Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Random Thoughts*: Zygmunt Bauman

"In the course of the last decade, social democratic parties have presided over an ‘economic policy’ consisting of the privatisation of gains and the nationalisation of losses; they have run states preoccupied with deregulation, privatisation and individualisation. It is no wonder that voters have come to associate social democrats with the neoliberal policy of dismantling the communal frameworks of existential security, leaving individual men and women to manage their fates on their own, from their individual and mostly scarce and inadequate resources. There is now next to nothing to distinguish between the ‘left’ the ‘right’, in economic, or any other, policy.

In recent years to be on the ‘left’ has come to signal an intention to be more thorough than the ‘right’ in carrying out the agenda of the right, and better at protecting such undertakings from the backlash inevitably caused by their dire social consequences. It was Tony Blair’s ‘New Labour’ that laid institutional foundations under Margaret Thatcher’s inchoate ideas about there being no such thing as society, ‘only individuals and families’. It was the French Socialist Party that did most work on the dismantling of the French social state. And in East-Central Europe it is the ‘post-communist’ parties, renamed as ‘social democrats’ (wary as they are of being accused of lingering devotion to their communist past), that are the most enthusiastic and vociferous advocates – and most consistent practitioners – of unlimited freedom for the rich and the leaving of the poor to their own care.

Previously, the distinctive mark of social democracy was the belief that it is the duty of a community to protect all its members against the powerful forces that they are unable to resist as individuals. And people’s hopes were pinned on the modern state for the carrying out of this task – a state powerful enough to force economic interests to respect the political will of the nation and the ethical principles of the national community."
Polish born British based sociolologist Zygmunt Bauman is one of the finest social thinkers and intellectuals in the Western world. The extract above is from a 2009 article of his that appeared in the online publication Social Europe.

Random Thoughts is a regular attempt to use the words and thoughts of others to illuminate aspects of contemporary life in Western Australia and Australia.

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