The fragmenting coalition of the “left”, some musings

by Chris Bertram on May 22, 2011

Will Hutton had a piece in the Observer a week ago about immigration policy in the course of which he made the following remark:

the European left has to find a more certain voice. It must argue passionately for a good capitalism that will drive growth, employment and living standards by a redoubled commitment to innovation and investment.

I’m not sure who this “European left” is, but, given the piece is by Hutton, I’m thinking party apparatchiks in soi-disant social democratic and “socialist” parties, often educated at ENA or having read PPE at Oxford. I’m not sure how many battalions that “left” has, or even whether we ought to call it left at all. Anyway, what struck me on reading Hutton’s remarks was that calls for the “left” to do anything of the kind are likely to founder on the fact that the only thing that unites the various lefts is hostility to a neoliberal right, and that many of us don’t want the kind of “good capitalism” that he’s offering. Moreover in policy terms, in power, the current constituted by Hutton’s “European left” don’t act all that differently from the neoliberal right anyway. In short, calls like Hutton’s are hopeless because the differences of policy and principle at the heart of the so-called left are now so deep that an alliance is all but unsustainable. That might look like a bad thing, but I’m not so sure. Assuming that what we care about is to change the way the world is, the elite, quasi-neoliberal “left” has a spectacular record of failure since the mid 1970s. This goes for the US as well, where Democratic adminstrations (featuring people such as Larry Summers in key roles) have done little or nothing for ordinary people. Given the failures of that current, there is less reason than ever for the rest of us to line up loyally behind them for fear of getting something worse. Some speculative musings, below the fold:

Haven’t things always been a bit like this, though? Well not really. Once it was possible for people on the left to pretend that differences among us were primarily about means. We all shared the same sort of egalitarian, science-fictiony, abundancy, holding hands, economic democracy vision of the far-off future, but some people were more committed to electoral persuasion than others. (I realise there was a great deal of dishonesty, self-deception, wishful thinking and delusion about that pretence, but it had some kind of reality.) Now the overt differences of aim and value between various currents calling themselves “left” are deep and irreconcilable. So what are those currents:

1. The technocratic quasi-neoliberal left as incarnated by the likes of Peter Mandelson. Pro-globalisation, pro-market, pro-growth: keep the masses happy by improving their living standards. It’s the economy, stupid. Prone to witter self-regardingly about “grown-up” politics. Fixated on electoral competition with the right, with winning elections the essential prerequisite to changing anything. Who is in this box? Well I guess New Labour in the UK, plus (in practice) the leaders of the main European social-democratic parties. In power, this group (or those who think like them) have achieved very little. They certainly haven’t done much to stem the rise of inequality, to protect working-class communities from the winds of globalisation, to end poverty, or, for that matter, to protect the environment. Their attitude to those to their left has been to call for discipline and silence, for fear of frightening the median voter, coupled with hostility, ridicule, character assassination. Their appeal to the left has always and only been that they are slightly less bad than the full-on right wing. (If they have a feature one can admire, it is their comparative lack of xenophobia and racism, however much moved by a desire for “free” labour markets.)

2. The “left” version of populist nationalism. Culturally conservative, worried by immigration (and willing to indulge popular anxieties), anxious about the effects of markets on working-class community. Maybe “blue Labour” in the UK is an example of this, though, of course, plenty of Labour politicians are willing to swing both “new” and “blue”, whistling a communitarian tune whilst relaxing planning laws for the supermarkets, which would be anathema to the core blue Labourites. British Labour leader Ed Miliband was plainly flirting with this current in his most recent speech. Like the first group, power is important for this current. But power isn’t everything, for two reasons: (a) being in government and not achieving improvement in social justice would be pointless for those members of this group who are not career politicians and (b) unlike the left-neoliberals there are things they can do outside of parliamentary politics: they can organize, resist, use the power of the trade unions (such as it is). The trouble for this group is that their core group of supporters, on whom they can rely at election time, has been getting smaller for decades and the solidaristic norms that used to be the conventional wisdom of their supporters are fraying, and will fray more as the material and institutional supports of the labour movement erode further (cf André Gorz, I suppose). The current UK government may be upsetting a lot of voters with its cuts policy, but, long-term, they are also chipping away at an important social support for this kind of politics: public sector employment.

3. The eco-left. Highly egalitarian. Deeply sceptical about the capacity of capitalism to provide real improvements in people’s lives through “growth”. Anxious about the way in which both the natural and the social environments that make life tolerable are being undermined by neoliberalism. Tending to communitarianism and anarchism. Not very coherently both localist/communitarian and cosmopolitan in outlook. Highly connected to the social movements that have in fact given us most of the left’s real policy gains in the past 40 years. Again, this group doesn’t need to win parliamentary elections to make a difference, since it can, to some extent, both organise resistance to government policy and implement alternative ways of living in the here and now. Obviously there are worries about thinking of this group coherent at all, since it takes in all kinds from the Zapatistas to Colin Ward-inspired anarchists, to UKUncut, the the Spanish street protesters, to Greens and maybe even some of the people who had washed up in the Lib Dems in the mistaken belief that it was to the left of Labour in the UK.

4. The old Leninist hard left. Naturally they fancy themselves as the people strand 3 need to give them organization and direction. I don’t think so. Washed up, marginal, authoritarian and unappealing.

I have a lot of sympathy with the eco-left strand. The trouble is, whilst having, in many ways the most attractive long-term vision, it is probably electoral suicide (for now) for any left-of-centre party to run on a platform that eschews wealth-creation and rising living standards. And in the anglo-american world at least, associated ideas for shorter hours and job sharing are seen as marginal, impractical and extreme. Still, I see this group growing ever larger over time, as the environmental crisis becomes deeper, and as promises based on growth become both harder to keep and harder to translate into real improvements in quality of life. As this group grows in strength, the 1+2 alliance will become less stable since the compromises with global capitalism required by the quasi-neoliberal left will not be met be any compensating benefits for the constituency of left populist nationalism. Their voters, the swing voters of the left I suppose, will either move towards the eco-left or will drift towards xenophobic right-wing nationalism. How all this plays out, though, is surely going to vary a lot from country to country, depending on whether it is possible to build a coalition that could win elections or, as the next best thing, one with whom deals would need to made in order to govern. But I can’t think that the old 1+2 social democratic formula can be a winner for the left any more.

{ 171 comments }

1

adam@nope.com 05.22.11 at 7:49 pm

Wouldn’t a better term for the third group be the cultural left? The second group is the economic left, while the first is the business-left Pepsi to the business-right’s Coke.

2

Jared 05.22.11 at 8:08 pm

the swing voters of the left I suppose, will either move towards the eco-left or will drift towards xenophobic right-wing nationalism.

Hasn’t this been happening for a while now? You could read the “culture war” as the competition for these dissatisfied voters.

3

LFC 05.22.11 at 8:09 pm

Not sure about this, but how about a fifth group, the quasi-Keynesian left: More enthusiastic about (or less skeptical about) growth than the eco-left but more interested in (re)distribution and (re)regulation (and controls on capital, democratizing of investment decisions, etc.) than the technocratic quasi-neoliberal left. Unless I’m much mistaken, there may even be some representatives of this fifth group among your CT co-bloggers (?).

4

John Quiggin 05.22.11 at 8:22 pm

@LFC I’ll put my hand up for that one

Chris, I think this analysis is excellent. In these terms, I see the political agenda as something like
1. Replace the failed neoliberal policies of group 1 with a revived and modified Keynesian interventionism
2. Fuse this with the idealism and environmental concern of the eco-left

This entails a gradual abandonment of left nationalism as you say. But that’s inevitably happening – arguably Nixon’s Southern strategy and the Reagan Democrats represented early manifestations.

I think the conflict over “growth” can be overcome, by a strategy emphasising the point that improvements in living standards don’t have to mean “produce more of everything”. The Australian Conservation Foundation produced a nice report called “Better than Growth”, which makes this kind of case (somewhat to the chagrin of some of the more hardline ecoleftists who commented on it).

In particular, I don’t think advocacy of reduced working hours and more humanized work is as hopeless as the post implies, even if it’s currently excluded from “serious” discussion.

5

Sarang 05.22.11 at 8:45 pm

I feel that the incoherence on immigration etc. is a big deal; I do not know how much localism is consistent with cosmopolitanism, but there are severe limits to how far you can reconcile the outlooks; to the — uncertain — extent that the eco-left is in fact anti-cosmopolitan it is not a movement I can support. I can’t help hearing “local communities” as dog-whistle racism, and the movement tends to waffle on this issue. And while I’m sympathetic to the critique of “growth” it is not clear how much of the movement actually agrees that it’s OK for living standards not to rise.

6

hopkin 05.22.11 at 8:52 pm

Quiggin has it right when he suggests 1 + 2 can work if neoliberalism is replaced with Keynesian interventionism. But I’m not sure this has to mean a ‘gradual abandonment of left nationalism’. Surely part of what his made neoliberalism so unappealing is its removal of effective economic power from national governments, which remain the only realistic means of mobilizing politically to control the market. Left nationalism doesn’t have to be racist or traditionalist – it can just mean a recognition of the limits of globalization and the need to revive conventional channels of democratic accountability at the national level.

7

Watson Ladd 05.22.11 at 9:06 pm

Reduced working hours and more humanized work would ultimately mean having to halt the dynamic of capital and thus overthrowing it. This is why I am a lot more sympathetic to Option 4 then Option 3: so much Option 3 comes with bad beliefs about how happy we were back in the middle ages or ultimately doesn’t explain how it will reshape society. Option 2 proponents are only left by accident: they can easily come to support the authentic, national, industrial capital against a cosmopolitan finance capital, and tend to ignore the ways in which the state serves the middle class. (Something Option 1 proponents understand quite well) Option 5, the quasi-Keynesian left, conflates employment with the satisfaction of human needs. Do we really need full employment, or do we need to satisfy human needs using the capacity we have now and can expand?

8

Jeffrey Katz 05.22.11 at 9:56 pm

“I have a lot of sympathy with the eco-left strand.”

