Sunday, April 13, 2008

Twopenn'orth

At the risk of disrupting an argument by arriving late, I'm not sure I'm in full agreement with Gadgie in the continuing spat about Marko Atilla Hoare's diagram. None of the positions I'll outline will come as any surprise to regulars here, but never mind: Increasingly, the purpose of this blog appears to be to make points that I think are important, but points I can't get anyone else to engage with.

My mild disagreement is located in his point no: 1 (most of the others are fine).
"Hoare argues that democracy is a necessary precursor to the establishment of social justice through the introduction of a welfare state. Fine, but it isn’t a sufficient condition. There has to be a left party prepared and able to take power to implement measures and that has to be built, it won’t just emerge because of the existence of liberal democracy. And, even if a left party gets into power, it can be constrained by the power of other institutions, such as big business, and by international politics and economics."
I'd argue that the trajectory of liberal democracy (as long as there is a common and widely held view that this democracy should be strongly representative in character) is to ultimately constrain those forces that compete with those representatives.

A left party can be reasonably effective if it's focus is upon improving the quality of democracy at home, mainly because most of the left's aims will be achieved - as long as our democracy deepens. And when I say 'deepens' I do stress that this means that it deepens while the representative character grows stronger at the same time.

This independent representative group is - I would say - also more likely to make the right decision on behalf of the whole country when it thinks (as Gadgie wants it to) about the kind of globalism that it supports.

My worry is that liberal democracy isn't deepening in its representative quality, and that this needs to be something that the wider left needs to recognise and focus upon - a lot more than it does at the moment.

The Labour government since 1997 hasn't done anything that would suggest that it acknowledges this, and the Tories - in their current incarnation - are even less .... er .... Burkean. They would take us back to the pre-1997 stalemate over the EU, and they would capitulate to the demands of commercial publishers by disembowelling public service broadcasting.

That makes for three factors that should concern us all:
  1. A hyperactive and over-responsive government that is prepared to promote sub-optimal policies (and legislation) in order to retain the image of forward motion
  2. An even less responsible and accountable media, and one that is even more poorly resourced than it is currently - thereby strengthening what is easily the greatest centralising factor in the modern state.
  3. The withdrawal of one of the largest players from what has been the most successful supranational democratic institution that the world has ever seen. Anyone who thinks that the impoverished moral resolve of the UN is a cornerstone issue (and I think that this is one issue that largely unites us decents*) looks to the EU as a model for what is possible in the long-term.
All of this aside, I'm broadly not very impressed with Hoare's diagram and the thinking behind it, and I think that the charge made by both Jura Watchmaker and Gadgie about Hoare not having a critique of domestic politics is spot on. The degree of relaxation in almost all quarters about the speed at which power has been centralised in liberal democracy over the past forty years baffles me.

JW puts it another way:
"...the term “homogenous citizenship”, when defending his vision of an egalitarian society. Homogenous? Hoare’s support for an “ultra-liberal immigration policy” aside, this reeks of the aculturalism that I associate with Burkean liberal-conservatism. The last thing I want to see is a homogeneous society. It would be the social equivalent of thermodynamic heat death."
That focus on political and cultural pluralism neatly sums up everything that I think socialism is about. I'd just prefer it if more democratic socialists saw it that way. Currently, this perspective seems to be the sole preserve of a fairly small subset of the more extra-parliamentary left.

*I hate that word too.

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