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Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

One of the pleasures of reading articles by Mary Harrington is her recognition of the subtleties that escape many observers of politics. For instance, the observation that Physicals can enlist the interests of renegade Virtuals – and vice versa – to help acheive their aims. No greater example of this can be seen than the coalition between Red Wall voters and Boris Johnson to get Brexit over the line. Once acheived, this alliance starts to break down, and implementation of potential advantages becomes more difficult (Liz Truss).

The irony is, how far our political groupings no longer reflect their origins. As Mary highlights, those old Tories who wanted to protect their assets from free trade turned into the party more generally in favour of free trade. Meanwhile, the party which originated from within the trades union movement now espouses Virtual views far removed from the world-view of their Physical origins.

Life is complicated, though. Many people may well have a world-view that encompasses aspects of both the Physical and Virtual. I certainly do, and would resent being pigeon-holed into either camp. The battle (for want of a less combative word) between Physicality and Virtuality can take place at a very individual level. I’d therefore suggest yet another potential divide: between those who can recognise and accommodate such inherent conflicts in human nature (and even enjoy them!) and those unable to do so, who for whatever reason simply align themselves with one side or another and abrogate the responsibility for really thinking to others. That can be understandable; if one’s entire focus is on physical or financial survival, there won’t be much room for considerations beyond that level. I’ve been there too, so know how all-consuming it can be.

There will likely be more people drawn into the realities of ‘survival’ mode as economic pressures bite this coming winter. However we emerge from this, the landscape will likely look different. Articles such as this one help us all to consider what our priorities are, and to recognise there are no easy answers, no easy options, even within ourselves.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Andrew Richardson
Andrew Richardson
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Thank you Steve. Your comments are a rarity indeed – to elaborate genuinely on the wisdom of Mary.

Bruce Luffman
Bruce Luffman
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

A good and thoughful response to an excellent article. I would make one observation from the agrarian side as an ex farmer – don’t disparage farmers with your mouth full.

Caroline Watson
Caroline Watson
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Absolutely. I was thinking, too, that a large sector of the population don’t fit into either camp. Junior civil servants, for example, particularly in the North, might be perceived as ‘the laptop class’, but have a loyalty to the values of their traditional working class families and communities that outweighs the influence of their senior managers. Many teachers, particularly those who are older or from working class backgrounds, have a more pragmatic approach and value children over ideology.
Ironically, believing that there are two rigid camps is, in itself, Virtual. Most people are ‘floating voters’ in this, as in more traditional ways and will prioritise the economic and social wellbeing of themselves, their families and their communities above ideology.

Richard Pearse
Richard Pearse
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Excellent comment to one of Mary’s finest articles !! This new terminology (even if a variation on a theme that a few other’s have noted) has changed my way of thinking of this. It’s like people that manipulate ideas (which behave perfectly and are easy to rearrange)8 v. people who manufacture and distribute and manipulate things.

What came immediately to mind, is the moral issues that some of the Virtuals (investment bankers and international bankers and their lawyers and accountants etc) avoid by off-shoring manufacturing from the US (and UK et al I bet) to China, India and Viet Nam etc.

Meanwhile, Virtuals (lawmakers) in the US (et al) impose costly regulations on manufacturing and construction (pollution control, protection of waterways, wildlife, Indian artifacts – on and on and on). Plus, we have OSHA to protect workers, minimum wage laws, protection of minors – all of which are moral issues – that a decent, wealthy society must consider.

So we offshore pollution, slave labor and safety laws to China (largest users of brown-coal energy$, pollution laws etc to India and child labor laws to Viet Nam.

The Virtuals get fatter while workers and elite Physicals pay extra for an uneven playing field – all so that people can get fancy iPhones every two years for an almost affordable price. But it’s cheaper because Apple doesn’t have to pay for protection for pollution, Indian artifacts (etc) and safety and a decent wage for workers.

And the Workers lose jobs and turn to fentanyl manufactured in China and distributed through warlords in Mexico.

A beautiful system

Nikita Kubanovs
Nikita Kubanovs
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Pearse

The Virtuals & Physicals idea I think is something very similar to an idea by Thomas Sowell, the constrained vision or the unconstrained vision. We either understand that we are limited by a physical world and our choices are limited also by multiple factors & we must make the best choices that we are provided with. Or the unconstrained vision, that if we will something then we can do it.

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Very hard to add even more wisdom to such a wise article!

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

The Virtual absolutely depends on the Physical. If you unplug the computer, the Virtual goes away. As a retiree from a 45 year career in IT, I’m well aware of the Virtual’s limitations. It depends on electricity.

The false assumptions of the Green New Deal reflect the weaknesses of Virtual thinking. Virtuals assume there will be a breakthrough in storage technology to smooth out the intermittent nature of solar and wind energy. They insist on a speedy crash conversion, without any proof of concept pilot projects. To viture signal, Virtuals insist on suppressing domestic fossil fuel production, forcing foreigners to bear the shame of producing carbon fuels. In a Virtual world, all of these assumptions work, because a Vitual world doesn’t have to reflect real world constraints to be convincing.

In the real Physical world, these Virtual assumptions cause chaos. There are no practical storage technologies to save excess solar and wind electricity for long windless winter nights. Expanding wind and solar gives you electricity on sunny days when you don’t need it. If there’s an interruption of foreign supplies of fossil fuels, the virtue of no domestic fossil fuel production leaves you cold, because 60-80% of your energy is still fossil fueled.

If Rishi Sunak does nothing else, he needs to legalize fracking in the UK, and beat the bureaucracy into implementing it quickly. This policy alone requires no changes in tax or social policies. In the US, fracking was a very big deal. It could be a very big deal in the UK too. It could show a change of focus to real Physical economic constraints, a willingness to break with Virtual taboos.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago

It is a shame that people start with an excellent argument then deploy a limited and not very good example to illustrate it. We’d have to be truly desperate to roll our fracking on a large scale – this in a country where there is endless resistance to almost all development, including for such benign purposes as housing, or dams! The much maligned, ill-defined ‘bureaucracy’ didn’t stop the fracking trials, nor did ‘Net Zero’ policies, but the occurrence of earth tremors above the prescribed maximum level did!
There is lots of hot air (shame we can’t use that!) about ‘I’d have it near where I live’ – but what people do and not what they say indicates something very different.
The UK is vastly smaller than the US and does not appear to have suitable geology according to the founder of Quadrillion. Fracking is becoming the right wing’s quasi-religious equivalent of the left’s sole reliance on wind and solar, but it is to my mind a red herring in this debate. Nuclear yes, other gas deposits yes, tidal, even geothermal – eventually fusion. And indeed wind and solar too – when these are generating power operating, they are now very cheap and greatly reduce our dependence on foreign imports. (Only a few crazies however would hold that we can solely rely on them). But not pumping highly pressurised water under heavily populated areas.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Fisher
Deb Grant
Deb Grant
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I agree with you. It’s an interesting classification: physicals versus virtuals – but in reality most of us fall between the two camps. I think of the split as being realists versus idealists and it’s as much generational as anything else. That’s fostered by groupthink derived from half of young people now going to university and being influenced by idealistic tutors at a time when they have insufficient life experience to challenge. I think Harrington also underestimates the amount of those who are socially liberal but fiscally conservative. The real gap is between those who generate the wealth and those who spend it, or rely on the public purse for income.

