Capitalist Dynamics and Western Values

Capitalist Dynamics and Western Values

The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism, by Daniel Bell. New York: Basic Books. 282 pp.

The first volume of Daniel Bell’s sociological diagnosis of our time—The Coming of Post-Industrial Society—was described as “a venture in social forecasting”: it concentrated on tendencies toward social transformation originating primarily in the economic-technological sphere, and saw the political system as facing corresponding tasks of adjustment. This second volume—The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism—is imbued with a sense of crisis that was absent from the first. The changes in the cultural sphere that form its main theme are seen as causing a loss of social cohesion rather than a constructive transformation of Western societies, and the political task of restoring the cohesion with a new “public philosophy” appears to depend on a new “Great Instauration,” a creative act of religious and cultural renewal that may or may not arrive and certainly cannot be brought about at will.

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