Gee, you don’t say? It’s not like that was completely obvious from your summary.

“Obviously there are worries about thinking of this group coherent at all, “

Understatement of the year

9

Jeffrey Katz 05.22.11 at 10:03 pm

John Quiggin makes good points above re: those who oppose economic growth, but don’t even know what “growth” means. Hint: there’s nothing about economic growth that necessarily requires destroying the environment.

10

bob mcmanus 05.22.11 at 10:12 pm

I’m another who thinks this taxonomy is excellent, even though I would place myself somewhere between 3.8 and 4.2 if we are adding Quiggin’s #5. But the Quiggin might more properly belong somewhere between 2 and 3, or 1 and 2.

Maybe I’m 3.72. Joking just a little, I am very sympathetic to group 3 obviously, but thinks the cosmopolitan Internet Cafe guy will have to find a way to confront the hegemony in Tahrir Square rather then swim below it’s surface.

11

ovaut 05.22.11 at 10:14 pm

You omitted to quote the rest of Hutton’s prescription:

It must spearhead the case for new international rules of governance that can make citizens believe that globalisation is not a terrifying threat;

Which I found very funny. ‘new international rules of governance’ is ambitious almost to the point of silliness; ‘It must spearhead the case’ is maunderingly tentative in the best opinionleader’s style.

We shouldn’t overlook the question whether the reasons why the British left has long exhibited deficiencies of strategy in contention with the right—and when it hasn’t, its strategists have had their loyalties put under unbiddable scrutiny, its policies been at their most centrist—are other than contingent, and not readily rectifiable but essential to that body of intuitions and propensities and experiences which conspire to make groups of people consider themselves ‘left-wing’. That is: if strategic practice obliges each person of the left to subordinate her own idiosyncratic crop of priorities and principles and dreams to the panoptic strategy of a cohort to which it would help to cleave, strategic thinking requires the suspension—or sacrifice to the cynicism of calculation—of the same creeds and ideals and sensibilities that inaugurate, and account for, the ‘left-wing’ identity.

12

bianca steele 05.22.11 at 10:24 pm

Sorry to be cynical, but is what is meant by “reduced working hours” something like more part-time jobs for mothers and the downsized or elderly, increased volunteerism, increased in-home childcare by mothers not nannies, increased productive hobbies like foraging and knitting, increased garden plots and community gardens, increased cooperatives of all kinds, and more light jobs for people who only need a little extra money coming in and could pursue worthwhile projects in the extra time?

13

bob mcmanus 05.22.11 at 10:31 pm

The Spanish Tahrir …from Seymour’s place a guest post by quilombosam on the May 15 2011 demonstrations in Spain

Hoping for an impossible return to the fold of Estate, or aiming for full employment––like the whole spectrum of the Spanish parliamentary left seems to be doing––is a pointless task. Reinventing democracy requires, at the very least, pointing to new ways of distributing wealth, to citizenship rights for all regardless of where they were born (something in keeping with this globalised times), to the defence of common goods (environmental resources, yes, but also knowledge, education, the internet and health) and to different forms of self-governance that can leave behind the corruption of current ones.

14

Lurker Grad Student 05.22.11 at 11:04 pm

You should probably add a fifth category: The Post Modern Left (or perhaps a better term would be the Performance or Theatrical Left). They are a group of culturally left artists, intellectuals, hipsters and post-hippies that see transgressive art, expression and representation as politics (and perhaps the only form of politics). They see culture, society and politics as merely as symbolic representations and thus, believe that politics that emphasize economic or material are largely irrelevant. They are generally interested in identity politics but not not in direct political action to enact specific policies (so for example they won’t actually join groups lobbying for anti-racist or gay rights legislation but instead they will focus on “symbolic” and transgressive protests that aim to deconstruct commonly held beliefs). While they are a relatively small minority in the left, they are often used by right wingers to represent all of the left (especially when attacking certain forms of art) and can undermine the projects of other groups by hijacking their activities (e.g. bringing the “theater of the absurd” to political protests by dressing in “weird” costumes or shifting political groups away from direct action towards symbolic protests). In many ways the post-modern left is paradoxically both apolitical and political at the same time.

15

Sandwichman 05.22.11 at 11:10 pm

Jeffrey Katz wrote:

“Hint: there’s nothing about economic growth that necessarily requires destroying the environment.”

No. Not in theory. Only in practice. There are two problems with “redefining” growth so that it doesn’t rely on things that destroy the environment. One is capital accumulation and the other is government revenue. Any construct of economic growth that doesn’t prioritize those two is (from the standpoint of finance and the state) frivolous.

Any construct of economic growth that does prioritize accumulation and revenue growth necessarily requires destroying the environment. Why is that? Because employment and energy consumption both respond to efficiency improvements according to the same principle and they are linked.

Technological improvements are either labor saving or they introduce new consumer goods. In the first case, they lead to greater energy consumption per unit of labor expended. In the latter case, they require increased energy consumption period. To create jobs to replace those eliminated by labor-saving technology requires expanded consumption, including increased consumption of energy. Technological advances in energy efficiency reduce the cost of energy relative to labor, thus encouraging the substitution of energy consumption for labor and requiring expanded throughput consumption to offset that initial employment loss. Thus the energy consumption/employment cycle is a “double bind” choice.

The way out of that double bind is to take part or all of the efficiency/productivity gain of technological advance as leisure time. Although this third option may well enhance welfare and even a redefined economic growth that scores welfare improvements highly,by definition it won’t increase accumulation and government revenues.

There’s no arcane theory in the above. It simply relates a few of the most commonly accepted definitions of political economy. For a more sophisticated macroeconomic model of the employment/consumption/leisure choice, see Luigi Pasinetti’s discussion in Chapter Five of Structural Change and Economic Growth.

“The conclusion is straightforward. Even if we start from an equilibrium position (i.e. even if full employment of the labour force and full productive capacity utilisation are realised at a given point in time) the structural dynamics of the economic system cause the position to change and therefore make it impossible in general to automatically maintain full employment through time…

…the choice between more (or better) commodities and leisure is not merely a possibility, but a necessity, if full employment is to be maintained. There does not exist the alternative of not choosing!”

The classic discussion of the analogous principle governing energy efficiency and labor productivity is by Jevons in Chapter Five of The Coal Question:

As a rule, new modes of economy will lead to an increase of consumption, according to a principle recognised in many parallel instances. The economy of labour effected by the introduction of new machinery, for the moment, throws labourers out of employment. But such is the increased demand for the cheapened products, that eventually the sphere of employment is greatly widened….

Now the same principles apply, with even greater force and distinctness, to the use of such a general agent as coal. It is the very economy of its use which leads to its extensive consumption. It has been so in the past, and it will be so in the future. Nor is it difficult to see how this paradox arises.

I’m not saying that Jevons is infallible, only that he is enunciating what amounts to an article of faith among economists regarding the long-term effects of new technology on employment. So if one wants to challenge the Jevons Paradox with regard to energy efficiency and consumption, one can only do so at the risk of discarding the economists’ creed with regard to labor-saving devices and employment. No cherry picking allowed of when you want the principle to apply and when you don’t.

16

Sandwichman 05.22.11 at 11:17 pm

Oh, damn. I forgot that paragraph breaks close the blockquotes here. The paragraphs immediately following the Pasinetti and Jevons quotes are part of the quotes, as indicated below:

Pasinetti:

“The conclusion is straightforward. Even if we start from an equilibrium position (i.e. even if full employment of the labour force and full productive capacity utilisation are realised at a given point in time) the structural dynamics of the economic system cause the position to change and therefore make it impossible in general to automatically maintain full employment through time…

…the choice between more (or better) commodities and leisure is not merely a possibility, but a necessity, if full employment is to be maintained. There does not exist the alternative of not choosing!”

Jevons:

As a rule, new modes of economy will lead to an increase of consumption, according to a principle recognised in many parallel instances. The economy of labour effected by the introduction of new machinery, for the moment, throws labourers out of employment. But such is the increased demand for the cheapened products, that eventually the sphere of employment is greatly widened….

Now the same principles apply, with even greater force and distinctness, to the use of such a general agent as coal. It is the very economy of its use which leads to its extensive consumption. It has been so in the past, and it will be so in the future. Nor is it difficult to see how this paradox arises.

17

M. Edward (Ed) Borasky 05.22.11 at 11:23 pm

I don’t think there really are a “left” and “right” any more. There’s a huge center and maybe half a dozen edges.Where, for example, is the “left” that fights for workers’ rights in “Communist” China?

18

John Quiggin 05.22.11 at 11:23 pm

I’m not saying that Jevons is infallible, only that he is enunciating what amounts to an article of faith among economists regarding the long-term effects of new technology on employment.

I must have been asleep in church the day that article of faith was inculcated. It’s an empirical possibility, not a theoretical dogma or a general proposition about factor-saving technology. Most economists would regard it, on the basis of the empirical evidence, as being generally true for employment and generally false for energy.

19

Nick 05.22.11 at 11:56 pm

“Technological improvements are either labor saving or they introduce new consumer goods. In the first case, they lead to greater energy consumption per unit of labor expended.”

How is that so? An improved microchip might save labour, use less energy and require less energy and natural resources to be produced simultaneously. So long as the saved labour is taken as leisure rather than some other resource hungry activity, youve just saved part of the environment through a tech improvement.

And my impression is that neo-liberalism has been pretty good at driving down working hours over the last few decades. Of course, it could do so more evenly if the benefits of growth were more evenly distributed (fewer rent seekers plus some broad income transfers).

20

Sandwichman 05.23.11 at 12:03 am

Most economists would regard it, on the basis of the empirical evidence, as being generally true for employment and generally false for energy.

What’s the empirical evidence for the “most economists… on the basis of empirical evidence” claim?

My impression is that economists generally appeal to the long-term macro-economic picture to support the beloved technology-creates-more-jobs-than-it-destroys story but focus on micro-level effects when dismissing the dreaded Jevons paradox. Sure, making more energy-efficient light bulbs is not necessarily going to increase people’s consumption of lighting so much that it offsets the savings in that area. However, if they use the savings to spend more on air travel, total energy consumption increases.

