Monday, 19 April 2010

Ghost in the Party Machine

I just read a thought-provoking review of Roman Polanski's "The Ghost" by Michael Wood in the LRB. Wood didn't think it was a  great movie, though he believes as I do that Polanski is a great director. What set me to thinking were two throwaway lines in his review: the first was that "Polanski has said that he is not interested in politics, and I believe him"; the second, about the movie's principal character Adam Lang (a Tony Blair figure) was that unlike everyone else he feels at home on the grim island because "he is a politician, he is indifferent to places: he brings himself along, so what more could he want?"

This triggered queries as to what politics means nowadays, and what it means not to be interested in it. Perhaps there are now three totally disjoint populations in the land:

1) those who are not interested in politics, which means in practice that they are only interested at worst in themselves, or at best in their families and friends too. Private citizens.
2) politicians who are only interested in themselves.
3) a smallish minority, including a very few politicians, who are interested in politics. This means that they cannot help but see the larger picture, beyond their own immediate family interests, and that they might even do or support things that are not in their own immediate interest. They risk attack by ordinary private citizens for being hopeless idealists or even fanatics.

I'm also in the middle of reviewing a book called "Cool Capitalism" by Jim McGuigan (Pluto Press), whose basic conclusion supports precisely this picture of modern life: we've entered a fourth, perhaps final, perhaps perpetual phase of capitalism in which the private life of consumption has expelled politics from everyday life and relegated it to a niche for professionals (who unfortunately can't be trusted).

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