Wednesday 22 December 2010

Blue Labour?

The usual apologies for lack of recent posts. The run-up to Christmas ('or Advent, as we used to call it' - copyright Brian Redhead, Today programme, circa 1985) has been particularly hectic this year, but I'll try to post more regularly in 2011.

I wanted belatedly to recommend this post by Jeff Weintraub (also on the Dissent blog) which introduced me to the work of the recently ennobled Maurice Glasman, whom I hadn't come across before. Glasman, who coined the term 'Blue Labour' to signify 'a deeply conservative socialism that places family, faith and work at the heart of a new politics of reciprocity, mutuality and solidarity' has been closely involved with London Citizens and was apparently the architect of Gordon Brown's stirring (but belated) pre-election speech to the organisation. Glasman, who is himself Jewish, founded a programme to encourage interfaith understanding, and his work draws in part on Catholic social teaching.

As a lapsed Catholic and ex-member of the Christian Socialist Movement, and now as an agnostic secular humanist who is a little suspicious of the importation of faith into the political arena - but at the same time hoping for a renaissance of thoughtful, progressive religion - I'm fascinated by, but wary of, this kind of thinking - and find myself wondering how blue socialism differs from Philip Blond's red toryism. As when reading accounts of Catholic involvement in progressive politics in the US, I admire the concern with social justice, but wonder what happens to the liberal emphasis on individual freedom and the kind of rights  - for women, and for sexual and other minorities - that religious organisations, and indeed most forms of communitarian politics, have traditionally had little time for?

These questions will have to wait until the New Year, but in the meantime here's Maurice Glasman (with Jon Cruddas) at the Compass 'Good Society' conference in November this year (via):

A New Political Economy for the Good Society - Maurice Glasman from Social Europe Journal on Vimeo.


Kind of relevant to the above, a priceless quote via Facebook from Martin Meenagh: 'As for the "Big Society", like Communitarianism, it's dumbed down Catholic social thinking with a condom on.'

Oh - and another Facebook friend reminds me that 'apologies for lack of recent posts' (see above) is one of John Rentoul's blogging no-no's. So, apologies for the apology.


Martin Meenagh said...

Merry Christmas! I haven't been blogging much later, but I feel like Tom Lehrer--when real life is as it is, what place is there for satire or commentary? This mad, weird, pre-stagflation condem interlude gets weirder by the day....

peter said...

Having grown up in a small town, I see the flaws of this communitarian socio-babble very clearly - the lack of privacy and autonomy, the provincialism, the reverence for the traditional ways, the fear of the new or different, and the absence of curiosity and generosity. Etzioni's absurd idea that we should all live within 2 miles of where we work would destroy at a stroke most of what is good about modern life, technology and society.

Martin said...

I tend to agree, Peter. The anti-modernism of the communitarians worries me and I think that loss of faith in progress is spreading on the left, hence the renewed appeal of faith-based 'socialism'. But I also think it would be a mistake to ignore the powerful emotional pull of this kind of rhetoric...the secular left needs to find a way to respond to it that isn't dismissive.