In other words, to the extent that economists do indeed appeal to empirical evidence, they don’t consistently give weight to the same kind of evidence.

21

Sandwichman 05.23.11 at 12:14 am

Nick wrote:

So long as the saved labour is taken as leisure rather than some other resource hungry activity, youve just saved part of the environment through a tech improvement.

I agree. But so long as the saved labour is taken as leisure there has been no increase in GDP, i.e., no economic growth. I’m not arguing against efficiency or technological improvement. I’m just saying that WHAT COUNTS for economic growth is throughput. I don’t like the way the national income accounts are put together any more than Simon Kuznets or Marilyn Waring did. But there’s a good reason why governments don’t abandon the standard. Revenue.

22

Sandwichman 05.23.11 at 12:29 am

By the way, John, I do agree with you and Brad DeLong that both the Jevons paradox and the productivity-creates-more-jobs story are empirical possibilities. And it’s conceivable that “most economists” would regard them as such. I specialize in deconstructing a particular species of rhetoric, so it’s not surprising that I would see it everywhere in a very pronounced form.

23

Lemuel Pitkin 05.23.11 at 1:04 am

This is a good post.

But, Chris, you have to admit, several of your co-bloggers are on Team Hutton. The space between Summers and Quiggin, say, is hard to make out.

24

David Kaib 05.23.11 at 1:58 am

If we want to revive Keynesianism (modified or not), I think we need to ditch the idea of “interventionism.” The issue is in what ways government should act, not whether. Government acts in many ways great and small to protect the interests of the wealthiest – the question is whether it ought to act on behalf of everyone else. The idea of intervention implies that markets are pre-political and natural, which is false, and reinforces conservative (and neoliberal) ideas about the economy.

25

brent 05.23.11 at 2:43 am

I don’t see why you need to stigmatize the anti-capitalist left as ‘leninist,’ much less ‘washed-up’ and ‘authoritarian.’ In the case of France, the NPA has engaged recently in an experiment in grass-roots democracy in place of trotskyist centralism (with admittedly mixed results), while Mélenchon’s ‘citizen democracy’ is gaining ground in its call for a revolution-by-ballot. The point is, capitalism is in a terminal state and rank-and-file voters and workers are starting to know it: the financial sector has seized the high ground and is engaged in conspicuous looting. Leftists discouraged since 1989 need to try once again to make the case–as social movements and the anti-capitalist parties are doing in France–that a truly socialist alternative is the only conceivable hope for addressing either the inequality problem or the approaching environmental catastrophe.

26

Matt McIrvin 05.23.11 at 3:09 am

I think you’re completely missing the US civil-rights left: African-Americans, Hispanic immigrants and their descendants, other ethnic minorities and advocates for them. Often fairly culturally conservative, lower-income, not identical with the mostly white and affluent “eco-left” at all, but also sometimes at odds with the white labor left though they share many of the same attitudes.

In the US, for all that remains undone, the civil-rights left has a history of famous triumphs, some of which were explicitly done within the Democratic Party (following one of the great partisan realignments of American history). They’re the least likely to claim that the Democrats have done nothing for ordinary people.

I am also not entirely sure where feminist movements fit in here. They’re generally part of the cultural liberal left, but feminist and environmentalist/anticapitalist movements have not always been sympathetic to one another.

27

Matt McIrvin 05.23.11 at 3:19 am

Also, I think a left suspicious of economic growth should ally itself with right-wing rent-seekers, since they’ve been remarkably effective at preventing growth. American laissez-faire economics has been reducing the American carbon footprint for years simply by crashing its economy and putting millions of people out of work. Maybe an overclass of rich parasites is precisely what we need to avoid the spiritual and physical perils of mass material prosperity, like someone who loses weight by getting a tapeworm.

28

Lemuel Pitkin 05.23.11 at 3:28 am

someone who loses weight by getting a tapeworm.

You haven’t thought through your metaphor.

Losing weight may be a desirable goal — even tho getting a tapeworm to do it is a terrible idea.

Similarly, deemphasizing growth as the measure of economic outcome may be a desirable goal — even tho embracing the rentiers to do it would be a terrible idea.

I think that’s right — but I don’t think it’s what you meant to say.

29

spark 05.23.11 at 5:02 am

It occurs to me while reading this, that the quasi-neoliberal “it’s the economy stupid” left serves no purpose. Capitalism can take care of itself. What’s needed is aggressive action on behalf of the non-rich and the wage-earning classes.

30

John Quiggin 05.23.11 at 5:38 am

“Sure, making more energy-efficient light bulbs is not necessarily going to increase people’s consumption of lighting so much that it offsets the savings in that area. However, if they use the savings to spend more on air travel, total energy consumption increases.”

You can easily check the numbers on this. About 6 per cent of income is spent on energy and the income elasticity is a bit below 1, so something less than 6 per cent of any income saving is spent on energy. So, unless the rebound effect almost exactly cancels out the initial benefits of an energy saving innovation, income effects won’t give you a change of sign.

Exactly the same exercise shows why income effects matter a lot in the case of labor demand, which accounts for something like 66 per cent of final expenditure.

31

John Quiggin 05.23.11 at 5:40 am

“The space between Summers and Quiggin, say, is hard to make out.”

Umm, not to me, and apparently not to Goldman Sachs either.

32

dictateursanguinaire 05.23.11 at 6:26 am

interesting to compare this to the American left: 1 and 2 are predominant, 3 is much smaller amd openly attacked by much of the media left, 4 is nonexistent. the demographics of people who actually end up voting Dem in elections (vs. those who self-identify as “liberal” etc.) are so disparate that it’s humorous. the majority of lower/middle class ethnic minorities, about half of lower class whites, the middle class NPR left, people who live in the Northeast, limousine liberals, academics who bother to vote, and, recently, a good deal (note: personal research) of small-business-libertarian types who were very offput by Bush/Cheney.

33

Chris Bertram 05.23.11 at 6:58 am

Jeffrey Katz:

_John Quiggin makes good points above re: those who oppose economic growth, but don’t even know what “growth” means. Hint: there’s nothing about economic growth that necessarily requires destroying the environment._

Well yes he does, except that unlike you, Jeffrey, John reacts to this in the right way, that is, by making _distinctions_ rather than carping about the supposed ignorance of the anti-growth brigade.

I see this a lot. A lay person expresses doubts about growth and a self-satisfied economist reacts by a bit of schoolyard chanting to the effect that the poor, ignorant and deluded person doesn’t understand the technical concept of growth as economist use it.

Well maybe they don’t. Oddly enough, if you think about it, the exact same is probably true of the politician who argues _in favour_ of growth. Do they get the schoolyard treatment? Never. That asymmetry strikes me as significant.

What you should be saying, if you’re trying to engage with your opponent in good faith is to recognize that they are saying something like “we don’t want/need more and more stuff, it is wrecking the environment, making us work harder and harder and not making us happier”. To which you can reply, fine, there are then choices to be made, but we should still want to produce more efficiently, develop new technologies, and so forth.

34

Chris Bertram 05.23.11 at 7:08 am

Other people:

Nick:

_my impression is that neo-liberalism has been pretty good at driving down working hours over the last few decades._

I don’t think this true, at least in the US and UK. We had some discussion a while back on the basis of figures in Juliet Schor’s book _Plenitude_.

Lemuel

_you have to admit, several of your co-bloggers are on Team Hutton_

Are they? Well everyone can speak for themselves if they want to and we don’t have a party line here at CT, thank goodness.

Brent

_I don’t see why you need to stigmatize the anti-capitalist left as ‘leninist,’ much less ‘washed-up’ and ‘authoritarian.’ _

I didn’t, I said that the Leninist left is Leninist. Which is a tautology. I’d say that much of strand 3 is anti-capitalist (maybe 2 as well), even though Leninists would deny that they are (because they suppose they need Leninist enlightenment ….)

35

chris y 05.23.11 at 7:41 am

Which category includes the people who were occupying the Wisconsin State House the other day? Or even these people, to pick a local story at random?

We’ve grown used to thinking about the traditional mainstream “left”, trades unionist, labourist, concerned with things like employment and wages and working conditions, as a quaint anachronism. But it seems to me that they’re resurgent rather than not these days. And (with an passing acknowledgement to category 3), these are the people who matter.

36

Latro 05.23.11 at 7:43 am

Given the hot-from-the-oven results on the Spanish regional and county elections, where the “left” party in power at the national level and a supposed paladin of all that “passionate” (read, boring) argumentation for “good” (read, whatever the market says) capitalism has gotten its worst results in decades, losing cities they have ruled for years and in general getting beaten… maybe the European “left” would be better arguing passionately for some kind of REAL social justice, political reform, anti-corruption (starting at home) measures, and independence from the whim of the markets.

Or wait till the right screws up and in 1 or 2 legislatures they can get to play pseudo-left again.

37

The Creator 05.23.11 at 8:12 am

There isn’t actually a left at all, much less a multiple coalition thereof. “Left” ought to entail some actual means of redistributing wealth and power in a more egalitarian way within society. None of the “lefts” identified here are really out to do that.

However, it is worth noting that most of them pretend to be out to do that. Thus the neoliberals who term themselves leftists pretend that their policies will make society more democratic and egalitarian; this is not, of course, the case. The Stalinists who term themselves leftists claim the same, with some justice in terms of egalitarianism but virtually none in terms of democracy.

One major problem with people analysing the left is that they don’t take account of the discrepancy between pretense and action. Another problem is that this discrepancy often drives left-wing parties further towards pretense (inasmuch as many far-left organisations end up collaborating either with right-wing or with corporate entities, contrary to their professed beliefs) or that this discrepancy leads left-wing parties to lose contact with ideology altogether (as with the American Democrats, New Labour and — to a large extent — the ANC in South Africa).

