Dead Men Left

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

"Conservatives and socialists"

Ed at International Rooksbyism has a short post on an article in Radical Philosophy #129 - which, I grant you, may not sound like the most appealing prospect you've ever heard, but it's good. Says Ken Hirschkopp:

Were not the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s bent on the destruction of malevolent traditions and inspired by the prospect of new systems of meaning? One reason for the success of backlash conservatism is that it has managed to portray the advance of gay and women’s rights as the unleashing of hedonism rather than the construction of a new moral and cultural universe. And, to be honest, the Left has often allowed itself to be painted into this corner, evoking the language of rights as if what was at stake was merely self-expression or the opening up of a new market niche.

Ed, following Hillary Wainwright in Reclaim the State, adds that the New Right sedulously warped the language of "personal autonomy" into support for the free market. Michel Houlbecq in Atomised, a novel both excellent and reprehensible, and Dominique Lecourt in The Mediocracy make similar points, though with an added moral revulsion.

What's peculiar now is how the Third Way left - New Labour most especially - have then reinterpreted the New Right's own reinterpretation into a pappy mash of vague liberal feel-good sentiments and similar dreck, smeared on to the same firm support for the free market. It's a strange little trick, and one the left in general has only just begun to wake up to; the war on terror makes the sleight of hand difficult to conceal.