Monday, January 17, 2011

Every Time I Hear The Word 'Community', I Reach For My Revolver

Anyone reading this presumably knows me and so knows that I am not always given to sweetness and light about the rest of the human race. I suppose I'd miss them if they were gone, but that is only a supposition. So even if Maurice Glasman weren't pitching himself as "more conservative than the Conservatives", even if he weren't in effect calling for the abolition of most of the welfare state along with the reinstatement of officially-sanctioned gender and racial discrimination along with the criminalization of gay sex, even if the specific political vision he's offering weren't one of "faith, family and the flag", I'd not be entirely happy about Ed Milliband having decided to ennoble him. Early on in his Culture and Equality, Brian Barry defines a 'gut liberal' as "somebody who feels an inclination to throw up when confronted" with either right- or leftwing invocations of the idea of the moral perfection of a world beyond the atomizing and alienating entitlements of rights-talk. Community looms large in these discourses, whether it's one built around hierarchies of status associated with the right or around the obliteration of difference implied by the universal brotherhood of man - and let's not forget that it often was a universal brotherhood of man. Barry's gut liberals should then presumably feel distinctly queasy at the increasing resort to an appeal to community in British political rhetoric. I don't have to like or want to spend time with my neighbours, I, along with everyone else, have to treat them justly - which isn't the same thing at all.