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The Tories can save Blue Labour Post-liberalism is more at home on the Left than the Right, according to a new book

Bonfire of the liberals (Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)


October 12, 2021   8 mins

When even an inveterate social and economic liberal like Boris Johnson can give a speech at the Conservative party conference railing against big business and invoking a paternalist High Tory dirigisme as the governing ideology of the new era, it is a sign of a historic shift in the tectonic plates of politics. When the party’s neoliberal faction, whose decades-long hostile takeover of British conservatism had until now reigned unchallenged, is reduced to mourning its new political marginalisation, we can celebrate the end of a disastrous era, and the dawning of another. It’s as if post-liberalism has won the political argument: we are all post-liberals now. 

What was a few short years ago the preserve of marginal discontents is now the hegemonic discourse: it is the liberals who are on the back foot, dreaming up ever-more elaborate conspiracy theories to explain the collapse of their ideology.  

Yet Britain’s most prominent post-liberal theorists are not claiming victory, and are instead mourning their defeat. In a plaintive recent essay, Blue Labour’s Jonathan Rutherford has claimed that “we imagined Blue Labour was about renewal, but, in hindsight, it was already too late. One thinks of the Owl of Minerva taking flight ‘only with the falling of dusk.’” For Rutherford, “Labour no longer possesses the intellectual and philosophical resources for a political renaissance and it does not look beyond itself to acquire them”.

Instead of seizing this historic moment, the Labour Party has lost itself in the abstruse theological disputes of a liberalism increasingly unmoored from reality, and become ever more feverish in policing its ideological purity as its voter base vanishes into history.

To understand the sense of gloom pervading British post-liberalism, we must return to its diagnosis of the West’s political crisis. The argument is this: liberalism contains within its essential nature the seeds of its own destruction. By dividing communities, social and economic classes and nations into a constellation of individuals warring among each other in search of self-advantage, liberalism negates any possibility of collective action or solidarity. Essentially a northwest European secular heresy derived from the Protestant Reformation, liberalism seeks to remake the world in its own image, projecting its own ideal form onto utterly different societies in a mission as doomed to failure as America’s wars in the Islamic world. 

In its purest economic form, liberalism, the ideological nursemaid of capitalism, destroys its social and fiscal base in pursuit of an idealist model, with disastrous results. It is increasingly rejected by voters across most of the Western world. And yet it hangs on to tenuous political power through its capture of the economic elites. Aware of their slipping grasp on power, encircled by enemies, liberals have retreated into fundamentalist fervour, fighting a rearguard battle against democracy while enforcing purity within their own ranks. This is why we are mired in the culture wars; this is why we are trapped in an increasingly heated political interregnum; and this is why political crisis has become endemic across the West. The rulers have lost the consent of the ruled; even when the insurgents win elections, they have no control over the actually-existing levers of power.

It is in this context that the Blue Labour theorist Adrian Pabst has published Postliberal Politics: The Coming Era of Renewal, which functions as an excellent introductory guide to post-liberal thought for wavering liberals, and a warning to current post-liberals to shun the temptations of authoritarianism. 

For Pabst too, the Covid era transpired to be a “false dawn” for post-liberalism, as “the winners of the shutdown were tech oligarchs such as Amazon, Google or China’s Alibaba while family-owned businesses folded and inner-city shops were boarded up.” Instead of ushering in the post-liberal moment, then, “the ‘new normal’ is largely an intensification of the forces that dominated the old status quo: capitalism, nationalism and technocracy. Instead of resolving the interregnum, politics seems caught in an impasse.”

In setting out his stall, Pabst outlines the failings of a zombie liberalism still holding onto power, in which a dominant class “prefers a world of individual atomized exchange underwritten by an ideology of globalism”, and where  democracy and citizenship are “debased and become merely functional arrangements to advance the interests of a new cosmopolitan class”. 

Yet the most striking aspect of Pabst’s book is not his rejection of liberalism but rather his rejection of existing Rightist strands of post-liberalism, most notably their American incarnation. The dominant theme of Pabst’s book is one of preserving post-liberalism’s position as a strand of Left-wing thought which upholds the genuine achievements of liberalism, a socially conservative branch of socialism rather than an economically interventionist faction of conservatism. 

