2.6 Dialectical approach to social policy for a green social democracy

We now turn to a manner of thinking that can best be judged by its efficacy rather than its veracity.

Social change can be envisioned in a variety of ways, ranging from changes that are gradual to those that are abrupt, from continuous to discontinuous. We argue in this work for a conception of social change that includes recognition of both continuity and discontinuity (for example, reform and revolution, change in degree and transformation). The achievement of a green social democracy, as we understand it, equates to a discontinuity in each of the subsystems of the current capitalist social system. The discontinuities are the characteristics that distinguish the two systems (just imagine in the analogous case of the physical sciences the differences between a gas and a solid, including the laws that describe their motion). But the path from one social system to the next, like all paths, is a continuous one, perhaps with some abrupt turns, but nevertheless a continuous one (think analogously of temperature changes in the transition between gas and solid states). In social science, this vision of continuity corresponds to cultural change, including changes in how we think about the world and our place in it, and technological change, including changes in the manner in which we organize ourselves as well as changes we make in the physical tools we use.

The typical mistake of fundamentalist thinking is to turn a dialectical method of analysis (thinking about ideas and reality in terms of the interaction and unity of polar opposites) into an either/or approach to social change. In contrast, the setting out deliberately to change location, say from a position closer to one pole to another closer to its opposite pole, is necessarily accomplished in practice by finding a connecting path. This path may involve some leaps and jumps, but constitutes a path nonetheless.

Making the path to a new system even more challenging is the reality that the new system is unprecedented; there is no previously established path; the path must be found by trial and occasional error. Perhaps that is why fundamentalists aver the search for transition paths, preferring moral certainty to the risk of their status as moral authorities?

In any event, we argue that in seeking a transition from the present, capitalist, system our policy choices should not be restricted to either/or. We are not obliged to choose, for example, between private and public ownership nor between competition and cooperation, only that in the transition to a green social democracy an emphasis on public ownership and cooperation will be necessary to build up the counter culture to the social Darwinist justification ("survival of the fittest") for the ruthless, inhumane behavior at the heart of capitalism. The transition to an efficient, free, just, democratic and environmentally sustainable human society may combine elements of private, public, competitive and cooperative endeavor, including, for example, competition to find the best ways to achieve green social democratic outcomes such as healthy people living in a healthy environment. The same applies to the other dichotomous variables addressed below in the brief elaboration of this argument.

It appears from reflection on the historical examples that the transition to the next system is hampered by the view that the most serious social issues (such as social stability, immigration policy, wealth distribution, language policy, human impact on the environment, efficiency and accountability of our institutions) be resolved by either/or policies (globalization or localization, cooperation or competition, private or public, homogenization or diversity, appropriation or conservation, validity or reliability, centralization or decentralization, for example). At least during the transition to a green social democracy, each of these poles represents real human needs, some created by the dying social system, some by the need for its successor. Our thesis, therefore is:

Thesis 4: Social policy determination on a wide range of social policy issues can achieve optimal solutions in the form of temporal reconciliation of opposing human needs through democratic decision making.

Problem-solving on many of the contentious issues of our time involves choice along a spectrum of opposing processes. Choice along a spectrum responds to a reality in which the opposing tendencies are each viable during the process of change and essential characteristics of human beings and human society in process of transition to a new form of societal economic organization and culture. Solutions in this transition can only be temporary. Each solution is a balance between conflicting concerns, an elected temporary reconciliation of conflicting needs. Democracy is then understood as essential to problem solving. Authoritarianism is then understood as a barrier to problem solving, a cause of social dysfunction and even of societal paralysis and collapse.


This website was launched September 1, 2010 in support of a green social democratic alternative to neoliberal capitalist policy and practice. The primary result is a work by Charles and Karen McFadden of seven chapters, grouped under the title, Towards a Green Social Democratic Alternative to Capitalism available here in pdf and html formats.

Below under the heading What’s New can be found the most recent materials posted on this website, including opinion pieces, book reviews, articles and selections from the 2017 edition of the main work.  For the interest of new and returning visitors, new materials will be included quarterly.

What's New


Authors' Preface

1.6 The epochal nature of the period we are entering

6.0 The socialism we need against the "socialism" of the 20th century

6.8 Additional concerns about 20th century variants of "socialism"

6.9 The people united!

7.1 Policy alternatives and political movements to advance them


Charles and Karen McFadden, Is revolutionary transformation on the agenda

Charles and Karen McFaddenHumanity on the Brink

Charles and Karen McFaddenMovements of Resistance to Movements for System Change

Charles McFaddenTranslating Green Principles into Education Policy and Practice

Charles and Karen McFadden, The Role of Revolutionaries in the Labor Movement


Charles and Karen McFadden, “The Shape of Water” as an Antidote to the Age of Trump 

Charles McFadden, Decolonizing the U.S. & Canada: The People United for a More Just Sustainable Future

Karen and Charles McFaddenCan emergent early 21st century neo-fascism be defeated without coming to grips with late 20th century restructuring of capitalism into a global system

Karen and Charles McFaddenA Dominant Capitalism or a Sustainable Environment? Why we can't have both.


William I. RobinsonThe Crisis of Global Capitalism and Trump's March to War

William I. RobinsonTrumpism, 21st Century Fascism, and the Dictatorship of the Transnational Capitalist Class


George HewisonWINNIPEG 1919 & THE COLD WAR

George HewisonArt Manuel - "Unsettling Canada

George HewisonThe NDP and LEAP


Albert Einstein, David Swanson, Jill Stein, Chris Hedges, William I. Robinson, and others Selected articles for Winter 2018



1.7 The dynamics of capitalism as a system and the limits of single issue reforms

2.11 The economy in transition towards a new deal for labor and the community

3.1 The challenge of a moribund economic system

3.7 Public banking: A cornerstone of a green social democracy

4.7 Economics and culture

6.5 Using the non-market economy as an opportunity to begin moving beyond capitalism


1.6 The epochal nature of the period we are entering

2.0 Theoretical Perspective: Defining Green Social Democracy

2.5. Socialism and green social democracy in historical materialist theory

4.3 Culture in historical perspective

5.1 Contrasting a green social democratic world with the currently prevailing, but challenged neo-liberal one

6.2 Socialism and capitalism as coexisting social systems


2.11 The economy in transition towards a new deal for labor and the community

5.7 Defeating neo-liberal capitalism: The role of social movements

7.3 Justice: Creating a just society, based on the right of all to a dignified, secure existence

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Creative Commons License: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) applies to all work posted on this website except that which appears with authors whose last name is other than McFadden, in which case standard copyright should be assumed to apply.