September 19, 2011

NO VOICE, JUST BODY:

Blue Labour is over but the debate has just begun: To give voice to the mood of the country, Labour must be both conservative and radical(Jonathan Rutherford, 29 July 2011, New Statesman)

Labour's future does not lie with Blue Labour, nor does it lie with New Labour, but with a synthesis of ideas and politics. It means understanding the conjuncture we are in in order to create a winning electoral politics that will transform the country for the better.

I would argue that this conjuncture requires Labour's politics in England to be both conservative and radical. If Labour can inhabit this paradox and capture its insights it will give voice to the mood of the country. The future is conservative. I do not mean it will be Conservative with a political upper case 'C' - the right has no understanding of this moment. Nor do I mean it will be conservative with a lower case social 'c'. Rather it will be characterised by a social and cultural mood that Raymond Williams calls a 'structure of feeling'. This mood exists on the edge of our collective vocabulary and it has yet to find articulation in politics. If Labour can give it a voice, it has the opportunity to construct a new hegemony.

This mood is about a desire to conserve, protect and improve the fundamental elements of social life which are people's relationships and family, their sense of belonging and identity, the continuity of home and place, and the human need for social security. When individuals have these goods they can aspire and strive for something more in their lives.


The problem with vocalizing this politics--which thoroughly dominates the Anglosphere and most of Northern Europe--is that the ends sound too squishy for the Right while the means sound too edgy to the Left. But the cold hard fact is that people do indeed desire social/financial security and the only efficient and reliable way we've found to deliver it is via broadly capitalist structures.

It's hardly surprising that our most eloquent politicians--Margaret Thatcher, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, W--have been the best at moving the project forward, nor that all were, therefore, ultimately hated by their own parties.


Posted by at September 19, 2011 6:27 AM
  

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