The incoherence of left and right…

In the FT, Christopher Caldwell has a fascinating analysis of a shift away the from the post war social democratic consensus that is beginning to kick in Europe every bit as much as it already has in the US. He looks at that most controversial decade, the 1960s.

He goes back to the social activism of the sixties:

“The movements of the 1960s wiped out local injusticises, but they are a global phenomenon, and those local injustices are not why the 1960s happened. Its are not to be sought in ideas but in large social and demographic forces. That is why Marxist historians like Eric Hobsbawm have had better luck than most in explaining the 1960s, even if there is room to differ on which forces predominated (Education? Prosperity? The baby boomers sensing their future electoral might?)”

He quotes French Socialist Mark Baumel:

“The ideological coherence forged in the 1960s and 1970s – anti-liberal on economics and libertarian on social questions – corresponded to a society in which capitalist domination and bourgeois moral order seem to make up a coherent system. This coherence is no longer obviouos because capitalism has adapted itself easily to libertarianism”.

Indeed he quotes a columnist from Suddeutsche Zeitung describing the plans of Germany’s Social Democrat Chancellor as a “mishmash of McKinsey jargon, leftover inventory from the sociology of 1968, and psuedo-futurist visions”.

And he finishes:

“Mr Blair has bet – and France’s socialists are about to bet – that Europe’s electorate is much more like the American one than many European leftists would like to believe.

  • mickhall

    Mick,
    I think you are wrong to claim there is a move away from the post war social democratic consensus in Europe, indeed if anything in Britain and Ireland there is after the hic up of Reganomics and Thatcherism a move back towards it. Yes there is a bunch of Politician’s who have been dragged along in the USA’s wake, but more and more people are coming to reject globalization and privatisation. The most opportunist European politician of this ilk in its crudest form is Peter Mandleson and it looks like he is due to trip over his own feet again, although of late Gerry Adams is coming pretty close with his crass opportunism. With the distaster that US policy in Iraq has become, some of those who support the US neocons are themselves pulling back. Ask people what they want from their politicians and the majority will say decent (state run) hospitals, schools, transport, fire service etc. All of these, as we know them, originated within social democracy. Indeed if you follow this question up with the question would you be prepared to pay more tax’s to better service’s, all but the wealthiest would reply yes as long as I know any tax hike goes straight to pay for them and not elsewhere, i e Iraq etc.
    People are also increasingly worrying about the gap between rich and poor, which is another sign of people turning to Social Democratic aspirations. It is only the media and lick spital politicians on the make who claim otherwise.

  • Henry94

    mickhall

    Indeed if you follow this question up with the question would you be prepared to pay more tax’s to better service’s, all but the wealthiest would reply yes

    I agree with that but people remain to be convinced that the extra tax will actually lead to better services. They vote for tax cuts not because they don’t want services but because they don’t believe they will get them.

    Their belief is that public services are not run in the interests of the public but in the interests of the public servants.

    It’s not tthat people don’t want Socialism. They just don’t trust the Socialists to deliver it.

    Socialists appear to be uninterested in dealing with this so they settle for political correctness rather than politics. They will be out of power (even when in office) until they get serious.

  • IJP

    I agree with that but people remain to be convinced that the extra tax will actually lead to better services. They vote for tax cuts not because they don’t want services but because they don’t believe they will get them.

    Very good point.

    They just don’t trust the Socialists to deliver it.

    Sort of, but I diverge slightly. As I said on another thread, the only problem with socialism is that it doesn’t work.

    Anyone who denies they put their close family and friends ahead of society as a whole is lying – it’s human nature. People do not want an equal society (and rightly not, otherwise we’d still be wondering what happens if we rubbed two stones together), they want to get ahead. Therein lies the crux.

  • mickhall

    These days few socialists are suggesting that everyone should be equal, the very idea is absurd, who would decide who we should all be equal to, the richest, the poorest, the cleverest or the stupidest. What we want is equality of opportunity. A level playing field from which all started out is what is important. If you go to a better school because your parents can afford to send you or being middle class they know how to manipulate the system, that is a head start. If you or a member of your family is sick and they cannot get or afford good health care, that puts you a head behind. If a child has to walk to school or catch five different buses whilst another gets a limousine, the latter has a head start. What in reality this means in the modern western world, in which brain rather than brawn is needed is that a part of the population is denied life’s chances.