CF Hankinson
CF Hankinson
1 year ago

This makes sense. A necessary point of view away from the travesties now of Left and Right thinking.
The progressive Left has largely abandoned the physicals.
The Right is seen as supporting their needs but the ‘ eye watering pain ‘ that the multi millionaire leaders are promising and threatening is paralyzing them to take action.
That Trudeau froze bank accounts to stop lorry drivers strike, not pay negotiations, is chilling. The dependency works both ways but we see clearly where the power is. We haven’t moved far in 200 years.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
1 year ago
Reply to  CF Hankinson

The Left may want to ‘fund the NHS post Brexit’. But they are alone now. Popular belief in the creaking State monolith has crashed post Lockdown, something the BBC just will never report. Two years of China style lockdown saw us torch our economy, summon the dread genie inflation and scar our childrens lives – all to ‘save’ the NHS. Who on earth now wants the status quo pre 2020 to continue? Only Labour zealots and the vast failed medical industrial complex which can never admit that they are the cause of the ‘cost of living’ crisis – better described as the Lockdown Reckoning. They have broken the NHS forever; money makes no difference now. Would that someone had the courage to end this nightmare and introduce a system modelled on the superior French or German health system.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

The Germans spent an extra US$150 billion on their healthcare system in 2021 (US$383 billion vs US$548 billion) which equates to around an extra 20% per capita than the UK, and this is after the UK significantly increased its healthcare spending as the gap was much bigger before. Between 2015 and 2019 they also spent 3x more than the UK (in terms of % of GDP) on healthcare infrastructure.
Perhaps this is why the German model appears to have less problems than the UK system?

Last edited 1 year ago by Billy Bob
Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Germans pay a monthly premium toward their healthcare too. It’s very different to the NHS system.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

That is merely a slight of hand argument. British citizens also pay for their healthcare! It’s simply a different collection system..

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Inadequate funding cannot be dismissed as a major contributory factor no matter how disfunctional or inefficient the NHS is.. Both factors need to be addressed. That I believe is crystal clear..

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

I have read that the German model actually spends more on administrative costs than the NHS, due to it effectively being run by numerous providers you have lots of duplication of the paperwork side (apologies I can’t find the article to provide a link).
Perhaps somebody who claims the German model is superior could find the ratios spent on the different models between the admin costs to front line care (doctors/infrastructure etc)?

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Howzabout looking at comparative hospital bed provision, an essential in any psndemic planning (the NHS did do plsnning right??l)? The Germans and all other Europeans ensured a healthy ratio of beds to population. But here – in a classic of its Soviet Gosplan mangerial fuckwittery – the NHS decided that having say 80% used was ‘inefficient’. From Blair days they pursued a hyper effiient goal of 95% useage…by getting rid of hospital beds and building as few as possible in the new palaces built with off book money . So when just three people coughed, the NHS imploded and in panic shut us all down to save their reputation. To pretend that the NHS is working better than European systems is a truly terrible lie and an insult to the millions suffering because our health bureaucracy closed cancer wards and so much vital preventitive screenings during the terror of two year lockdown.

DenialARiverIn Islington
DenialARiverIn Islington
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Could be, of course; but is it not curious that the more we spend on the NHS, the worse it gets? Why would that be, do you think?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago

Does it really though, or is it that it simply can’t keep up with the large population increases without significant funding on infrastructure?
A large problem with the service is a lack of community services to discharge patients to. With nowhere to send those who no longer need hospital care, they’re instead left with patients blocking beds needed for more acute cases.
This is something that can only be fixed by building new infrastructure and employing more carers.

Kathleen Stern
Kathleen Stern
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

They scrapped the convalescent homes and local cottage hospitals which would have eased that problem. Also couldn’t the giant instant hospitals they built and then scrapped have been adapted to freeing up beds for those suitable?

Nick SPEYER
Nick SPEYER
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

The problem with the running of NHS is that it is spending money on “diversity managers” – that is to say institutionalising racism instead of addressed its ‘core business’.
And there is a more important general point, Virtuals and particularly Left leaning Virtuals couldn’t organise the proverbial in a brewery. Thus all state institutions are becoming more innefficient to the point of being completely ineffective (such as the Police)

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Nick SPEYER

There’s plenty of private businesses that have diversity managers and all that nonsense though. The privatised utilities are hardly a bastion of efficiency though are they. The public transport system for instance in the UK is an absolute shambles, constantly having to be bailed out by the taxpayer while shareholders extract healthy dividends. The publicly owned Norwegian oil fields are run very well, so I think it’s too simplistic to simply say private = good, state = bad

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

Privided the NHS is sold to the criminally greedy US medical giants! That may be the price to be paid for a trade deal with the US. If it is, then the simmering underclass will be even more angry.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Couldn’t you have put all that in ONE post?
Provided or Privided, or is the error function not working?

DenialARiverIn Islington
DenialARiverIn Islington
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Yeah, Liam, sure thing. After all, if you have no real argument and the subject of your affection can be seen by everyone to be a total crank – best thing to do is to bring in the American Bogeyman to frighten the horses, right?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Spot on Sir!

Graham Cresswell
Graham Cresswell
1 year ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

Quite. It’s way past time that we set about abolishing the NHS. Only its status as a sacred cow and national treasure protects if from being found out as the lumbering monolith that it is; obsessed with process and indifferent to outcome. No monopoly serves its customers. It’s time to allow private medical insurance (and for that matter, private school fees) to be tax-deductible so that there is some hope of geeing up the NHS with a bit of competition. Otherwise it will always be near the bottom of the league in terms of outcomes. Health services do not have to be free at the point of need; they have to be affordable at the point of need and, as has been comprehensively shown in Europe, that is best achieved by and insurance-based system backed by the state.

Last edited 1 year ago by Graham Cresswell
UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 year ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

Totally agree about the NHS – and to relate that to Mary’s article it seems that the NHS has been co-opted and is populated at the upper levels by the Virtuals who are determined to make it a Virtual ‘thing’ – completely oblivious to the fact that there can be nothing more important to Physical reality than the healing of the human body. Along with food-providers, house-builders, and rubbish-collectors, the healer-carers are essential Physicals – despite the fact that an awful lot of the upper echelons think they can skip over to the other side leaving the nurses and carers at the bottom of the Physical heap.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
1 year ago
Reply to  CF Hankinson

This is yet another barnstormer from Mary. Virtuals v Physicals must enter lexicon and fast. It explains so much. I would love to see Mary extend this theory deeper – into ideas themselves, notably the Equality cult or the contagion of Anti Discriminatory Mania (MAD) which propels not just political policy…but…more ominously ..has plainly spread its tentacles to all classes and generations. Secondly, I would love Mary to examine the role that the rigged property bubble has played in enriching the Virtuals. Without their enrichment via bricks, would they be so powerful? Would not the Brexit civil war have been so dirty if the Virtual Propetocracy were not battling to preserve their untaxed wealth??? How potent would Virtuals have become without the property boom??

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

Fore sure! All the stupid woke stuff is merely smoke and mirrors, stoked up to keep the masses from seeing the elephant in the room. The idea that humans must not discriminate or judge is anathema to every form of progress and indeed survival! Of course UNFAIR discrimination and PREjudice are wrong but omitting the all important adjective and prefix resp. distorts the case to idiocy.
When somebody defines what it is that makes a biological man a virtual woman I will look again: but for now I see that every so called/cultural feminine trait is also found in many biological males happy to be and feel 100% male.
And equally, I know of no cultural or so-called male traits that don’t occur in many women happy to remain 100% women. In my humble opinion (which I’m happy to abandon if proved wrong) there are no defining traits adequate for anyone to justify identifying as the opposite sex to their biological gender.. The tiny minority with genuine biological disphoria is a completely separate matter and I have the utmost sympathy and respect for such people. Furthermore, I am 100% okay with gay males and gay females in case anyone thinks I’m not!
Bir I agree there are far more interesting things to discuss as tegards Physicaks and Virtuals so yes Mary: please write more on those issues, omitting the silly SexID stuff!

