Furedi, You Magnificent Bastard, I'm Reading Your Book!

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I'm a huge admirer of Frank Furedi's work (am reading his intriguing new book Therapy Culture at the moment) and he's posted an excellent article about "The Politics of the Lonely Crowd" over at Spiked.

As an ardent enthusiast for the political disengagement and lifestyle liberation he decries, I'm not sure I agree with his latest piece. But he presents a fascinating reading of "social disengagement" that is well worth considering. A snippet:

We live in an era of political exhaustion and social disengagement. Fewer and fewer people are prepared to vote, and fewer still are interested in getting involved in party politics. In the UK, membership of the major political parties has fallen by half since 1980. During the same period, political party membership in France has declined by two-thirds, and in Italy by 51 per cent. By comparison, the German figure looks good: total party membership fell by only nine per cent, probably because of an influx of new recruits from the east….

The decline of party membership coincides with a wider disengagement from political life. Today, people's idealism and hopes are rarely invested in a belief in political change, and individuals rarely develop their identities through some form of political attachment. Thirty years ago, an individual might have identified himself as a Labour man, whose outlook on life was shaped by his belief in a socialist future and whose relationships in the present were with a community that shared this broad view. Today the question of who you vote for is seen as barely significant, and self-identity is viewed far more in terms of individuals' lifestyles, cultural habits and personal experiences….

Politics today has little in common with the passions and conflicts that have shaped people's commitments and hatreds over the past century. There is no longer room for either the ardent advocate of revolution or the fervent defenders of the free market faith. Political sentiments rarely acquire a systematic form, in which vague aspirations for change are transformed into real-life discussions about how change might come about. This is definitely not an age of political programmes. Where political life was once defined by debates about the welfare state or privatisation, now similar-sounding manifestos pick over class sizes in schools and university tuition fees.

[Link via Arts & Letters Daily]

NEXT: The Stink of Martha's Money

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  1. Best. Headline. Ever.

  2. Watched Patton on cable last night, eh, Nick?

  3. The headline could’ve been a reference to a “Seinfeld” episode, as well (“Newman, you magnificent bastard!”).

  4. Turn on, tune in, drop out.

    And it’s definitely Patton.

  5. Anyone actually read Rommel’s book? Any good?

  6. Furedi may disagree, but I think he’s describing society’s “quiet before the storm.”
    The storm will be when a critical mass realizes governments are useless and overthrows them all. It will be a falling of the Berlin Wall writ large.

  7. Yeah! Wake up, America!

    Oh, and there will be spontaneous demonstrations among the workers, expressing their gratitude and joy.

  8. Very interesting article. My initial instinct rejects its conclusions while still being fascinated by the connections it makes to draw them.

    The trend away from ideological “Shared Vision of The Future” politics isn’t exactly a new thing. Neither is the growth of “We Get Ours” subdivisions between relatively microscopic interests. What seems more and more glaringly obvious is the extreme strain politicians are put under to find any sort of cover story for their increasingly mechanized function. Liberalization of culture, by definition, does not allow for this. Thus the politician is forced to listen to the voice of his inner Fear-Monger, posing as Voodoo Protector against the invisible onslaught of…whatever.

    The inner conservative psyche in every politician can’t, even for a minute, stand to see the advancement of society as a buttom up affair. They prefer skyhooks over cranes, to borrow Dan Dennett’s terminology. Leaders must be the Keepers of the Shining Path.

    The idea that a clear shared vision is even desirable is far from a right wing assumption. It is much more widespread. Denying it is still a relatively radical position. But why should we know where we are going to be as a culture in 20 years? Other than in a society that allows such questions to be answered by the free association individuals. Given the computational explosiveness of calculating such a vision, it shouldn’t be surprising that “personal preference” politics are the increasing norm.

    But the climate of cultural fear (something Furedi knows a thing or two about) extracts a huge tithe to our Voodoo Protectors. I wonder if Furedi hasn’t just presented us with a erudite exposition of their underlying narrative.

  9. My advanced stage schizophrenia forces me to ask whether that made sense to anyone.

  10. I thought it was an excellent post, Pavel.

    I have nothing else to add at this point. 🙂

  11. I figured here would be the place to post more “deep thoughts” of the schizophrenic Jack Handy variety.
    This is by Alan Bock which I found on Antiwar.com today.

    “If the nation-state is in eclipse, why do we want to work so hard to foist one on Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries? Why not let systems evolve based on local traditions, customs and current needs rather than having them imposed by wise international bureaucrats who become international bureaucrats mainly so they will get out of the hair and leave alone the countries in which they happened to be born?”

  12. Ruthless,

    That Saddam was a real evolutionist joker.

    Killing 1,000 of his slaves a month must a been his idea of evolution in action.

    BTW who writes your jokes. No, really.

  13. M. Simon,
    You sound hawkish to the tender ears of the anarchic Ruthless.

    Your implication above is that Saddam needed an ass-whomping, so “thank Bush” he got one.

    Did you see the movie, “The Streets of New York,” starring Leo DeCaprio? Neither did I, because Pretty-Boy Leo was miscast… but I did see the Preview.

    What I’m leading to is that there is less collateral damage when ass-whomping is conducted in the decorous atmosphere of anarchy than when governments are self-appointed mercenaries doin’ it.

    Like in so many areas, governments insist on their monopolies. Recall all the years of the U.S. government spending bucks and wheedling (and betraying) potential ass-whompers with a stake in Iraq to stay out of it? The Kurds, the Shia’s? of the southern Iraq marshland, the Israelis, etc.

    Let me be me: a discriminating vigilante.

    Peace out.

  14. He refers to belief in free markets as faith, and Nick’s a huge admirer of his? Interesting.

    The notion that we participate meaningfully in our political process is of use to the politicians who rig the system. Keeps the people from realizing they actually have little control over things. But, on a subliminal level people DO see this and stop playing in the political reindeer games. At least until the government goes too far. Then there will be revolution and the cycle is born again.

  15. I read the piece and he’s on to something. But I think it might just be there’s too many channels on cable.

  16. Ya know, I think it was the precocious Oscar Wilde who once said people would enjoy sunsets more if they had to pay for them.

    The answer is in a voting tax!

  17. Dizzy,
    Are you the brother Nick keeps in his attic?

    Your post probably belongs on another thread, but I thought the best idea along the lines of a voting tax you suggest is to pay a dollar a vote.
    The money raised could pay for the cost of holding elections. If the idea panned out we could afford to hold more elections to settle more issues… or to have more recall elections.

  18. Ruthless,

    Actually I’m with you.

    We need to get on with the anarchy before Bush gets into the act.

    Perhaps we could send some anarchy to Iran before Bush sends the 101st.

    The only way to stop Bush is pre-emption. Let’s get with it.

  19. You know I think this is one of the best ideas I have ever had.

    We know pretty much what Bush’s immediate targets are likely to be. What we need to do is install representative republican governments before Bush sends in the military. Or at least we could get them to surrender like Kdaffy.

    Here is the to do list:

    Syria
    Iran
    North Korea
    Somolia

    If we can clean up those places in the next 6 to 9 months we can pre-empt Bush.

  20. >Somolia
    If we can clean up those places

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