where soft powers prevail in handling the rigidity of society
In the context of the paradigm of the welfare state, government has trust in societal regulation, social forces, markets to deal with major issues, with the help of technology. Governments seek the well-being of their citizens by means of macro-economic performance and state-wide redistribution process as opposed to local redistribution processes.
The model of the ‘Nordic type’ regulation policies is generalised at the European level. Governments play the role of strategists, in a new form of Saint-Simonianism (positivist trust in science, industry and markets to change society). This context is the most favourable to an efficient technoscientific model, top-down approach. Governments rely on long time existing intermediary bodies – trade unions, strong public sector – to steer social and economic development and are not particularly favouring the emergence of new forms of collective organisations. A libertarian paternalistic government provides for an effective choice architecture for people and businesses to take more coherent decisions; it is about nudging people without taking out their capacity to decide by themselves.
European society has shifted from competitive to more collaborative values. Though there are frictions between growth and well-being, the classical growth paradigm still exists in a clearly market-oriented economy where creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship are the main features.
A certain degree of wealth assures the sustainability of this approach. The rise of entrepreneurs implies a slight decline of national sovereignty. The emphasis is on creativity, flexibility and mobility. Government policies actively promote the emergence of disruptive innovations that can drive transformative change, while constraining the power of incumbents and limiting monopoly power. The result is a highly competitive market characterised by diverse platforms. The current trends of economic integration are extended, with greatly increased international integration. European economic and political integration is deepened. Countries navigate economic and trade conflicts through alliances, while corruption and tax havens are eradicated. Regional integration allows trading partners to negotiate desired trade relations more specific to national economic needs and minimize trade-offs. By financing parts of the government and basic public services, such as waste management or digital infrastructure, enterprises exert some degree of political leverage. Efficient production and consumption leads to a higher interlinkage within industrial ecosystem, enabling circularity. Privately issued currencies are increasingly used by the European public, which in turn, makes EU governments actively promote the creation of alternatives.
A complex society has gradually lost a sense of community and the interest in participating to the public discourse is waning. Individuals are very self-confident and rely on their own value compass in life. The state is strong enough to not be dependent but soft enough to leave freedom to individual decisions.
The performance principle prevails, where the individual is responsible for establishing their own place in society, and everybody is treated equally. Agency for all citizens is carried out through individual participation in the economy, clubs or family. That means everybody fights for the rights of their own areas of interest and power, which sums up to a functioning society based on many individual performances. Progress is accepted but in connection with traditional values. These traditional values lead to a feeling of community and collectivist identity. People strive towards power and status because society rates traditional values and norms. Politics allow room for individual focus and strengths.
The detachment between the individual and the commnunity is met by a style of governance that aims to achieve its policy goals by incentivizing individual and corporate actions, in order to counterbalance the deficiency in society’s interest. A new law gives power to stakeholders to participate to the drafting of legislative proposals in restricted cabinet meetings; however, the discussions occurring in these meetings are monitored and steered by elected officials. This manner of legislating gives back a certain accountability and some form of solidarity to the stakeholders. Given the rather individualistic type of society, the legislator, while allowing this dialogue between the stakeholders, tends to retain control of the final direction of the negotiations, also by putting in place processes through which the objectives are set and pursued. Seeking recourse in the courts is discouraged by burdening the judicial system with administrative requirements and bureaucratic obstacles, thus lengthening the duration of proceedings. On average, only cases following an established precedent will be litigated, as the parties are more certain about the outcome and more likely to take the risk of lengthy proceedings. Judges will then in most cases adopt a formalistic approach in adjudication, avoiding having to effectively legislate when confronted with hard, unprecedented, cases. The harshness of social fabric is softened by a legislative and regulatory system with clear, common goals in mind (including sustainability, urban landscape and liveability, technology) although these are a nudge, rather one-sided and forced upon society.
Technologies are widely used for the sake of efficiency and providing equal opportunities for the whole society rather than social inclusion.
For instance, automation brings more convenience and safety while it may induce the risk of losing deliberative skills and moral reasoning, which are fundamental for social progress. Policies are also pushing for cost efficiency and productivity of services such as transport of people and goods rather than making them more tailored to the human needs and values.
There is gradual adaptation to Climate Change. Despite the risk of environmental exploitation, we restore small towns and cities in the countryside and traditional landscapes; and reintroduce nature in larger metropolises as well. Self-sufficiency becomes a goal, not at national or regional scale but for each house or factory. Renaturalisation projects are implemented at all scales, from individual buildings, with e.g. green roofs or vertical vegetation, to entire neighbourhoods that e.g. recover rivers from channels. The sustainable balance between individual freedom and environmental recovery is achieved by a more efficient, simpler government, able to implement more sensitive policies, managing emotions and influencing behaviours. People know that their health and wellbeing very much depend on the quality of the environment they live in. Business see externalities and negative environmental impacts as a signal of inefficiency and lack of competitiveness. Environmental taxation, and subsidies to social and environmentally friendly activities are effective incentives towards more equity and sustainability.
Mobility is needed to sustain social links, social organisations as well as a foundation on which producing economic wealth to be redistributed.
Transport policies improve social welfare and reduce the gap between groups and territories in income-levels at the same time, assuring good enough access to services of general interest, and good environment, everywhere. Instead of centralised management systems, and strict regulations, more distributed systems are developed for mobility and energy, inducing changes in people’s behaviour. Transport solutions receive little public investment and are liberalised, so large companies fill the gap by providing widely accessible, high-quality and affordable transport services enabled by AI and robots, such as driverless cars. Active mobility and walking also play their part.
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