38

Tim Worstall 05.23.11 at 8:13 am

“Pro-globalisation, pro-market, pro-growth”

Yes……

“In power, this group (or those who think like them) have achieved very little. They certainly haven’t done much to stem the rise of inequality,”

Depends which inequality you want to talk about. In-country inequality has been rising, sure. Global inequality seems to have been falling (either Sala-i-Martin or Milanovic) at the same time.

Slightly depends on which inequality you think is more important as to whether anything has been achieved or not.

“And in the anglo-american world at least, associated ideas for shorter hours and job sharing are seen as marginal, impractical and extreme.”

Bit strange that: as leisure hours have been increasing ( and yes, I know, JQ doesn’t like these time studies) and personal hours staying roughly static, working hours must have been falling. This does require that we count household production hours as well as market working hours but then I’m not willing to stand within frying pan range of a home maker and tell them that what they do isn’t work.

“I think the conflict over “growth” can be overcome, by a strategy emphasising the point that improvements in living standards don’t have to mean “produce more of everything”. “

Herman Daly makes exactly this distinction. Between qualitative growth and quantitative growth. We can have better, more valuable things and services and this is economic growth just as much as having more things is. GDP is the “value of goods and services” after all, not the quantity.

What annoys is that he having made this distinction you get that “green, eco-left” (the nef actually published a paper where Daly’s careful distinction was used as the head quote and then the rest of the paper entirely ignored said careful distinction.) loudly insisting that he’s just proven that continual economic growth isn’t possible.

No, he hasn’t, he’s arguing that economic growth is entirely possible through innovation, technological advance, but not through ever greater resource consumption.

And what really, really, annoys is that from the likes of Baumol we get the insistence that market based socio-economic systems encourage said innovation and technological advance better than the others we’ve so far tried. Which should mean that those desiring the qualitative growth, not quantitative, should be arguing for a market based socio-economic system…..but for some strange reason they don’t seem to.

39

Henri Vieuxtemps 05.23.11 at 8:28 am

It appears that only #2 (populist nationalism/syndicalism) entails mass-participation of ordinary people, workers. In that case, that’s the only real political left there is. The rest are various intellectual pursuits.

40

Chris Bertram 05.23.11 at 8:45 am

Some more (brief) responses:

chris y:

_And (with an passing acknowledgement to category 3), these are the people who matter._

Henri Vieuxtemps:

_It appears that only #2 (populist nationalism/syndicalism) entails mass-participation of ordinary people, workers._

Well I’m not sure what disqualifies the people outside 2 from ‘mattering’. And for the reasons I alluded to, the 2s on their own aren’t enough. Basically, I see the (kinds of people who compose the) 2s as being in long-term decline and the 3s as being on the up.

Various people have quibbled with my catagorization by saying that Keynsians might form a distinct group. You might say the same about Rawlsians or whatever. I suppose I’d observe that whatever the facts about the “correct interpretation” of these approaches, self-described Keynesians (or Rawlsians) are actually distributed across these groups.

41

Alex 05.23.11 at 8:51 am

35: Gut Labour.

the NPA has engaged recently in an experiment in grass-roots democracy in place of trotskyist centralism

Well, I guess it’s a start, but y’know, don’t rush into anything…

42

Rob 05.23.11 at 8:51 am

Chris,

I wonder whether there might be a fifth strand, although given that I find all four of your strands unappealing this may be projection of a sort. I had in mind organisations like the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which seem too technocratic to be really classed as part of the eco-left or leftwing populism but too genuinely egalitarian to be part of the Blairite rump, and clearly aren’t Leninist. I guess the thought is something like, please don’t tell me the hippies are our only hope.

43

Chris Bertram 05.23.11 at 8:54 am

Further on the “who matters” question, I’ve been influenced by (and would endorse) Jerry Cohen’s claim ( see e.g. here ) that much of the contemporary crisis of the left stems from the fact that

bq. there is now no group in advanced industrial society which unites the four characteristics of: (1) being the producers on whom society depends, (2) being exploited, (3) being (with their families) the majority of society, and (4) being in dire need.

Follow the link for more, if you wish to.

44

Planeshift 05.23.11 at 10:16 am

I think this analysis would be enhanced by also looking at the different groups that make up the right, and the level of allegiance they hold towards conservative parties. Off the top of my head I think the right in the UK would comprise the following:

1. The neo-liberals – the general pro-free market, de-regulation brigade. Also very socially liberal, but historically has been able to suppress this to form an alliance with group 2.

2. The socially conserative hang em and flog em group. Very much delegates economic policy to group 1 providing they still get to impose tough on crime policies, prevent civil rights for homosexuals etc.

3. The business community. Distinct from group 1 on the grounds many of them don’t mind public spending and the provision of services such as transport. Very much the pragmatic part. Also the least party political, and able to switch between parties.

Historically the conservative party has been a succesful alliance of all thr groups. But the creation of new labour threatened that by taking away a great deal of the business community. On the other side of the coin UKIP managed to attract people from groups 1 and 2 who were getting pissed off at the conservative party’s repeated attempts to win them back. Cameron has never managed to totally convince the business community, and the ultra social conservatives aren’t convinced either due to the fact Cameron isn’t homophobic or racist (plus has Ken Clarke running crime policy). Cameron is effectively in power purely due to the incompetence of brown.

So given this analysis, if I was a blairite here is the conclusion I would draw: The cuts being imposed are almost certainly going to drive lost labour voters back from the lib dems, if only on a lesser evil basis regardless of what labour state. The business community can be won back by simply adopting policies of pragmatic economics. These 2 facts alone make the new labour template worthwhile. The disenfranchised anti-immigration working class can be won back by the fact (1) the tabloids simply aren’t pushing immigration as a story as much, (2) Ken Clarke is justice secratary, (3) spending on the public services is still more popular than cutting inheritance tax (which is why osbourne has to be careful about which taxes he cuts in 2014). They can thus be won through a tough on crime policy, and some dog whistles on immigration.

Please, for the sake of my sanity, tell me why the above paragraph is wrong.

45

Alex 05.23.11 at 11:18 am

Cameron is effectively in power purely due to the incompetence of brown.

Or, as Jose Zapatero is finding out, simply because he wasn’t in power when the shit hit the fan. To a first approximation, everywhere in the democratic world, the party in charge when the GFC blew up suffered, and then opinion began to drift leftwards.

In Germany, the super-neoliberal FDP benefited not because anyone came back from the bank Chernobyl thinking “I know! What we need is a tax cut for hotels!” but because they were the biggest party that wasn’t in government and that was enough to push a CDU-FDP coalition over the top. In France, Nicolas Sarkozy just barely managed to squeeze in before the balloon went up. Neither of them are now looking very well. In the UK, there was an initial swing to the right, but by polling day the Tories had lost most of their lead and just barely staggered home.

I would point out that – from a UK perspective – there’s a significant divergence of interests between different bits of the “business community”. West Midlands automotive engineering != City of London investment banking. This is usually visible on issues like the European Union, but the divide is complex and its effects not easily predictable.

46

ejh 05.23.11 at 12:00 pm

Ah, José Luis. I’ve never heard anybody refer to him as José.

47

ejh 05.23.11 at 12:01 pm

The list in the opening post left out the socialist fogeys.

48

Walt 05.23.11 at 12:07 pm

Yes, Alex, the fact that you got Zapetero’s first name wrong discredits everything you say.

49

ejh 05.23.11 at 12:15 pm

What a fantastically stupid comment at #48.

50

Walt 05.23.11 at 12:19 pm

What was the point of your comment, then? Just to be annoying for no reason?

51

ejh 05.23.11 at 12:22 pm

It was to correct something that I knew to be incorrect. That’s an honourable purpose. Now what was the point of your comment?

52

Russell Arben Fox 05.23.11 at 12:26 pm

Using Chris’s scheme, I’d have to call myself a 2.5 leftist, somewhere between “left populism/nationalism/syndicalism” on the one hand and “eco-left/anarchism/localism” on the other. I’m really not sure, in the world we presently live, in which the nation-state cannot help but serve as the starting point for much of the basic psychological (and, for that part, even moral) structuring of our political reasoning, that you can clearly separate the two. Certainly, if one takes as a focus of concern the vagueness of #3, some kind of cultural/political identity and recognition is the most available grounding for giving it some clarity. (Kai Nielsen’s “liberal socialist cosmopolitan nationalism” was an interesting attempt to articulate this.)

Though I like the “socialist fogey” category as well, ejh. I’d have to call myself that as well, though maybe that just means I’m a member, or at least a fellow-traveler, of #2 that has reached a certain age.

53

chris y 05.23.11 at 12:36 pm

I remain unconvinced by Chris B’s conflation of the “Blue Labour” ideologists and their international equivalents with the growth of grass roots militancy prominently, though not exclusively, appearing among the most threatened sectors of the white collar workforce. There’s no evidence that these people are particularly socially conservative or indeed form an ideological bloc of any variety. They are, however, powerfully motivated by immediate economic concerns which tend to override differences on other issues.

I think these people matter a great deal, chiefly because they’re where the action is, as opposed to the speculation; Maurice Glasman and his mates, not so much, except to the extent that they try to introduce toxic ideas into the broader movement.

On Chris’s reference to Cohen, well, Cohen seems to have written that in the 90s, at the height of the Clinton boom, when the world was rather a different place. The ‘proletarianisation’, as we used to quaintly put it, of the lower middle class is part of the deliberate strategy of at least the US, German and British governments and it involves a major restructuring of society, as Vince Cable was telling us at the weekend. seems needlessly pessimistic to assume a priori that this process will not lead to a renewal of class politics with positive outcomes for the ‘left’.

54

engels 05.23.11 at 12:40 pm

“There are two groups of people on the Left
1) B*******
2) People Like Me
The first group is in terminal decline whereas the second is undergoing a remarkable resurgence, and is highly connected to all recent mass movements…” [/snark]

It seems to be the implication of this post that if you are not a neo-liberal phoney, or a nationalist scum-bag or a Marxist-Leninist menace to civilisation laughably irrelevant has-bean, then you must therefore be an ‘eco-leftist’. Unless eco-leftist is just being used as a kind of catch-all term, I don’t think this is convincing.

