In 1944, the International Labour Organization laid out its “Declaration of Philadelphia,” a full-fledged social bill of rights in the same spirit as FDR’s State of the Union address of the same year. The welfarist spirit was then at its apex—but Supiot argues that with neoliberalism still rampant, even following the economic crash, the Declaration remains an important baseline. Then as now, social ties had been compromised in favor of market values; now, as then, the law must be reorganized to uphold social values and the spirit of solidarity.
Short, punchy and often rousing, The Spirit of Philadelphia describes the worldwide triumph of neoliberalism as once-communist elites turn towards market dogma and the privatization of welfare states. Arguing against the return to social Darwinism, and the bureaucratic embrace of numbers and statistics as ends, Supiot champions the social democratic spirit, hoping for its revival in the wake of the recent crash.
“France’s most incisive jurist, Alain Supiot … [whose work] has renewed the idea that all significant belief-systems require a dogmatic foundation by focusing its beam sharply, to the discomfort of their devotees, on the two most cherished creeds of our time: the cults of the free markets and of human rights.”—Perry Anderson, London Review of Books
“As a tonic in a grim time, Alain Supiot’s The Spirit of Philadelphia recalls the now forgotten wartime apex of commitment to welfarist solidarity. If that mid-twentieth-century commitment now seems a distant memory, Supiot offers both intellectual and practical reasons to cherish its flame and light it again, after a return to the very economic beliefs about the powers of the untrammeled free market that were once repudiated—and could be again.”—Samuel Moyn, Professor of History at Columbia University and author of The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History