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August 12, 2009



This debate is never going to go anywhere until people stop burying their political ideas beneath waffle about 'reform of public services.' It doesn't tell you anything, George O or James P, to say that someone wants to reform public services. No-one, presumably wants public services to be crap. What kind of public services you want depends on what kind of society you want to create, which is why the NHS was totemic for post 1945 social democrats, not just in the way that it worked, but in what it said about society. Allowing the Rotary Club to run village schools in Dorset in not the same sort of change.
And btw, Sweden is not Britain - a comparison of private education in the two cases makes no sense.
Sorry Will, this is probably for George Osborne rather than you.

Lee Bryant

I think you take the labels too seriously, hence the obvious contradictions and nonsense. I don't really know what Conservatism means, other than related to the tradition of the Conservative party, in which case the contradiction is not quite so acute. As you say, there is nothing conservative at all about free market hedonism.

At any rate, I think we need to put ideologies and philosophies back in their boxes and use them as tools, not overarching organising principles.

There is surely no greater indictment of the utter betrayal and failure of the Mandelson/Blair "project" than the fact that Osborne can make this speech and sound credible.

Pat Kane

Not to be an embarrassing technoevangelist, Will, but is there nothing left in Lessig's "innovation commons" of the Net that makes you think we could have a positive relationship between technology and ethics? Hacker-ethics, play-ethics, but something deeper also? I'm probably wrong to get excited about them, but I do like these Spinoza-driven Italian autonomists who keep telling me that a cognition-and-affect-based info-capitalism is unstable precisely because it is beyond measure in some respects. The productivity of the multitude, rooted in their biopower and linguistic communality, will surpass all regulation and governance! Laptops plus soviets equals...er maybe not...

I've been watching the New Tories stake their claim on social media as an exemplar of 'society not the state', Burkean little platoons fuelled by iPhones and Twitter, with some amusement - not because it covers up contradictions, but because it's an example of the independent robustness of Benkler's third mode of sharing production. How robust is the sense of the commons that the Net has opened up? Is it a few enclosures away from shut-down, or not?

And I think the contradictions of progressive conservatism are more easily highlighted than your nuanced Weberian assessment. Philip Blond might want to assert "the primacy of human subjectivity" on the one hand, but he's also viscerally anti-abortion. Whenever conservatives get close to the language of organic communal authenticity, I reach for my Corbusier.

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