Where does the anti-war movement fit into this? Or the student movement? Anti-cuts demonstrators (London)? Pro-union demonstrators (Wisconsin)? Revolutionaries in Egypt? Rioters in Athens? New parliamentary formations like Die Linke in Germany or the NPA in France?

None of these seem particularly ‘eco’, or actuated by environmental concerns. (Is this even true of UK Uncut? I can’t see it from their website…) Evidence of their ‘communitarian’ or ‘cosmopolitan’ leanings, or enthusiasm for Jerry Cohen’s speculative visions of post-capitalist future (where each of us can live a Donnish existence of material sufficiency with plenty of time to pursue the life of the mind) also seems a bit thin on the ground. (Not that I find the last unappealing, personally…)

55

Chris Bertram 05.23.11 at 12:55 pm

Oh dear Engels, you are in a bad mood today!

FWIW, I wasn’t so much interested in drawing rivers of blood between good guys and bad guys (far too much of that on the left!) that in trying to discern some deep fault-lines of principle and allegiance that might shape how people line up in the future (1+2 giving way to 2+3). If some of my terminology (“eco-”) is unhelpful, then do please suggest something better.

No doubt there are some intermediate people, etc etc and some currents of thought that don’t fit neatly. Some of the alliances you list are obviously coalitions aren’t they, indeed ones I’d rather seek to encourage.

56

CMK 05.23.11 at 1:08 pm

Who would the average neo-liberal capitalist prefer to see across the barricade/fence/table? Group 1 are already on side, have been for years. They’re part of the capitalist family, firmly embedded, so if your prime concern is retaining the supremacy of capital this group are the men/women for you.

Group 2 can be managed with a little bit of work, the only tricky area is the trade unions. A bit of ‘partnership’ with the unions and the promise of modest, regularly spaced out increases in living standards and this group fall into the capitalist’s camp without too much effort.

Group 3 are more difficult still, but are, again, manageable. The more ambitious among them will (cf. the Irish Green Party) eventually push the tree-huggers into the accepting the essence of neo-liberalism. The non-political party elements will chase their tails at local level for decades. And so long as, for instance, planning laws are favourable (courtesy of Group 1) these can be burnt off as they campaign themselves into exhaustion and despair. The hard-core can then be surveilled and side-lined and broken with a little help from the state who 50/50 will be under the control of group 1. As group 3 types fade, fracture and self-destruct more will arise and the cycle will repeat itself.

Group 4 cannot be managed and pose a real threat to the interests of the average neo-liberal capitalist, and he or she knows it. Best then ensure that they are kept well to margins. A task made easier by Group 1 & 2′s determination to ensure same. And helped by the propensity of the various elements of Group 4 to tear themselves to shreds over nothing of substance.

Happy days and little to worry your average capitalist, then. Although developments in Spain might be a cause for concern: ‘No Home, No Work, No Pension – No FEAR’ might be cause some indigestion across the City, Brussels or Frankfurt. But, no doubt, group 1 and 2 will see to it that nothing much comes of it.

57

dsquared 05.23.11 at 1:34 pm

I think I’d probably indentify myself as culturally and philosophically closest to 1), the dreaded technocrats, with the proviso that the people currently leading that tendency have done a shockingly bad job over the last twenty years, by abandoning Keynesian stabilisation policy and making all of the wrong compromises – ie, taking on right-wing ideas that never actually worked in their own terms. I think the examples of the Nordic economies and even Scotland show that you can have a basically technocratic Left which is also egalitarian; the mere fact that New Labour ended up as a colony of chancers and “economic rationalists” who weren’t any good at economics, doesn’t necessarily mean that all such exercises will. In other words, I’d consider myself part of the Paul Krugman left.

58

Chris Bertram 05.23.11 at 2:12 pm

Well at least now I can say “some of my best friends are dreaded technocrats ….” It seems to me, fwiw, that Krugman has been edging towards the left populist nationalist crowd in recent times. So 1.5?

59

William Timberman 05.23.11 at 2:17 pm

dsquared, your position seems to me to be the most rational, and the most hopeful — even the most necessary given a world full of nuclear bombs, nuclear power stations, rising global temperatures, shrinking lakes of oil, and crop monocultures based on genetically-engineered plant hybrids whose long-term effects seem to be a matter of hoping and preying praying.

And yet we’re still largely the same beasts we’ve always been, are we not? So how exactly do we connect politics and rational technocracy? Marx thought he knew, Keynes thought he knew, and now I suppose Stiglitz, Krugman and DeLong think they know. I don’t think they do. I don’t think anyone knows. Isn’t that why we’re all here, looking at options 1-4 and scratching our heads?

60

Sandwichman 05.23.11 at 2:22 pm

You can easily check the numbers on this. About 6 per cent of income is spent on energy and the income elasticity is a bit below 1, so something less than 6 per cent of any income saving is spent on energy. So, unless the rebound effect almost exactly cancels out the initial benefits of an energy saving innovation, income effects won’t give you a change of sign.

Exactly the same exercise shows why income effects matter a lot in the case of labor demand, which accounts for something like 66 per cent of final expenditure.

John, you’re arguing with a digression and evading my main point, which was about what evidence (or principles) economists base their opinions on. Here’s a “debunking” of Jevons by Jim Barrett that supports my case:

Owen cleverly avoids this problem by not trying to disentangle anything.

One supposed example of the Jevons paradox that he points to in the article is air conditioning. Citing a conversation with Stan Cox, author of Losing Our Cool, Owen notes that between 1993 and 2005, air conditioners in the U.S. increased in efficiency by 28%, but by 2005, homes with air conditioning increased their consumption of energy for their air conditioners by 37%.

Owens presents this as clear and obvious proof of a Jevons effect. Case closed.

Here is where Owen gets lazy: A few key facts disprove the point. Facts that are not hard to track down. I write for this blog in my spare time (for free), and I managed to find it without breaking a sweat. I’m not sure why a paid writer for a magazine like The New Yorker couldn’t do the same.

Consider the following:

Real (inflation adjusted) per capita income increased by just over 30% over that time period. All else being equal, when people have more money, they buy more stuff, including cool air.

The average size of new homes increased from 2,095 to 2,438 square feet, over 16%. More square feet means more area to cool and more energy needed to cool it.

In 1993, of homes that had A.C., 38% only had room units while 62% had central air. By 2005, 75% of air conditioned homes had central units. Bigger units covering more rooms means more cool air and, you guessed it, more energy.

(Real electricity prices were mostly flat over this time period, falling by just over 1%, contributing little, if anything, to the increase.)

Finally, even though air conditioners were 28% more efficient in 2005 than in 1993, air conditioners last between 15 and 25 years. Using the mid-range lifespan of 20 years, and assuming that efficiency increased gradually from 1993 to 2005, and accounting for the introduction of new AC units associated with new home construction (about 1.5% of the housing stock in any given year), I calculated the efficiency of the average central air unit in service in 2005 to be about 11.5% more efficient than the average unit in 2009.

Accounting only for the increased income over the timeframe and fixing Owen’s mistake of assuming that every air conditioner in service is new, a few rough calculations point to an increase in energy use for air conditioning of about 30% from 1993 to 2005, despite the gains in efficiency. Taking into account the larger size of new homes and the shift from room to central air units could easily account for the rest.

All of the increase in energy consumption for air conditioning is easily explained by factors completely unrelated to increases in energy efficiency. All of these things would have happened anyway. Without the increases in efficiency, energy consumption would have been much higher.

Got it? All the macroeconomic increase in energy consumption can be explained away at the micro level by factors other than efficiency. Now here is Carl Walsh writing on the relationship between employment and productivity:

In any event, there is little debate among economists about the long-run effect of productivity on employment. And this effect is evident in some simple measures of the relationship among productivity, wages, and unemployment. In the long run, faster productivity growth should translate into an increase in the overall demand for labor in the economy. This, in turn, will lead real wages to rise, just as an increase in the demand for a typical good or service acts to bid its price up. Figure 1 showed that this positive relationship between productivity growth and real wage growth holds across decades.

See? It’s all clear as a bell at the macro level, no need to go into the administrative trivia of stimulus spending, quantitative easing, bailouts, retraining programs, active labor market policies, etc (not to mention world wars, cold wars and depressions). Now, I’m not saying either Barrett or Walsh are “wrong” in their conclusions. I would have to do a lot more work on the numbers to make that kind of judgement. What I am saying is that they rely on different kinds of evidence to answer analogous questions and their approaches seem to me to be typical.

61

bianca steele 05.23.11 at 2:27 pm

Re. 1 & 2: From my non-policy, long disaffected from political activism point of view, I have trouble seeing the difference between 1 & 2 and the not-left-at-all center or even center-right, but maybe things are different in the UK.

62

bianca steele 05.23.11 at 2:29 pm

Though #3 seems largely communitarian and backwards-looking to me too with a few exceptions on single issues and temperament. It might be a false impression caused by out-of-date things I’ve read, though.

63

Russell Arben Fox 05.23.11 at 2:35 pm

Chris: 1+2 giving way to 2+3

Dsquared: the people currently leading [tendency 1)] have done a shockingly bad job over the last twenty years, by abandoning Keynesian stabilisation policy and making all of the wrong compromises – ie, taking on right-wing ideas that never actually worked in their own terms.

One could make the argument that it was the gradual dropping out/corruption/elite dismissal of 2) from the original postwar egalitarian agenda, for a variety of technological, demographic, and ideological reasons, that allowed progressive forces to eventually organize themselves almost entirely around meritocratic, cosmopolitan, neo-liberal principles that were only nominally redistributive and egalitarian. The radical edge of 3)–the mutualist/localist, New Left, social democratic/anti-capitalist edge–seemed irrelevant to all except the most idelogically interested when the Liberal Capitalist-Welfare State Consensus was doing a pretty good job generating/protecting employment and social insurance policies; but when the obvious promise of financialization and globalization to the elite classes made it clear that unions, etc., were just getting in the way of continued growth–and when, to be fair, racial and cultural clashes and prejudices made much of 2) pretty distasteful to the majority of the increasingly well-educated members of 1)–they were (perhaps in part deservedly) kicked to the gutter in progressive coalitions, and 2) had to look for somewhere to go…and has been looking for 30 years. Certain strands of 1) has found some ways to appeal to parts of 2); hence the libertarian-cultural conservative fusion. But the hope has always been–or at least, has always been for me–that 2) and 3) can get together into a coalition of their own, with enough political power to balance out the bad ideas which 1) has absorbed, and get the egalitarian agenda back on track. You see glimmers of it occasionally, but it hasn’t fully happened yet. Maybe it never will (which, I suppose, is one reason why 4) will never go entirely away).

