Skip to main content

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).

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A New Age of Sabotage

I haven't posted much recently because every time I think of something to say, the extraordinary pace of events makes it sound lame by the next morning: New York under water, Obama re-elected, News International in the dock, rockets falling on Tel Aviv, and that's even before we reach the Mayan apocalypse on Dec 21. However I've finally plucked up courage to wade into the torrent of the miraculous-horrific thanks to a fortunate discovery on the web. In this previous post I confessed an increasing interest in the radical Norwegian-American economist Thorstein Veblen, but that interest was quite narrowly based on reading only three of his works, namely The Theory of the Leisure Class, The Theory of Business Enterprise and his important essay The Socialist Economics of Karl Marx and His Followers. This wasn't just due to laziness but to the difficulty of obtaining many of Veblen's books, which have been out of print for a long time.

But I re-read Veblen's Wikiped…

Trump of Doom?

Thought for the day. The type of economy we call social democracy depended for its success on a willingness of the majority of the population to cooperate as well as compete with one another, giving up a portion of their income in taxes to be spent on various public goods like medicine, education and transport. If the population loses its willingness to make these reasonable sacrifices then it becomes impossible to maintain a social democracy.

The UK population was so willing for at least 30 years following WWII, to a large extent thanks to the experience of necessary cooperation among the generation who fought that war. But over the *last* 30+ years that willingness has been steadily eroded by many factors, including (but by no means confined to): greater individualism stemming from precisely the relative affluence and economic freedom that post-war social democracy conferred; successive economic crises (some related to oil, some to financial recklessness); industrial decline, outsou…

Collapse of the Left

The devastating setbacks recently suffered by the Left in the UK, USA, Turkey, Hungary and Poland (perhaps soon to be followed by more within the EU) have not yet lead to any satisfactory explanation of what is going wrong. They're still largely discussed in terms of Right v Left, but using partially outdated definitions of what these terms imply.

For the first half of the 20th century, the democratic Left was associated with socialised services, economic regulation, high wages and worker's rights,, while the Right espoused militarism, privatised services, free markets and low wages. The 1960s counterculture crucially changed the beliefs of the so called New Left in the direction of pacifism, minority rights and social libertarianism, and these positions have now merged into the mainstream Left to produce a bewildering range of different combinations and sects.

The Right still likes militarism, free markets, and individualism but has also adopted substantial parts of New Left …