This is a link to an incredibly stupid and badly written essay by Michael Gardiner, a Prof. of Eng Lit, which is available at National Collective and, in amended form, also appears on Open Democracy.
Prof, Gardener writes-
Self-determination campaigns will find easy pickings in post-2008 austerity policies and the long embrace of neoliberalism by the Labour Party since the early ’90s. Too easy, in a way, because there is another question here which is as old as Britain itself. This question’s modern and most successfully total expression comes in the 1940s settlement we still often see as a natural inheritance to be preserved, the tremendously perishable 1942 form of the welfare state. We are still living this moment, it has an emotional appeal which only partially still holds, and it is the most ‘sticky’ of the claims to British achievement. This is a moment which we should start to historicise.
Gardner says there is a 1942 form of the British Welfare State. Is this true? Urm... no. There was no N.H.S in '42 so - duh!- there wasn't any Welfare State at all- just a patchwork of local provision. Beveridge was a guy who had been side-lined by Churchill and his Report was talked up after the fact but had no importance in itself. The truth is, if the conditions for over-full employment hadn't obtained for all manufacturing nations in the 50's, then Beveridge 'full employment' would never have gained currency as a meme.
Gardner believes that a Question was born some time ago and it is the same age as Britain. Anyway, this Question was just wandering around minding its own business when suddenly in 1942, some guy or bunch of guys gave it its most modern and successful total expression. Something similar happened to me on my 17th birthday when the girls in the Indian YMCA caught hold of me and painted my nails and put make-up on my face and dressed me in a flowery dupatta. No, I didn't turn totally Gay but then I'm not a Question as old as Britain itself which is why it is totally senile and, as if in obedience to Schopenhauer's theory of pederasty, did actually turn totally Gay and not the nice hygienic sort of Gay but like real sticky Gay which is why we are still like trapped in a Time loop coz it has got stuck inside us and has 'an emotional appeal which only partially holds' even tho' we're all like -'stop fucking guilt tripping me you sticky and totally senile Gay and just get out of my orifice already- fuck, is that super-glue oozing out of you? you filthy old pervert- shit, this gonna hurt so bad...'
Even if Gardiner is right, and a Question as old as England got a makeover in 1942 which turned it totally sticky and Gay and it is now up our arse, would it still be true that some moment exists which we should start to historicise?
Fuck no! Some filthy Gay is up your butt- what you need is fucking surgical intervention or like maybe Ricky Martin serenading that Gay and luring it out of your rectum or something like that. Historicizing the moment aint gonna help.
Gardener, who is in no hurry to get this senile and sticky pervert out of his butt, continues his essay thus-
It’s easy to feel anti-social complaining about British services. It’s also important to remember, though, that the British Union was has never been defined in terms of the participation of the people, but just the opposite, as the defence against popular sovereignty understood not formally but as a principle of timeless accretion and based on the adaptation of always already existing interests. If the British nationalism in today’s press and broadcast media seems transparent, it is because Britain is less a nation than a rationalisation of credit. In is governmental form it first arises from the time of the import of the Anglo-Dutch financial system after 1688, its guarantee in perpetuity by the Hanoverian crown, and central banks which support it from the 1690s. As Daniel Defoe was describing in 1706, its raison d’état is as an investment entity, which depended on avoiding, rather than promoting, shared action.
Why is it easy to 'feel anti-social' complaining about British services? If I say- State Schools aint teaching proper English like wot I rite- or the fucking post code lottery dun bin killing ma peeps- fuck is anti-social about that? Perhaps, what Gardner- a Prof of Eng Lit- means is 'complaining against the very existence of British Public Services makes one feel anti-social'. But that's coz it is fucking anti-social. Now you may say- Vivek, you don't understand. You see if the N.H.S disappeared then like Ayn Rand or Joan of Arc or La Passionara would suddenly appear in the Sky and wave a magic wand and there'd be a dedicated fully staffed Hospital in every broom cupboard and you personally would have an entire Eng Lit faculty from Oxford, or some fancy place like that, to correct your abysmal prose and like wipe the drool off you next time you start typing one of your illiterate blogposts. So, you see, my criticism of the N.H.S and whatever rubbishy Adult Education College you are enrolled at, isn't anti-social at all" My riposte is- 'fuck off you big loony. You are too anti-social coz u r pretending to be like a Professor or summat. By the way no Crown, Hanoverian or otherwise can guarantee a Financial System even if some fuckwit is stupid enough to think it can have 'a Reason of State as an investment entity.' Financial systems, national, trans-national or whatever, contain investment vehicles and debt instruments. States can survive the crash of a Financial system- Iceland yo! yo!- or they can fail though the financial system survives- the Afghan currency didn't disappear during the Civil War though five different powers were printing money- so Gardiner is writing portentous nonsense- on a par with Sokal's famous spoof article.
