Friday, April 18, 2008

Filling up the breach

I was in two minds about posting this and extending an argument that may well have reached its sell-by-date, but I think that I have a little more to say. Marko Hoare has responded again and I just want to state, with clarity, where we agree and disagree and only do so in areas that have significance for the development of the left (that means leaving out the history - it is too arcane a discussion, if fun).

We have no disagreement about universal human rights, democracy, universal liberty etc. Our differences revolve around whether this is sufficient for human emancipation within the existing economic order. His views seem to be coloured by his experience of sectarian squabbles in the far left. I know nothing of these, never having been involved (though I do l know a fair amount about them in the 19th Century). This is reflected in the following.

The essence of our disagreement may be over the extent to which progressive change is possible or desirable within the existing liberal-capitalist order, or whether we should ultimately be fighting for the overthrow of this order and its replacement by one based on a different form of property relations - i.e. socialism.

This is not so. Leaving aside my plea for an open definition of socialism, rather than the restricted one he gives here, there are three areas where I think that we need to move immediately beyond the existing consensus on political economy.

1. Terry Glavin wrote of his desire for "an internationalist social democracy that is capable of embracing globalization and universal values at the same time as it defends individual liberty - along with cultural and ecological diversity - as public goods, and as working-class entitlements, all at once". Precisely. My addendum is that if we are to do this we need to understand that the political economies of social democracy and neo-liberalism are highly distinct and not variations on a common theme. I am concerned that we slip into an easy acceptance of the existing economic order in precisely those area where it hurts the poor, rather than posing practical, social democratic alternatives.

2. The ecological crisis is not "another story", it is central.

3. The coming world food crisis makes the issue of rural social development urgent. Patterns of land ownership, the dispossession of small farmers, food security etc. have been neglected.

This next is an area of profound disagreement:

My personal belief is that the UK’s social problems are caused more by lack of education and opportunity for those lower down the social ladder, and by deficiencies in popular culture among the population at large, than they are by poverty or inequalities in wealth.

Yikes. Where to start? Briefly, much of my professional life has been spent widening participation in Higher Education amongst what is now somewhat condescendingly know in the jargon as 'excluded communities'. All I can say is that if you approach this work from a notion that their exclusion is due to cultural deficit, you will fail. Actually, my main problems have been with the cultural deficit of Universities! To deny the compound impact of poverty and inequality seems to be flying in the face of reality. Again, this is why I continue to emphasise the importance of political economy.

And finally,

"...a genuinely constructive and interesting discussion in the blogosphere"

followed by

"... if you live in a cage with animals, people may reasonably mistake you for a monkey".

Please ...


mikeoswinton, free the blogosphere!!! said...

Well at least you can HAVE an argument here. I tried to put a post onto Freens' blog about an outrageous howler he had comitted and it wouldn't let me because I'm not a blogger. Don't think Dr/Prof/Mr Hoare allows us hoi polloi on board either.

Anonymous said...

Mike, you can sign up for a blogger account easily enough, without creating a blog - it takes two or three minutes ... SCWR is just trying to keep loonies and spammers out.


mikeovswinton, loony or spammer? said...

Well thanks, that's told me.....
No, seriously thanks and I'll get round to doing that. I take your point.

Will said...

Too polite a response - needs abuse, swearing and use of taboo words.

Mark this time -- only 8/10 -- content does not match potential - must try harder to close the gap.

Will be putting you in detention if this sort of thing continues.

Harry Barnes said...

I love the phrase about "the cultural deficit of Universities". I have a long-winded 3 part series on socialism, which needs reworking. Part 3 is probably the
clearest bit -

The Plump said...

For those who want to read Harry's post, the full URL won't display without either HTML or using Tiny URL.

You can read it here: