Post Event Summary
In a Bradley Lecture given on Tuesday at AEI, Walter Russell Mead delineated the shortcomings of the post-New Deal social model that Americans live by and suggested ways to think about reinventing it. According to Mead, the end of the blue social model of society is near. For much of the twentieth century, it served as a stable and heavily regulated economic system, with a few large companies controlling various sectors of the economy. Government heavily regulated these companies to ensure an adequate profit. There was very little competition, and most people had jobs for life. Educated and progressive administrators managed this social system of the past, and strived to replace politics in the economic system with objective social scientific standards. When people talked about progress, this is exactly what they had in mind.
The blue social system no longer seems to work, Mead argued. But people didn’t get tired of it or rebel against it. So what happened? First, the international economy underwent a revival. Second, a proletarian revolution occurred. Americans began to make decisions to counter the blue social model. And finally, people no longer deferred to authority. Whereas people used to do what the doctor said, the administrative elite can no longer maintain the belief that social science is objective.
Mead concluded his lecture by admitting that the alternative to the blue social model is far from clear. Nonetheless, there are ways to begin thinking about the problem. The blue model created a divide between production and consumption, which had previously been one and the same. The family enterprise (like a farm or a blacksmith) had no rigid divisions of leisure and work. In today’s arrangement, however, people are drawn outside of the family by other interests. Going forward, says Mead, Americans must consider how unnatural it is to separate these realms.
— Andrew Rugg
The core institutions, ideas and expectations that shaped American life for the 60 years after the New Deal don’t work anymore. The gaps between the social system we inhabit and the one we now need are becoming so wide that we can no longer paper over them. But even as the failures of the old system become more inescapable and more damaging, our national discourse remains stuck in a bygone age. The end is here, but we can’t quite take it in.
Video is not available for this event.
MICHAEL BARONE, AEI
WALTER RUSSELL MEAD, Bard College and The American Interest
Adjournment and Wine and Cheese Reception
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Michael Barone, a political analyst and journalist, studies politics, American government and campaigns and elections. The principal co-author of the annual “Almanac of American Politics” (National Journal Group), he has written many books on American politics and history. Barone is also a senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner.
Walter Russell Mead is the James Clark Chase Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College and editor-at-large of The American Interest. Until 2011, he was a Brady-Johnson Distinguished Fellow in Grand Strategy at Yale University, where he had taught in the Yale International Security Studies Program since 2008.From 1997 to 2010, Mr. Mead was a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, serving as the Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy from 2003 until his departure. Mr. Mead’s most recent book “God and Gold: Britain, America and the Making of the Modern World”(Alfred A. Knopf, 2007), is a major study of 400 years of conflict between Anglophone powers and rivals. Mr. Mead is also the author of the Via Meadia blog at theamericaninterest.com, where he writes regular essays on international affairs, religion, politics, culture, education, economics, technology, literature and the media. Mr. Mead’s writings are frequently linked to and discussed by major news outlets and websites and he also frequently appears on national and international radio as well as television programs.