Gardener says- look, British services are tied to British sovereignty which, historically, was oligarchic not popular. He is wrong. The State did not create Services like Education, Social Insurance and Health provision, or even a Law & Order machinery. Indeed, it often opposed the burgeoning of these things because they increased Popular Sovereignty. Universal Education meant workers might cease to 'know their place'. Florence Nightingale's efforts were opposed by the War Office because it might harm the fighting spirit of the Army rank and file and thus endanger National Security. Still, for reasons well understood by non-shite Economic Historians- i.e. not shitheads like Polyani who thought most human beings didn't go in for trade and division of labor till Adam Smith told them to- what ineluctably transpired was that locally produced Services were increasingly centralized, codified, and made more uniform but, in general, this was fought tooth and nail both by vested interests as well as paranoid nut-jobs ranging across the spectrum from Tory Radical types to Trotskyite silly-arses.
Gardener's original essay was in the context of Scottish Nationalism- in which it is not a non seqitur, yet still historically illiterate, to speak of the 'import of the Anglo-Dutch financial system- yet, he presents the same material under the rubric of a critique of English Nationalism. How the fuck do we import something which is already ours? Where there is credit, it is going to be rationalized- either that or it stops being credit. Why? In business, rational agents survive, irrational ones go to the wall. Now it is true that both rent seeking vested interests and exhibitionist paranoid nutjobs with a gift for phrase making violently oppose rationalization of any sort- but, long run, either they lose or crash the system. Incidentally, rational action is always shared action- Nash equilibria- read about it sometime why don't you- what isn't shared action is paranoid logorhea spouted by an illiterate Eng Lit Prof who is pretending he knows from Econ or History or Politics.
Gardner's gadarening essay carries on thus
After the financial eighteenth century and after dealing with tricky rebels, John Locke’s and Daniel Defoe’s non-experiential citizenship as property would be reinvented as nature itself from the 1790s by Romantics reacting to the French Revolution, and would then be exported into empire as the timeless inheritance. But it took on its most durable form with the modernisation of the 1920s and ’30s with which it has to adapt parliamentary sovereignty to a straitened empire, in cultural forms which took in the 1920s and ’30s in figures including J.M. Keynes (economics), John Reith (broadcast), and F.R. Leavis (literature). In the modernising era fiat currency took much the place gold has during high empire as a unifying principle, official and examined models of civility took the place of inheritance, and the state broadcaster reached every home with its Commonwealth unionist message.