64

dsquared 05.23.11 at 3:08 pm

It seems to me, fwiw, that Krugman has been edging towards the left populist nationalist crowd in recent times. So 1.5?

Yes – in many ways the least edifying characteristic of (1) is their tiresome habit of belittling and red-baiting anyone to the left of them. Krugman (and JKG before him) are very rare indeed in not following this course.

65

dsquared 05.23.11 at 3:12 pm

And with respect to Russell’s #63, my view is that the problem was the same global bout of insanity that led to the subprime crisis – the liberal technocratic elite honestly believed (Airmiles’s Lexus and the Olive Tree being a classic text) that they had a magic technology that could generate sufficient abundance to avoid all the nasty problems they’d been dealing with for the last dozen decades. Post crash, I’m hoping for a saner, more moral punditosphere.

66

Walt 05.23.11 at 3:25 pm

I think the problem with the bulk of the Actually Existing Technocrats, as opposed to the ideal Krugman type, is how much of their world-view is based on a kind of moral preening. They are the level-headed people who are tough-minded enough to do what needs to be done, rather than engaging in the woolly sentimentalism of the left. Ideas that had very little historical evidence in their favor, like the Washington Consensus, became enshrined because they just sound so practical and realistic. It’s a world-view that has proven to be easily manipulated by the right.

67

ajay 05.23.11 at 3:35 pm

Who is in this box? Well I guess New Labour in the UK, plus (in practice) the leaders of the main European social-democratic parties. In power, this group (or those who think like them) have achieved very little. They certainly haven’t done much to stem the rise of inequality, to protect working-class communities from the winds of globalisation, to end poverty, or, for that matter, to protect the environment.

And if they had had any success on the environment, you’d have credited it to the eco-left, who apparently don’t need to be in power to make a difference. (Anyway: Kyoto Protocol?)
As for poverty – it’s been falling in Britain since the 1997 Labour victory. So have carbon emissions (admittedly Australia’s had zero success here, but the British left’s done OK).
http://www.cpag.org.uk/povertyfacts/

68

ajay 05.23.11 at 3:35 pm

the liberal technocratic elite honestly believed (Airmiles’s Lexus and the Olive Tree being a classic text) that they had a magic technology that could generate sufficient abundance to avoid all the nasty problems they’d been dealing with for the last dozen decades.

This sounds very like the plot of “Red Plenty”…

69

bianca steele 05.23.11 at 3:44 pm

I for one would be happy to see a kind of Burkean center-left that was focused on maintaining the gains of the past–and on staunchly opposing the craziness of the reactionary right–those who’d like to oppose this from the left can; but, this, however, is not what we have (except perhaps in a few communities that are so disconnected from the rest of the country that I’m increasingly pessimistic about their ability to stay in touch enough to keep from effectively becoming insane vis-a-vis the rest of the culture).

70

Chris Bertram 05.23.11 at 3:48 pm

_you’d have credited it to the eco-left, who apparently don’t need to be in power to make a difference._

Gotta love the implicit suggestion of bad faith there. But on the general point about which you choose to be sarcastic: of course it is possible for social movements outside government to make a difference. The UK became a less sexist and homophobic society between 1979 and 1997. I’m not going to credit the Conservative government with that, which was busy passing legislation such as Clause 28 at the time.

71

Russell Arben Fox 05.23.11 at 3:53 pm

Dsquared,

And with respect to Russell’s #63, my view is that the problem was the same global bout of insanity that led to the subprime crisis – the liberal technocratic elite honestly believed (Airmiles’s Lexus and the Olive Tree being a classic text) that they had a magic technology that could generate sufficient abundance to avoid all the nasty problems they’d been dealing with for the last dozen decades.

I agree–but, unless I’m reading you incorrectly, doesn’t this imply that you believe that it was with the full embrace of finance capitalism of globalization in the 90s that the wheels came off the egalitarian project? Whereas it seems to me that while the vocabulary has changed, the notion of a “magic technology” has been at work longer than that, going back to Reagan/Thatcher and the embrace of some elements of a, up until then, thoroughly (and rightly) marginal libertarianism. The liberal technocratic elite didn’t call it that, but what else to call the wave of deregulation that suddenly seemed logical, circa 1981?

72

Alex 05.23.11 at 3:53 pm

If the Left at the moment is nostalgic, it strikes me that (in Britain) it’s nostalgic for the future – Parker-Morris design specifications, motorways, high modernism.

73

Alex 05.23.11 at 3:54 pm

Also, to what extent was the technocratic left in charge of anything in the 2000s? Apart from the Brits and Lula?

74

DivGuy 05.23.11 at 4:02 pm

I think Matt’s comments at #26 and #27 capture precisely what’s wrong with this taxonomy. No one responded to him, so I’m going to try a more shrill version of his post.

You’ve created a “taxonomy” of the left without the civil rights left and without the feminist left. You’ve created a taxonomy of the left without women or black people. Now, one could argue that these are subsets of the “eco-left”, but in that case, you’ve created a taxonomy of the left where the greatest mobilizations of marginalized groups in the last two centuries are hidden, unmentioned, under the banner of environmentalism. That’s a little bit dismissive.

In the concluding paragraph, you’re rightly concerned with how new left coalitions can come together to overturn neoliberal dominance of left governance. I think, though, that by ignoring the central importance of women, racial minorities, and sexual minorities to the left coalition, you ignore the central groups that are in position to wild power to challenge neoliberal dominance. If you don’t account for, say, the deep history of anti-capitalist critique in black discourse – this is a discourse that calls upper-class folks “bougie” – you’re going to miss the opportunities for new economic alliances and coalitions. This is perhaps less true of the gay and feminist left, but there are opportunities there as well.

I guess I’m not saying anything really new. The future of the left lies in finding a way to ally labor, the women’s movement, and the civil rights movement. I think the “eco-left” is a pretty minor part of that, though hopefully they can help, too.

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DivGuy 05.23.11 at 4:04 pm

greatest mobilizations of marginalized groups

There are millions of things wrong with this claim, the central ones being labor and anti-imperialist movements.

Imagine I used a laudatory but not-as-wrong phrase to describe feminist and civil rights movements.

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ajay 05.23.11 at 4:13 pm

70: OK then. I’ve given a couple of examples of a country with a technocratic-left government actually achieving progress towards left objectives – falling poverty and falling carbon emissions in the UK under Labour. Any thoughts?

You’ve created a “taxonomy” of the left without the civil rights left and without the feminist left.

It’s possible that the US civil rights movement was not a huge part of the European left.

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Chris Bertram 05.23.11 at 4:13 pm

DivGuy – thanks. I’m writing from a British perspective (hence my references to Ed Miliband and “blue Labour”) but I was hoping not be be parochial. Helpful comments.

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Chris Bertram 05.23.11 at 4:15 pm

79

bianca steele 05.23.11 at 4:21 pm

Chris’s non-US taxonomy also happens not to account for the fact that e.g. factory workers are not considered poor but rather middle class, and that white factory workers may be either populists or union members, and in the former case they are not “left.” (This can hardly be addressed by imagining it might be possible to have a left coalition of the Tea Party and Reagan unionists.)

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bianca steele 05.23.11 at 4:30 pm

And to the extent the left addresses this, it is with the idea that the lower middle and working class can have their consciousnesses raised so that they will dissent from their class’s false ideas–which is in some ways a strange kind of alliance with that class, an.

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bianca steele 05.23.11 at 4:31 pm

sorry, “and not necessarily practical.”

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Chris Bertram 05.23.11 at 4:36 pm

I see that Matthew Yglesias is taking a crack at me.

He writes: http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/2011/05/the-decline-of-working/

bq. Chris Bertram, in the course of denouncing the uselessness of the mainstream neo-liberal sellout so-called left, observes that “in the anglo-american world at least, associated ideas for shorter hours and job sharing are seen as marginal, impractical and extreme.” According to the data series available to me average annual hours worked per employed person is in fact trending downward in Anglophone countries.

OK, so there are 2 points here. The first is that even it working hours were trending downwards that wouldn’t contradict my claim that ideas for shorter hours and job sharing are seen as cranky and extreme in the anglophone world. That claim is about people’s beliefs and it is supported by acres of pundit commentary on matters such as the French 35 hour week, ritual invocations of the so-called “lump of labor fallacy” etc.

The second concerns the real trend in the actual world. We had some discussion of this a while back, since the statistics seemed contradictory. See the thread at

http://crookedtimber.org/2011/03/07/oh-noes-were-being-replaced-by-machines/

I’m neither an economist nor a statistician, but, given the increases in the productivity and (in the US) the stagnation in real wages, the alleged increase in leisure time even on Yglesias’s figures doesn’t strike me as impressive. (His graphs look steeper than they might because of the range of the y axis.)

He also has this to say:

bq. I’m also not sure I understand what the objection to “keep the masses happy by improving their living standards” is supposed to be.

But Yglesias has not read me carefully, since there was not objection at that point in the post, there was a characterization of what group 1 claimed for itself (claims that I see Yglesias endorses). Elsewhere in the post I expressed scepticism about whether the kind of growth favoured by group 1 would translate into real improvement in quality of life. That, I’ll stand by.

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Gaspard 05.23.11 at 4:51 pm

I was just thinking that it was one Paul Krugman who was against the 35 hr week in France

http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/53393/paul-krugman/is-capitalism-too-productive

I wonder if he’s changed his views.

