2015 | 504 Pages | ISBN: 0199348650 | PDF | 12 MB
Given the complexity of human societies, the idea that a society's moral norms track the stages of its historical development is both controversial and difficult to demonstrate. Yet in The New Morality, Edward Rubin, an eminent scholar of the modern state, offers an ambitious account of how current moral norms are inherently connected to the type of state that currently dominates the developed world. He contends that the moral system of 'self-fulfillment'—the idea that people are entitled to the most pleasurable and meaningful life possible, without unnecessary constraints—that has emerged in the last two centuries parallels the rise of the modern administrate state. The modern state's functions—education, unemployment relief, health, and environmental protection, among others—are designed to support that moral system. However, just as the rise of the administrative state generated tensions as it replaced an older state model, self-fulfillment has created stresses because it has gradually supplanted the pre-existing moral code: the religiously based morality of higher purposes, which demanded that people serve God and king. This moral system tracked the rise of centralizing monarchies in Western Europe, and that system in turn replaced a morality of 'honor,' which dominated in the pre-absolutist era where governmental power was private in orientation and the state was weak. Rubin traces how paired state-moral system models have emerged and withered over time, paying close attention to the stresses that emerge when a new order replaces an existing one. He provides a close analysis of the components of the morality of self-fulfillment, exploring sex, pleasure, friendship, hobbies, careers, voting behavior and public obligations. Our entire system of government, he argues, is bound up in this morality, and its primary purpose is to further it. A sweeping, big-idea book in the vein of Richard Sennett's The Fall of Public Man and David Riesman's The Lonely Crowd, The New Morality promises to reshape our understanding of the ultimate aims of modern politics and society.