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Wolfgang Merkel on Moralizing and Morality

“Society endangers itself when it gives up the pursuit of pluralism,” our Senior Research Fellow Wolfgang Merkel writes in his op-ed published in Der Tagesspiegel.

“It is above all social conflicts that shape politics and its debates,” he argues, adding that after the transitions in 1989, the conflict structured changed in the West, and “a new, culturally accentuated line of conflict emerged.”

“Political competition has become two-dimensional in Europe and North America. At one pole of the cultural line of conflict are the new academic middle classes, endowed with high levels of human and social capital. They live urban, are economically privileged, follow a cosmopolitan worldview,” while the “communitarians are gathering at the other pole of the conflict axis. They have a lower formal level of education, advocate a strong nation-state from which they expect strict migration control, social protection and financial support. Gender-appropriate language is not important to them, economy takes precedence over ecology. They tend to be more authoritarian than libertarian. They are among the less fortunate in our society. Some find their political home with right-wing populists, others with left-wing traditionalists,” he writes.

“The three previous major crises in Western democratic societies have considerable economic and social consequences, but are not primarily rooted in the economic sphere. Rather, the migration, climate and corona crisis are shaped by the interlocking of science and morality,” he continues, pointing out that “morality moralized scientific positions.”

“We must end the moralization of science and politics and replace it with a morality of critical self-reflection and understanding. We should realize that science cannot replace politics. (…) Democracy takes time, tolerance and dissidence. If we understand this, polarization and its friends will have a hard time,” he concludes.

Read the full article (in German) here.

Photo: David Ausserhofer/WZB
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