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Post neoliberal or just pre liberal?
February 15, 2009 7:31 PM   Subscribe

"The crisis is an opportunity to sweep away the rotten postwar settlement of British politics. Labour is moribund. But David Cameron has a chance to develop a "red Tory" communitarianism, socially conservative but sceptical of neoliberal economics"

Philip Blond makes a compelling and long overdue critique of big government and big business in the sporadic tradition of British civic republicanism. His account of political failures and disappointments clearly has a popular resonance and continues to pique commentariat interest since echoes from Cameron and launch by think tank Demos, last month. But is his "one nation" social Catholicism a viable vehicle for collective identity and passionate engagement?
posted by doobiedoo (22 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Thought provoking all around. Thanks, doobiedoo!
posted by codswallop at 7:44 PM on February 15, 2009


I say bring back the Whigs.
posted by delmoi at 7:45 PM on February 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Cameron:
Instead, the questions I will ask my ministers, and which I will always ask of them are these:

How can we solve this problem through individual and community initiative?
How can we avoid setting up an extra centralised government response?
How can we improve things by spending as little taxpayers' money as necessary?
How is this different than Thatcherism? However, if the Tories move away from free markets, free trade, and sensible regulation of business and finance, let's hope they stay in the minority.
posted by Pants! at 7:51 PM on February 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I say bring back the Whigs.

Okay, you go first.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:04 PM on February 15, 2009


Isn't a political party that offers you both social conservatism and skepticism of neoliberal anything kind of like a band that plays both kinds of music: country and western? I mean, I'm an American, so maybe there's some nuance I'm just missing here.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:07 PM on February 15, 2009


Christ almighty, I wish all this political ideology would die the swift death it deserves. The two questions any politician in power should ask about a response or solution to an issue or problem is:

What is the most just solution?

What solution will create the opportunity for prosperity for everyone?
posted by KokuRyu at 8:13 PM on February 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Isn't a political party that offers you both social conservatism and skepticism of neoliberal anything

Well, unfortunately the terms liberal and conservative are so twisted around these days that "neoliberal" or "classical liberalism" basically means conservative (as opposed to socialist) economic thinking. Which is why you heard bush and the neocons going on about "Liberal democracy" abroad during early stages of the Iraq war.
posted by delmoi at 8:19 PM on February 15, 2009


I'm having a really hard time trying to follow Blond's chain of reasoning. I get really lost in the paragraph that begins: "To understand why the legacy of liberalism..."

Can anyone help me understand or is that whole paragraph just a "and this is where the magic happens" bit of reasoning.
posted by Kattullus at 8:25 PM on February 15, 2009


At first, I always react favourably to suggestions such as this to bring power down to a local level as an alternative to the impersonal bureaucracy of larger government. Then, I remember how equally awful the local community is at running things (from the school board, to the local library council, to city hall).

Ultimately, I'd rather be swindled by far off powers than by the incompetence of my neighbors.
posted by boubelium at 8:33 PM on February 15, 2009


social conservatism and skepticism of neoliberal anything

Christian democracy has never really caught on in the Anglo-American world, and secular social conservatism has been weaker still.
posted by Makoto at 8:33 PM on February 15, 2009



Christ almighty, I wish all this political ideology would die the swift death it deserves. The two questions any politician in power should ask about a response or solution to an issue or problem is:

What is the most just solution?

What solution will create the opportunity for prosperity for everyone?
Here's the problem with this: different parties don't just have different ideas of how best to achieve "justice," "opportunity," and "prosperity," they have different ideas of what those very terms mean in the first place. Ask a U.S. Republican what "justice," "prosperity," and "opportunity" mean, and depending on which flavor of Republican you're talking to you'll likely get a line about either the free market and rugged individualism, or something on bringing about Christ's reign on Earth. Talk to a U.S. Democrat about those concepts and you'll likely hear about social safety nets, community, and fairness. These do not represent different ideas on how to get to one goal. These represent deeply, fundamentally, irreconcilably different goals.

