31 January 2020


Further to the previous post, the article by Matthew Goodwin about the 2010s is revealing, both about political changes during the decade and about the intelligentsia's reaction to them.
   In one passage, Professor Goodwin exploits the ambiguity of the term liberalism to make some familiar complaints about capitalism:
Liberalism gave us individual rights and protected those rights through the rule of law. But it also attached itself to the most dynamic and successful economic system the world has ever known and which an ascendant middle class came to love: capitalism.

The events of the past decade revealed how these two in-built advantages had come unstuck. Liberalism has won many important battles, but it also crafted societies in which millions of people today no longer feel recognised or rewarded.
   Unpacking this quote deserves more space than I am able to give it, but one may for example wish to take issue with the idea that the liberalism that gave us the rule of law is the same liberalism that is now allegedly under attack from the reaction against socialism. Goodwin's attempt to reduce the counter-revolution to alleged popular unease about capitalism seems like an inversion.
   Socialism has always had two strands:
   (1) concern for the less advantaged
   (2) the desire to run the world on supposedly rational and just principles.
   The second strand came to the fore in the scientific planning utopias of the 1920s that were popular with intellectuals such as H.G. Wells, and which eventually manifested in extreme forms such as Nazism and Stalinism. In a milder form, this strand has become a ubiquitous feature of Western societies, with medicine, education, childcare and the universities all subject to intervention in the cause of 'rationality' and 'fairness'.
   The counter-revolution may well be a reaction to strand 2, but if the Left were to acknowledge this, it might require a retreat from their ambition to manage everything in accordance with leftist ideology.