    To provide decent public services and infrastructure is not rocket science or communism nor beyond human kinds capabilities. More to the point it is what used to be called part of the social wage as it brings brings benefits to all and not least the nation as a whole. Babies are by and large born equal, it is only our society that sorts them out, by its inequalities to many and the over indulgence of the few. The evils of the neocons is to tell people the world cannot be a better place due to human weakness, this is why God is such an integral part of their philosophy, despite the fact that many of its main proponents do not believe. Why is it always possible to provide excellent schools and hospitals for the rich yet impossible to do the same for the economically poor? Well, in reality it is not, you just have to have politicians and people who have the will to do so. But then once we achieved that, we would have proved there is a better way and where would that leave the merchants of doom.

  • IJP

    What we want is equality of opportunity.

    I’m glad that’s what you want (and I very much share this desire), but I don’t believe that’s what many ‘loony’ leftists want – many want enforced equality, quotas and all.

    In the end even without this it can come down to definitions. What is ‘equality’ and what is ‘opportunity’?

    Certainly you cannot have ‘equality’ without first defining the term and second agreeing certain social basics upon which to build it. In NI so far we have achieved neither.

  • willowfield

    IJP

    In NI, “equality” is defined merely as “equality of opportunity”. The so-called “equality agenda” is, in fact, only about equality of opportunity. This is absolutely correct.

    Many people assume, however, that equality of opportunity will necessarily lead to material equality: hence we still have people complaining about employment equality and “discrimination”, even though equality of opportunity is in place, is rigorously enforced, and has been for years, perhaps decades.

  • slackjaw

    As long as the 11 plus exists, we will not have equality of opportunity in Northern Ireland.

  • Occasional Commenter

    I strongly believe that a fully market driven, privatised health care system is the only way to get decent healthcare for everyone regardless of their income or position.

    That isn’t a contradiction. We don’t have a National Food Service, but everyone can afford to eat thanks to social welfare. If you don’t think everyone has enough food, then you would argue to increase welfare, not to nationalise the entire food industry.

    In Scotland, for example, they have cut their waiting lists by using the private sector, and the increased business has meant that the private sector is now cheaper than the NHS.

    Even those who are wary of privatisation should stop thos blatant lie: Accusing every right wing person of not rating decent universal healthcare as a priority.

    It’s time we learned to listen to everyone’s views instead of falling for the caricatures – only then does one have the right to disagree.

    Based on my first sentence, am I right or left wing?

  • barnshee

    “As long as the 11 plus exists, we will not have equality of opportunity in Northern Ireland.”

    Well thats all right then get rid of the 11+ watch NI schools go down the tubes

    1 Some Going private
    2 Giving places because me da went there
    3 Setting catchment areas -“nice areas” experience even bigger housing boom.

    Exactly what happend in GB

  • IJP

    WF

    I think we’re in agreement, only I’d define it differently.

    In NI, “equality” is defined merely as “equality of opportunity”.

    To be specific: in legislation ‘equality’ is defined clearly as ‘equality of opportunity’.

    The so-called “equality agenda” is, in fact, only about equality of opportunity.

    Ah but is it? In what way does not having the Ulster Scots for ‘welcome’ on a hospital wall go against ‘equality of opportunity’? Yet the Equality Commission upheld a complaint on that!

    So I would say: the ‘equality agenda’ should be about ‘equality of opportunity’, but all too often it isn’t.

    And yes, NI has probably the most advanced equality (of opportunity) legislation in the world. The problem is its abuse for political/financial ends and its false implementation.

    Slackjaw

    As long as the 11 plus exists, we will not have equality of opportunity in Northern Ireland.

    On the contrary. In what way does the 11-plus go against ‘equality of opportunity’? Everyone has an equal chance.

    You may oppose the 11-plus because it’s unfair (as I do), but bringing ‘equality’ into it only shows ignorance and weakens the argument.

    In fact, removing academic selection is the one thing that would threaten equality of opportunity, because in practice those with greater financial means or family members in the right places would have greater opportunity to go to good schools than those who don’t. As barnshee points out, you need only look to England for evidence.