Hi, I'm You Can't Tip a Buick, and I'm intensely skeptical of post-partisan / post-ideological rhetoric.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 8:53 PM on February 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


Crisi-tunity!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:07 PM on February 15, 2009


Kattullus, when Blond says "the legacy of liberalism" he means what Americans think of as libertarianism. Nineteenth-century libertarian movements, themselves products of the anarchist movement, evolved into twentieth-century socialism on the left and free-enterprise conservatism on the right. (Note that Chomsky considers himself a libertarian socialist, which predictably blows the mind of your run-of-the-mill objectivist.) Neither is particularly socially conservative, but periodically both have aligned with such movements.

I think delmoi muddied the waters. Blond is using pretty clear British definitions here. It's in the US where the terminology has become confused.
posted by dhartung at 10:09 PM on February 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I say bring back the Whigs.

Modern Whigs
posted by swell at 10:33 PM on February 15, 2009


Modern Whigs

Afghan Whigs
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:01 PM on February 15, 2009


How can we solve this problem through individual and community initiative?
How can we avoid setting up an extra centralised government response?
How can we improve things by spending as little taxpayers' money as necessary?

How is this different than Thatcherism?


The non-centralisation of government part?
posted by biffa at 2:16 AM on February 16, 2009


Critiques of big government and big business have been coming from the left for ages, what makes this one different is that it's coming from the right at a moment when the conservative economics of localism actually look better than the liberal economic forces of the free market. Rhetoric of localism and decentralisation can be seen as easy vote baiting by Cameron (Tony Blair made similar platitudes when he was in opposition only to turn into a very regular centraliser in office) but Blond being an academic seems to actually care. At the same time Blond seems to have allied localism with some dubious if not outright regressive takes on family, community and culture.

The daily mail moralism of strong communities/patriotic nationalism notwithstanding, the question is to what extent does Cameron actually believe in Blond's Red Toryism and to what extent is he just using it to catch votes? (This guy seems to have a pretty shrewd take on Cameron's strategy of promiscuous associations). Because I think many if not most people are fed up with a state that is increasingly intrusive and an economy that is insecure, unstable and exploitative far more than it is rewarding and Blond's is the most radical argument heard in the political mainstream so far - it's got teeth and it's one worth expanding, but will it get the right sort of legs?
posted by doobiedoo at 4:39 AM on February 16, 2009



Christ almighty, I wish all this political ideology would die the swift death it deserves. The two questions any politician in power should ask about a response or solution to an issue or problem is:

What is the most just solution?

What solution will create the opportunity for prosperity for everyone?
Of course, some people think that prosperity should flow to the virtuous, rather then everyone. So your second idea, there, is actually ideological.
posted by delmoi at 6:47 AM on February 16, 2009


I think this is a really interesting development but is bound to be stomped on (or more likely, disdained) by the unthinking mass that passes for Tory supporters (/massive generalisation). If you're interested, it's worth reading the Prospect blog which has a series of posts from a variety of viewpoints, all thought provoking.
posted by patricio at 9:27 AM on February 16, 2009


The article in the "launch" link (from Liberal Conspiracy) is also well worth reading for a thoughtful response.
posted by patricio at 9:29 AM on February 16, 2009


What we will actually get under a Conservative government will be the usual Thatcherite laissez-faire and social vandalism, only this time with a zesty dressing of web 2.0 pop sociology and buzzwords. The toxic blend of Milton Friedman and Thomas Friedman. So the "invisible hand" will be rebranded as the "wisdom of crowds", and so on. I can just see it now, Cameron telling conference: "There is no such thing as society ... there are individuals, and families, and Twitter."
posted by WPW at 1:46 PM on February 16, 2009


Discussing David Cameron's view of political ideology is as pointless as discussing Victoria Beckham's view of fine art. To them neither subject is anything more than a potentially valuable source of motifs for prestigious self-adornment.
posted by Phanx at 2:09 AM on February 17, 2009


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