Kondratieff – Ethos – Economics

Author: Mączyńska, Elżbieta
Almanac: Kondratieff waves:Cycles, Crises, and Forecasts

As the world's history shows, almost every major breakthrough or deep eco-nomic, technological, political, or systemic transformation increases the risk of unraveling the system of social values and poses the threat of anomy – a no-tion that literally means the absence of law and whose Greek origin points to its destructive nature (a = ‘without’, nomos = ‘law’). However, anomy is not equivalent to lawlessness; as the ancient thinkers cautioned, ‘in a state where corruption abounds, laws must be very numerous’. Anomy implies contradictions, disorganization, disintegration, chaos, and inconsistence in the system of social values, or in the edifice of norms and rules governing social and economic life in its different forms. Society in a state of anomy may generate either insufficient or excessive laws and regulations, making people prone to violate them. Breakthroughs facilitate anomy by weakening the incumbent, traditional system of values and its constituent elements. The old norms and rules gradually cease to be respected, and become practically (but not necessarily formally) invalid, while new ones have not evolved yet. Under the circumstances, neither the old nor the new norms effectively fulfill their role as principles of prioritization, evaluation, and assessment. This gives rise to a situation of confusion in which one cannot be sure what behaviors in interpersonal and economic relations are appropriate and what are inappropriate; what is good and what is wrong; what is desirab- le and what is objectionable; what is decent and what is not.