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

You should sue the Christian Brothers. ( Fore sure, Bir, etc.) QED.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago
Reply to  CF Hankinson

Clearly, Trudeau is more than capable of playing really dirty politics- as he’s so desperate to remain in the Globalist Club.

Jason Smith
Jason Smith
1 year ago

“Another possibility is a more thoroughgoing push to turn what’s left of working-class Physicals into the “useless class“ some predict will emerge if AI and automation replace human-powered jobs”
This shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the sectors most vulnerable to AI and a common (and I suspect deliberate) failing by apocalyptic miserablists such as this author.

It is the charlatan Virtuals such as lawyers and doctors who will be exposed and replaced by AI and who will seek to protect themselves by building ever higher barriers to entry and more intransigent unions (such as the BMA and Law Society). Ultimately, I doubt it will do them much good and their importance will wane. It will be the Physicals such as nurses, carers and labourers that become more essential and demand more money. You can already see the realignment starting to occur in the UK with fewer people available to do do physical jobs and demanding higher wages via strikes

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Jason Smith

I can readily see how an AI ‘doctor’ will operate but can you say how an AI barrister will work? Will it be availing of every ‘precedent’ case to determine an ‘average’ judgement + weightings applied to similarities etc? I’m intrigued as I’ve done some expert witness work in courts.
Solicitor work will lend itself more easily to AI application probably, as much of it is cut and paste already.. but again I’m keen to get an insight into this if you can spare the time to explain further.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

‘Expert witness’ in what may I ask?

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
Jason Smith
Jason Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Yes I was talking mainly about solicitors, commercial lawyers, legal drafting and interpretation of policy etc. That is where society spends most on legal costs and is extraordinarily vulnerable to AI. I can’t see barristers, judges etc being replaced anytime soon. And for the foreseeable future I believe we will still need human interaction just far fewer humans to interact with.
And as for expert witnesses, having been one myself and also dealt with very many, I can confirm that they are very rarely experts, and even where they have considerable knowledge they are frequently wrong. However, like most experts we hear on the media they have an enormously high opinion of themselves and great confidence in their own opinions.

Gavin Stewart-Mills
Gavin Stewart-Mills
1 year ago
Reply to  Jason Smith

Completely agree and came to make the same point. The Virtuals have most to fear from AI and ML. I work with these technologies and, ironically, they already replaced a good 25-30% of my own activity area (sales).

For a virtual to survive the AI threat, they will need to show outstanding soft-skills, insight, one to one charm, human ‘specialness’ factors etc etc or they are replaceable toast. How many sanctimonious Guardian reading civil service automatons, I wonder, will survive that challenge? But, as Mary notes, they all still need their bins emptying, or their groceries delivered to their door whilst they piously ‘isolate’ during their pandemic lockdown.

I see little appetite in Silicon Valley to replace binmen with technology solutions and (ironically) technological efficiencies in farming are rejected by the ‘planet loving’ Virtuals. The balance of power will surely shift to these Physicals in due course.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago

An excellent article, I really enjoyed it.
The only thing I would like to add is that – while such turbulence (and possible unrest) will be unpleasant – history shows us that this is a necessary part of change, and change allows us to move into the future. These periodic periods of chaos in British history are instructive when considering why – over the long term – Britain has been so stable. It is our historical paradox: we need(ed) chaos and the clash of ideas to achieve settlement and stability.
I shake my head at all the smugs shaking their heads and tutting at the UK’s instability – especially those from/in favour of the EU. No other organisation in the world needs shaking up more than the EU…yet no one dares to do any more than talk about change/reform because “stability” is all that matters and actually taking steps towards getting it done would mean uncertainty and unknowable outcomes. Absolute anathema to technocrats who love the current, known rules.
I admit that the line between courage and stupidity is a fine one and an action is only categorised as one or the other in retrospect once the outcome is known (thus exonerating or discrediting the actor). But I will say that daring to try something and allowing chaos in when a certain status quo isn’t working is always preferable to hanging on to said status quo for grim death while the world leaves you behind. In that vein, we shouldn’t be overly hard on Liz Truss – she did at least try something new.

Last edited 1 year ago by Katharine Eyre
Steve Elliott
Steve Elliott
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

This reminds me of the speech made by the Orson Wells character in The Third Man.
“After all it’s not that awful. You know what the fellow said â€“ in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced MichelangeloLeonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly.”

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

Satisfaction, peace and contentment are not a triumvirate known for producing great art.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

That said, the past 50 years or so has been bereft of ‘great art’. It’s practically impossible to walk into contemporary art gallery today without being disappointed. The work is for the most part pedestrian. No soaring heights, just cute memes. So the turbulence of the current age is seemingly a bust for creativity.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

What you’re seeing in galleries is, of course “contemporary” art. I’m pretty sure (in fact, i know!) that art is being produced as a result of our turbulent times that will outlast that which finds favour amongst gallerists and curators right now.
It depends what our ideas of ‘great art’ involve, of course. We shall have to wait to see what emerges from our current period which reflects it in a way that’s more meaningful to future generations. Or maybe we won’t be around to see it.

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

I would argue that the main reason (but not the only one) for the exceptional artistic output during the Renaissance was the existence of a banking and mercantile elite swimming in money, who were very keen to display their wealth and power in an obvious and physical way (buildings, sculpture, frescos, paintings, ceramics, gold, silver, gardens, multimedia events, exotic animals etc. etc)
For me, the political chaos = exploding artistic output of lasting merit argument, lies too close to the idea of correlation = causation – a premise that always has a great big question mark hanging over it as far as I am concerned. It can be a great hypothesis generator but isn’t much good for anything else IMHO.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago

Very well put.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Despite the best efforts of that ‘mercantile elite’ the ‘Renaissance’ attempt recreate the Classical World through the miasma of Christianity must be counted as an abject failure.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

That’s okay if you were a Borgia, or a Michelangelo or even a Leonardo (although he did have a few difficulties).. but if you were an Italian soldier or peasant you might have done better in the cuckoo clock business in Switzerland?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

For most of the 15th and early 16th centuries you will find that the Swiss were NOT making cuckoo clocks, but were in fact providing the finest mercenary fighting force in Europe.

Even today ( your spiritual leader) the Pope still employs a few.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Two points on that if I may:
1. Beware of the chaos you wish for (or at least are prepared to tolerate). It might be horrendous!
2. You forget the EU was set up to avoid European wars. That was it’s primary aim. You have to concede: in that it has been spectacularly successful.
3. The EU has done wonders for Ireland and other small European nations: and before you say it: no, we’re not net recipients of EU funds! We haven’t been for years! We are a net contributor: which is OK: we’re a wealthy country.
I’m not sure the EU is less efficient (in other areas) than the UK, US, RF (Russian Federation) although the China model appears to be much more efficient if rather brutal.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

“Two points on that if I may”

Brilliant! Then you go on to give three! A very stereotypical performance, if I may say so! Your countrymen must be cringing.
However enough jesting:-
Point 1: Speculation.
Point 2: NATO was responsible for that NOT the EU.
Point 3: Correct, for first time since 1169 ‘God’ has smiled on Ireland. (But for how long, that is the question is it not?)

