Freedom, Equality and Humanity: Utopian Justice as Seen from Scandinavia

The latest work by ACRPS Researcher Morad Diani compares the aspirations of Tahrir Square to the "realist utopia" of Scandinavia
26 March, 2017

Attempts to achieve a theory or model or rationale which charts a "third way" or "golden mean" towards fairness are at least as old as the Manichean ethos. Freedom, Equality, Human Dignity: Utopian Justice from the Perspective of the Scandinavian Liberal Model by Moroccan scholar and ACRPS Researcher Morad Diani sheds light on one of the most prominent such models today. Specifically, he deals with the "Scandinavian Liberal model", which has shown relative success compared to other, uncompromising approaches, which have thus far failed to prove their sustainability.

Diani's work is a philosophical and socio-economic attempt to distill the true meaning of what John Rawls would have defined as a "Realistic Utopia", and how it might manifest economically, politically and socially. In particular, the book looks at the liberal-democratic, moderate values central to the Scandinavian model, which it takes as the standard against which to evaluate justice in the Arab context. Within the book, Diani offers that the widely shared slogan of the Arab Spring, "Bread, Freedom and Social Justice" was opaque, blurring the necessary distinctions between social justice and equality, the former, he contends, being much broader than the latter—and subsumes it. In contrast, Diani offers up "Bread, Freedom and Human Dignity" as a more satisfactory expression of the Rawlsian utopian ideal as well as of the ambitions of the Tahrir Square protestors during Egypt's January, 2011 revolution. The "Utopia of Tahrir Square", suggests the book, also raises a number of questions on the nature of the value pluralism in societies and the religious dimensions of a society.

Diani's work dissects and explains certain aspects of the Scandinavian model, focusing on those which do not pertain specifically to the far North as a means of evaluating the present-day state of utopian idealism amongst Arab social movements. In doing so, he holds up the Scandinavian liberal model as a standard which escapes the extremes of both free market capitalism and socialism, the unsuitability of both having been demonstrated repeatedly. Through this work, Diani illustrates how all utopias remain essentially unattainable, and that their main function remains the replacement of present reality. In other words, the most important feature of a utopia is not the creation of a satisfied society striving for perfection, but rather an attempt to escape reality.

Utopias, then, seek to shift reality in order to better envisage the transcendent. The author explains: "Only when we measure the utopian ideals of Tahrir Square against the reality of the Scandinavian model can we appreciate the vast chasm which exists between us and the sort of utopia which exists in Scandinavia. Today, we can only dream of the day when [Arab states] enact the same labor market reforms as seen in Denmark; the healthcare and education reforms of Sweden and Finland; not to mention the empowerment of women witnessed in Norway. We can only dream of the market liberalization and privatization which these countries undertook. We also will continue to long for the day when Arab citizens demand, willingly, a higher rate of taxation in order to bolster the social safety net.

Diani closes with a description of the aims of his book: "Just as the Scandinavian countries managed to create a vibrant culture in the 1930s, and to innovate a 'New We' suitable for the times while maintaining a link to the legacy of the past; just as Scandinavians built a 'realistic utopia' and a new home for the people, so too can the realistic utopia of Tahrir Square, contained in the slogan 'Bread, Freedom and Human Dignity' express the hope of the long-awaited Arab future."

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