Archive for August, 2011
There is a tendency to consider reactions to the recent riots in London and elsewhere as being either one thing or the other. They are either about condemning and punishing the perpetrators, or as “excusing them” by seeking to explain the reasons for the disturbances in terms of economic and social causes. This is a mistake – it is often appropriate to consider problems at different levels. The atomic structure of a metal is analysed using different techniques than an analysis of its properties in construction. Individuals involved in violence, property destruction and looting must be brought to justice and punished appropriately. Anything else would undermine a crucial plank in our society – our system of individual justice for individual actions. Read the rest of this entry »
This article was published on LabourList on 2nd August 2011.
Immigration, by being freighted with so many unsaid and often unconsidered subtexts, is a toxic subject. As both Marc Stears and Anthony Painter have suggested on LabourList recently, it certainly seems to have poisoned the ‘Blue Labour’ project, possibly fatally. Read the rest of this entry »
This is an essay on the approach to economics suggested by Maurice Glasman’s essay ‘Labour as a Radical Tradition’. Glasman’s essay forms part of the ebook ‘The Labour Tradition and the Politics of Paradox’.
I’m not particularly keen on the ‘Blue Labour’ moniker, but the ideas behind Maurice Glasman’s approach bear serious examination. Interestingly, his approach bears some comparison with that recently espoused by Amartya Sen in his book ‘The Idea of Justice’. This is that it is difficult to win political arguments with abstract ideas, and that practical and localised amelioration of well-recognised wrongs is the best way forward. Glasman (in Labour as a Radical Tradition) looks back to the early days of Labour when the movement of which it was part was defined by relationships and ‘practices that strengthen an ethical life’. These practices included reciprocity, mutuality and solidarity, and they led to actions such as the formation of mutual societies, co-operatives and trades unions. These may not and need not have had an explicit or even coherent philosophical underpinning.
According to Glasman, however, ‘The founders of the labour movement understood the logic of capitalism…and the threat this posed to their lives, livelihoods and environment.’ Maybe they did, but this is somewhat in contradiction of Glasman’s narrative, since the ‘logic of capitalism’ is itself an abstract idea. And it’s not at all clear that we understand this ‘logic’ today, or if we do, whether we know how to refute its conclusions. Read the rest of this entry »