The New Leviathan and Social Capital
Patrick Hunout, The New Leviathan, and Social Capital
President Hunout is an innovative Franco-Belgian researcher and social reformer, whose work explores the formation of what he names The New Leviathan around the hypothesis that the upper class of society seeks to build a new order based on less equality and less democracy.
As from the middle of the nineties, Hunout started to work on the contemporary economic and societal crisis. He elaborated the Tripartite Model of Societal Change that describes the interactions between three fields that are usually considered separately: economic relationships, interethnic relationships, and interpersonal relationships. His research work involved immigration policies and ethnicity (1996), the formation of a new EU state machinery opposed to civil freedom (1998), and the problematic transformations of the interpersonal relationships (2003-2004), including the escalation of anomie, suicide, depression, social isolation and incivility, the crisis of marriage and the family, and the weakening of trust and commitment.
His model suggests that, contrary to a common view, the strategies carried forward by the New Leviathan intimately link these three fields. They consist in developing a globalized, flexible economy widening revenue inequalities (economic field), in promoting mass migrations and a multi-ethnic society (ethnic field), and in pushing forward individualist, hedonist and consumerist values (interpersonal field). The fields are interactive, actions taken in one field helping the implementation of actions in other fields. These strategies design a weak society, enslaved to market values and government controls required by the increasing incapacity of an atomized social body to manage itself.
The strategies carried forward by a ruling class that refuses to share wealth and power, explain most contemporary difficulties - if they would be reversed, a huge improvement would follow. Economies similar to the historical ‘social market economy’ based on an equitable sharing of the wealth as well as citizen-, consumer- and worker participation, are the most performing. Replacing immigration with local employment would result in better training and employment policies, the automation of unskilled tasks, life-long voluntary employment, and higher salaries – thus allowing the resorption of social security deficit. A stronger cultural identity and more community spirit would result in higher trust, more empathy and cooperation, more efficient conflict resolution, and better mental and general health within society.
Hunout objects the formation of a new proletariat, due to increased poverty, poor education and the recourse to mass immigration from third-world countries, as a way to refuse to enter modernity and as a mean to go back into old systems of governance within a highly stratified society. He advocates instead the modernization of our economies through the constitution of a large, educated and skilled middle-class of local origin, enjoying high revenues thanks to an equitable allocation of wealth, sharing common values based on their heritage, and participating in decisions of common interest.
Hunout created in 2002 The Social Capital Foundation—the aim of which is to help restore, revitalize and strengthen the community spirit as the best way to advance this agenda.The Social Capital Foundation proposes to counter the policies of The New Leviathan by consolidating the community spirit, developing a democratic middle-class centered society, promoting an equitable share of wealth, protecting cultural identity against mass migrations, and strengthening shared values within the social body.
TSCF's orientation emphasizes:
The social dimension of the market economy: tempering the effects of the free market on precariousness and social fragility, not through bureaucratic controls, but through the development of "socially responsible corporate policies", of the non-profit economy sector, and of a partnership system between employers and employees in the spirit of what has been called "Rhineland capitalism".
- The pivotal role of the middle class in modern society: promoting a society with a large, educated and wealthy middle-class able to play a responsive role in the settlement of issues, in order to favor democratic life, which may have implications for revenues, wage and tax policies, as well as for education and learning practices.
- The necessity for improvement of social cooperation and participation: on the basis of the above, a stronger society would involve a massive reduction in the role of the governments, compensated by a raise in the role of the organized civil society (NGOs and independent organizations). Civic participation in the judicial and governmental institutions would be developed and the legal and tax systems would be democratized.
- The preservation of cultural identity for community integration: migration policies would be restricted and third world socio-economic development policies would take over from them, while the attribution of nationality would be submitted to community approval. Thus TSCF suggested that "mass immigration helps maintain the older systems of governance. The main objective of this policy rapidly became to reconstruct a new working class, a class that was disappearing since the XIXth century, not only in terms of financial resource level but also in terms of submission to authority and social stratification" (Peace and Conflict Monitor, 09/16/2003).
- Finally, raising the level of social capital would have implications for a wide range of behaviors on a daily basis, such as showing a lesser individualism, developing compromise- readiness, being critical to consumption values, as well as reintroducing congeniality and civility in family, neighborhood and interpersonal relationships so as to learn again to live together.
- ‘A world in convulsions”, TSCF Policy Futures, Brussels, 2008.
- The Destruction of Society: Challenging the ‘Modern’ Tryptique: Individualism,Hedonism, Consumerism (The Erosion of the Social Link in the Economically Advanced Countries, The International Scope Review, Issue 9, Volume 5, 2003, ISSN 1347-1217).