What is the 'financial eighteenth century'? Does Gardener mean 'the system of finance characteristic of the Eighteenth Century England'? This begs the question- did such a system exist in a form that could be cognized as sufficiently monolithic to permit its re-invention as 'Nature itself'? The short answer is no. There were competing systems of finance, one Mercantilist the other Market based and pronounced tension between them made visible in, for example Adam Smith & Edmund Burke whose ringing denunciation of Mercantilist Imperialism- which Burke termed 'Indianism' (i.e. the corrupt rent-seeking of the East India Company)- concludes by asserting it to be a greater threat to England than 'Jacobinism'. All this being widely known to be the case, it is simply foolish to suggest that so heteroclite a viewpoint could be 'exported to Empire as the timeless inheritance' (sic). Gardener tells us that not only was some non-heteroclite thesis exported but that it took a more, indeed 'most', durable form in the 20's and 30's. This is fucked in the head. Ronald Coase, whom the Right has illegitimately claimed, defeats Reithianism with his Wicksteed based critique less than half way through the Thirties and it is his Law & Econ approach which remains relevant to us today. F.R. Leavis was a shit-head- which great author did he influence? Did Joyce go- 'better abandon Finnegan's Wake and write some shite about copulating mine-workers coz that's what Queenie gets off on?' Fuck no. The 20's and 30's were described as a 'Long' (that is Lost) Weekend by people who lived through it. During the Battle of Britain, two English authors- James Hilton and Graham Greene- write novels showing that the period was a sort of amnesiac Waste Land with no connection between what went before and what was to come. As for Gardener's reference to Keynes- does he really not get that Keynes was a voice in the wilderness from Versailles till Lend-Lease? Fuck is wrong with this shithead? What does this mean- In the modernising era fiat currency took much the place gold has during high empire as a unifying principle- fiat currencies have always existed, sometimes with full gold convertibility sometimes with notional convertibility sometimes with only black market convertibility. This is true of 'High Empires' as well as 'modernising regimes'. Monetary Econ 101 explains why- as happened in the U.K during the 20's and 30's- a country may, over a decade or two, cycle through all these variants. What fucking 'unifying principle' is this shithead, Gardiner, talking about? The fact that people use money? No... it must be that Money uses people...yeah that's right... wow! that's like so profound... dude you are like totally blowing my mind! Moving on, what price- official and examined models of civility took the place of inheritance- urm... when have they not? Civil Society is by definition not Tribal or Clan based. It is of the essence of Civic interaction that genealogy only gains expression by courtesy. This is as true of the Meat Vendor in the Vyadha Gita as the industrious manufacturer in Adam Smith.
Finally- the state broadcaster reached every home with its Commonwealth unionist message- every home? Really? What they Govt. gave everybody a Radio set? Course they did, in fact it was a TV set which watched you as you watched it. Orwell described it so it must be true.
The problem with this paranoid view of them scary Radio Waves is that Reithianism wasn't consensus but contested and pretty much happened by default precisely because Radio and later TV just weren't as important for Britain because of the huge inheritance of other popular Media which, especially in its Working Class forms, had already mobilized stout popular defenses and could draw on a tradition pre-dating Defoe & Wilkes
The impetus for the latest, modernising defence of Britain was a grave, and yet familiar, defence in the fact of a terrifying Europe. Avoiding the European excesses of fascism, Britain was able to create something much more permanent. So George Orwell described how fascism would be laughable to the Brits while outlining a totalised vision of the late 1940s, Karl Polanyi spoke of a Great Transformation linking the classic liberalism of anti-Napoleonic times to the era of modern consensus, and Antonio Negri described how Keynesian economics identified fascism as primitive and ineffective compared to a more resilient and totalising force for continuity. The welfare state delivered great material benefits, but only at the cost of more effectively shielding the state from popular participation.
Orwell didn't know from Econ. The guys who did know from Econ, back then, made sure that people like Anuerin Bevan were getting well briefed- Bevan's speeches show an understanding of the Economic theory of Externalities avant la lettre. Incidentally, Abba Lerner- Coase's pal from the LSE- tried to educate Trotsky on marginal pricing back in the Thirties. Polanyi, unfortunately, didn't talk to the right guys at the Workers Education Association back in the mid 30's- shame, but there it is. Anyway, nobody not swotting for Oxbridge in an Alan Benett play actually fucking reads him.As for Negri- what he thinks aint worth shit. Even an Eng Lit Professor like Gardener must have read Keynes's famous introduction to the German edition of the General Theory. So fuck is his major malfunction?
If the Welfare State yielded great material benefits- better housing, schools, health care- how did it 'effectively shield the state from popular participation'? A guy who is ill, ignorant and vagrant does not 'effectively participate' in popular sovereignty. True, he may give you his vote in return for a couple of bottles of Rum- but that aint a good thing. That's why rent-seeking vested interests don't want Public Services. That's why Political Econ, historically in this country, has worked very closely with Local Communities, Trade Unions and victims of Social exclusion. No doubt there are some shit-head Academics and Paranoid nutjob Op Ed writers who muddy the waters from time to time, but so what? Shitheads we shall always have with us.