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dsquared 05.23.11 at 4:53 pm

He might have. He’s visibly moved leftward on a lot of subjects, and I am pretty sure that Sandwichman has corresponded with him voluminously on the “lump of output fallacy”

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StevenAttewell 05.23.11 at 5:27 pm

Bertram –

I think this post could benefit from a revision done in a more open-minded fashion.

1. Your schema is, shall we say, somewhat incomplete. It definitely ignores internal caucuses within social democratic parties – Compass is not the same thing as the Blairites, etc. – it doesn’t really address unions except as a throwaway line lumping them under populist nationalists (debatable at the least), and as people have pointed out, it leaves out women, people of color, GLBTs, immigrants, etc.. And the way it’s framed suggests a not very subtle attempt to suggest that eco-leftists are the only way to go. One example of this is the lumping together of cultural conservative/anti-immigrant with economic populism within group 2 – Paul Krugman is certainly more economically populist than he once was, and he’s definitely broken with orthodoxy on trade, but he’s not culturally conservative or anti-immigration.
2. In terms of the debate on growth and leisure, several things need to be addressed: firstly, the issue of mass unemployment. It is wrong-footed in the extreme to say that at a time when millions of people are out of work that we need to shift to less work without really specifying how we’re going to square the circle of spreading the work (35 hours laws don’t necessarily solve the problem because you still have the issue of management responding with higher productivity demands, mechanization, outsourcing, and casualization instead of higher employment). Secondly, the issue of low wages and the spread of casualized labor – if we want to bring down hours worked, raising wages and regulating the labor market so that less people are working two jobs to survive (9.3 million involuntarily part-time employed just in the U.S). Thirdly, I think we need to deal with the question of redistribution – there’s no reason why working people who’ve experienced stagnant and declining income can’t see rising living standards if we redistribution resources from the wealthy downwards, rather than relying on new consumption entirely.

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Chris Bertram 05.23.11 at 5:42 pm

“Bertram –”

Attewell! (you have an unfortunate way of introducing your comments ….)

bq. I think this post could benefit from a revision done in a more open-minded fashion.

More open-minded than what? I’m grateful to people who have pointed out deficiencies in the post (I’m trying to have a conversation here, not trying to lay down the law to everyone) and I’m certainly willing to revise my views in the light of constructive criticism.

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Norwegian Guy 05.23.11 at 5:48 pm

bianca steele @12: “Sorry to be cynical, but is what is meant by “reduced working hours” something like more part-time jobs for mothers and the downsized or elderly”

Rather the other way around, I would think. Shorter working hours will make it possible for people who are currently working part time to work full time instead. That is at least what the trade unionists and feminists who are agitating for the six hour working day say.

dictateursanguinaire @32: “interesting to compare this to the American left: 1 and 2 are predominant, 3 is much smaller amd openly attacked by much of the media left”

That’s interesting, since I think many European leftists, including myself, have exactly the opposite impression of the American left. The impression is that 2, basically the labour movement, is much smaller in the US, while 3, “identity politics” etc., is more predominant.

Alex @45: “To a first approximation, everywhere in the democratic world, the party in charge when the GFC blew up suffered”

But the opposite has happened as well, with both right-of-centre and left-of-centre governments. Within the last two years governments have been reelected in for instance Norway, Portugal (!), Sweden, Australia, and Canada. And since you wrote “democratic world” and not “advanced industrial economies”, there are countries like Brazil that should be included as well.

Chris Bertram @55: “(1+2 giving way to 2+3)”

Don’t forget the 1+3 “Schröder-Fischer”-type coalition. It must be at least as common as 1+2.

dsquared @57: “I think the examples of the Nordic economies and even Scotland show that you can have a basically technocratic Left which is also egalitarian”

But their election victories have been quite spotty during the last decade, especially in Denmark and Sweden. Group 1 does have a problem with its mass appeal, and it doesn’t help when they gets closer to group 3 than to group 2 either. Because these days, there are populists on the right wing too.

bianca steele @69: “I for one would be happy to see a kind of Burkean center-left that was focused on maintaining the gains of the past—and on staunchly opposing the craziness of the reactionary right”

That’s how most of the European left have been for the last decades. Even declared revolutionaries are mostly talking about the defensive struggle to defend the welfare state against the neoliberal onslaught.

alex@73: “Also, to what extent was the technocratic left in charge of anything in the 2000s? Apart from the Brits and Lula?”

Around 2000 12 of 15 EU countries had social democratic parties in their governments. The USA had a Democratic president, Canada a Liberal government. If some kind of left was in charge in these countries, it must have been the technocratic one.

DivGuy @74: “You’ve created a “taxonomy” of the left without the civil rights left and without the feminist left. You’ve created a taxonomy of the left without women or black people.”

Feminists and immigration rights activists are an important part of group 3. Women and black people are of course a part of group 2 as well. Workers of the world, unite, and all that.

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Netbrian 05.23.11 at 5:52 pm

Paul Krugman is certainly more economically populist than he once was, and he’s definitely broken with orthodoxy on trade, but he’s not culturally conservative or anti-immigration.

Does anyone know what Paul Krugman’s views on immigration actually are? I’ve seen him call for a path to citizenship for people already here, but haven’t seen much one way or the other beyond that.

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DivGuy 05.23.11 at 6:24 pm

That’s interesting, since I think many European leftists, including myself, have exactly the opposite impression of the American left. The impression is that 2, basically the labour movement, is much smaller in the US, while 3, “identity politics” etc., is more predominant

This is basically the problem I was pointing out in my post – though I honestly didn’t quite get the parochial context, and it makes more sense now that I see that I really should have picked up on that.

Anyway, reducing the civil rights and feminist movements to “identity politics” is terrible analysis. Both have strong roots on the left – the success of the feminist movement has been deeply related to bridges it has built with labor and the traditional left, and as I said above, the civil rights left has always been truly left on issues of the political economy. If you think that these powerful forces on the American left – movements of women, racial and sexual minorities – are merely playing “identity politics” and that they should be understood as merely a subset of the (imagined to be) white and male eco-left, you mistake the American left badly.

I do think that, now looking back on the post with the recognition that I misread some of its more narrow concerns, that the marginalization of the feminist movement is still a major problem. Many of the currently pressing issues of feminist advocacy are significantly workers’ issues – equal pay, family leave, workplace safety and discrimination – and much coalition-building work is already ongoing there. There are many evident places for coalition building between the labor left and the feminist left, and creating a taxonomy that forces labor into box 2 and either ignores feminist movements or somehow subordinates them to the “eco-left” misses precisely one of the places where good work is ongoing.

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DivGuy 05.23.11 at 6:36 pm

Feminists and immigration rights activists are an important part of group 3. Women and black people are of course a part of group 2 as well. Workers of the world, unite, and all that.

I dealt with that response in the sentence immediately following what you quoted. I don’t think you can taxonomize the left and then say as an afterthought that women and minorities fit in there somewhere and don’t really change anything. The first-order point of feminist critique, for instance, is that all the big questions of politics and philosophy look different when we start from a standpoint other than presumption of maleness. Simply dumping women into pre-ordered boxes isn’t going to work. The same basic critique works with racial and sexual minorites, mutatis mutandis.

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StevenAttewell 05.23.11 at 6:44 pm

Bertram – (I preface my posts this way to make it clear whom I’m responding to, especially in cases in which I’m talking to more than one person at the same time; just a style thing)

In terms of more open-mindedness, I think you could be more open-minded toward members/activists of social democratic parties, rather than lumping them in with one (albeit recently dominant) faction of their party, and definitely toward economic populists, rather than lumping them in with cultural/ethnic conservatives.

I would also urge breaking down the “eco” group – shoving everything in there, as does Norwegian guy at 87. I don’t think it’s good practice to simply say “all real gains/social movements are part of my enviro group;” it obscures real differences between groups within alliances, and it makes invisible the constituent elements of those alliances (like labor unions being a big part of anti-cuts groups, for example, which screws up the taxonomy).

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chris 05.23.11 at 6:46 pm

feminist and environmentalist/anticapitalist movements have not always been sympathetic to one another

I think this is an understatement, and reflects mainly the latter’s occasional flirtation with Luddism. Feminists are likely to be aware that our present freedom from the ancient customs that bound our foremothers into servitude is born of technology — and can die with it. Hoary appeals to traditional ways don’t cut much ice with people who knew that they traditionally ended up with the short straw and probably will again.

Technology and capitalism aren’t *necessarily* inextricably intertwined but since capitalism loomed large on the path by which we achieved technology, anyone who wants to claim that one can be tamed without damaging the other has a long way to go to make that case. That seems to me to be the main challenge facing group 3 — explaining what it is they want and how it won’t kill the goose that lays the labor-saving eggs.

It occurs to me while reading this, that the quasi-neoliberal “it’s the economy stupid” left serves no purpose. Capitalism can take care of itself.

I could understand this sentiment being expressed around 2006 or so, but in mid-2011, it appears to be false. Markets may have considerable use as a means of fitting society’s production to its desired consumption, but left to their own devices they are unstable as hell and prone to numerous forms of breakdown, such as fraud, monopoly, etc. as well as characteristic forms of inefficiency like burden-shifting and advertising.

I think group 1 sees themselves (how justly is a different question) as wiser stewards of the engine of capitalism, keeping it running so that all can benefit (somewhat) from its workings, but oh-so-worldly-wisely aware that if you try to hand out too many goodies too soon, the grand engine of productivity will seize up and leave you with equal distribution of poverty. This explains their condescension to less “responsible” leftists and their love for the tragedy of the command economies as a cautionary tale, but also puts them in real opposition to the laissez-faire school of the right, which holds that mere mortals should not presume to question the judgments of Almighty Mammon.

Leftists practically by definition agree that markets are a terrible master, but they may still be a useful servant and, if so, any kind of left has to formulate a way to use markets where they are useful, while also keeping them from going out of control to the detriment of society.

