what you get here

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!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

A Problem of Identity

A recent post criticised “political labelling” but ducked the perfectly legitimate question of the descriptor someone with my set of values and commitments might find more acceptable. 
I object to being called a “leftist” simply because, the label carries the connotation that I favour state power - and I am a firm believer that “power corrupts” and always needs an institutional challenge and balance….“The Open Society and its Enemies” was in the early 1960s one of the key books which influenced me….
So, in my book, central state power needs to be balanced with citizen power - properly served by five other systems –
- strong parliaments;
- strong municipalities;
- diversely independent media;
- independent judicial systems; and
- real structures of accountability.

Parse most European systems and it’s only the northern ones which come through positively from any ratings….the British one certainly doesn’t fare well….

And excesses of economic power should be dealt with not only by appropriate structures of anti-monopoly legislation but by the encouragement (via laws and funding) of cooperatives and worker participation. 

Balance” is the key…and that is achieved by state actions which draw from what we might call the “Acton” toolkit (in honour of the English Lord’s quip about “absolute power corrupting absolutely”).
England is perhaps unfairly termed “perfidious” since the “balance of power” principle it pursued for so long served Europe well…..and is one which deserves more honour as a serving ideology for our times…..That’s why I was so taken with Henry Mintzberg when, in 2000, he started to use the term “rebalancing society”. I have always admired the German system.....

My father was, in the 1950s, part of a group of local dignitaries who used the label “moderate” or "progressive" when they fought in the municipal elections – neither left nor right….interestingly they faced not only Conservatives and Labour but an increasingly vociferous groups of liberals…….If “Progress” had not got such a bad name recently, I might be tempted to use the term “progressive” of myself….. 

I am an “agnostic” in matters of religion and “sceptic” vis-à-vis anything which passes for conventional wisdom or arouses new enthusiasms (hence my distrust of the “identity politics” of the past few decades) – but these terms don’t do justice to the values I hold of equality, fairness, openness and challenge….   

So help me!! What am I?

The painting is one of Alex Ivanov's (Romanian despite his name) whose book illustrations can sometimes be seen at the Military circle galleries.. Th is one of three I am proud to have in my (comparatively small) collection of Romanian paintings.. 

UpdateA book on “Britain and Transnational Progressivism” https://books.google.bg/books?id=tawYDAAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false gives an fascinating picture of the progressive strand in, for example, the West of Scotland in the late 19th and early 20th century

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