global village, with novel challenges for both individuals and societal institutions. Critics like Simon Head in Mindless (2014) contend that “smarter machines are making dumber humans.” Paradoxically, in an era of instant communications, people have great difficulty in establishing and sustaining meaningful relationships. The Internet and social media in particular tend to erase the boundary between the private and the public. The breakdown of the traditional family–the basic building block of society–is a growing concern, chronicled in Charles Murray’s Coming Apart (2013). The prospect of atomized individuals in a mass society tethered to a materialistic worldview, who can be manipulated easily by commercial interests or political ideologies, defines a new vulnerability, with far-reaching consequences for society, at home and abroad. The central question, then, is: How to re-establish the proper balance between self and society, the private and the public? Can the major social institutions–the family, civil society, education, business, and government–be re-invented to further both freedom and virtue?

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