For Pabst, it is the Rightist “self-styled post-liberals” who are the enemy within: “behind their version of ‘Left on the economy’ and ‘Right on culture,”’ he argues, “lurk forms of statism and moralism that will do nothing to secure shared prosperity or plural societies.” Pabst warns that post-liberalism is too often “associated with a politics that is anti-liberal and anti-modern, animated by a reactionary desire to roll back the new rights of minorities and to return to social and political exclusion along the axes of race, sex or class”.

Taking aim at the idealised Mitteleuropa of prominent American conservative intellectuals, Pabst argues that while Hungary and Poland are superficially attractive for managing to “combine a protectionist state with pro-family welfare and education policies”, in reality they are largely reliant on fiscal dumping and deregulation to attract foreign capital while sliding into authoritarian nationalism that undermines constitutional freedoms.” 

“What may look post-liberal turns out to be mostly anti-liberal,” warns Pabst, arguing that “behind the simplistic slogan ‘left on the economy and right on culture’ lurks an admiration for a politics of state control and the rule of strongmen,” an “authoritarianism sliding into novel forms of fascism” in which “authoritarian systems extend state surveillance into all spheres of societal and personal life, co-opting any independent movement and persecuting non-conformist groups.” 

Yet the obvious retort is, of course, that this system of surveillance and enforced conformity is a perfect description of actually-existing liberalism, at least in its deranged 21st-century incarnation. For the unfortunate reality for a viable Left-wing post-liberalism is that, as Rutherford laments, it is an entirely marginal force on the political Left. Even Blue Labour’s relatively anodyne platform of worker-led cooperatives, state support for family formation, reshoring vital industries and enforcing currently-existing immigration laws sees them consistently called fascists or even Nazis by their own party’s activist base. 

A wild and paranoid recent review of Pabst’s book illustrates the problem. “The truth is,” writes the reviewer, “that he has hitched his wagon to the post-liberal narrative of the national-populist right assiduously promoted by the UnHerd website,” whose “editors and contributors formed the core participants at the Windsor Castle symposium acknowledged in Pabst’s preface as the inspiration for his book.” 

I should probably add here that I attended this conference, and while membership of some secretive reactionary cabal under royal patronage would be a gratifying experience, it is as divorced from reality as the rest of the review, which is a classic example of the conspiratorial hysteria with which ageing liberals console themselves for the collapse of their ideological dreamworld.

Despite Pabst taking great pains to demarcate a Left-wing post-liberal space from that of the national populist right, the reviewer goes on — and on, and on — to claim that he “can’t resist the temptation to promote national-populist — and alt-right — conspiracy theories about ‘the fusion of woke capitalism with extreme identity politics’” that “Post-liberalism is a right-wing, nationalist project seeking to incorporate and hegemonise sections of the left by splitting it from its social liberal base.” 

If this is the Left among which Blue Labour aims to carve out a post-liberal movement, then the project surely has little chance of success. With Labour so internally divided, and further from power than they have been in decades, the chances of guiding the party towards a humane post-liberal ethos and then leading it to electoral victory seem impossibly remote. So why waste time on a failing political party whose activists hate you and everything you stand for? 

This is the essential conundrum of Blue Labour, and the reason for its perpetual marginalisation. Post-liberals should leave political tribalism to Americans: politics is simply the means to reshape the state in your image, and parties are merely useful vessels to do so. Logically, the conclusion is that the only current means of shaping British politics is as a faction within the ruling Conservative party, whose dominance of British politics is unchallenged; it is already making post-liberal noises to anchor its new hold on the post-industrial north, without any serious intellectual direction or engagement. 

Whether we like it or not, post-liberalism’s greatest opportunity to sway the course of politics is on the centre-right — and the road to doing so is through ideological capture of the state’s institutions, just as the neoliberals did forty years ago. 

The key to victory is surely to utilise the power of the state through democratic means to break the anti-democratic liberal hold on the political system and advance post-liberalism from a matter of debate among a tiny handful of academics and writers to a functioning political programme. Yet Pabst, with a watchful eye on the authoritarian statism of China and Russia, and on the illiberal democracy of Hungary and Poland, views the untapped power of Leviathan with alarm. “Unmediated state sovereignty on the model of Machiavelli’s Prince or Hobbes’ Leviathan risks authoritarian control at home and anarchy abroad,” he warns,  so “the challenge before us is to turn the existing platforms into public utilities owned by the people, not the state, and to run them as mutuals – with private providers competing on the provision of services.” 

