Book: Left Without a Future? by Anthony Painter

Published on Progress online, by Alison McGovern MP, Sept 6, 2013.

… The underlying argument of Left Without a Future? is that, while the global downturn has certainly caused anxiety, technology and sweeping changes in society have given people opportunities that would never have been available to people of their means, class or background in decades before.  

Painter rightly identifies that what the left requires, in seeking to address this divergent experience, is a dual plan for reform of both the state and markets. He makes an important distinction on our starting point for such reforms: articulating our values is not the same as moralising. Moralising political arguments take a blunt attitude, making sweeping general statements about right and wrong or the ‘common good’. Rather, what is required is an analysis of progressive values. He writes, ‘Human beings are not just a set of individuals impervious to external influences. In fact, we are deeply conditioned in ways that we don’t realise. One of the most powerful driving forces is our values, and these are driven by our physiological, psychological and emotional needs.’

Painter walks us through the competing understandings of blue Labour and then draws on Amartya Sen in articulating politics as securing for each as many of the beings and doings as they might wish for. In other words, we are looking for a freedom that is not just autonomy, where a person has access to services and freedom from overbearing authority, but agency, where they have a real say in how their life turns out.

On the state, Painter says we need radical devolution, and that the success of Scottish and Welsh devolution should point the way for English cities and towns. But he also counsels against too restricted an idea of what England is: ‘When Englishness assumes a monocultural form, when it is idealised and amplified, tightly defined and dissected, it quickly slips from one’s grasp.’ The bottom-up restructure (with city-mayors and leaders, for example, asking for, rather than being allocated, more power) is the right way to account for the wide variety of England.

In relation to markets, he describes some of the institutions that can reform our economy over the long term, rightly giving strong support to modern trade unions, particularly in improving wage levels, which could also help reduce indebtedness. But there are also familiar policies to improve our economy: a national investment bank for infrastructure, better skills policy, and a break-up of the monocultural UK banking system … //

… (full text).

Links:

EU to US: Assad guilty of Syria gas attack, but no military backing before UN report, on RT, Sept 7, 2013;

Yesterday was Parliament’s nadir, on LabourList, by Anthony Painter, August 30, 2013;

What Labour has right and what it has wrong on Syria, on LabourList, by Anthony Painter, August 29, 2013;

(see also: Welcome to our new blog: politics for the 99%).

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