‘For the West, East Asia’s growing success poses a challenge, just as Europe’s expansion in the 16th and 17th centuries posed a challenge to China.’ (Financial Times, 30 June 1988, p. 14) ‘The type and model of growth which have sustained the development of the Western economies have been profoundly challenged since the early 1970s, both because the limits and drawbacks of the model itself have been realised and because economic activities have been redistributed among the continents and countries.’ (Chaigneau 1981, p. 201) Quotations like these may unduly dramatise the turn of events in the past two decades, but they are indicative of a perception which has become widespread in the industrialised countries of Europe and North America. The challenges referred to imply that responses are called for. And we have reasons to suspect that such responses might bring about societies with more poverty and less quality of life for many of their members, even though these societies will be at least as prosperous as they were in the 1970s. We have reasons to suspect that the Western industrial (or for that matter ‘post-industrial’) societies might see themselves unable to provide for the material well-being of every citizen with the same effectiveness as they used to. Abstractly spoken, social and non-economic objectives in general might be sacrificed to the overriding priority of efficient production for highly contested markets.
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