These are noble goals and a vast improvement on the alternatives, yet there is an avoidance of the practical path towards implementing them. How do you break the power of global corporations and the tech oligarchs? How do you unprise the grasp of what Pabst terms the “sham clerisy who dominate much of the media, education and the civil service” on the national institutions they have commandeered for themselves? 

Little platoons, however right and just their cause, can function only within a broader army structure to nurture and guide them. The only viable means to victory, then, is surely by employing the power of the state just as the neoliberals did, and the most realistic means of doing so is through the nascent statist centre-right. The managerial-technocratic Labour Party, which has junked the economic radicalism of the Corbyn manifesto while doubling down on liberal identity politics, certainly doesn’t intend to. 

If post-liberals do not do this, authoritarians will, as we see in China’s crackdown on oligarchs like Ali Baba’s Jack Ma and on tech platforms. Paradoxical though it may seem, the path to a radical localism surely lies through a resurgent state which must then give away the power it has reluctantly assumed to bring about necessary reform. It is as if post-liberals have adopted the teleological assumptions of liberals, that the arc of history will drop power into their laps, without also adopting their hunger for power, and their willingness to use the state to achieve it.

Pabst is correct to state that both the Conservative party and the Republicans remain beholden to capital, and superficially adopt post-liberal language to win popular support while continuing disastrous liberal policies. Yet there are reasons for hope. As the Marxist Italian sociologist Paolo Gerbado observes in his new book The Great Recoil, the new statism is a distinct phenomenon from the crude populisms of the decade’s first half and is still a malleable force, waiting to be shaped. 

The task of doing so can be taken up by either Right or Left, or by a post-liberal synthesis of the two. Younger conservatives in America, as defined in Park McDougald’s incisive survey of the New Millennial Right as the conservative analogue of “millennial socialism”, are “frustrated with the politics of their elders”, and want “a more solidaristic conservatism that is less libertarian, both culturally and economically, and in some ways less liberal”. In time, they will capture the institutions of conservatism, just as in time the millennial socialists will capture those of the Democrats. 

In Britain too, much of the energy on the younger Right is towards forging a confident, developmentalist conservative state that corrects the most harmful errors of liberalism, and spreads economic growth and social solidarity across every corner of the nation. Time may be on the post-liberals’ side, in the long term, but only if they do not waste today’s narrow window of opportunity on either preaching to the unconvertible or shrinking from their most viable path to power.

Throughout his book, Pabst diagnoses the problems with unerring accuracy yet avoids the obvious conclusion. There is a missing element, the how, by which post-liberalism triumphs. A war only ends when one side wins decisively: post-liberals are unwilling to deliver the final blow, instead mourning their ostracisation from a rump political left which despises them as existential enemies. 

Without a Constantine to convert, without the power of a Rome behind them, post-liberals will find themselves trapped in the political catacombs forever, meekly hiding from a savaging in the amphitheatre. They cannot convert the liberal clerisy from within: they will be forced to defeat them from without, before authoritarians do. The gap between conservative and socialist post-liberals has always been largely cosmetic: perhaps the future of Blue Labour now lies in shaping a dirigiste, paternalist and communitarian Red Toryism.


Aris Roussinos is an UnHerd columnist and a former war reporter.

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J Bryant
J Bryant
2 years ago