I suppose there is a sort of Old Morality 'panem et Circen'- as Nietzche put it- cognitive bias behind Gardener's idiocy. But, we now know a lot about how fucking stupid such cognitive biases are. They are the reverse of rationality and have no place in Public Discourse.
This modernised constitutional conservatism found its moment in War Keynesianism, with the state’s involvement in massive ‘public’ investment, understood as the defence of an inherited and unwritten way of life from European systematic political thought (the 1940s connoting 1790s invasion fears). This political totality, rather than using overt or identifiable coercion, demanded perpetual self-creation, as the personal itself became the new ground of expropriation. Whole lives were defined in terms of the state’s franchise, and progressiveness can now only be described as a desire for British social justice.
Wow! You couldn't make it up if you tried. Turns out there was never any Battle of Britain, no fucking Luftwaffe, no Hitler no Goering no Goebells. What actually happened was, all of a sudden, them 1790's invasion fears suddenly re-incarnated as 'War Kenynesianism' (though Keynes was against the way, for example, Beaverbrook pushed things through in Aircraft production) because you see the entire Cabinet- including people like Atlee and Bevin- said 'fuck, them nasty Continental ideas are trying to come over and like liberate the Sheeple. Let's invent a bogeyman called Hitler and 'rather than using overt or identifiable coercion' (which is why Britain didn't have Conscription, forced labor- e.g. chaps being sent down the coal mines against their will- exchange control, sumptuary laws etc etc) let us do something real sneaky- like create a Welfare State- coz ...urm... well, dunno but it sure sounds like a swell thing to do.
The truth is the present Econ crisis has a lot to do with Govts. being too lazy or being too afraid of being taken to task for due process mistakes or just, down right, too fucking incompetent to initiate and carry through the sort of Socially Beneficial program of Public works and Social Spending which will bring nominal asset prices back in alignment with what was previously and erroneously projected- i.e. liquidate toxic debt overhangs through real growth. The safer thing to do is just mouth Fox news type factoids while spending more time with your focus group figuring out whether a hair transplant is higher priority than a tummy tuck. British 'progressives' missed a trick back in the '80's when they failed to spot a parallel with extensive privatization under the Nazis- crucially, this meant we got to win the Battle of Britain because the Govt. could go straight to Command Economy mode and produce aircraft, which though technically inferior to the German product on a case by case basis, nevertheless had greater tactical synergy- the German fighters were forced to fly sub-optimally and thus throw away their advantage because bombers were manufactured by a rival company with its own in built bureaucratic resistance to change. Essentially, Britain did better than Germany at that crucial time because it felt under greater existential threat- i.e. exigent circumstances cancel hysteresis effects and thus if any issue is felt to be urgent enough Polanyi type shite is fucking irrelevant (not to mention just Historically wrong.)
The early welfare state’s assumption of perpetual improvement was both modern and familiar, and originated with eighteenth-century whigs for whom inheritance was always the most progressive form. The new wartime consensus updated and strengthened the old whig, monetary Union, by redefining the person as both labourer and consumer, granting immediate material benefit but giving away the possibility of challenge of the ideal time of the unwritten continuant constitution, modernising Britain’s refusal of present-tense action. With welfare consensus, modernised state-capitalism became a moral act which was harder than ever to question. An instinctual way of life was perpetually ‘preserved’ (that is, created), and the ideological springboard of defence and privation would line up the entire British press, and state TV, behind it. Its conservative defence of unwritten sovereignty, though, is its downfall as well as its strength.
What does this mean?- ' the early welfare state;s assumption of perpetual improvement...originated with eighteenth century whigs for whom inheritance was always the most progressive form.' Form of what? Government? But, Whigs were against some inherited aspects of Govt and for others from which they personally derived a rent. The so called Whig theory of History-as-Progress is Nineteenth Century. There are plenty of steady-state formulations of Eighteenth Century Whiggery some of which are wholly Utopian and not inheritance based at all. Even in the Nineteenth Century, one can point to some Whig support for Chartism, for example, and a present day Whig Economist like Ken Binmore would have no difficulty tracing a hysteresis free (i.e. no inheritance) intellectual genealogy for himself. In any case, utilitarian legal scholars like Glanville Williams long ago supplied British & Commonwealth Judges with a hysteresis free theory of substantive due process- so fuck is this shite about 'heritage' and 'primitive accumulation'? Gardiner can't be that much younger or markedly more ignorant than me. Does he really believe there was an uncontested Butskellite consensus on any fucking thing? Ever? Fuck is wrong with the cunt?
