Governance in a Disenchanted World
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Governance in a Disenchanted World

The End of Moral Society

Helmut Willke

This book expounds the idea of a disenchanted world composed of nation states and global functional systems. The nation state is losing some of its regulatory prerogatives and, at the same time, extending its legitimacy base in ‘chains of legitimacy’ to transnational institutions. There is neither a global democracy nor a global government. Therefore, establishing alternative forms of legitimacy, accountability and participation in a secular world seem mandatory. Helmut Willke examines the resurgence of moral reasoning in global affairs, pushed by various fundamentalisms, that indicates a real danger of a regression of democracy. The separation of private morals and public policies, the book argues, remains the basis of global aspirations of democracy.
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Chapter 1: Exposition

Helmut Willke


With fundamentalisms of all kinds on the rise, it may seem preposterous to insist on the end of moral society. Indeed, plenty of moral societies remain on this globe. What we are considering here is the fate of modern democratic societies undergoing deep transformations which are related to the dynamics of an emerging world society and an emerging knowledge society. For modern, secular and ‘rationalized’ societies, the end of morality as a public concern is definitely not a new idea. Instead it is imbued in the foundations of modernity as envisioned by political philosophers from Thomas Hobbes, David Hume or Madison to Kant, Nietzsche or Max Weber. Instead of reviewing the arguments of these thinkers once more in detail, the focus here is on a few critical assumptions which constitute the preconditions for a secular society. The purpose of this exercise is to configure the problem context of this text: that is to describe the context within which the question of morality should be treated as part of a set of interconnected dimensions. An appropriate image of the problem as envisioned here would be an onion-model. Its core – the role of morals and morality in modern societies – is covered by several layers of contextual conditions formed by globalization processes and by fundamental questions about the varieties of capitalism and varieties of democracy in an era of global concatenations and global responsibilities (see Figure 1.1). Our approach brings up the equally fundamental question of sustainable ‘varieties of capitalism’ as core components...

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