As always, Aris Roussinos provides an interesting and scholarly article. But I feel I must make a plea on behalf of people, like me, who are not steeped in politics, especially UK politics, and its vocabulary. Please write in a language the average person can readily understand. For me, this article is so laden with jargon (liberal, post-liberal, Red Tory, New Millenial Right, on and on) as to be almost impenetrable.
For those, like me, who struggled with some of the terminology (although perhaps I’m the only one) here is a link to an Unherd article on post liberalism by Peter Franklin. I even had to use the link to the Political Compass website which, apparently, everyone knows about.
https://unherd.com/2019/04/how-post-liberal-are-you/
What I take from Aris’s article is that many young people, who I will probably incorrectly refer to as center-right and center-left, want a government and political system that is moderately socially conservative but is fairly authoritarian in economic matters. In other words, they want a country that provides them with jobs, regulates borders so that cheap immigrant labor doesn’t swamp the economy, but provides broad social freedoms for everyone. That makes sense to me.
The author then poses the key questions:
How do you break the power of global corporations and the tech oligarchs? How do you unprise the grasp of what Pabst terms the “sham clerisy who dominate much of the media, education and the civil service” on the national institutions they have commandeered for themselves?
The author’s answer is:
The only viable means to victory, then, is surely by employing the power of the state just as the neoliberals did, and the most realistic means of doing so is through centre-right.
The words ‘centre-right’ link to an article describing JD Vance’s proposal to revoke the tax-exempt status of US charities involved in political activities. Sadly, the author does not elaborate further on what center right tactics and policies should be emulated but the link to the article about politically active charities is a good start.
It seems there is a real desire by many for a national politics that recognizes the value of the nation state and the ties that bind us to our home country. There is also a desire for a politics that offers opportunity and acceptance to all members of the community. Perhaps the name for this politics is post-liberal. I don’t know and that, for me, is the problem with this article. It’s too deep into terminology at the expense of clarity, imo. But my sense is the article points toward a way out of the current political impasse in the UK and, indeed, in the US.
People want to belong to a community of shared values and economic opportunity, a community that values all its members and that requires its members to subscribe to a core set of values. To achieve that goal, at a minimum, the power of multinational corporations must be curbed as must the power of organizations that pose as charities but are, in fact, political advocacy groups. Whichever political ideology, going by whatever name, figures out a way to achieve this goal will be the ideology of the future.

Last edited 2 years ago by J Bryant
JP Martin
JP Martin
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

A bigger struggle for people like me, reading in their second language, but I find his writing very elegant. I think people who are very immersed in a specific subject sometimes forget that other people are not necessarily reading the same things they are reading.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I studied Politics at a UK university many moons ago, but I was unable to work out whether the ‘liberalism’ he’s referring to is what Americans call liberalism (ie progressivism) or the more classical kind (pluralism, free markets, individualism, etc). Roussinos may well see the two as linked, from the same historical source, but he needs to spell that out for readers on both sides of the Atlantic.

Last edited 2 years ago by Judy Englander
Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

But historically the two were connected and not just through the Liberal Party. Mill explicitly had a ‘social turn’ towards the end of his thought that created the ground in which Thomas Green Hill, Hobhouse and Hobson created theories that claimed the freedom envisioned by classical liberals was only possible through changing social conditions. These writings explicitly led to the Lloyd George flavoured Liberal party. Indeed even Gladstone become half-reconciled to them in his last years.

Neo-liberalism was an attempt to reclaim the economic aspect of classical liberalism but both started with the same philosophical Lockean foundations. Indeed by being against conservatives rather than being allied as neoliberals have been for much of the time classical liberals were equally focused on social liberalism and economic liberalism rather than modern liberals who have had to choose between the two for practical and political reasons.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
2 years ago

You missed my point.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

A tough essay to assimilate. Comments of a few words can’t really do it justice. English is my first language and I do understand what is being said but 

.?
My thought is that the person who is writing this is clever and wants to demonstrate this to the world. Throughout my life, people I respect have told me that writing has to make things clearer not more obscure by hiding behind jargon. I once gave a talk on Corrosion Science to the US Navy and I had to speak in a way that everybody could understand me. Otherwise there was no point.
For me this is simple. All of the old ways have disappeared. The rich countries are losing their powers and poorer countries are gaining power. Manufacturing is not the way forward in the UK or the USA. The older people in our communities own things which younger people will maybe never afford. The clever people have a huge lead (intellectually) over the not so clever. We can’t talk in the UK any more about the working class (blue collar workers in the USA). We need a plan B.
Once upon a time equality or equal opportunity meant money and education. Maybe today it means money and age. In some way the older people have to give up something to the young. I have ideas but would get a hundred downticks for them. Anyway, they wouldn’t be important because they are only my ideas.

Last edited 2 years ago by Chris Wheatley
George Wells
George Wells
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Speak up and b****r the down ticks!
More force to your pen!

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

A hundred downticks would be a must read !!

Will R
Will R
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Thanks – i thought I was the only person who doesn’t readily grasp political jargon

Elaine Richardson
Elaine Richardson
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Well said. Please write in plain language or provide a glossary. Otherwise I might give up which would be a shame.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago

On this I am inclined to be sympathetic to Aris. Read any 19th century essay or book and you will find the author using a rich, often classical, vocabulary and set of cultural and historical references, complex subclauses and high-level orders of intentionality. They expected an educated, cultivated and alert readership. This started at a young age when educators inculcated a saludatory shame at ignorance that meant people would rather learn to understand a richer and more expressive idiom than admit to their inability to comprehend it publically.

