Democratic Eco Humanism Market Civilization Essay

2760 words - 11 pages

Democratic EcoHumanism Market Civilization



In an effort to dramatize his neo-Polanyian critique of neo-liberal global capitalism, Stephen Gill questions the tenability of his own term market civilization, proposing it as oxymoronic in that a market civilization qua the neo-liberal order contradicts Gill's view of civilization qua democratic eco-humanism (i.e. representation, civility, social well-being and inclusion). In this formation, Gill's argument is essentially circular in its reliance on his own subjective standard of civilization, (democratic eco-humanism), to prove the uncivilized nature of the neo-liberal order. By adopting a more objective, (and necessarily more general), definition of civilization, we can disband with Gill's tautology, allowing us to embrace the term market civilization as a precise definition of neo-liberal global capitalism. In doing so, however, we merely adjust Gill's propensity for grandiose formulations; what remains is his well-reasoned explication of the inherent contradictions of neo-liberalism, an explication that underscores the ways in which Anglo-American neo-liberalism departs from a certain aesthetic of civilization as democratic eco-humanism. Though he fails to prove the system uncivilized in the broad sense, Gill's arguments make a strong case for the rise of a Polanyian double movement that would address the critical excesses of the neo-liberal order.
To understand Gill's claim about the oxymoronic nature of market civilization, one must understand the differences between the two relevant definitions of civilization. In Gill's words: "civilization implies not only a pattern of society (def. 1) but also an active historical process that fosters a more humanized, literate and civil way of life, involving social well-being on a broad and inclusive basis (def. 2). (Gill, 422)" Gill's claim regards only the second definition, a version of which the American Heritage Dictionary pictures as: "An advanced state of intellectual, cultural, and material development, progress in the arts and sciences, the extensive use of writing, and the appearance of complex political and social institutions."(American Heritage) Though Gill's version of civilization mirrors closely the story told by the dictionary, both claims about the parameters of civilization are so problematically subjective as to add little or nothing to Gill's analysis of neo-liberalism.
The fallacy of both definitions of civilization is rooted in a subjective set of truth claims masked in an ethos of democratic eco-humanism that is as guilty of attempting to proclaim the end of history as neo-liberalism itself. The embedded nature of these claims makes them initially hard to penetrate; broader political participation, literacy, civility and wealth distribution all function in a sort of Hegelian determinism where humanity appears to be progressing towards ever-deeper understanding of civilization qua democratic eco-humanism. And yet this...

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