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A liberal future? September 29, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Janan Ganesh of the FT writes in the IT about how British society (and by extension others) has and continues to liberalise. The British Social Attitudes survey, referenced here already points to significant shifts across the years in relation to religion (53% of Britons profess none – 71% of 18-24year olds likewise), lgbt rights, sex before marriage and so on.

And he argues that:

There is a lesson here for liberals. At the level of electoral politics it can seem that their cause, and the Enlightenment itself, are under serious threat from the forces of reaction. At the deeper level of demographic change the threat is a paper tiger. The vote for Brexit and the subsequent year-long victory lap are as good as things will get for traditional conservatives in their lifetimes. The smarter among them know they are living through a blip, not the start of a new settlement. They have stolen a battle towards the end of a losing war.

Notable – in a way – is how even far-right entities and parties soft-pedal on social liberalism. Where once they would have put across profoundly reactionary approaches many now (I think here of the larger continental parties) profess their adherence to lgbt rights etc quite happily. However cosmetic that is it does speak of shifts that will continue into the future.

And Ganesh suggests that:

There was an elegiac feel to the Europe referendum even at the time: old people voting more as a final act of defiance against social change than in serious hope of restoring the slow, ordered and, yes, religious nation of their youth. Demographics will not allow conservatives to move Britain even a little bit in that traditional direction after Brexit. If anything their challenge is to hold the line against an eventual return to European Union membership as these voters die and the ideological centre of the country creeps if not to the left or to the right then to what is now disparaged as the metropolitan.

I don’t find that an implausible map of the future though I wonder if once out the UK will find it more difficult to return fully. I suspect we could see the UK in EEA/EFTA if it doesn’t arrive there in the interim as it departs the EU.

And there’s a good point in the following:

Those who have suddenly soured on Rees-Mogg deserve no pity. They were happy to buy into him as a curio from the past until he turned out to have the corresponding views. They might take politics more seriously next time. For now the minority status of his views does not prove them wrong. It certainly does not make them illegitimate. But they are being eclipsed by the mere passage of time, without his critics having to do anything.

There was always a silly season aspect about Jacob Rees-Mogg’s supposed popularity over the Summer and mention as the next Tory leader – a popularity scuppered by his articulation of a staunchly anti-abortion line which encompassed no lee-way for those who had been raped and antagonism to same sex marriage. Truth is Rees-Mogg is a reactionary. Ganesh makes an interesting point that his seeming authenticity – part of the reason some fixed on him as a future Tory leader – ran into the buffers of the actuality of that authenticity. As Ganesh says, they might take politics more seriously next time.

Of course the problem is not liberalism, or not liberalism as such. It is rather that liberalism can allow for deeply problematic economic structures. Or to put it another way, liberalism is not enough, not nearly enough. Ganesh is right, difficult to turn back the clock on many social issues. Perhaps impossible, though if the future, one of resource depletion and climate change turns really nasty I’d be less complacent. But on economic issues?

Comments»

1. sonofstan - September 29, 2017

” The smarter among them know they are living through a blip, not the start of a new settlement”

As with anti-abortion activists in Ireland?

“. Truth is Rees-Mogg is a reactionary. Ganesh makes an interesting point that his seeming authenticity – part of the reason some fixed on him as a future Tory leader – ran into the buffers of the actuality of that authenticity”

It must be depressing for catholics here, who by and large would be nothing like JR-M, either politically, or even in terms of social attitudes, to have his reaction explained away as a result of his catholicsm.

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2. Dermot O Connor - September 29, 2017

Of course the problem is not liberalism, or not liberalism as such. It is rather that liberalism can allow for deeply problematic economic structures.

If you want to see the ultimate example of this, look at the US, where the ‘liberals’ do not give a rats about working class people. 99.9% of their focus is on identity groups (race / gender / lgbt / etc). If they mention class as an issue at all (rarely) it’s a dead letter.

You end up with well off middle class ‘liberals’, who constitute 20% of the population, and who are doing quite well out of business as usual, using id-pol to deflect any move toward redistribution; they use id-pol in a cynical manner to make themselves the ‘progressive’ pole, leaving the working classes to rot (of course, as the working classes are caricatured as racists, sexists, fascists, nazis, idiots, they’re only “getting what they deserve”).

The type of voters who worshiped a warmongering neo-liberal like HR Clinton or drone operator Obama – and who economically are identical to Thatcher – now preen as though they are “the left”.

‘Liberals’ / Democrats will chide the US working class for voting GOP, or “against their own interests”. The laughable implication is that voting for the Democrats is voting IN their own interests, whereas both parties share the same economic agenda. This of course, allows the ‘liberal’ democrat to blame the victim.

It’s obscene. Luciana Bohne describes it better than I can.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2016/11/14/panic-in-america-people-in-revolt/

Liberal brains pickled in the formaldehyde of identity politics are unwilling to recognize in the politically incorrect catastrophe of Donald Trump’s victory the blowback to the ferocious economic plunder by the neoliberal order, backed by decades of wanton and unchecked military aggressions.

The neoliberals’ vaunted “internationalism” (more realistically, American neocolonialism) has created a weak domestic economy which to a degree justifies the nationalist call to look homeward and entrench behind the borders of sovereignty—one of Trump’s rallying cries.

A Chinese observer, Qiao Liang, author of Unrestricted Warfare (1999), abused in English translation with the inaccurate subtitle, “China’s Master Plan to Destroy America,” recently identified the germ of the country’s general economic disease in the neoliberal shift from productive to financial investment:

“This financial economy (using money to make money) is much easier than the real (industry-based) economy. Why will it bother with manufacturing industries that have only low value-adding capabilities? Since August 15, 1971, the U.S. has gradually stopped its real economy and moved into a virtual economy. It has become an ‘empty’ economy state. Today’s U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has reached US$18 trillion, but only $5 trillion is from the real economy.”

For forty-five years, the neoliberal elite ruled the US by the “free hand of the market.” In plain terms, among other abuses of the social contract, they have launched a class war to maximize profits by depressing wages.” The mystical “hand” has been slapping around American workers by moving industry to places where labor is cheaper and unions weak. In turn, the exploited foreign workers have sought relief from desperate wage conditions in their countries by immigrating to the US, embittering the native workforce.

Nearly 50 million Americans, nearly twenty percent out of 325 million, are poor. The unemployment rate, officially around five percent, is closer to ten percent.

To be absolutely clear: you will look long and hard to find american ‘liberals’ worried about this – of if they are, it will be a miniscule fraction of the concern directed at identity politics – the war on flags, the war on statues, the war on fictional characters in TV shows – the war on bad words that must be banned – etc.

The actual economic war on working class people? Fuhgeddabowtit.

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gendjinn - September 30, 2017

There is a civil war on the left in the US right now between the Liberals (the group described above) and the Progressives/Socialists/LeftsOfVariousHues which is a fight over whether identity politics are paramount or both class & identity need to be tackled simultaneously.

Witness how the corporate Dems who have any aspirations in 2020 have co-sponsored Sanders Medicare4All bill. Only a year ago, during the primaries HRC had a rant about how the pony of Universal Healthcare was not feasible. Elected Democrats who oppose single payer are being primaried.

I know only too well the Liberal problem in the US, most of my friends and colleagues were solid Clinton in the primaries and most of them have clung to the RussiaGate story like driftwood in a storm.

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