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September 27, 2005



There's an irony in here struggling to get out. Sennet states that:

"It concerns surrender; that is, how to let go of the past. The head of a dynamic company recently asserted that no one 'owns' their place in her organisation, that past service in particular earns no employee a guaranteed place...."

Jonathan Freedland points out that TB says: "Similarly pointed were his repeated references to his own experience. "I tell you my conclusion after eight years of being prime minister," he said. "Again, based on my experience," he said later, before telling of the lessons he had learned about leadership. The subtext was clear: my longevity of service is not a liability, but an asset and should not be discarded lightly."


It's a bizarre and politically skewed ontology, shared by management consultants, marketers and physicists, but by few others.

Heard recently, expressed as a medium-term goal:

"...so that the experience of all students is constantly changing..."

Continual change as the desired endpoint. Very Zen.

Blair said today that anyone who wants to have a debate about globalisation may as well have a debate about whether autumn follows summer. This reification of a sociological theory is a clever but dubious tactic. The right did something similar in the 80s, when they took a set of assumptions about human psychology from neoclassical economics, and transformed them into unquestionable apolitical social facts. In each case, the space for political action is delimited through a subtle redescription of how things are.

I agree with what you said lower down about the opportunity for conservatism, but this phrasing concerns me. "The right did something similar" - in what sense is the reification-of-globalisation move not coming from the Right? Really what you're describing is a (continuing) confrontation between the liberal and conservative wings of the Right - the second of which continues to find that everything established goes up in smoke, everything holy is profaned. If there's anything to be said about the Left it would start with its absence.

Will Davies

It depends what you mean about left and right. If your use of the term 'Left' always involves resistance to markets, then of course New Labour's take on globalisation owes nothing to the Left. But (and i'm not the first person to point this out) there is something vaguely Marxist about the way New Labour perceives capitalism and globalisation. It views them as inevitable, materially unquestionable historical phenomena, which generate turbulence and wealth in equal measure. Their only departure from Marxism lies in the fact that they don't see equally inevitable crises looming for this system (or if they do, they keep quiet about it).

If there is a theorist behind this, it would be Anthony Giddens, who, while not a Marxist, has ended up as a fairly systemic sociologist. And while Giddens might himself understand the subtleties of the interplay between social structures and political agency, he obviously felt this was too complicated for Blair, and only taught him about the inevitability of changing social structures. The result: Blair's denial that there is any room for political manoeuvre.

I don't think the intellectual right would ever find themselves in a position of describing globalisation as structural and inevitable. They might make a moral case for neoliberalism, but would not share the New Labour sociological assumption of neoliberalism.

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