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Rebecca Bramall, Joe Painter, Ash Ghadiali, Ewan Gibbs, John Barry, Kirsten Forkert
We invited a range of contributors to reflect on the results of the June 2017 election, to think about what the results mean for the future of the country, and what we might do to consolidate and develop the gains they represent.
Ben Little, Alison Winch
In this first instalment of our Soundings series on critical terms, we look at the idea of ‘generation’, a term which has become highly prevalent within political discourse since the financial crisis.1 As with all the concepts in this series, the idea of generation is differently mobilised by different political actors. Right-wing thinkers use generation in a sense that can be traced back to Edmund Burke to mean the transmission of property and culture through time, while other commentators draw on meanings derived from Mannheim to refer to the experiences of particular cohorts at times of rapid political change. For activists on the left, it is important to distinguish between these different connotations of generation. The Burkean approach has regressive implications, for example in the justification of austerity as a way of protecting future generations from debt; and the Mannheimian understanding, although not as conservative, needs to be connected to an intersectional analysis that looks at other identity markers alongside those of age - such as class, race, gender and sexuality - so as to avoid flattening differences within cohorts and impeding solidarities between generations.
Trump is a particular type of reactionary American populist. The article tracks the history of American populism beginning with the formation of the People’s Party (also called the Populist Party) in 1891 as an agrarian movement based on anger of the Little Man against the western elite.
Deborah Grayson, Ben Little
Our new series, Soundings Critical Terms aims to explore and build on a range of theoretical resources that members of the editorial group have found helpful to their own understandings of politics. This article offers a framing statement for the series as whole, and makes a strong case for the place of conjunctural writing at the heart of the project. It looks at four key ways in which thinking conjuncturally can be of assistance to the left: as a means of analysis of periods of conjunctural crisis and contradiction; as an a priori necessity for effective political intervention; as a space open to bringing together longer trajectories of thought; and as an enabler of reflection on the shifting forces of socio-political histories. The aim is to begin to develop a rich toolkit of concepts, histories and understandings that enable us to think through what is possible, to determine the direction of future interventions, and to provide a space in which crucial differences and agreements within left activism can be explored.
There is currently a lot of frustration with the failures of liberal democracy, and a turn by some on the left towards a politics that eschews liberal democracy in favour of a radical politics based on ideas similar to those of communism. But a key lesson from the history of communism is that one of the main causes of its failure was its attitude towards democracy. In countries ruled by communist governments, the party was seen as embodying the working class and hence democracy, and all other standpoints were repressed. Waite analyses how the repressive structures of state communism arose, before going on to discuss ways in which Gramscian communists sought to rethink issues of democracy and to shape new communist oppositional practices within liberal democracies.
Part of the Soundings Futures series, the first part of this article is an assessment of the scale of regional inequalities in Britain and the failures of the orthodox policy initiatives that have been advanced to address them. The main weaknesses of successive policy shifts have been that: overall expenditure has simply been inadequate to the tackle the scale of the problem; any expenditure on regional aid has been vastly out-weighed by other forms of government expenditure which tend to favour the more economically advantaged parts of the country; regional problems have been attributed to underlying deficits in lagging regions rather than being understood in terms of unequal power relationships between regions, or more fundamental aspects of the centralised system of British political economy. The Northern Powerhouse model shares aspects of all these policy flaws. In response, the article sets out some elements of an alternative agenda, based upon a fundamental reshaping of the structure of economic governance. Measures proposed include: much greater real political decentralisation and new forms of regional governance; an industrial policy focused on job creation in industries that offer middle-level skilled jobs, such as manufacturing, construction and healthcare; a policy of inclusive growth - one that seeks growth that promotes good quality jobs and poverty reduction; a geographical shift in central government investment patterns and a relocation of good quality government jobs to the regions.
The September 2016 re-election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, with a renewed and increased mandate, was a significant political event, which should not be overshadowed by recent electoral successes by the populist right. On the contrary, these successes make it all the more important to understand the challenges facing the left.
An extensive critique of the market conception of health provision, combined with a vision for an alternative way of running the health service. The failure of market ‘reforms’ cannot be addressed by tinkering with new models of provision.
A personal account of key moments in the development of a black intellectual, and of the importance of the work of Stuart Hall in that development, told through ten ‘moments’.
We went to press the day after the referendum, which gave us little time for thinking about a response. This will be something we address in the next issue. In the mean time we hope that some of the articles in this issue offer ideas that can help us in the difficult days ahead.
A tribute to the work of geographer Doreen Massey, looking at her academic and political wrork, which were inextricably linked.
With the growth of #BlackLivesMatter, the widespread racism in US universities is once more being challenged.
The second of a new series of articles, Soundings Futures, which sets out to develop programmatic alternatives to the system of neoliberalism.
In introducing a series of articles that explore positive and programmatic alternatives to neoliberalism, Michael Rustin points to its links with After Neoliberalism: the Kilburn Manifesto, the main focus of which was to analyse and expose the workings of neoliberalism.
Housing is an area where neoliberalism has been successful in shifting attitudes away from the notion that it is the business of the state to make provision for adequate homes for all, and towards the idea that housing should be seen as a market: i.e. the state has no business in subsidising the poor through providing affordable housing, or in regulating the private sector.
Inigo Errejon , Chantal Mouffe
Chantal Mouffe and leading Podemos strategist Íñigo Errejón here discuss the rise of Podemos, and the ways in which the party has drawn on the theoretical contribution made by Laclau and Mouffe.
Identity politics is often misrepresented as undermining our ability to forge a sense of our collective humanity, leaving us trapped in single-issue debates and unable to develop meaningful connections outside of our group. Roshi Naidoo argues that the opposite is true: it is through, rather than in spite of, identity that we can find solidarity, connection and a more profound sense of humanity that embraces rather than suppresses difference in the name of a greater good.
Soundings has been arguing for a long time that Labour should ‘take a leap’, that it should challenge the dominant terms of debate: that, rather than accepting the established political terrain, it should be marking out distinctive territory of its own. [...]