Now our risible and anaemic education system has left most people demanding that everything be spoonfed them at the reading comprehension level of an eleven year old.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Judy Englander
Judy Englander
2 years ago

Isn’t it ‘anaemic’?

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

American autocomplete changes to their spelling, unfortunately.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Keith Jefferson
Keith Jefferson
2 years ago

I disagree. I consider myself at least reasonably intelligent (post grad degree from 30 years ago when they didn’t give them away) and I found the essay a struggle at times. You talk about 19th century essayists – that was a time when political discourse was (maybe deliberately) restricted to the classically educated elites. Maybe they could get away with it at the time as there wasn’t universal suffrage, for men and women, so trying to influence or educate the lower orders was not worth the bother. But that is not the case now. Unherd has a mission statement that includes the dissemination of ideas such as those described in the essay by Aris Roussinos, but it will be to no avail unless those ideas are written in a style that most people can understand.
An interesting essay from Aris, though, and I will look up Pabst’s book.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago

“You talk about 19th century essayists – that was a time when political discourse was (maybe deliberately) restricted to the classically educated elites.”

Given the quality of political discourse now where complex ideas are despised in favour of cretinous soundbites was that such a bad thing?

James Watson
James Watson
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Your comment is clear, concise and understandable – completely unlike the article being commented on, which to me defines tl;dr. Glad you took the time tp wade through it to extract a point

Karl Francis
Karl Francis
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Mate, you’ve cracked it! Brilliant. I’m a fan.

Matt M
Matt M
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Maybe Freddy could interview Aris on UnHerd TV to dig into the subject and make his argument plainer.

hugh bennett
hugh bennett
2 years ago

After getting half way through this monolithic load of verbosity I was frankly, exhausted. I have not got a clue what he is really on about, OK I should have read to the end but I have the rest of my life to get on with.
This Aris chap really should set himself a personal challenge to state, present and sum up his argument in one third of the word count he usually subjects us to. I just get the feeling he tries to be elegant, Id even say he confuses intellectualism with froth, but all that happens is we get a flowery mess where the essence is lost in a cloud of hyperbolic mist ( oops there I go myself).
All that said, I am prepared to admit that perhaps I am just a bit thick....
All I seem to do lately is criticise Unherd offerings so maybe cancellation of renewal is in the offering.

Last edited 2 years ago by hugh bennett
Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
2 years ago
Reply to  hugh bennett

Well said. I also got 2/3rds through the article and gave up
 Guess I am also thick, when it comes to Über intellectualising.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  hugh bennett

Ah, I suppose Shakespeare would have been a lot better if he had summarised everything in one act.

hugh bennett
hugh bennett
2 years ago

Aris is no Shakespeare.

Barry Wetherilt
Barry Wetherilt
2 years ago

I didn’t realise Shakespeare wrote political essays.

Ed Cameron
Ed Cameron
2 years ago

I was with the writer (I think: the language put me at an unwanted distance from the thesis, see J Bryant’s comment) until I got to this:
“The key to victory is surely to utilise the power of the state through democratic means to break the anti-democratic liberal hold on the political system and advance post-liberalism from a matter of debate among a tiny handful of academics and writers to a functioning political programme.”
I am worried about using the “power of the state” even “through democratic means” (not quite sure what that means in the context of the entire lengthy sentence), as I have yet to encounter state functionaries sufficiently competent or trustworthy to properly discharge any programme.
And an “anti-democratic liberal hold on the political system” is just too much for my pea brain. In many countries, isn’t it democracy which delivers the government and shapes the political system?
As for the millennial socialists and millennial conservatives, perhaps they can have their turn, provided they don’t turn into millenarian totalitarians.
Time for a lie down.

Mel Shaw
Mel Shaw
2 years ago
Reply to  Ed Cameron

I think it is a reference to the appointment of left leaning chief executives to lead most of the UK’s QANGOs, such as the National Trust. This gathered pace under the Blair government. Surprisingly, it has continued under later governments. The appointment of a couple of candidates who don’t fit this description has caused some consternation amongst the Islington set recently.

