Amateur sociologist and sensible conservative David Brooks devotes his column today to the thought of Phillip Blond. This paragraph in particular touched my heart:
He grew up in working-class Liverpool. “I lived in the city when it was being eviscerated,” he told The New Statesman. “It was a beautiful city, one of the few in Britain to have a genuinely indigenous culture. And that whole way of life was destroyed.” Industry died. Political power was centralized in London.
The story sounds familiar to me because I grew up in the environs of working-class Flint, Mich., when it was being eviscerated — the same small town, in fact, where Michael Moore grew up. Both Moore and I share the conviction that the implosion of cities like Flint went hand-in-hand with the systematic destruction of organized labor. Implicitly, we’re to think that Blond sees the same connection, as in this paragraph:
Then there was the market revolution from the right. In the age of deregulation, giant chains like Wal-Mart decimated local shop owners. Global financial markets took over small banks, so that the local knowledge of a town banker was replaced by a manic herd of traders thousands of miles away. Unions withered.
Interestingly, however, on Brooks’ list of Blond’s potential ways to undo the baleful trend toward centralization and individualization, one does not find trade unionism! Instead, employee share ownership is to be “encouraged.”
Though Brooks does not mention it, Blond does support co-ops like John Lewis plc, but apparently trade unionism in the existing big businesses isn’t really on the agenda for this supposedly “Red” movement. Increasing the discretionary power of local bureaucrats or lowering the regulatory barriers to starting a small business doesn’t seem like any substitute for workers actively forcing big business to give them a greater share of the profits they’re generating — but again, in this supposedly “Red” movement, we get no real analysis of the social forces of capitalism. Instead, we are to assume that for some unknown reason, people just up and decided to favor centralization and greater individualism en masse.
And what is the solution? To fantasize about what elements of pre-modern society we could revamp, all the while making no serious effort to determine how we might organize social forces to make our demands effective — other than, of course, providing ideological cover for the party that did the most to destroy places like Liverpool. Truly, this is the politics of paradox!