Roger Sponge
Roger Sponge
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

NATO has kept the peace since the end of WW2. The EU was only founded in 1993.
Only time will tell whether the EU will have played any meaningful role in the Russian-Ukraine war.

neil morrison
neil morrison
1 year ago
Reply to  Roger Sponge

The first precursor to the modern EU (the Western Union) was a military peace-keeping alliance founded with the Treaty of Brussels in 1948, followed by the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation and the Council of Europe 1949.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

European countries had very good manufacturing and artistic capability prior to the formation of the Coal and Steel Community in 1948.
For Germany the following provided a good basis for economic dervelopment prior to membershiop of the EEC:-

  1. Albert Speer created a very good balance of Fordism and Craftmanship and simplfied manufacturing.
  2. Post 1945 , West Gemany received many skilled German speaking immigrants.
  3. Germany had it’s debts written off and received Marshal Aid.
  4. Germany spent very little on armed forces and nothing on military R and D.
  5. German business was allowed to get on and produce the goods the World wanted to buy between 1948 and 1963.
  6. German unions are dominated by craft ones who can read a balance sheet and pay was based upon profitability, not productivity and there was no over manning of un and semi-skilled workers who were incapable of using advanced machinery.
  7. The creation of the Euro has reduced the cost of German goods by about 33% compared to the Deutschmark and removed competition from Italy in cars and white goods by over pricing them.
  8. What is the difference between the situation Germany enjoys today in Europe and that proposed by her in 1913 ?
  9. Germany has an education and technical training system geared towards engineering, technology and applied science; we have one geared towards the Arts.
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Had US Secretary of State Henry Morgenthau had his way in 1945, Germany would have been completely emasculated and reduced to two ‘agricultural’ Helots states, as it so richly deserved. Sadly the ‘Cold War’ intervened and Germany was saved

.perhaps to fight another day?

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago

I am surprised he still had this view in 1945. I thought these views were held in 1943 but by 1945 the fear ofcommunism meant people considered rebuilding German the best option or least worse.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
1 year ago

I have noticed, for all the handwringing and protests in regards to climate change, no-one from those corners have suggested turning off the servers? We’re facing rolling blackouts this winter! Will the servers be turned off when we can’t cook warm food for our children or will they be kept warm from the blue light of their phone screen? I would certainly be up for all social media servers experiencing the blackouts instead!

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
1 year ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

I have 2 separate generators (one static – one suitcase) in case of power cuts. If I couldn’t afford them I would have to rely on camping stove – I have gas, some have paraffin, etc – Torches/handlamps/table lamps (Some hand charged) and ‘thermos’ flasks various. If you have children then charging and recharging the various lamps would be a lesson in self-sufficiency and the shallowness of modern life .3 of my neighbours I will openly share with. Others may have to queue and accept what’s left. Some of my neighbours are also suitably prepared and the likelyhood of any ‘planned’ blackout going much beyond 4 hours (if it happens at all) is very low. Besides all that I reckon all of the major (commercial) servers will have back-up UPS (unbroken power supply) systems with floating batteries and quick-start generators.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Doug Pingel

I’m off to Portugal in my campervan for the winter. Zero heating bills, much cheaper food and wine.. I’m doing it to help my fellow countrymen you understand! So they can use my share of the gas and electricity!

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Heaven be praised!

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

And the mobile phones, Netfix, Sky, football etc

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

Please start with the Bitcoin mining lunacy!

D Glover
D Glover
1 year ago

Good Article. Mary could have mentioned Rishi Sunak’s enthusiasm for Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC).
This seems ominous when considered in the light of what Trudeau did to the truckers’ bank accounts.
I could also adduce what PayPal did to Toby Young’s Free Speech Union. When cash is gone and all our money is virtual, the ‘Virtuals’ can make our money disappear at their whim.
Or maybe I’m wrong and Rishi is just thinking about his father-in-law’s business in IT and how well-placed it is, now.

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
1 year ago

The Virtuals are a much bigger group than the Anywheres. From the academics who opposed in person teaching and the GPs who demanded telephone consultations during the Pandemic, to workers refusing to return to the office now, there is a real sense of the professional middle class withdrawing from their obligations to wider society. We are told that the majority skews left on economic issues, right on social issues. Yet left wing economics (higher taxes on business, soak the rich and the self employed, nationalise utilities, pump more money into unreformed public services, and so on) won’t actually work, so pandering to the demands of focus groups is not a path to sustainable electoral success. And there is little evidence that people are conservative on social issues in any meaningful way which might imping on their own behaviour. Witness falling marriage rates, the majority of children not living with both parents throughout their childhood, and Society’s failure to speak up for children’s rights, for example to education during Covid, and to protect them from gender identity ideology.

Last edited 1 year ago by Stephen Walsh
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

Uep: several complexities interwoven into this not at all simple discussion.. it is interesting though and we must start with the simple case before we elaborate I presume..

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Mr O’Mahony, I hate to say this, but you are inebriated by the exuberance of your own verbosity.

Alan Tonkyn
Alan Tonkyn
1 year ago

Please, Mr Stanhope, give us a break from your knee-jerk sniping responses to Mr Mahony: they are getting rather tiresome, and I’m sure you have more interesting comments to make!

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Alan Tonkyn

Yes, you are correct, my apologies.

When I was young I was taught never to “mock the afflicted”, however Mr Mahony’s inane response to Kathleen Stock’s recent essay on Scottish Nationalism (19th Oct) proved irresistible, and as Mahony’s fellow countryman Wilde once said, “I can resist anything but temptation”.

Hopefully Mr Mahony is now rumbling across Portugal in his camper van, and no harm is done.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
1 year ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

Hell yes. You point your finger at the most terrifying phenomenon of our times; the fact that the Virtuals have openly opted out of any sense of duty to wider society. Why is this?? Mary? To arms! I think it was catalysed by and is driven on by the ongoing civil war of Brexit and the derangment syndrome it has inculcated in Remainiacs. This is no idle insult. Driven by sheer terror at the possible extinguishing of their massive property gains overva decade, the Millionaire-Remainer class, lambasted the nasty thick non Uni gammon raycists of the North and so exploded the idea of national unity in their heads. Calm has not been restored. This is a Reformation moment and they are like the fanatic Gunpowder plotters. Hatred of Tory Brex Scum further fuels a sectarian war on ‘nationhood’ by a range of powerful Leftist & Remainer forces….why else did those heartless monsters in teaching unions smash the prospects of children in their charge in willing closures?? Are we surprised that doctrinaire Communists within the NHS and science complex so obviously delighted in the crushing of our liberties and the health of private enterprise? The Virtuals see their Ideas as a form of Higher Law, and Remainia is a cult. Like selfish cruel bigots the world over they are utterly indifferent to the suffering they cause. It is good to call out the Virtuals at last.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago

I would also assert that one of the underlying differences between Physicals and Virtual is their credulity. I’ve noticed that people who spend most of their time online tend to skew toward climate fear, non-binary gender theory, critical race theory etc. I believe that this is because they have not experienced much of life outside their bedrooms or offices and so only breathe in the rarefied air of academic theorizing and social media sensationalism. Due to the online bullying and mobbing, they are also scared of ‘getting into trouble’ for saying the ‘wrong’ things and tend to be extremely conformist.
Those who work physically with others tend to be less segregated along class lines due to having much more contact with people from all layers of society. They also seem to trust in themselves more than they trust experts who often contribute to the problems they are paid to solve. They have zero patience for trans ideology or critical race theory simply because they add absolutely nothing practical to their lives.
Jeremy Paxman wrote an interesting article about the current crop of politicians which I think is also related to what I’m trying to say about Virtuals: Our Leaders Have Something in Common – Immaturity.