Anyway, enough of this secular stupidity- like shouting écrasez l'infâme ever changed anything- so since my morning bottle of Rum is almost empty & it's off to the Offy in carpet slippers for yours truly; just to save time I'll simply copy and paste my comments from the Open Democracy blog before drunkenly staggering down Halford Rd. to the Hair of the Dog. My Sundays are horrible.
It's okay, the guy is a Prof. of English Literature so he doesn't understand what he's saying and it doesn't mean anything anyway.
Phew! Had me worried for a moment.Still, as a thought experiment, suppose this article had been typed out by a bunch of monkeys who hadn't a single PhD between them- in that case it would be worth our while to ask if it there is any truth to the notion that- 'the British sovereignty behind these public services has always in fact defined itself as a defence against popular sovereignty, a defence projected as timeless inheritance which is intuitive and ‘just there’.
What does this sentence mean? 'Public Services'- is that stuff like the N.H.S, Govt. funded Schools, National Insurance, the Police, the Fire Brigade etc.? Well, we know how each of them evolved. Take the 'Bow Street runners' or the Parish Poor House or the local Dame Schools- these are the seeds from which our modern Public Services have grown. Is there any evidence at all that 'British sorvereignty' was 'behind' these 'Tiebout model' locally produced services? We know how and why the drive to Centralization arose in each case- indeed, a Public Finance Economist who knows nothing of English History would pretty much be able to predict, in broad outline, how things would have panned out- i.e. what forces would have driven the evolution of such services. 'British sovereignty'- which last experienced a crisis in ...urm... dunno but it was definitely like days of yore and there were dragons and witches involved- never decided to go lurk behind 'public services' coz it was playing hide and seek with...urm.... dunno, maybe it was 'popular sovereignty' which had escaped out of the pages of some nice fairy tale which Professors of Eng Lit know about, and anyway like 'popular sovereignty' got bitten by a radio-active spider so its like all 'in your face British Sovereignty! I'm gonna whup yo ass bitch!' and like all them nice Lefties- who are totally gay- are going 'You leave British Sovereignty alone! It's timeless and just there. Have some museli. Toodle pip.'
Come to think of it- that's probably what is actually going down.
Personally, I blame David Cameron's breast feeding George Osborne but denying the teat to Nick Clegg who is clearly a victim of neglect or cot death or something. I'd have informed Child Services but turns out British Sovereignty is hiding out there pretending to be an anatomically correct- thus not Nick Clegg- doll.
Is it just me or does David Icke seem to be making more and more sense?
I have a lot of sympathy with your sentiment. But the Professor was making a very strong point.
If you were really struggling with the piece, I translated it as follows:
"Sovereignty": having independent authority over something, usually a territory/geographical area. I think "British Sovereignty" here is synonymous with Parliamentary Sovereignty. "Popular Sovereignty" is the concept of the power of the people; that the power of government is created by, flows from and is maintained by the authority and consent of the people.
So, understanding the sentence (and general thrust of the article), "...the British sovereignty behind these public services has always in fact defined itself as a defence against popular sovereignty, a defence projected as timeless inheritance which is intuitive and ‘just there’", which the authors wants us to reflect on means:
The independent authority that controls the public services, namely the British Government, sees itself as owning these services for the "welfare" (as it sees fit) of a compliant, disenfranchised people; that the current constitutional settlement of the UK holds up public services as a stop against the people waking up to the fact that they are not sovereign; that they do not own the public services; that public services exist only for the public services; that the people have no independent authority. And that this maintains British Sovereignty at the expense of Popular Sovereignty.
