Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Are You A Communitarian ?

Julian Baggini
Ranciere “ The line between hatred of populism and hatred of democracy is thin and often unwittingly transgressed “…yes and often wittingly as well says Newmania thinking of Europe. Interesting that Julian Baggini recently used the quote though and telling about the usefulness and limitations of his attitudes….aha Who is Julian Baggini …read on ? ..
I first noticed him when his book , ‘Welcome To Every town’, was reviewed by Nick Coen in the New Statesman.. My initial impression was of a chancer trying it on . He set out , he said , to explain “ordinary people” to the “intelligentsia ". To this end he went to live in Rotherham for 6 months , foreswore the Today Programme and the Guardian, switching to Radio 2, The Sun and The Daily Mail .
You don’t know whether to laugh or spit . To claim to be so delicate a hot house flower that you assume the posture Brian Sewell might adopt on the Rugby pitch, in your own coutry ? Implausible . I lived in his home patch , Islington, at the time, and well knew what a mixed place it was. I was also was once married to a Rotherham girl and simply did not recognise the separation between the two . He appeared conceited and ignorant but above all a ridiculous character .Imagine pint sized Gulliver peering at supposedly miniscule Liliiputians who are in fact the same size as him.
Whatever he may be however, what I shall treat as a literary artifice, has yielded some useful language .So leaving the preposterous faux-squeamishness aside, then , what was it he discovered ?

Most of the English still live within five miles of where they were born. The culture is overwhelmingly associated with place in a way entirely misunderstood by the ‘Universal Value Liberals ’.Many answers to Polls are contradictory .People say free speech freedom ,are essential to their identity but a majority are quick to want such freedoms prescribed for Muslims for example .Fair play is admired, but in the form of the Human Rights Act it is paradoxically loathed although the act only enshrines rights more or less enjoyed by the British anyway. The paradox is resolved in the concept of Communitarianism .

The Liberal believes you have rights as a member of the human race the Communitarian English , to some extent , believe you have rights only as a member of club having pulled your weight and discharged the responsibilities associated with that place which is your home or country. Rights and values are particular and derived from tradition , history and place . The Liberal post enlightenment idea of universal rights is in competition with this older idea . A communitarian , for example , would be happy that values associated with the countryside , say an enjoyment of fox hunting, can be legitimately different to those associated with towns . It would be less enthusiastic on imposing universal values hence the hostility to the Human Rights Act.
The Liberal / Communitarian divide, cuts across politics abd right through the heart of the Liberal Party.The unions defended their “Communities” with the miners strike . They dislike outsourcing to cheaper countries to the detriment of those others. Other left wingers encourage mass immigration and deplore little England nationalist attitudes . Conservatism has many elements of Comunitariansim in it but the Laissez Fair economics associated with Thatcher are inimical to communities. Personally I have never accepted that idea of Margaret Thatcher but you take the point . Liberals are intensely localist but their internationalist policies are aimed at the destruction of such loyalties.
My belief is that cowed by the superficial intellectualism universal Liberalism many people are unable to articulate their equally respectable communitarian views and this sort of language will be important . What Baggini does not see is that he is himself part of a ‘community’ and his values have no claim to be imposed universally except his own unquestioned belief that they are better. Perhaps I should go and live amongst them and write a book about their picturesque dried tomato eating habits, and quaint ideas ?


Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Buon anno, Mr N.

Newmania said...

And to you WL

Ed said...

Apparently Polly Toynbee once spent a few weeks slumming it in a minimum wage job and lived in a council flat to get a grip on how the other half lived. Well done her. Well done this bloke for switching to Radio 2. What disgusting snobbery.

The mistake these people make day in, day out is to think that they live in some special world above the ordinary people, then spend their entire careers fretting about it.

Newmania said...

That was for the book Hard Work Ed Baggini was not thinking about he poor , it was about the ordinary people whuch is a different matter .

I remember thinking it was amazing that Polly Toynbee should think we did not know what it was like to be a Dinner Lady.

My auntie was one at my school

anthonynorth said...

The very fact that such a person has to play anthropologist shows how divorced the new 'liberal' Britain is from reality.
I'm certain this is why so many things go wrong today. The liberal middleclass has defined its standards and tried to impose an alien culture on the rest. Convinced that man, in his natural state, is a social being, all safeguards are taken away, not realising that no one is really a social being - it is a state that must be nurtured.
Liberals themselves disprove their own theory - after all, none get more bitchy than them.

Newmania said...

Liberals themselves disprove their own theory - after all, none get more bitchy than them.

I hear that !!! See Paddicks recent nonsense and in fact I have always noticed that. In Islington they were dreadful

Philipa said...

Well I'm thinking of giving up blogging. What I mean is visiting blogs and commenting. The only ones I seem to enjoy and who gives feedback nowadays are yours and Raincoaster - old stalwarts to shared interests, but Boris's blog seems quiet, which is perhaps understandable with efforts concentrated on the mayoral election.