Dorian Grier
Dorian Grier
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

A very astute observation and it perhaps ties in with the younger generations’ (those brought up online) lack of rebelliousness, creativity and unquestioning acceptance of the Gretas. So many of them are frightened of their own shadows, never mind the “climate crisis”, yet the girls will not say no to boys invading their private spaces.

S Mc
S Mc
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Matthew Crawford has touched on this in his two books. Grappling with the limits of physical reality is humbling and forces you to think and problem solve very differently than if you spend all day in the abstract. NASA higher ups have said they can tell the difference between engineers who played with legos in childhood vs just Minecraft. Also, Musa al-Gharbi shares studies that demonstrate the higher you score in IQ and creativity the more likely you are to be able to convince yourself you are morally correct even when common sense is saying the opposite. The terrible leadership we are experiencing across the West backs this up. The Dutch farmers were already doing a good job figuring out ways to reduce carbon release from fertilizer but the virtual abstractors in the government believe their models are superior to that reality. This was seen in Covid policy also. Right now many in the physical reality of energy are coming out of the woodwork to warn there is no way we can accomplish the switch to renewables in the way the virtuals are demanding. Physical reality always wins and if our virtual leaders don’t recognize that they will be replaced. How ugly it gets depends on how stubborn they are.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

When a foreman is pointing out the mistakes of a junior engineer in front of the workforce they do not use Sir or Ma’am. If the public dressing down is not a wake up call for the engineer, then nothing is.

Saul D
Saul D
1 year ago

Partly yes, but mostly no. Take a step back to the period 2008-2010. It’s just past the crash. Individuals in the physical world are hurting. And the virtual online world is starting to have real political impact – Wikileaks, Occupy, Arab Spring. The first flushes of gig economy and cross-border non-VAT imports are starting to hit the tax base. The New Virtual is starting to mobilise the Physical with a strong desire for systematic change and new opportunities.
The reaction was not of Virtual workers generically – Virtual workers mostly welcomed Internet freedoms, as did the Physical workers who could step round rules they didn’t like. However, the administrative classes were under threat and their reaction was to create a war of regulation to attempt to control the beast. Money tracing. ID tracking. Tax reporting. Hate speech. Monitoring of journalists and bloggers. Censorship and name-calling. Energy use stamps and labels. Privacy by form. A Virtual worker in a bank or university, could be equally as impacted as a Physical worker.
It’s only been 12-14 years since those heady carefree days. Yet here we are having been locked down, semi-compulsorily medicated, with lawyers and advertising corporations controlling what we can say, and financial institutions able to block access to our money, mandated energy policies, educators pushing sex and race agendas, and with the real threat of nuclear war on the table and one-eyed parrot journalists plugging the talking point that “It’s OK, it’ll most likely be only tactical nuclear weapons – nothing to worry about”.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago

For working-class Physicals, though, high immigration means stiffer competition for jobs.
I think it means a bit more than that. You can add housing, a hostile legal system and media and ultimately ethnic, cultural and political domination and marginalization

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Mary has left out one key factor that the Victorians used that was a stroke of genius: peerages and baronetcies were given, in some cases ‘ sold’ to the ‘ new industrial’ family heads, the vast majority of whom had come from working, not middle class origins, including Quakers and Jews: they in turn, had their offspring marry into the ‘ old’ aristocracy, so the two combined, the estates continued, and in many cases the new aristocracy bought estates from the old. The House of Lords gained some great new entrepreneurial minds, and unlike the rest of Europe, there was no revolution.

How this phenomena rarely makes the history books is interesting, and there is evidence that it seems to have somehow been airbrushed out of post 1945 school history curricula by the Labour government?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

When we started paying MP’s in 1911 was the real rot set it.
Since then it has only gone from bad to worse.

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 year ago

The Victorians also empowered an aspirational working class, who could improve their lot by hard work and thrift. It worked for a few (who made it all the way to the top of society) and probably encouraged a great deal more.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago

C Northcote Parkonson and Arthur Bryant stated what you said. When Labour won in 1945, they considerd Britain before this date, hell on earth and after, heaven on earth.
In India, Parsee engineers were elected to the Royal Society and made baronets in the 1830s. A Jewish businessman was made Lord Mayor London, became a MP and was made a boaronet in the 1850s- 1860s.
Britain worked on the Roman principle ” When in Rome do as the Romans” which meant be honest, work hard , straightforward in one’s dealings, fit in . It is the under achieving middle class who consider they are entitled to success who complain about this country and those from ethnic minoritiies who associate with them catch the disease.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
1 year ago

There are (many) representatives amongst the ‘virtual class’, me included, who are temperamental allies of the ‘physical class’, not because our personal individual interests overlap somewhat with them, but simply because we believe allowing a drift towards a society where vast numbers are disenfranchised is abhorrent. Having said that, there is no stopping the tech juggernaut (even assuming such a thing would be good, which I personally don’t think for one second), nor is there a way round the concomitant increase of complexity in our societies – this is just something we all have to learn to live with. It is fine for many in the ‘virtual class’ to play ‘escape to the country’ but in truth that is escape to a manicured garden, not nature red in tooth and claw.

And any ‘settlements’ reached between the warring factions will all repeatedly be very short lived hereonin because that is the nature of continuous and rapid change. What we should aim for, is to cajole the ‘physical class’ that they (or at least their children):
– embrace high levels of education and a mindset of continual retraining keeping one step ahead of automation. (And yeah, I’m aware that sounds nightmarish)
– need to move towards cognitive occupations, and very specifically those cognitive occupations that are not going to get wiped out by automation, because in truth generalised low-end cognitive occupations are even more vulnerable than physical occupations in the first instance to automation.

I am aware this will all happen in a very chaotic and higgledy-piggledy way and not a systematic way unless we get very lucky with a generation of leaders who understand the nature of the coming changes.

Last edited 1 year ago by Prashant Kotak
Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

I expect most contributors are here because we are part of the Virtual Class. I think it is more a mindset or even a psychological trait, where you at least appreciate the physical work that makes our comfortable virtual work possible. The difference between the realist and the idealist? I would like to hope that as the world becomes more virtual we appreciate the physical more? There must be a counter-cultural re-evaluation of skilled labour – the artisan baker, the farmer, the carpenter, the bricklayer, the delivery driver, who cannot be replaced by machines. People who do meaningful and even well paid jobs. Compared to sitting behind a computer screen selling stuff that no one wants and sending out emails that no one reads for a corporation can’t wait to outsource your job or swap you for a computer.

Paul Hendricks
Paul Hendricks
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

I am woefully uninformed about new technologies and the luck, as “there is nothing new under the sun,” but I do find myself wondering why physicals should “embrace high levels of education” (so-called) when this takes place in universities, which serve the interests of the virtuals?

After all, automation is supposed to eliminate some physical jobs as we know them; but it won’t eliminate or even diminish physical reality. And as far as I can tell physicals are not physicals because they haven’t been “educated” enough; it is for some other reason(s).

