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This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Neo-liberalism hardens


Tuesday I quoted from a 2009 pamphlet about the continuing strength of neo-liberalism in British ruling circles and suggested that the authors needed to do a bit more work on how this insidious virus might be defeated. Coincidentally one of the authors – Gerry Hassan – has returned to the theme. He reveals the details of a very interesting recent conference which brought business leaders together with key members of the Cabinet to look at priorities for government. Its summary of recommendations has been given to the Cabinet and makes for fascinating reading. The tenor of the discussions is rather frightening – with the target very much being those on low incomes and, as Hassan says, no signs of humility about the role of the private sector in creating the crisis which confronts the world! His article also puts the scale of the British public spending cuts in perspective - several times greater than the radical cuts of the Swedes and canadians some years back (which are apprently serving as models)For the meat of the argument see -
http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/gerry-hassan/coming-british-revolution
Apart from Hassan’s piece, the conference seems to have gone unnoticed So all credit to him for giving it the profile it warrants – but I’m still waiting for some more coherent prescriptions from him about an alternative path. Another article on The Open Democracy site offers, however, a useful framework for such a discussion. It suggests that the critiques of neo-liberalism can perhaps be divided into 4 schools - left communitarianism, left republicanism, centre republicanism and right communitarianism. For the details see -
http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/stuart-white/where-does-coalition-stand-on-new-ideological-map
The article drew my attention to another 2009 pamphlet one of whose authors is now an adviser to the Lib-Dem Deputy Prime Minister and which is apparently now required reading amongst British civil servants.
http://www.demos.co.uk/publications/theliberalrepublic
A quick skim leaves me deeply dissatisfied – it’s more a clever undergraduate essay than a serious political pamphlet and gives me the feeling that we are now seeing a new generation of think-tankers take over in England who will inflict the same clever nonsense on the dumb politicians which people such as Geoff Mulgan and Peri 6 did 15 years or so ago. That’s a bit too simplistic - I enjoyed their writing – but it did lead, for example, to the rather arrogant strategy papers of the UK Cabinet Unit after 1997 (when Mulgan was the Head) which carried the assumption that the world was a new place with no lessons to be learned from the past – and certainly nothing good about it. Although China and Britain are very similar in their neo-liberalism, they are poles apart on the issue of tradition and novelty and how new policies are to be justified. In China you have to fight for the new – in Britain “new” is elevated to a religious value. After “New Labour”, quickly came “New politics”. What next? “New man”?
Having said that, I do need to get up to speed with these new people. I have just ordered the book by one of the more intriguing of the new breed – Phillip Blond – whose Red Tory has brought praise from even Jon Cruddas the Labour MP considered to be the leader of the left in parliament. A review of the book gives an indiaction of the challenge it represents!
http://www.opendemocracy.net/michael-merrick/red-tory-liberalism-and-loss-of-liberty

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