From disorder to a new order

How do we prepare for a new social order in conditions of disorder and anxiety? Thinking about this question is Mikko Heikka's latest contribution to the continuing Finnish debate about the future of the welfare state.

Heikka — a Lutheran Christian columnist writing for the news weekly Suomen Kuvalehti (21 June 2001) — thinks that we have arrived at a stage which encourages the creation of something new. We are living through times when new technology and new economy are destroying the old order. He writes that societies are in the process of re-creating themselves in a way which we can only dimly perceive.

We experience the loss of the old order as a frightening experience. The devastating effect of the disorder manifests itself in the fact that it forces people to rethink the basic structures of life. Especially the concepts of work and capital need to be re-evaluated. In the old secure world, a job was a fortress where people settled for a lifetime, Heikka writes.

"In the world of uncertainty, a job is like a camping site where people stop briefly. According to one calculation, in the wold of the future an employee changes jobs eleven times during her/his lifetime."

In the world of disorder, capital is no longer committed to employment or employee. Capital travels from one country to another. Its only commitment is to the consumer and even this lasts only as long as the consumer has purchase power.

During the industrial revolution, the poor paid the price. In the post-industrial world, insecurity and loss of trust crush all social classes.

"An esteemed and well-paid information worker does not know today where she/he will end up tomorrow. An executive director, who has based his/her life on share options may wake up to realise that the riches have disappeared as stock exchange values sink."

According to Heikka, one can bear the chaos only by finding trust amongst disorder. He thinks that the church has special responsibility in this search for trust because Christian faith does not emphasise security or order but the courage to display trust in the middle of disorder.

"Lately I have been observing with growing alarm the way the Finnish church clings to the old order. Quite correctly, the church emphasises the merits of the welfare state. In a legitimate way, the church defends the poor and cares for people in soup kitchens."

The problem, according to Heikka, is that simultaneously there is a new world emerging, and the church is not there to help it happen.

"Sometimes it seems that the leadership of the church is staying in the brake wagon of the train, together with other corporations which oversee the existing order. There they keep guard so that no one falls off the train. At the same time, they do not bother to move on to the engine where important choices of rails, routes and direction are being made."

Heikka concludes with a quotation from the Bible: "Faith is making real what is hope, seeing what is not seen."

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For more related articles go the Work and Society sections of the archive




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