Friday, 30 January 2009

Two Sociologists Get Me Thinking

Two sociologists have posted economics stuff which has got me thinking this morning.

Firstly, Bud the American points out that, initially at least, FDR's New Deal - and certainly the famous 'First 100 Days' - wasn't what we'd now call Keynesian for the very good reason that, actually, Keynes didn't publish his magisterial General Theory until 1936 and FDR came to power in 1933. Events usually precede their theorisation. I suspect the same thing is going to be true of various kinds of policies and turning points in the current crisis.

Secondly, AVPS bravely takes an initial stab at commenting on the unofficial strike at the Lindsey Oil Refinery. I say 'bravely' because, as the title of his post suggests, this action might clearly be woven into a racist narrative. I see the BNP (and, no, I'm not going to provide a link to their website) are already claiming, "1000 British construction workers demonstrated in support of “British jobs for British workers”. But the very brevity of this statement suggest to me that, thankfully, they do not currently have a base amongst these workers - if they did, they'd be boasting much more actively. AVPS tries, gamely, to see the positive anti-globalisation themes embedded in the strike and remind people of the principled left view on dilution of labour. But I sense his heart is not quite in it as, like everyone else, he can't know how all this is going to turn out.

Nonetheless, the action takes my mind back to a fascinating Red Pepper article from last summer on 'Underdog Politics' across Europe.

"The success of right-wing populism is not only about what its proponents do and what voters think. It is just as much about how other parties, and especially the leftist elite, have created an enormous division between themselves and ordinary people at the bottom of society. The right’s populist success is the other side of the left’s failure, whether they are self-satisfied social democrats occupying privileged positions in the state or ‘post-modern’ socialists entrenched behind trendy theories on globalisation, the ‘networking society’ and individualisation."

Yesterday, the day of the French General Strike, I posted to the effect that I doubted whether the British Labour Movement would demonstrate the same type of resistance to the economic downturn as is apparent in some other European countries. But there will be resistance - and it is that 'underdog' theme which scares me most if it becomes the trope of choice of such resistance.

But perhaps, as Bud reminds us, we'll only be able to truly understand the political and economic effects of this crisis after we have lived through it for some time.

Midday Update: the BNP's site is now carrying a front page article on the strike - and the arrival of a team of their activists....

6pm Update: ah, but now almost all the Left are behind the striking workers, having convinced themselves that the basic motive is not racist. & The TUC have put out a very helpful statement which is relatively strongly worded given that these strikes are, by definition, illegal. I hope they're all proved right. Perhaps I'm being overly-gloomy but I still fear it could take a right-populist turn...

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