Last edited 2 years ago by Mel Shaw
Ed Cameron
Ed Cameron
2 years ago
Reply to  Mel Shaw

Thank you.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  Ed Cameron

I think the idea is that liberalism always supported democracy only to a limited extent. Liberalism saw democracy as a process for certain public decisions but that should not be allowed to tamper with basic individual rights such as property etc. It’s why liberal democracies have constitutional checks, as envisaged by say Madison, Jefferson, Locke or Mill. All saw Athenian style direct democracy – and largely until recently this is what democracy was understood as – as a direct threat to individual rights, as mob rule or ignorant majorities can trample them as much as any tyrant. In the case of Chile these rights created a constitution that embedded them in economic sphere.

Ed Cameron
Ed Cameron
2 years ago

Thank you

Jonathan Weil
Jonathan Weil
2 years ago

“
 a resurgent state which must then give away the power it has reluctantly assumed to bring about necessary reform.”

Ha

Ha ha

Ahahahaha

Ahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!

Oh dear. Does you good to laugh, though.

hugh bennett
hugh bennett
2 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan Weil

I agree, what an awful (awfully hysterically funny) sentence, one that for me sums up an over-inflated travesty of an essay.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  hugh bennett

Stylistic differences aside, it does feel as if many postliberal writers are overplaying their hand with a slight blindness to how the internet is constantly churning ideas that rise and fall. Ten years ago the Gold Standard and Austrian economics were on the cusp of victory according to the internet but one can well observe how much that translated to the reality of non-internet politics.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Sarah H
Sarah H
2 years ago

I generally enjoy Aris’s pieces. I was at sea with this. I have no idea what or who he means by liberal and whether the US or UK version. From that, I have no idea what or who he means by post-liberal. Does he include libertarians and free market types with whoever it is he is talking about on the Left? Sorry but this piece needs some definitions and context. It clearly has some important points. With all due respect, I feel like I’ve come in halfway through a pub monologue and scrabbling to catch up..

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  Sarah H

Can’t it be used as a springboard for further reading though? Usually I end up investigating those things I haven’t heard of, after all we have a search engine available at our whim. I am reminded of Kingsley Amis’ confusion at readers who owned a dictionary and yet were angry because he didn’t explain what he meant when he used the expression ‘the Greek calends’ in a newspaper column.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

Well, that was long.

Zorro Tomorrow
Zorro Tomorrow
2 years ago

I don’t think he’s talking to me, or the vast majority in this country. If I went into the pub using terms like dirigiste, post-liberal and hegemony I wouldn’t have an audience for long. Much the same as extolling the virtues of the scriptures. Democracy would seem to be a compromise. John Major was dreadful and there was little hope of Anthony Blair not sweeping in on a landslide. Post Major was three elections, 13 years in the wilderness. The possibilitiy of Ed Milliband compared to the folly of Corbyn, the blandness of Cameron followed by the treachery of T.May. Now, fat jolly blond ‘green’ bloke vs ascetic tedious directionless ex lawyer. I don’t like the hegemony or dirigism of either and must simply be post 20th Century.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 years ago

Honestly did approach this article as a challenge and a chance to grapple with the more theoretical aspects of the current political changes…but I got completely lost with it. Too abstract for me.
And, at the end of the day, I am not a student who has the time to really sift through all that abstraction and form an opinion about it for an essay. I want to engage with the world and think about it, but I have to do stuff like work aswell and articles like this just don’t fit into that framework.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Or maybe it is just you? I am not a student and yet I don’t find the level of supposed abstraction in this essay time consuming at all…

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 years ago

Good for you!

hugh bennett
hugh bennett
2 years ago

hi again, i think we must just respect eachothers opinion on the “quality” of this essay… even though we are poles apart.

Emre Emre
Emre Emre
2 years ago

They cannot convert the liberal clerisy from within: they will be forced to defeat them from without, before authoritarians do.

This is scary to read whatever you think of neoliberalism.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Emre Emre

Less scary than the liberal clerisy continuing to get away with it.

Gavin Stewart-Mills
Gavin Stewart-Mills
2 years ago
Reply to  Emre Emre

“Time may be on the post-liberals’ side, in the long term, but only if they do not waste today’s narrow window of opportunity on either preaching to the unconvertible or shrinking from their most viable path to power.”

