Chapter 9: The political economy of status and culture change policy
Policies about positional markets can involve to a great extent a form of cultural engineering. In this connection, moral leadership is an important issue in social policy formulation and implementation. When moral leadership is weak, few social projects that require substantive changes will be undertaken because the voluntary support of people for them will also be weak. In our post-modern environment, individualism causes poor social participation and becomes the main source of individual emotional rewards. For example, people may prefer to derive satisfaction and positive emotions by identifying with branded products rather than by participating in voluntary work. However, the social costs of positional feel-good lifestyles have been underestimated because we live in a world of intense commercialization. Thus a different form of leadership than the one that we observe nowadays is required to overcome pessimistic considerations with regard to political costs and campaign financing. Today there is growing recognition of the problems that result from both unmitigated self-interest and impulsive choice. In this framework, the support of norms is an important movement to strengthen trust in order to eliminate attitudes associated with positional markets. These attitudes involve often opportunism or prejudice. Yet culture change leadership policies can be adopted that discourage the gratification of emotional branding. Naturally, public intervention may not prove an easy task. Difficulties may arise during the implementation of policies imposing social norms.
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