4.1 Culture as experienced

For the purposes of this introduction to the cultural changes that might be expected to accompany and therefore signal the transition from a predominantly capitalist society to a green social democratic one, authoritarian beliefs and behavior can serve as a marker. Authoritarian beliefs and behavior are certainly not the only cultural baggage of a hierarchical class society but the shedding of such beliefs and behavior would self-evidently be a marker of the transition to a green social democracy.

Authoritarian beliefs and behavior can begin quite innocently enough. As children we were often simply expected to behave. "Don't play with the matches!" "Stay away from the burner!" "Don't talk with strangers!" If we acted accordingly we probably survived to reach adulthood.

In school, we were probably successful if we accepted as truth whatever our teachers told us was true, particularly when the information was tagged with the warning that it would be on the test. If our physics teacher told us that F = ma and if we were able to replace two of the letters in this algebraic equation with the numerical values given us, it is probable that we got the right result often enough to pass the course.

At our first job, if we did as we were told, we probably stayed on for a while, and may have received our employer's recommendation for our next job. In most cases, we accepted the authority of our parents, teachers and employers. As parents, teachers and, either employees or employers ourselves, we have likely compared our actions to those of people we admire or at least accept as authorities and probably, more often than not - if we are honest with ourselves about this – we have imitated them, probably without much thought.

Knowing that we are professional researchers and teachers and supposing that we might prefer to apply research habits and standards to medical practice, our family doctor advised one of us that in treating a large number of patients within rationed amounts of time, he had to rely on his ability to memorize and recall solutions. There was simply insufficient time for careful, methodical research into each patient's situation.

There are occasions when safe, positive outcomes depend on such respect for authority. But when confronted with new, complex situations, exclusive reliance on our memory of the behavior and words of those we have come to accept as authorities may not take us out of peril. In such situations - and in real life these situations occur frequently enough - we need those human capacities that are sacrificed in a social environment that has stressed authority and obedience. We need the ability to take into account the objective facts of the situation, to apply scientific theory and appropriate ethical standards to fashion a solution or a course of action.

Application of scientific theory and appropriate ethical standards requires conceptual understanding and deep personal conviction, respectively. These are not acquired by memorization and imitation or in response to commands. Only when we understand a scientific theory and have reasoned conviction in an ethical standard are we likely to apply them in novel situations. Otherwise, more conventional concepts and standards - however necessary and helpful these have been in other circumstances – might in the new circumstance act as a barrier to successful problem-solving.

In the face of the scientific evidence of climate change and the environmental harm this is causing, to what do we ascribe the delay in taking essential, scientifically, technologically and economically feasible action to slow down, if not reverse, this potentially species-ending phenomenon? Has it been a lack of availability of sufficient scientific knowledge and technological know-how? Lack of appropriate ethical standards?

In addition to the inertia of for-profit industries wedded to the production of greenhouse gases, our contention is that a cultural wall exists between appropriate science and ethics on the one side and our operative understanding and convictions on the other. This wall is the cultural barrier constructed to rationalize conservative behavior even in the face of catastrophic levels of environmental degradation. Who has constructed this barrier? Certainly the self-interest of those profiting from the fossil fuel industry has played a part. But it is likely that responsibility for denial and delay is more widely shared. In any event, only the collective global "we" can take this cultural barrier down, in the process constructing a new culture, one that is more environmentally conservative.

Similar questions and responses could be advanced in relation to the aggressive expansion of income and wealth inequality in recent decades and the evidence of the resulting individual and societal harm this has caused. In this case, needed is a culture that is more socially communal.


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

Creative Commons License

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.