Today’s clerisy are indeed these “unconvertible” types. Johnson’s baffling obsession with appeasing them makes no sense. He seems to have wrongly assumed that the ‘borrowed’ voters who put him in power are identity politics loons rather than the blue labour / post-liberals whom his article sketches quite well I think.

Frederick B
Frederick B
2 years ago
Reply to  Emre Emre

“Scary to read”? No, hopeful I would have said, because if Aris is right (and assuming I’ve understood him correctly!) the “woke” liberal clerisy is doomed. Whether it is doomed to defeat by centrist, “red Tory” or “blue labour” types or by an authoritarian like Orban hardly matters to me (although I think on balance I would have a sneaking preference for the latter!)

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago

I’m not convinced this is really the case. Living in Spain I’ve noticed both the centre-right and hard right fervently believe in liberal economics. Vox for example has been quite supportive of gig-economy companies against the attempt of socialist government to regulate it. Their platform is specifically anti-localist, seeing localism as the solvent that has unglued Spanish glory and wastes money in bureaucracy. They are anti-immigration, obviously, but this is just one policy in a mix of them. After all Spain tried something close to postliberal economics in the 40s and 50s, and it was such a disaster putting the stability of the post-civil war Franco government at risk, that Franco himself choose to revert with the appointment of Opus Dei educated technocrats who are the forebares of todays PP.

The Pinochet dicatatorship saw this and the mess of ‘postliberal’ style economics in Juan Peron’s Argentina to take the opposite direction and craft the Chilean miracle. A quick glance at Chile today as opposed to the dump that Argentina has become since its glory days in the 1930s might give pause to those who wonder why in Spanish speaking countries at least neoliberalism is still a potent force in right wing circles.

I see similar patterns across Europe, even Hungary, beyond rejigging the welfare state in a more conservative direction is largely supportive of business needs and liberal economic policies. We all know where Boris Johnson’s instincts lie beyond what he says to be popular – Liz ‘Singapore on the Thames’ Truss was recently promoted after all.

There may be reforms to the already statist elements of our society under the postliberal banner but it seems precipitate wish-fulfillment to imagine the whole economic system is on the verge of radically changing.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
2 years ago

You have a point – though maybe BL can influence Red Toryism on the social dimension. Economically, if you read Aris’s other articles, there is some good evidence that Liberalism is set for global decline. But you make good points, and there are various other indicators that free market nutters are expecting to make a come back. Bah!

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago
Reply to  Adam Bartlett

I think there is evidence that 20th century style mass capitalism is on decline. But to me the stars seem to be aligning to a return to 19th century oligarchic capitalism as the resource wars will favour the strongest and most ruthless actors.

Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
2 years ago

Wish I could disagree!

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 years ago

We are so caught up in dichotomies like conservative vs. liberal, socialism vs. capitalism that we fail to notice a third ideology that is creeping across all our institutions and has been doing so for decades.
That third ‘silent’ ideology is managerialism. A process that started in the private sector during the industrial revolution and spread to the public sector in the 1980s, is now, with the help of technology and social sciences, moving into the personal sphere.
All aspects of our life are to be managed: work, health, education, sex, family, and social justice. Identities (usually those from the protected classes) that require or believe in ‘big’ government are held up as virtuous victims. Identities that question or refuse to conform are vilified as socially and ethically unacceptable (witness the current struggle between feminists and trans activists, the vaccinated and the unvaccinated).
Managerialism is now ‘woke’, not because it’s left-wing, but because wokeism provides a handy in-road to people’s personal lives by making everything political. Basically, the West is turning into one giant Hogwart’s ‘sorting-hat’ and we are being assigned ‘houses’ based on our willingness to comply with this third ideology. Wokeism is also useful in that it distorts reality by creating new words and taboos in order to disconnect people from their spirituality, their history, their language, their culture, their gender, and their friends and family. Once these have been grounded down to abject meaningless, a new order will be rebuilt in which we will own nothing, not even ourselves, and be happy.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Good concept !! Would that function somewhat like ‘Yes Minister” ie twas the old civil service that actually determined and ran everything despite what the political incumbents might actually desire. Backed up by the logarithms that the ‘managers’ now use that increasingly determine much of our lives …..

mike otter
mike otter
2 years ago

I wish Roger Scruton were alive to read this. Light as helium. I was suspiscious when Aris called Boris Johnson a “social and economic liberal”. Johnson holds no political principles. He is as pure a Prince from the Machievelli handbook as it is possible to be, and i doubt he even understands the paradox of principles which describe liberty or equality. Jumping to the bit about liberalism sowing its own downfall they are taking their time about it. The basic idea of the sanctity of private property and a contract between rulers and ruled is what liberalism is, and it has existed as long as humans have settled, albeit with numerous interruptions along the way. So the last 6000 years at least.