I've been how I want to be rather than what gets results on the net - I've been nice. Terribly nice and helpful and responsive and occasionally chatty and am largely being ignored now. Well bollocks then.

Rousseau was an arse. He assumed that the general will, ie. the will of the majority (the mob, the X factor watchers) would be the most sensible solution to any problem, or at least would be the most popular therefore generally agreeable. But no, he did assume it would be the most sensible and that all men (MEN) would see the sense of it with due consideration and if they didn't they should be forced to comply - off with their heads!

Well that's just crap, as the french revolution and the Russian revolution taught us - you can't live happily like that. Doesn't work. That's communism not democracy/pluralism. Rousseau was not for pluralism.

So what's that got to do with liberalism and fox hunting? Newmania knows. He identified that people with different cultural environments and models have different values and belifs. These can be distinct even between town and country in the same small province. Both are valid, in their environment - you wouldn't foxhunt through Camden (though you might shoot the little scavengers).

General humanitarian truths are a good thing - trial by jury. Habeas corpus is being abolished if this government get their way - detention without trial. But all in the name of fighting terrorism. So the question is the thing. If you ask people if they want the State to guard against terrorism they would probably say yes. In questionaires and clever speeches you can get an unwary mob to agree to almost anything on the 'fighting for right' emotional ticket. But who is right?

Well it depends doesn't it? It depends on the action and the circumstances and to detirmine these things takes a trial, by jury. And the little things should be ruled by our culture (which has taken a bashing) not by State decree. What I mean is - what jokes we can tell; we shouldn't be hauled into court for telling an offensive joke whilst burglars go un-chased.

The difference with this country was that Europe was mostly based on Napoleonic law/post revolution - the State tells you what you can do. This country was different in that it only told you what you couldn't do, the rest was freedom and liberty.

I sometimes wonder if the 'liberal' has now become another word for anarchist - they'll agree to anything if it gets them votes. Actually that could apply to all of them, 'cept Boris. He tells it like it is.

"Liberals are intensely localist but their internationalist policies are aimed at the destruction of such loyalties" - good point. But the community most people see themselves as part of in Westminster is the political community. Most political commentators see themselves as part of the 'intelligentsia'. You highlight this by this mans risible attitude. There's definately a 'them and us' attitude. If there is any sense of community then I guess it is membership of an elite and that elite can be seen encompassed by Europe and hence their acceptance of it. We are a European village.

Britain was abolished by the liberal elite and to try to explain the conquered to the conquerors when they were 'only trying to help' (themselves mostly) is indeed laughable.

I find the choice of words interesting - 'intelligentsia' is from the Russian I believe.

A higher purpose, hmn. Makes me think of the ending of the film 'Walkabout'

Philipa said...

PS: what they should really do is not swap Polly with a dinner lady but swap a columnist with... me f'rinstance. I vote that a certain columnist lives my life, as Portillo did, and I'll swan around in London (fancy lunch on my new expense account N?) only to write a column on saturday - I can do that falling off a log, oh and a blog post once a week, easy peasy. Then pop home to find my dinner cooked and laundry done and children washed and fed. Sounds like heaven to me. Let's do it!

Newmania said...

Pity if tyou gave up Blogging Phillipa as you seem to have done a better job on my subject than me ...ahem if you do then baggsy me first dibs on your guest posts !!

Philipa said...

Thanks N :-))))))
Don't you think the pic of that chap looks sort of androgenous?

Ed said...

P don't give up posting! The reason we are in such an awful situation is because the "good" people have become disillusioned and spend their energies elsewhere so the nasties walk all over the rest of us.

Fight the good fight P!

CityUnslicker said...

Ed that is a fine point.

Ed said...

Thanks CU - which one?!?

Mrs Smallprint said...


I would visit your blog and more than likely comment but there is no link by clicking on your profile, so those of us who aren't in the know but find your comments interesting are unlikely to find out.

The country versus town debate is an interesting one and demonstrates how views in a group can harden when pressed. I was never fond of the foxhunters (although I love horse riding) mainly because they make a nusience of themselves. However so do foxes and at least the animals caught end up dead pretty swiftly, whereas a fox shot badly can suffer for days. The debate forced my to pick sides and I chose the countryside view over the town view.

Newmania said...

There are lots of things I do not like Mrs. S and I would not be likely to hunt a fox myself but to ban it is most illiberal.

We should have a meta law that when you have a new law you have to lose an old one

steve said...

what the fuck does tony blair think he was doing telling the world that he was converting to catholicsm? if hes so pure, why doesnt he give the £200,000 he made for a 20 minute afterEight speech he made in china to charities? is he a poof or something taking his faith soooooo seriously?
im not regional but i have repect for every regions: christianity, catholic, buda, halla, ala, aloe vera.... you name it.

maybe cherie blair wants to use the money to pay for a fanny tuck?

steve said...

oh i forgot to mention tom cruise"s science technology. sorry mania

Newmania said...

im not regional but i have repect for every regions:

Steve....did you mean 'religious' or are you making an interesting point about the regions ?

