CHAPTER 4 2/10/00 3:43 pm Page 1 4. Scenario no. 4: Creative Societies Keynes feared the advent of the affluent society. ‘Must we not expect a general “nervous breakdown”? ... For we have been trained too long to strive and not to enjoy.’ With hindsight we can see that Europe did indeed suffer from this malaise, and the wave of strikes and urban unrest at the turn of the century could easily be mistaken for a continent-wide nervous breakdown. Disaster seems to have been averted, but it is still too soon to say whether the ambitious reforms of 2005-2006 will deliver the brighter future promised or whether they have set Europe for ever on the road to decline. In the eyes of their supporters, who remain in the majority, the reforms have returned man to his rightful place at the heart of economic development and laid the foundations for a new social solidarity, based on a new ethic of human quality and individual fulfilment and on a rejection of the materialism and obsession with productivity of the twentieth century. To others, the continent that was once the cradle of Western civilization is well and truly dead, the victim of its inability to grasp reality and its refusal to adapt to international economic constraints. The social situation in Europe at the end of the last century was verging on the absurd. The gap between rich and poor was widening and the television news ran stories of soaring stock market profits alongside...
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