Mike Bell
Mike Bell
2 years ago

Maybe Aris is ‘aving a laugh? He has replaced his usual lucidity with a jumble of technical language – like some software engineer explaining what he does with endless acronyms.

  • a dirigiste, paternalist and communitarian Red Toryism
  • the New Millennial Right as the conservative analogue of “millennial socialism”,
  • the younger Right
  • mourning their ostracisation
  • political catacombs
  • liberal clerisy
  • post-liberal synthesis

…and that’s just from the last few paragraphs.
Perhaps it’s a test? Will we fall for this and think Aris must be so much cleverer than us?
Perhaps soon he will re-write this using the Einstein guidelines: ‘As simple as possible, but no simpler’.

Last edited 2 years ago by Mike Bell
Mark Gourley
Mark Gourley
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Bell

Thank you – I agree this piece is somewhat impenetrable even for an Oxford graduate like me. And I would suggest that Blue Labour should bear in mind that “Famille, Travail, Patrie” was the slogan of the French Vichy regime 1940/44 so not a good precedent to follow?

Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
2 years ago

Excellent and insightful article. While BL were insufficiently economically left for me to join the faction, their social conservatism has appealed to me from the start. Im briefly quote in Rowenna Davis 2011 book about them, ‘Tangled up in blue.’ What was really frustrating to us sympathetic activists is that their benign and intelligent localism + ‘faith, family & flag’ had so little traction with voters. Whereas darker versions of similar ideas helped win majorities for Trump and others. Can also confirm about Liberal conspiracy theories. Kept hearing them blame Blue Labour for the post liberal elements of Corbynism, and JC’s “failiure” to campaign whole heartedly against Brexit. In reality, many BL figures were remainers, and anyway had near zero infuence on the Leadership once Ed Miliband stepped down. I know Jon McDonnell quite well as I live in his constinuency – but he wouldnt even find Rowenna a seat to stand in for the 2017 election, despite agreeing she’s a great talent.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Adam Bartlett

Blue Labour only spoke to other people in Labour – with no positive effect.

It has never taken its message to the public.

Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

True, in fairness they tried, but MSM didn’t make it easy for them. Folk like Rowenna & Lord Glassman are great talkers, Rowenna used to frequently be on Sunday Politiics and various other TV shows up until about 2017 (& less frequently after that) but don’t think she was often allowed to talk about BL.

Last edited 2 years ago by Adam Bartlett
Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago

Like Mr.Roussinos, I too am concerned that any post-liberal movemnet will be siezed by an intolerant extreme right, but I think Blue Labour (which I generally admire) has to pull out its finger and start getting its message to the public, if they want to avoid this happening. I only hear about Blue Labour on this site and on its own website (a none too prepossessing website it is, too), there needs to be some galvanising of opinion and not just within the Labour ranks. I suppose I’m querying whether a real post-liberal revival can take place within the existing party structures.

Karl Francis
Karl Francis
2 years ago

Yup, fab!

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
2 years ago

Super piece.

robert stowells
robert stowells
2 years ago

I work on the principle of the greater the inaccessible verbiage then either the greater the hidden agenda or the greater the desire just to create a flowery meaningless article to meet deadlines. There are statements in this article which appear to suggest grasping power or seizing the moment which all speaks of the imposition of an ideology which is anathema to my idea of the way forward for humanity.

Last edited 2 years ago by robert stowells
Josh Cook
Josh Cook
2 years ago

Talking of inaccessible verbiage…

Michael James
Michael James
2 years ago

‘The gap between conservative and socialist post-liberals has always been largely cosmetic: perhaps the future of Blue Labour now lies in shaping a dirigiste, paternalist and communitarian Red Toryism.’
Agreed. Absolutely no doubt about it. I’m sure if the opinion pollsters asked the general public, the ‘yes’ result would be up there in the 90s%.

Josh Cook
Josh Cook
2 years ago

Another great article. Unsurprisingly lost on some of the Daily Mail refugees that frequent these pages.