Little Black Sambo said...

I agree with Philipa; there is something not right about his face, the small, lipless mouth, perhaps.
(I tried to register on the Euroreferendum blog but Richard North said that my name was not acceptable - so what was that all about? I didn't think he was a liberal.)

Newmania said...

No idea LBS, I still have the record somewhere about from my youth
"Living in the Jungle , thats me ...." Overly sensitive I`d say

steve said...

religions, religious... of course mania, thanks.
oh, who the fuck does naomi campbell think she is? she just went to cuba to interview fidel castro for G&Q magazine { gay & queer magazine ?]. anyway this is

what she said: i really admire fidel castro. i think he and nelson mandela are very brave and admirable because castro sticks to his belief.
WHAT??!! A dictator more like !

she should stick to what she and kate moss know best - coke.

Newmania said...

Steve I have no overwhelming objection to anything you say but it does not have anything to do with what I posted ? Could you address the topic ...vaguely .

Anonymous said...

Newmsie -

A most excellent post.

Are you familiar with Glenn Reynolds, the Blogfather of the American Right? His wife, Helen, is both beautiful and brainy, a combination which leaves me weak at the knees. Together they host an irregular podcast called, not surprisingly, The Glenn and Helen Show.

One of their recent podcasts was an interview with Jonah Goldberg, author of a book called "Liberal Fascism". Download it and put it on your MP3 player. I've listened to it three times now. It's worth the effort. Most illuminating, it deals with the Hillary Clinton "it takes a village" communitarianism thing and show its similarity to Italian fascism.

Philipa said...

Ed - will do, thanks, suitably admonished :-)

mrs smallprint - there's a link to my blog on Newms blogroll, it's 'Fortean Times' but you'll have to look down the blog a bit for more than a merry xmas at the mo - since Christmas there seems so much to do, all the 'oh I'll do it after xmas' stuff. I hope you'll stop by and will have another post up soon. I agree with you on the foxhunting front - I too had horses and foxhunting was never my bag but like Newms I would not ban others (I might ban the blighters riding across peoples carefully tended gardens though!).

Luds - interesting link, gonna check that one out.

PS: just tried to shop at the local mall and ended up in a huge traffic jam again (and only found parking next to M&S N, you must be made of money, it cost me £80 to shop for food and I only came out with half the stuff I normally get) What do people need to buy now? I mean, xmas is over and it's been chockabloc since november!! Shopping and celebrity, the new religion :-/

Anonymous said...

What Baggini does not see is that he is himself part of a ‘community’ and his values have no claim to be imposed universally except his own unquestioned belief that they are better. Perhaps I should go and live amongst them and write a book about their picturesque dried tomato eating habits, and quaint ideas ? (Newmania)

What Baggini also fails to recognise is that he;s part of the performance.

His research reminds me of the flurry of 1950s and 60s participant observation research carried out by middle class, nosey parker, sociologists, desperate to get their vicarious jollies off by treating working class people like human guinea pigs.

These social spies were agog over the tight knit communities of the traditional working class in Bethnal Green as a sort of model for a communist society. No one told them that the canny dockers smelled them a mile off and put on a special performance for them.

Some of these sociologists, like Goldthorpe and Locker (in 1968), studied affluent car workers in Luton in order to reinforce their theory of the embourgouisement of the working class - they argued that the new, affluent working class had been bought off by high wages and no longer found themselves in conflict with capitalism.

Unfortunately for Goldthorpe and Lockwood, no sooner had they written their book than production stalled at Luton, wages and jobs were cut, and the plant was rocked by a series of wildcat strikes :)

Excellent piece, n!

Anonymous said...

Gawd, forgot my name again, the 10.18 pm post was by Auntie Flo, n

Newmania said...

Download it and put it on your MP3 player.

You might as well ask a dog to Dance the Tango...I`ll have alook at the sight

Newmania said...

P we rarely ventire into M and S but it is an Alladin`s cave if goodies and does excellent pants

Newmania said...

Flo I was trying to remember who they were , they must come ater the Peple watching thing of the 1930s or have I got that wrong ? I did not mean to say that baggini`s idea was wrong I think it is a good way of looking at political schism, of certain sorts however he got to it.

YOu seem to know an awful lot about it thanks for the input and to the others as well I appreciate it !

Newmania said...

I mean I`ll have alook at his SITE
Lud thanks .

Anonymous said...

YOu seem to know an awful lot about it (n)

Not enough to get Goldthorpe and Lockwood's names right, though :)

I think you you're right about the 1930s people's studies, the 50s and 60s studies were some sort of throwback to those.

What patronising arrogance - treating people like lab rats.

Auntie Flo'

Anonymous said...

Newms and Aunti Flo -

Are you guys thinking of Mass Observation?

Newmania said...

Yes I was Lud..very brainy

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