4.3 Culture in historical perspective

Generalizing from Eric Hobsbawm's work:

- Feudal pre-capitalist society is characterized by a more authoritarian culture (hereditary authority including Church and feudal lord), primacy of husbands over wives, parents over children and associated culture.

- Capitalist society is characterized by a transitional culture between authoritarian and democratic. Political systems can include limited electoral democracy. The nuclear family of pre-capitalist society is in capitalist society in transition to a family with greater gender equality and associated culture. This corresponds to a transition from a predominantly agricultural economy to a predominantly non-agricultural one, with associated cultural Readers interested in a detailed account of the parallel development of culture and capitalism will find this in Eric Hobsbawm (Abacus Press/Little, Brown, 1962) The Age of Revolution: 1789-1848, (Abacus Press, 1975) The Age of Capital: 1848-1875, (Abacus Press, 1987) The Age of Empire: 1875-1914, and (Abacus Press, 1994) The Age of Extremes: 1914-1991.)

In chapter two, our theoretical perspective, Defining Green Social Democracy, we identified a series of dichotomous social policy variables that were most frequently represented in the twentieth century as choices. In that essay we argued, instead, that social policy determination on these issues can achieve optimal solutions in the form of temporal reconciliation of the opposing human needs through democratic decision making, that in these cases, either/or choices do not present optimal solutions. Included were competition versus cooperation, centralization versus decentralization, globalization versus localization, homogenization versus diversity, appropriation versus conservation and validity versus reliability. This theoretical perspective was then applied in our economic perspective, Addressing the Ravages of Capitalism, as an alternative to the prevailing neo-liberal policy and practice.

With respect to culture, matters stand differently. The choices are moral ones and should, we believe, be contested in that sphere. One pole in each of several polar opposites represents green social democratic choices for culture. Our argument here is that we cannot achieve too much of one pole, nor too little of the other. Of the many dichotomous variables that might apply to culture, we here single out just six for extensive discussion: democracy versus autocracy, conservation versus wastefulness, science versus irrationality, imagination versus dogmatism, human solidarity versus exclusivity and education versus ignorance.

That is, we single out democracy, conservation, science, imagination, solidarity and education as essential elements of a green social democratic culture, in no particular order. These are each essential in their own right and essential to each other.

Historically, in relation to feudalism, capitalism paved the way for each of these elements to develop, but limits their development. The formal achievement of a green social democracy corresponds to the removal of legal impediments to their unlimited development, including removal of the legal right to use economic power to influence decision-making, removal of the right of unrestricted use of property, removal of the legal right to substitute religious education for scientific education, removal of laws restricting freedom of thought and expression, removal of laws that create barriers to cooperation, and removal of legal obstacles to educational access at any level.

Achieving a society in which these six elements are characteristic will necessarily be a process, not an event. It includes making these the distinguishing characteristics of green social democrats. That is, as Tolstoy claimed to be true of all desired changes in human behavior, this change begins with ourselves. Such self-development occurs in the process of our engagement in making these the cultural practices of the society we participate in constructing. Cultural changes take place in the process of the struggle.


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.