Geoff Mulgan at Nesta: “In the heady days of 1989, with communism collapsing and the Cold War seemingly over, the political theorist Francis Fukuyama declared that we were witnessing the “end of history” which had culminated in the triumph of liberal democracy and the free market.
Fukuyama was drawing on the ideas of German philosopher Georg Hegel, but of course, history didn’t come to an end, and, as recent events have shown, the Cold War was just sleeping, not dead.
Now, following the political convulsions of 2016, we’re at a very different turning point, which many are trying to make sense of. I want to suggest that we can again usefully turn to Hegel, but this time to his idea that history evolves in dialectical ways, with successive phases of thesis, antithesis and synthesis.
This framework fits well with where we stand today. The ‘thesis’ that has dominated mainstream politics for the last generation – and continues to be articulated shrilly by many proponents – is the claim that the combination of globalisation, technological progress and liberalisation empowers the great majority.
The antithesis, which, in part, fuelled the votes for Brexit and Trump, as well as the rise of populist parties and populist authoritarian leaders in Europe and beyond, is the argument that this technocratic combination merely empowers a minority and disempowers the majority of citizens.
A more progressive synthesis – which I will outline – then has to address the flaws of the thesis and the grievances of the antithesis, in fields ranging from education and health to democracy and migration, dealing head on with questions of power and its distribution: questions about who has power, and who feels powerful….(More)”