While virtuals may indeed respond to “cajoling,” with capitulation, aren’t physicals supposed to be more. . . recalcitrant?

Rob N
Rob N
1 year ago

I enjoyed, and felt informed by, this article and have to say I read the title and decided to not bother reading it until I saw the author was Mary Harrington. Clearly the best writer Unherd has; how she manages to ‘churn’ out so many quality, educated and thoughtful articles amazes me.

Last edited 1 year ago by Rob N
Richard Pearse
Richard Pearse
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob N

I agree whole heartedly – I also turned away and read something else, but came back in desperation (boredom?) and looked again and saw Mary’s name and took a “chance”. The result was an excellent read – one of Mary’s best!!

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
1 year ago

“Another possibility is a more thoroughgoing push to turn what’s left of working-class Physicals into the “useless class“ some predict will emerge if AI and automation replace human-powered jobs”

There are a bunch of subtleties here, which I will come to, but I think the emergence of a vast “useless class” is a nailed on certainty based on current sensibilities. Of course the mood can change. But what I mean by subtleties is this: it is the current middle tier, University educated but with relatively low paid cognitive or social occupations, but without top end skills, that is extremely vulnerable to automation. This class for example has no chance of getting on the housing ladder when their salaries are a tenth of housing costs. They are cheerleaders to the top end of the “virtual class”, tend to be younger generations who look down on the “physical class”, people who are often their parents and grandparents with whom they are in values conflict – but they have sold themselves a pup. This strata are walking away from narratives of the Nation State which might have afforded them some protection (at least in wealthy nations) and instead buying into globalisation narratives that will not help them one iota when they themselves become victims of the forces of automation, which is an inevitability.

Last edited 1 year ago by Prashant Kotak
Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Have you identified the new Angry Class – never quite paid enough to be successful and resentful for it, raging against the world, and its patriarchal overlords despoiling the planet?

Kathleen Stern
Kathleen Stern
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

And the highly skilled physicals/hybrids like electricians who work in people’s houses and deal with the needs of businesses can’t easily be replaced by virtuals.

Gavin Stewart-Mills
Gavin Stewart-Mills
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Perfectly put. AI and the general digitisation of society are terrifying for this segment and they literally have no clue it’s coming. Combine that with elite / luxury beliefs centred on national self-hatred and you have one long suicide note.

Some time ago I received a job application from a self styled “citizen of the world” – they literally put this against their nationality. I was curious so asked them to explain what this meant, which was summarised as a rejection of nationhood and borders. In return I proposed to give them the job, but pay them an average Bangladeshi salary rather than UK. Comically, they asked if I was allowed to do that.

Caroline Watson
Caroline Watson
1 year ago

HG Wells identified the two tribes in The Time Machine. The Morlocks ate the Eloi!

Tom Blanton
Tom Blanton
1 year ago

Very like Thomas Sowell’s A Conflict of Visions (1987) with Harrington’s “Virtuals” corresponding to Sowell’s unconstrained vision and her “Physicals” corresponding to his constrained vision. Sowell provides extensive historical examples and analysis giving a sound scholarly foundation for this approach to explaining sometime paradoxical political alliances.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

One glaring omission I think (in the piece and some comments).. The Physicals control the ‘real’ stuff at grassroots level and so are in a position to bring the real world to a halt: at least pending the arrival of mass AI. But even then, AI will need manufacture, maintenance and repair: okay, other AI may do the latter two but I believe the Physicals will be remain high demand albeit in different physical roles.
When the Physicals finally wake up to the great steal (I don’t mean Trumpian) and feel the noose toghten there will be a backlash that will make the Gilet Jaune look tame. Food and material goods will be withheld as will transportation etc. until the pie is shared more evenly.
Russian and Chinese policies will start to look better than merciless Western oppression of the underclass.. and no doubt those two will not be slow to ‘mobilise’, fund and support their comrades in the West.
The Virtuals will ignore the plight of their Physical countrymen at their peril. Rioting and pillaging have resulted from much less abuse and from far fewer aggrieved in the past.. The term you use Mary is the “simmering” class! A good term: not one to be ignored I think?

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago

By introducing the technical training of Switzerland with Shale Gas and Underground Coal Gasification we produce a country with low energy prices and producing advanced high value goods. A basic Swiss watch is about ÂŁ5k for something which weighs 0.1kg. For 1kg we have ÂŁ50K of goods and 1 T is ÂŁ50M. When producing goods of this value, basic costs such as land, buildings, energy, water and even metal are imiportant; it is human skill which is vital.
France and Switzerland produce vast amounts of luxury goods the wealthy want to buy but they require vast numbers of highly skilled people.
Britain does have advanced manufacturing but not enough and largely located within in the South and midlands, not the former coal fields and areas of heavy engineering.
Britain could produce advanced high value goods in the following areas : suits, carpets, crystal, furniture, pottery, weapons, boats,satellites, cars and medicines.
What would improve matters is for the various engineering institutes, architecture and those for physics chemistry, biology, geology working with the Royal Society of Arts and Manufacturing and academia, to examine what Switzerland and countries in the Far East achieve in education and training, then incorporate their methods with the best of British traditions, to produce the most rigorous education and training system in the World. As they say in boxing ” Train hard, fight easy”.
In the 1950s, Britain had the most advanced civilian and military aircraft manufacturing capability in the World. Design was done largely by those who had left school at 16 years of age, undertook apprenticeships and the studied at night school for the exams of the various Instututes of Engineering such as Civil, Mechanical, Electrical, etc . Inst Mech’ Eng Part 2 exam was considered harder than a degree because the Chief Engineer of Rolls Royce was part of the team setting the papers.
Those who lack the maths skills could end their training as Technicians.
Compared to Switzerland, most of craftsmen lack the maths, science and language skills which helps them to understand why they have to undertake certain tasks and hinders their ability to innovate.
A virtual may make money from a virtual life but still want to wear a good watch, sail in a yacht, drive an expensive electric car, drink wine taken from a temperature controlled cellar, drink out of crystal glasses, while sitting on expensive furniture, resting on expensive carpets while watching expensive screens.
Wedgewood et all provided luxury goods for the new wealthy of Geogian Britain.

