The sleep of reason produces monsters: on the subject of civic demands and capacities today (May 2017)

Civil Society in a broad sense
Civil Society in a narrow sense

In this paper I explore a number of cultural factors related to the difficulties Western societies are having in responding to the current (global and deep) crisis. I suggest that one of the keys to the present difficulty has been the spread of an interpretive framework focused on the leading sectors of society, which are the center of debate in public space. This framework is articulated around a contrast between elites and counter-elites, an establishment and an anti-establishment, with their corresponding economic, social and cultural milieus. Both share an antagonistic political culture, which has had a profound effect in obfuscating and distorting public debate, and substantially reduced the strategic capacity of society as a whole to solve the problems of the crisis, including, first of all, the problem of the continuous re-creation of the political community itself.

I point out the possibility of developing a different interpretive framework, centered on a conceptualization of the public space as a place for a conversation (deliberation, experimentation), based on the commitment of a sufficiently reasonable and basically reconciled society –whose main agent could be a critical mass of the public, of ordinary citizens– and one that operates in a relational and reflexive context. Ultimately, I suggest that this depends in turn on the development of the core of a tradition of common sense and moral sense, which, in different modalities and with different cultural languages, may exist to one degree or another in the society in question.


This paper is the English version of "El sueño de la razón produce monstruos. A propósito del tema de las demandas y capacidades cívicas de hoy”, Información Comercial Española, 2016, 891: