The status quo is an existing or pre-existing position; to restore the status quo means to return to the original state of affairs, particularly social or political issues. In economics and politics, the concept of the status quo is a tendency to resist change, explained by the fact that risks are more significant than the possible benefits of development. Therefore, it is essential to analyze the topic from two opposite sides: defenders and critics of the status quo.
Economics is the first point of disagreement between the defenders and critics of the status quo. The adherents of this concept claim that managing risk is more reliable than taking advantage of opportunities. In their opinion, in a situation of choice, a person is affected by loss aversion, combined with the ambiguity effect (Martin, 2017). According to the loss aversion theory, it is more natural for people to accept that they will not receive some money than they will lose them (Martin, 2017). People meet economic reforms with apprehension; as a result, they may be ineffective. Thus, people want to maintain the status quo, being sensitive to alterations.
However, critics argue that this concern makes it possible to miss trends that could affect future progress. Marx and Engels (1848) explored ideology as the principal instrument of the ruling elite. Any ideology is focused on preserving the existing status quo, prioritizing only that which corresponds to the directives of the rulers (“Karl Marx,” n.d.). Modern technology makes it possible to take a look at entire industries that previously seemed unshakable. Many sectors of the economy can change dramatically in the next five to ten years; the future investment demand is also high.
The second point of disagreement is in politics; the internal and external status quo is maintained by politicians, bureaucrats, and beneficiaries of economic profits. These segments of the population defend the established order of things and resist change. Federalists are considered supporters of the status quo (“Federalist Papers,” n.d.). For example, in developing countries with constant political upheavals, the socio-political events affect people’s attitudes to change: they are exhausted by shocks (Alesina & Passarelli, 2019). State policy aimed at preserving the status quo ensures political stability, and relieves the population of constant social upheavals (Alesina & Passarelli, 2019). People do not like loss and understand the intricacies of the proposed alternatives. Therefore, whenever possible, people prefer to support the status quo.
Critics argue that the dependent, vulnerable person is subject to government propaganda and justifies the existing system. In case this approach is adopted, it is unlikely that the growing inequality in society will become the driving mechanism for positive changes. Billions of people live on a dollar a day, and about three billion live on two or three dollars a day (Fiedman, 2002). According to Friedman (2002, p.13), “There is enormous inertia-a tyranny of the status quo-in private and especially governmental arrangements. Only a crisis-actual or perceived-produces real change.” Thus, the status quo is an obstacle to society’s development.
The third point of disagreement concerns the perspective of people’s abilities and the income gap. Income inequality in the United States is more significant than in other Western countries. At the same time, tax cuts were made in the interests of only the wealthiest people in the country, which only exacerbated this inequality. Defenders of the status quo may argue that the United States was conceived as a land of opportunity, where everyone can fulfill their American dream if they wish (Friedman, 2002). Opponents of the status quo see this situation as threatening for the directly affected vulnerable parts, the middle class, and the entire American society. Friedman (2002, p. 13) argues that it is crucial “to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.” Overall, the current poverty level leads to a property gap and inequality in education systems, which are necessary for the formation of human capital.
James Baldwin and William F. Buckley
Regarding current circumstances, the debates between James Baldwin and William F. Buckley become applicable. The dispute occurred in 1965 at Cambridge University. The main question was whether the American Dream had been achieved at the expense of the American Negro (Buccola, 2021). The opinions were polarized; on the one hand, a person who grew up in poverty in Harlem; on the other, the man who grew up with the privileges of wealth. For instance, Buckley’s defense of the American dream used the aged vestiges rooted in the status quo maintenance in the nation’s institutions (Buccola, 2021). On the contrary, Baldwin argued that the status quo of the social structure, in other words, the correlation of white freedom and black enslavement, assumes that established social disposition aimed at preserving white identity (Buccola, 2021). However, the fundamental difference was more profound; the point of the debates is an understanding of the needs of those different from others, accompanied by a lack of such knowledge.
Overall, the status quo is a debatable topic as a significant number of those support the idea of maintaining the existing condition and critics perceive it as an obstacle to further development. Thus, the defenders argue that the outcome of any changes may be too risky. At the same time, critics recognize that change may ultimately occur, with an opportunity to reach a better solution in politics and economics.
Alesina, A., & Passarelli, F. (2019). Loss aversion in politics. American Journal of Political Science, 63(4), 936-947.
Buccola, B. (2021). The fire is upon us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr., and the debate over race in America. Princeton University Press.
Federalist papers: Primary documents in American history. (n.d.). Library of Congress.
Friedman, M. (2002). Capitalism and freedom. University of Chicago Press.
Karl Marx. (n.d.). The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Martin, B. H. (2017). Unsticking the status quo: Strategic framing effects on managerial mindset, status quo bias and systematic resistance to change. Management Research Review, 40(2), 122-141.
Marx, K., & Engels, F. (1848). Manifesto of the Communist party. Marx/Engels Selected Works.