The title begins ambiguously. Literally, it says “Class Responsibility – setting the (railway) tracks/points for a strong middle class.” The beginning can also be read as saying what a great thing responsibility is.
Although it seems to cover very disparate subjects, the book does have a thematic unity with a number of leitmotifs, which are not immediately obvious. For example, one is an attack on spurious precision, i.e. the attempt to measure things that can only be estimated inexactly.
The book is addressed to a German readership and seeks to alter the current and especially the German way of thinking about its various subjects. Hence it would not make sense to translate the book. This would also be difficult since there are many plays on words and allusions that do not translate.
Parts of the book are highly polemical but others very analytic. By querying and sometimes satirizing German received wisdoms it is also meant to show readers how to think for themselves. Some of the solutions presented are offered as examples of what solutions might look like. Hence a core message is that it is possible to invent solutions and it is only inertia which prevents them being seized.
The book proper opens with a diatribe against existing structures and mores.
The first part main part deals with ethics in various guises, challenging or turning on their head conventional approaches: “Ethics as a martial art”; “To everything there is a season” (i.e. timing is everything); an extended and definitive treatment of ethics; “Manifesto against moral platitudes”; “Not all that glitters is golden”; “Ultimate foundations in ethics”. A key message, on the book cover, is that no-one is responsible for everything, but everyone is responsible for something.
The second main part deals with: the way ideologies infect economic thinking; the nature of freedom; ethics as an art and the presumptuousness of the academic world; the failure of Corporate Social Responsibility; a model CSR declaration; revaluation of the entrepreneurial class; managing managers; introducing moral liability to corporations; random selection instead of quotas; the professional class; performance specification with a difference; seeking reform through fiscal measures; reversing value added tax; wealth tax with reimbursement; funding without advertising; stealing away from the euro crisis (with a feminist slant); basic income for culture.
The third part deals analytically with fuzzy democracy (see www.fuzzydemocracy.eu)
The book ends with a polemic for a change in direction and with an afterword, which spells out the vision of a deep democracy that the book was intended to convey between the lines.
The book is a good read, in elegant stimulating contemporary German without the condescension or pretentiousness that have long been hallmarks of German style. It was written by an Englishman as a parting gift to Germany.