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago

Would like to say that I thought Julian Farrows comment above was really brilliantly put, I didn’t want to spam your thread with this massive comment though! I work in construction, third generation electrician on my dads side! I’ve worked all over the country from rural estates, to poor inner city areas. I think you are completely right in your point Julian ‘Those who work physically with others tend to be less segregated along class lines due to having much more contact with people from all layers of society.’ I’ve met some really great people from all ends of the spectrum, some of the stuff on here like the woke v unwoke discussion, and some people’s weird perception of this useless underclass, is just so out of touch with reality and how society actually functions its almost funny but I’m slightly terrified how much some people are getting hung up on this stuff.
We have been feeling the supply chain crisis in construction, the copper price has calmed down a bit now but we had a brief period where we couldn’t even quote for cable because the price was going up that fast, the wholesalers wouldn’t set a price on it. Order times are longer, some stuff just isn’t available on the shelf like it used to be and the cost of some materials has gone mental. Order times and volatile prices delay jobs, disrupt cash flow and delay and add cost to a project. Bad for business and customers. We work on farms, fertilizer is a big talking point, diesel and ad blue also is a crisis waiting in the wings. Our whole society depends on access to fossil fuels which we are voluntarily, through sanctions, cutting ourselves off from. This is what I find really frightening. If we keep going at China I can absolutely promise it will hurt us more than them. We do not have the manufacturing capacity to make up for this shortfall, europe can’t even afford to run its smelters at the moment. Business needs stability and for whatever reason, when we really needed it after covid to get going again, our government refused to provide it. I’m very worried about the weird shenanagins with boris, liz truss, the markets, the imf, rishi. This is not normal.
My job requires at times some serious computer work also, I don’t think there will be a war between virtual and physical realms as such, simply because they are fast becoming interlinked by the Internet of things, and one needs the other equally these days. Both sides, working together, some of the bigger projects I’ve worked on, rotary automated milking parlour for 1000cows for example, has the farmer and the contractors working hand in hand with the guys that do the programming and make it all do its thing, the architects that draw the plans, the solicitors that sort the planning, the people in local authorities, even the cows get special high tech collars 🙂 Every site I’ve been on everyone has a good respect for each others trade, be it virtual or physical, you can’t really have one without the other these days. Construction firms need offices, it workers, software etc. I think here the author has missed that point a little.
I think personally everyone actually has weird feeling the sh** is about to hit the fan, but no one seems to be in control, our leaders are positively walking us into disaster at the moment and it’s all coming out in all kinds of weird crazy politics because no one really knows what to do, so we hash over old issues, taking it to extremes, hype ones that are barely relevant and keep plodding on into oblivion.
https://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/How-The-Diesel-Crisis-Became-An-Inflationary-Time-Bomb.html

Last edited 1 year ago by B Emery
Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago
Reply to  B Emery

Where computer people are working on the construction site then they will learn common sense it is where they work in bubbles problems develop.

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Yes I see your point there, I guess I’m trying to say that the problems headed our way in the UK regarding the energy/ diesel/ supply chain crisis will affect the whole of society, across the board, so everyone regardless of being virtual or physical, rich or poor. So in this matter there will be no divide between virtual or physical workers, we will all be in the same boat. That’s not to say we’re not about to see a period of political unrest related to these issues but I don’t think that political divide will be along the line of virtual vs physical worker, I think these matters are a bit more complex than that simply because people are more complex than that. For example attitudes to the war in Russia and sanctions and attitudes to China vary not depending on your status as a worker but on your outlook to the world. These are the issues that we need to confront to solve this crisis. Also the AI has the potential to affect both virtual and physical jobs equally in my opinion, as far as I’m aware much of the stock on the stock market is now traded by algorithms not people, ai is particularly effective at sequencing data sets, another virtual job, more info here https://genomemedicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13073-019-0689-8
So again I don’t think there will be a divide here, we will all see it creeping in where it is capable and economically sound for business to introduce it, that won’t be divided on whether the task is virtual or physical. And so any resistance to it, or people fearful of loosing jobs won’t be confined to one sector.

Last edited 1 year ago by B Emery
Jonathan Munday
Jonathan Munday
1 year ago

The article is a brilliant exegesis of her central argument of politics as a competing war of self interests.
However, that does not mean that the two camps are now best described as Virtuals and Physicals. I am a retired doctor but definitely in her Physical camp politically.
She alludes to what I regard as the far more intuitive description of Somewheres and Nowheres. But she makes no attempt to explain why Virtuals and Physicals is a better descriptor. If she rewrote the piece changing the terms to Nowheres and Somewheres (or if she wants less value laden terms – Nationalists and Internationalists) then she would not need to change another word of her explanation.
I suppose the Physicals is a dog whistle hark back to the old left right split of capital and labour. But there are many Somewheres among her Virtuals and very few Nowheres among her Physicals. That I think is the greatest problem with her descriptor. It is obvious that the Virtuals have all the active political and media power but they are, in absolute numbers, barely more numerous than the old Tory landowners and in the days of universal suffrage this cannot be stable for long, particularly in a recession and with the threat of AI.
All the Nowheres in the Conservative party are in the parliamentary party or the donors list. That is why we had the coup. At the 2019 election, all the Somewheres in the Labour party voted Conservative. Virtuals and Physicals are much more messily spread across our party system and not nearly so good a descriptor of what is going on.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jonathan Munday
Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
1 year ago

What distinguishes the Virtuals and gives them power is their tight grip on a very physical asset – bricks and mortar. By encouraging mass migration and preventing new supply, they have engineered a self serving Midas Machine – 100k per annum untaxed value added since the 1990s. This is the root of their power. This is the hidden but actual source of Remainer hate and fear of Brexit/end of status quo. All their twisted absurd wokery like kneeling to BLM or yelping for an end to cheap energy for the masses is simply a a smokescreen to shield them from popular anger and the Mob, which one day will surely react badly to this naked grand larceny and injustice.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Give me the company of working class physicals every time: the least represented people politically, and admired and respected by those of us who really know them and have worked with and for them:

What makes so many of the exponentially expanding new middle class so risible, tedious, and irritating, is their abject fear of somehow slipping back from whence they came… and phobia about being unable to acquire anything that cannot be bought….quite how being rude to anyone who has the misfortune to in any way ” serve” them, fits in, God alone knows… I do wish that HG Wells could magically transform their night out in a Sevenoaks gastro pub to a Friday in a Welsh steel workers ale house… sit back and watch the fun….

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Or indeed fought with them.

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago

As a member of the physical working class, I’ve seen enough of your comments to know none of us would give you the time of day. Theres nothing the working class hate more than a condescending attitude, towards anyone.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  B Emery

Come off it! He’s only ‘mobbing you up’, surely you can see that?

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago

I see you two are still ‘mobbing’ together. Get a room.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  B Emery

Are you an American may I ask?

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago

Nope, made in the Midlands.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  B Emery

Thank you. Aston Villa supporter?

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago

Not into football, should I ask what polo team you support? Probably more your thing…

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  B Emery

No gave up on Polo years ago, too many foreigners, if you get my drift!

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago

Well maybe you should broaden your horizon. You never know, you might have a good time.

Davy Humerme
Davy Humerme
1 year ago

Really enjoyed the article. Mary’s writing is always compelling. That said I recall reading a very similar article by Joel Kotkin based on the categories of material/non material, and in the context of the USA. One issue with AI and the “useless class” is the amount of infrastructure and server capacity etc needed to replace just one truck route and the inflexibility and path dependency that creates. I agree that professionals such as lawyers, teachers, bankers with predictive trading etc are going to more affected but that as with all technology-jobs prognostications, will end up with jobs that are different not destroyed. UBI if it comes will create a very basic subsistence floor but maybe the idle hands will find political work to do? As always excellent comments here also.

Corrie Mooney
Corrie Mooney
1 year ago

Mary, you really should write a book about this stuff.

Last edited 1 year ago by Corrie Mooney
Richard Pearse
Richard Pearse
1 year ago
Reply to  Corrie Mooney

I said the exact same thing while I was reading it. She is becoming an icon for readers who are rarely represented or stimulated by the legacy media.

Corrie Mooney
Corrie Mooney
1 year ago

Somewheres/Anywheres is a good parallel, and Physicals/Virtuals lines up nicely with what I used to call Front of Office/Shop Floors.
The Physicals have the ultimate trump card, but no small damage could be done before or during that trump card being played.

