Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Individualism v Solidarity

Here's the Adam Smith Institute blog in broad agreement with the demands of a libertarian leftist: And I think that the demands that Matt Yglesias puts forward are clever perceptive ones.

He seems to identify monopoly capitalism as a much bigger problem than most lefty commentators do. So far so good.

But what I don't see here (or, really, anywhere in the public debate around the left) is a discussion of solidarity.

If I'm a Trade Union negotiator representing 100 members, I will negotiate a deal that will do the best deal by the bulk of the members without unduly oppressing minorities within the membership.

Essentially, in an ideal world, I do the deal that the members negotiate among themselves as a binding agreement on the understanding that a minority won't get everything they could get if they negotiate individually, but that the majority won't oppress them either.

That's not a particularly graceful way of describing what we're about. But anatomising this deal - understanding it, arguing for it, using it to shape who we are and what we do is what they left has to be about. For the right - and for popular culture in general - this assertion of individual values has dominated public discourse for decades. Ours hasn't.

That's quite bad and it needs to change.


Mil said...

Interesting that for example in countries like Spain the word "solidaridad" is commonly used by both ends of the political spectrum. This is an important point you make - and in Spain is circumscribed by how the Spanish conceptualise the family and then use it as the basic building block of the state. For the Spanish, the family is for life. For us, families are there to bring up offspring and let them fly from the nest. Thus the resonance of ideas of solidarity on both the left and the right in Spain where we, on the other hand, have to turn it into the job of either technocrats or a vacuous concept such as the Big Society.

But the Spanish way, at its best, doesn't lead to more dependency, as perhaps one might expect. Rather, it's more a question of *inter*dependency.

A big difference Cameron and Co would clearly love to skate over.

Sion Whellens said...

Some really good points. On the subject of social capital replacing poorly delivered state solutions, have you read David Erdal's new book on employee ownership? I've bitten the bullet and started me own blog, kicking off with a review of the book - http://bethnalbling.blogspot.com
Would appreciate your comments (perhaps a link?) and I must get some pointers from you on this blogging business!