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!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

What is to be Done?

Since 2001 I’ve been worrying away at a long essay variously entitled “What is to be Done?”, “Living for Posterity” and “Draft Guide for the Perplexed”
The original note was written around 5 questions (which are in the opening page of the "Living for...".link) relating to the fundamental question of what someone with my experience and resources could and should do to contribute to an improvement (rather than destruction) of the human lot.
That basically involved a quick sketch of global conditions and assessment of the impact of a variety of (the obvious) agencies to those conditions of injustice and powerlessness.

Ten years later, with the global meltdown confirming the grip of neo-liberal theft, I readily confessed not only that I still didn’t have an answer – but (in section 6) that I had whittered away some of my allotted time…

In an update I added that I was struck with the absence of realistic and critical studies of the efficacy of the British governance arrangements at this point in the 21st Century – although most Brits (or rather English) accept that their political system is in a dreadful state.
I have thought long and hard – and can produce only four analyses which might be read with benefit by the concerned and perplexed in that country. Two are 10 years old – the other two 5 years old…..We have, of course, countless academic studies of the operation of the British Parliament, of political parties, of voting systems, of local government, of devolved arrangements, of the civil service, of public management (whether Ministries, core executive, agencies), of the Prime Minister’s Office, of the European dimension etc – and a fair number of these are reasonably up-to-date. But most of it is written for undergraduates – or for other academic specialists who focus on one small part of the complex jigsaw. There is so very little which actually tries to integrate all this and give a convincing answer to the increasing number of citizens who feel that there is no longer any point in voting; that politicians are either corrupt or hopelessly boxed in by global finance and corporate interests.

The four studies I picked out were by a journalist (George Monbiot), a consultant/academic (Chris Foster) and two commissioned by a charitable foundation (Rowntree Trust) – although 2 real academics( Colin Leys and Allyson Pollock) did get honourable mentions.
The question today is whether the last four years has seen any significant additions to our understanding of power in Britain - let alone Europe - and how it might best be challenged. These years have seen the various "Occupy" movements but have they seen a clear agenda for change emerge? 

In a future post, I want to look in particular at the extent to which political scientists have tried to deal with this question…..
For the moment I would have to say that there seems only one serious challenge – that that is the very serious possibility that Scottish voters will vote to break away from the rUK in September. That would set off an earthquake – and who knows what would fall down and be built in its place……

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