Expansion of the public services, without popular sovereignty, creates ever greater reliance by the people on those public services - the client state; the fear of loss creates a natural stop, or defence, to Popular Sovereignty - the risk that these public services would be lost to us if we were to truly seek a new constitutional settlement based on citizenry and popular sovereignty.
I think the Professor is suggesting that the current constitution has had its day and as it comes to an end (and before it can metamorphose into a 21st Century version of its, as he puts it, 17th Century self), the people need to grasp the sovereignty nettle and form a true Popular Sovereignty despite the risks.
I share the view: the people of the UK, as subjects (conferred with entitlements), not citizens (possessing rights), are wholly reliant on the good auspices, charity, compassionate conscience and adherence to convention of successive ruling elites. I would go further than the Professor: for nearly one thousand years we have been ruled; only rarely have we been represented.
It is a tribute to your sense of fair play that you have taken the time to seek for a non malignant kernel in the Professor's essay.
However, on reflection, this kernel bears no relation to either 'popular sovereignty' or 'British sovereignty' but relates instead to the notion of subsidiarity- i.e. the principle that decisions should be made as close as possible and with the greatest possible involvement or responsiveness to the people affected by that decision.
Whereas sovereignty is defined territorially and refers back to an autarkic, mainly agricultural, past; the concept of subsidiarity bears no such defect and permits laws or norms to be framed without regard to class, race, nationality etc. but only to what is best for the community affected by the decision in question. I think this also applies to 'minority' rights. Popular Sovereignty may militate for Homophobic laws- whereas sensible laws re. age of consent, marriage etc should be made, as far as possible, by people with direct knowledge and experience of what it means to be Gay in modern society. I oughtn't to get a say in such laws if the only thing I know about Gay people is what I read in Genesis or Leviticus or whatever, whereas let us say a loving mother of a young gay person, so disabled as unable to speak in her own behalf, should certainly get a voice in stipulating what sort of safe-guards are required or can be dispensed with in this regard. My bigoted views oughtn't, in my view, to get any weighting at all, no matter how obstreperously and vituperatively I express them.
The problem with the Professor's essay is that it relies on a conspiracy theory of history and suggests that British sovereignty in its entirety is fruit of a poisoned tree. However, notions of 'popular sovereignty' in the history of English literature have been at least as mischievous as the secret workings of oligarchic cabals. Take G.K Chesterton's 'the ball and the cross' where the Govt. uses a newly created Universal Health Service to simply lock up every true Blue Brit under the pretense that they are all raving lunatics. Similarly, in the 'Flying Inn', the Govt. brings in Turkish troops in an attempt to impose Prohibition on a supine population.
Chesterton may have been right about corruption in the Liberal Party, but his anti-semitism, though couched in the language of 'Popular Sovereignty', represented a far greater threat to the English ethos than the cupidity of certain Cabinet Ministers.
The Professor's Essay isn't really about the manner in which Clientism disenfranchises- if it were it would be phrased in the language of Public Choice theory and, instead of dwelling upon a paranoid and highly tendentious conspiracy theory of history, it would take a comparative approach to discussing current literature on how to bring popular and national- or trans-national- sovereignty into better alignment.
You are quite right to say that this is a very important question and that what is happening right now is utterly scandalous.
That is why paranoid theories of history- which are fine, and quite enjoyable, when focused on things which don't matter, e.g proving Simon Cowell is a high ranking Illuminati - nevertheless have no place in our on-going struggle to tame and render useful the great trumpeting Leviathan of the State.
In this regard it is important to understand why and how, in this country, Public services re. Health, Education, Law & Order, Social Insurance etc- came increasingly under the control of a Centeralizing behemoth. Clearly, this has a lot to do with well known problems in Econ re. Local Govt. finance- Tiebout model theory- as well as the problem of preference revelation re. funding of Public Goods.
It is no good subscribing to some Manichaean or Paranoid theory of History such that we are all now the hapless victims of a Juggernaut state because of some occult political conspiracy back in the Seventeenth Century. Okay, I suppose, if Time travel existed maybe there'd be some point to the Professor's essay. But, Time travel doesn't exist and so it's just bad English, bad History, bad Economics, bad Political theory.