Irving Wladawsky-Berger takes as his starting point The Age of Decadence by Ross Douthat in which it is argued that "the real story of the West in the 21st century is one of stalemate and stagnation." There's an argument to be made, to be sure, when compared with the era that brought us flight, freeways and the atomic bomb. In response, Wladawsky-Berger references some well-worn arguments pointing to continued environmental and economic progress. The argument is that progress is gradual and incremental, and hence, not noticed. I have an alternative view. In the past, innovation led to progress only after sweeping social change; it took the development of institutions like democracy and labour unionism to transform innovation into prosperity for all. Similarly, while technological progress has not slowed over the last half-century, we haven't seen the impact of it because we haven't developed the necessary social institutions. The problem isn't that society is decadent, the problem is that society is unjust.
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