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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!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

New Hope in Britain – if not Europe?

For a year, many of us had virtually given up hope for Britain. The 2015 election had been bad enough in its granting the Conservatives an outright majority - but the commitment its manifesto had given to holding a referendum on EU membership; the speed with which it was held; and its 52-48 result last June knocked most ex-pats into depression.
The sudden announcement in mid-April by a PM (who still had to prove herself) of a General Election – when she was more than 20% ahead in the polls of an utterly disorganized Labour Party (and after Labour had  just lost more than 300 local authority seats) seemed to doom that party to extinction.
Talk of a 100 seat Conservative majority seemed generous to the Labour party – For once my predictions (like most people’s) were wrong – I had foreseen a Tory majority of 95…..
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And yet, astonishingly, someone written off not only by the MSM but even by his own parliamentary colleagues proved to be very popular once he was actually given air time by that deeply prejudiced media. As did the policies with which the party ran. The result on 8 June saw the Labour party’s share of the vote hit 40% - its largest percentage increase since 1945.
My fellow blogger Boffy records his reactions here and this article indicates some of the immediate reasons for the astonishing result. As an initial Corbyn enthusiast, journalist Owen Jones is a good bell-weather since he subsequently reneged on his support – his honest reaction and the subsequent discussion thread reflect the current discussion which is now gripping Britain.The New Yorker gives here an amusing and good outsider’s take

But it is this post from one of the 20-odd blogs I had identified a couple of weeks ago which gives one of the most profound and thought-provoking analyses.

The rest of Europe is focusing on the British Government’s discomfort - and the chaos which seems set to ensue from a badly-wounded Leader and government hanging on to power only through a loose alliance with a poisonous partner.
More significant for me is the opportunity this presents at last for a proper discussion about the sort of agenda “progressives”, everywhere, should be pursuing. In the late 1970s and early 1980s the Labour party had quite a radical agenda - significant parts of which (such as withdrawal from the EU) I did not support. But I was a strong supporter of what we might call the populist part of the agenda relating to the need for greater dialogue and popular participation – not least in the economic sector.  

I know we cannot return to that period – not least because the right-wing media and scribblers have tarnished it so in the popular imagination but we need to shout from the rooftops that it was a time when important ideas of the 1960s were being consolidated.
The New Spirit of Capitalism; by L Boltanski and E Chiapello (1999) is a critical analysis of managerial texts which tells us so much about the Zeitgeist….. It is a bit turgid and needs to be read in conjunction with Management Gurus – what makes them and how to become one by Andrzej Huczyinski (1996); and The Witchdoctors – making sense of the management gurus (1996).

In the meantime, neoliberalism has come…..and may not yet be gone…..but the tide is ebbing and just needs a strong push from an alternative philosophy….People like Mark Blyth, Elinor Ostrom and Wolfgang Streeck have laid part of the foundations – as I tried to point out in my survey in April of Thinking beyond CapitalismNot so well known, perhaps, is the shape of the possible organizational alternatives – not merely cooperatives and social enterprises but the sort of structures set out in  Frederic Laloux’s Reinventing Organisations
Sadly, Corbyn's Economic Advisory Committee was put in cold storage after the last leadership challenge in 2016.......(with several of its members delivering withering comments on the lack of direction). So the party's much praised 2017 Manifesto does need a rigorous assessment if it is to form the basis of the next manifesto for what could be a victorious General Election!!

And we still don’t have enough people working at a progressive common agenda globally – although I have been encouraged recently by the burgeoning literature on “the commons” – to which the greens have made such a significant (if unrecognized) contribution.
What I would now hope for is for the British Labour party to resist the siren call of tribalism and to reach out to others who have been trying to build a different world from a variety of encouraging initiatives.    

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