Social Capital and Neo-Liberal Voluntarism

Alex Law and Gerry Mooney

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As with ‘the civic culture’ then so, perhaps, with Third Way ‘social capital’ today. Social capitalists as mangers of dissent and protest remain concerned to moderate and divert voluntary but oppositional movements from below. Such was the case in 2005 with the celebritisation of the anti-G8 campaign by Make Poverty History and G8 Live. While such mass voluntarism brings people together for consensual dialogue to redress the injustice of world poverty, it diverted conflict away from the established forces of legitimate authority. In contrast, recalcitrant voluntarism exposes the conflict of structured interests at stake. Since the enshrined rights of structural interests, including capital and state, are being challenged, recalcitrant voluntarism necessarily is or becomes politically contentious.23 Recalcitrant voluntarism is unavoidably adversarial, unpleasant and polarising. It comes to recognise the division of society and state into unequal, competing interests. In contrast, conformist voluntarism demands bloodless struggles over a de-politicised, moral high ground of private preference choices, say of selfless compassion over self-centred amenity, rather than democratic matters of struggle.

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