Nick SPEYER
Nick SPEYER
1 year ago

Virtuals and Physicals is of course a simplification – but if you approach complex issues with enough simplified analogies, you do get an understanding.
There is an underlying issue in the essay above in that it gives equal credence to all parties. This is akin to saying that someone who believes that two plus two equals five has a valid viewpoint, when in fact they are very obviously just wrong.
And this realisation, sheds far more light on the culture war between Virtuals and Physicals. Many of the beliefs of Virtuals are just plain wrong and absurd not least the obsession with race and gender. This causes bewilderment and confusion – why are complete idiots receiving large sums of money for being idiots?
And of course there are plenty of Virtuals with common sense…

Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
1 year ago

An interesting and new categorisation
So can we now look forward to the “Extreme Virtual” pitted against the “Hard Physical”?

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 year ago

Fascinating as always. But of course the real division is still between those who own stuff and those who have to rent it.

What has changed is that the owners are now the majority and therefore able to force the renters to pay for the maintenance of their affluence even when the material basis for it has evaporated.

That’s why the consequences of the financial crisis are only now being experienced by the middle class – with all the attendant angst and panic – despite UK GDP per capita having fallen ever since 2007.

Alain Proust
Alain Proust
1 year ago

Virtuals vs. Physicals. Sounds a bit like the Outer party and the proles.

Where are the inner party? Our elusive elites?

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago
Reply to  Alain Proust

Great point here, the elusive elite is doing a pretty good job at pitting normal people against each other and distracting us from the issues at hand, and they carry on pulling the strings, at the moment walking us into complete and utter disaster. What do you reckon the end game is?

Alain Proust
Alain Proust
1 year ago
Reply to  B Emery

I am hoping that the end-game isn’t in line with the WEF’s idea, i.e. “You will own nothing and be happy.” !!!

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago
Reply to  Alain Proust

So am I, I’ve read about all that too, does seem to be the way are taking us at the moment though, considering getting myself a boat and living in international water 🙂

Ludwig van Earwig
Ludwig van Earwig
1 year ago

“hang the paedos and fund the NHS”

How pithy Mary is. And no I don’t have a lithp.

The NZ government is more likely to hang the public health service (though incompetence rather than malice), and fund the paedos.

Michael Follett
Michael Follett
1 year ago

This is a very thought-provoking article. In my opinion, ideas people and reality people are much better descriptors for the new classes than virtuals and physicals. Our respective experiences, or lack of them, are the most significant factor in shaping our worldviews, although I strongly feel that we are being manipulated by the new aristocracy, global corporations and those that own them. Ideas people place more importance in feelings such as wanting us to live as one big happy family or to be able to express ourselves however we want without consequence, whereas reality people place more value in knowledge and experience such as science and tradition. Brexit, transgenderism and climate activism all provide ample examples for this.

Matt Sylvestre
Matt Sylvestre
1 year ago

Harrington is a world class talent


robert stowells
robert stowells
1 year ago

I just do not see it. This desire to tease out some present all embracing distinction between “realists” and “virtualists” is just journalists trying to make a name for themselves regarding the next big thing. It is all already contained in that historic movement of “rationalism”. The mundane tension between the present status quo of technology and the new challenge of Cartesian clockwork of the next development. Why do not writers rather focus on the specific observations such as the march to totalitarianism given the alarming willingness of of humanity to surrender personal liberties as demonstrated by the “ducks to water” embracing of most to lockdown and all the curtailment of rights that it involved for something that was no more than a moderate flu? Beautiful writer Mary but such a waste of words.

Colin K
Colin K
1 year ago

He has brought up the subject of grooming gangs, which is a step toward “hanging the paedos”. Though your whole statement is a complete strawman, I read the linked article. It says that people are socialy conservative and ecconomically left. Just like the parties that won the Swedish election. Everyone is sick of the woke identity politics.
And screw the NHS. Complicit in the massive scam of the last two and a half years. We need a real heath service, not a covid shilling service covering up vaccine injuries and refusing to admit them.

Colin K
Colin K
1 year ago

As a virtual I am firmly on the side of the physicals.

Don Lightband
Don Lightband
1 year ago

Can someone perhaps fill me in on what is omitted here, to wit where medical workers figure into Mary’s scheme? Are they Physicals or are they Virtuals? I am far from sure because doesn’t a med worker deal equally with what is physical (bodies) and what is virtual/ideational (health)?

john truepeers
john truepeers
1 year ago
Reply to  Don Lightband

Hard to know what she would take as evidence that British democracy is a sham. That the money markets so easily overthrew Liz Truss wasn’t? Because money acted through a majority of Tory MPs?
Anyway, MH doesn’t really explain why politicians don’t even bother to make “homeopathic” representation of the need to hang all the Paedos and fund the NHS. All she says, in conclusion, is “because they can”. Why wouldn’t it still be in their interest to do the old bait and switch? Don’t they want to maximise their election wins?
All she really says is that the “virtual” interest groups have so much power they seemingly get a kick from rubbing it in the faces of the physicals. But this is hardly a satisfactory account of why or how the virtuals have this power. As the Liz Truss episode shows, what is needed is an account of how capitalism works and how the interests of capital – insuring some nominal return on investment, which is somehow translated into social power – is being served by politicians who somehow know they have to serve it that they don’t even go as far as pretending to take the side of “the people”. Instead, they just keep feeding them “economic” policies for “growth” that just have the result of bringing in more immigrants and ponzi debt schemes and weird “renewable” energy policies (that aren’t really green if you look into them) that don’t make the average person richer but only serve the “growth” needs of capital. There is no mention here of the Veblenian struggle between industry and capital and that the latter often sabotage the former in service to their interests to gain power. So MH talks about money without really trying to explain what it is, how it works, how it rules us in short. If we don’t have a theory of pricing, debt, and money creation, we can talk about “growth” with no account of what is really growing and what is being sabotaged and destroyed in its interest. SHe intuits that blowing up Nordstream may, or may not, shift German politics to the “physicals” but still there is no serious analysis of how sabotage is key to the power of the “virtuals”.
Queer that she refers to the largely central Canadian truckers protests as the “Vancouver truckers” though admittedly there was nation-wide involvement but it is just too far for many to go to Ottawa from here…. Is that a sign that most of Canada is a black box to her and only the West Coast is sexy? That would be a sign she is still stuck in the world view of the “virtuals”, perhaps? They say Vancouver’s economy is growing with the population, but I can assure you the average person is poorer in everything you can’t buy from China. And the homeless crisis, the deaths of despair, has never been so extreme. If you’re not interested in why the average house costs 50x the post-tax income of the average couple, you’re not asking the right questions…

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago

This is another excellent and perceptive article from Mary Harrington, one of the best UnHerd contributors. One aspect of ‘progressive’ politics which to me doesn’t fit quite so well into the analysis is the aspect of identitarian ‘woke’ politics that deals with race. Here, unlike the dominant view prioritising perceived over essential biological identity in sex / gender issues, it is absolute anathema to claim that you belong to in some way to another race, however much of a progressive ally you may be. I would say that ideologies and world views are contingent, historically based and can sometimes incorporate blatant contradictions. This is why the essentially Marxist analysis Mary espouses, that “moral outlook is downstream of concrete material interests” doesn’t always operate neatly.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Fisher
Weronika Najda
Weronika Najda
1 year ago

I would really like to know more about the author’s view on the war in Ukraine. I must say I had to draw a breath after reading the sentence: “rising energy prices driven by US foreign policy in Ukraine”. Surely, the author meant “by Russian murderous foreign policy in Ukraine”? Surely? Was this an error caused by writer’s brevity or a deliberate effort to portay this war as something it isn’t (no, not US policy fault, not Ukraine policy fault, perhaps Germany’s, yes, but definitely Putin’s fault, no one else.)