Friday, March 13, 2009

From Gin Lane to a New Modernity: Reality Trumps Morality

Dr Rupa Huq takes the not very surprising Bristol Palin/Todd Johnson break up cum deliverance and tries to locate it firmly as a sign of or indeed confirmation-if-confirmation -were-needed of a 21st century malaise in "family life". The family life that used to fuck us up? That we used to have to buy pot-boiling, tub-thumping, comedy-science books to survive?

I say less of the “nowadays” Dr Roops, less of the "21st century", less even of the applying of an apparently hopeless from that extract, it's not actually, late 20th century analysis that first appeared more than ten years ago. And is still on the money.

There may be small to moderate changes in the quantum but chaotic families, teen pregnancies, “gymslip mums”, absent baby fathers, break-ups, make-ups, remoulds, re-remoulds, extended families in ways beyond the norm for the term ... but these and cognate "deviations" are by no means new. None of them.

And it's certainly not new for these to be treated as problematic by mass media when cropping up among the great unwashed, lumpen, benefit-scrounger working classes. And at the same time rather amusing among the upper middle and middle upper classes where serial marriage, serial divorce, serial fathering and mothering out of wedlock, serial scrounging and ne'er-do-welling, and so on and so forth can actually be painted as rather droll. The cheeky rascals!

If society has become a bit more relaxed about all this; with the broad population catching up with the chatterers in that regard; being more open and not shameful as such; then is that not a good thing? If the nuclear family has in some cases exploded instead of remaining as pent up time bomb is this so terrible?

If there is a benefits regime and people weigh it up and decide they can be happy enough exclusively or partially "gaming" that is that really “immoral” or even cap-I "Immoral" as Tom Harris has it? And likely the quiet party man IDS also.

Is it not more immoral to judge, to generalise, to privilege anecdote over real evidence, to write off, to condemn, to sensationalise, to dog whistle?

Particularly without proffering any solutions whatsoever?

Is that really any sort of "Return of Morality"? Or just a cheap shot at some alleged work-shy "Shameless" soap dodgers? An almost inevitable feature of mature wealthy societies to have a bit of slack here and there I'd have thought. And is a lack of absolute full employment really such a problem? Let's see how Professor Ulrich Beck, for it was he that Dr Roops called in aid, concluded his New Statesman/LSE treatise - almost ten years ago to the day ...

So the end of full employment need not be a catastrophe. It can allow every person to become a member of a cosmopolitan civil society in Europe - what Immanuel Kant called "the most sublime idea a man can have of his destination". Through what I call "citizen work", European democracy could find its soul.

Representative democracy contradicts the self-determination of the individual. It is founded upon the rule of the common will against the individual which, as Kant says, is a contradiction of the general will with itself. The alternative to national majority democracy is what I call a cosmopolitan republicanism. By this I mean the revaluation of the local and the self-responsibility of civil society - an active society where political processes are not simply organised in parliament and in the government but at a local and everyday level of the citizen, too. Civil society is in poor repute among politicians because it does not meet their standards of efficiency. The technocratic speech of so many politicians is a cancer on democratic belief. We need a society which is not simply centred on waged work but willing to finance citizen work and income - forms of self-organisation, and experimental life forms and politics, which are already going on. Such a democratisation of democracy needs to happen on a transnational European level.


And here's the Guardian's Equality Editorial for Friday 13th.

Their spread on this, is it online?, is fascinating.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bang on there kid - the only difference between feckless, broken, dysfunctional working class families and their middle/upper class counterparts is that the pos c***s have the financial wherewithall to paper over the damage.