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tom 05.23.11 at 6:58 pm

@dsquared 57

“the people currently leading that tendency have done a shockingly bad job over the last twenty years, by abandoning Keynesian stabilisation policy”.

What are the Keynesian stabilization policies that have been abandoned? When the recession hit U.S. in 2001, the FED reduced the fed-funds rate. Later, when the economy improved (a bit), the FED increased the rate, to reduce it again with the current crisis. This is Keynesian stabilization monetary policy.

We also had a stimulus packages with this recession. Sure, this was not large enough according to Krugman, but this is also Keynesian stabilization fiscal policy.

In your statement, are you thinking of the excessive liberalization of financial instruments that presumably led to the crisis?

I am not trolling here, just trying to understand what you have in mind.

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engels 05.23.11 at 7:01 pm

Look, I understand what neo-liberalism is. I understand what populist nationalism is. I understand what Marxist-Leninism is. What seems really odd to me is the idea that anything that doesn’t fit into these three boxes can be assimilated to the (hitherto unknown to me and seemingly ungooglable) category of the ‘Eco-Left’, while in the process saddling itself with a whole list of Crooked Timber hobby horses, from Colin Ward to Jerry Cohen, cosmopolitanism to sufficientarianism. I don’t think that’s a matter of terminology. To me it seems idiosyncratic and pretty hard to swallow, although for the record I preferred this post to Harry’s and John Quiggin’s recent musings on the ‘Whither The Left’ theme.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 05.23.11 at 7:37 pm

As it has been already discussed to death, here and elsewhere, modern feminism, anti-racism, GLBT, multiculturalism, and probably immigration too are mostly neoliberal causes. They are a natural subset of 1, neoliberalism with a human face. All are equal before The Market.

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novakant 05.23.11 at 7:43 pm

I find it a bit strange that the anti-militarist left has hardly been mentioned – maybe that’s because they’re not very prominent, but in the face of the ever growing military-industrial-security kraken that dominates US/UK politics, I think they should be.

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engels 05.23.11 at 8:02 pm

saddling itself with… hobby horses

Admittedly there might have been a better way of putting that. And Harry’s post, which I’d had in mind, was from 2009 so not that recent either.

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Martin Bento 05.23.11 at 8:36 pm

The problem with Yglesias’ figures, as far as I can tell, is that they do not account for by far the biggest demographic shift in the workforce in the last few decades: dramatically increased participation from married women. If a man supported a family in 1970 working 40 hours a week, and his wife does not work, that’s 40 hrs average. If today that man is still working 40, and the woman 30, that, by Yglsias’ metric, brings the average down to 35. If he adjusted the figures for this, I bet his results would change. After all, by his accounting, employment by woman who demographically would not previously have been employed would have to increase to the same level as previous sole-supporters, with no corresponding reduction in sole-supporter hours, just to break even.

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Norwegian Guy 05.23.11 at 8:38 pm

Netbrian @88: Krugman has written about the economic consequences of mass immigration on the working class, and he is not in favour of open borders. Not sure if he is restrictive enough to count as anti-immigration, but he certainly isn’t laissez-faire either. He wrote some columns about immigration in 2006, but they’re now behind the NYT paywall. While his negative attitude to illegal immigration is mainstream on the centre-left, at least in much of Europe, his criticism of legal immigration is less common on the left.

DivGuy @89: Identity politics was an unfortunate choice of words, there was a reason I put it in scare quotes.But what I meant was that while some of the “cultural” wings of the left are, perhaps, as strong in the US as in many European countries, the “economic” wing – the trade unions – are significantly weaker. I would expect this to lead to a different balance in left-wing alliances.

chris @92: Feminism and anticapitalism have a long history together, at least since the time when Clara Zetkin organized the first International Women’s Day. And of course, it’s well known that women are more left-wing than men, so they don’t seem to be fearing soc1alism that much. There’s probably more women than men that are active in environmentalist movements as well.

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bianca steele 05.23.11 at 9:17 pm

@98
Of course, there are other explanations that are easy to find. A man in 1970 in a well-organized unionized industry that tracks and pays overtime may clock 50-60 hours a week, at least some weeks. His wife in a similarly unionized, good paying job will clock 40. In 2010, that good job is gone, and he is clocking 40 hours a week. His wife is working a retail job that keeps her hours down to reduce her benefits and may not clock them accurately either (using her willingness to go along as a signal of her being generally a team player).

Anyway if I were serious I would find the stats and write a blog post about it.

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chris 05.23.11 at 9:48 pm

And of course, it’s well known that women are more left-wing than men

Economically or socially? Partisan politics tends to produce a blend of the various axes of political difference, but it’s obvious why women would be, um, antitraditionalist on issues surrounding family structure — many of the traditions amount to oppression of women.

Of course, you could argue that the axes aren’t genuinely independent and as long as there are any downtrodden, women are likely to be overrepresented among them (a pessimism that seems backed by history), and that no matter what it says on paper, the rich are more free than the poor in every society; therefore, the cause of economic equality *is* the cause of freedom, if freedom is defined in a pragmatic rather than an idealized-abstraction sense. (The freedom to run your factory any way you choose is little use to someone who happens not to own any factories.) And thus the wealthier any particular woman is, the more pragmatic options she’ll have to avoid being coerced into a family structure that would oppress her.

This is egalitarian, certainly, but I don’t see how it is anticapitalist, unless you think that right-wing capitalism is the only kind. Maybe the problem is just that “capitalism” covers too much ground. Opposition to the US’s current CEO salaries isn’t necessarily opposition to any private ownership of the means of production. (And, in any case, history shows that collective ownership is no panacea — if effective *control* is centralized in a small number of people, they wield as much power as any capitalist pig, if not more so, and can use it just as badly.)

P.S. ISTM that the term “fragmenting” in the thread title implies a past of greater unity. Assumption of facts not in evidence? Leftists have been sniping at each other since before the Red and White Armies made it literal, and that was before most of the thread participants are likely to have been born. For that matter, IIRC, the terms “left-wing” and “right-wing” themselves refer to internal divisions within a still older revolution. And I doubt you could have written a completely neat typology even then without someone complaining that they had been left out. (If you founded a group entitled “Leftists Who Don’t Fit Into Any Of So-And-So’s Categories”, I bet people would join. And then argue over what the group’s purpose should be, other than demonstrating the inadequacy of the typology. Splitters.)

More seriously, ISTM that two of the defining facts of the left are that they refuse to subordinate their particular agendas to follow a leader, and that they are willing to acknowledge the existence of complexity rather than shoehorning things into simpler frames, tendencies which seem pretty much guaranteed to produce a movement that is both internally heterogeneous and aware of it. And insofar as this is a timeless truth about the left, it can’t also be a specifically recent phenomenon.

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chris 05.23.11 at 9:53 pm

@98, 100: The 1970s wife may not get paid, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t work. When you correct for that, I don’t find it hard to believe that hours worked could be genuinely declining. Labor-saving devices save labor; the fact that the labor saved was unpaid is a statistical artifact.

On the other hand, I kind of wonder if the statistics are being manipulated by things like unpaid overtime or commuting, because the idea of people having more free time now than then seems hard to square with the way people actually live. But maybe we’re just unconsciously idealizing the past, or comparing the average present-day person to the privileged leisure class of the past, in making the subjective comparison that seems to defy the statistics.

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Martin Bento 05.23.11 at 10:20 pm

Bianca, related to what you said and relevant to Yglesias’ claims is that many more workers are now salaried. A wage earner’s hours are supposed to be accurately measured, and for a union wage earner this is likely the case. Now more workers are salaried, which I assume is calculated as 40 hour weeks, though in my experience, it is much more likely to be more than less. Also, people used to marry longer and stay married througout life. In the age of single-earner families, it was not unusual for a middle-class woman to marry around 20 and never be in the labor market again. Less than 5 total FTE years in the workforce would not be unusual, though perhaps below average. Nowadays, even stay-at-tome moms put in about 10 years before the first kid shows up, and are likely to return to the workforce once all children are mature. Yet, Yglesias sees all this as an increase of leisure. Not that being a stay at home mom is “leisure”, but the work component of it hasn’t decreased that much since the 50′s, so this extra employment has to be coming at the expense of true “leisure” to a considerable degree.

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bianca steele 05.24.11 at 12:44 am

Martin, I’m not sure what the relevance is of their being salaried, and I don’t know what the statistics are, but the decline in union jobs is obviously not helping people get more solidly into the middle class where they can have more time for productive leisure pursuits like tiling their and their neighbors’ swimming pools with mosaics made from their expired charge cards and writing their memoirs. And a lot of those unemployed middle-class women performed important jobs in the community that now are either not done or are outsourced to paid public employees (some of them still do, just not as many as in the past).

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Norwegian Guy 05.24.11 at 1:29 am

@101: Very good point about the various political axes. There are several different important political cleavages, and they are often more visually independent in multi-party than in two-party systems. Exactly who the left is allied to, inside and outside of parliament, at different times may vary.

Women are on average to the left of men on economic policy. There are probably several reasons for this. Perhaps women are generally more egalitarian, and maybe less concerned about status, hierarchy and competition. And/or women are more likely than men to work in the public sector, something that correlates with more leftist views, and obvious economic interests. The rise of the welfare state made it possible for many women to enter the workforce, both by being employed there and because they no longer had to spend as much time caring for young and old family members.

These days this will also be the case on social issues, but there are also often more religious women than men, and there has always been a constituency of fairly traditionalist women. A century ago there were secular liberals in some countries that argued against female suffrage, because they considered women to be more under the sway of the church than men. Even today, Christian Democratic parties often have a majority of female voters.

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Sandwichman 05.24.11 at 1:35 am

chris: “the fact that the labor saved was unpaid is a statistical artifact.”

No it’s not, if what you’re talking about is market labor supply.

dsquared: “I am pretty sure that Sandwichman has corresponded with him voluminously on the ‘lump of output fallacy’”

I am pretty sure.

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Martin Bento 05.24.11 at 5:50 am

Biana, the relevance of salaries is that salaried workers do not usually work a fixed schedule of hours. They may work more or less than 40 hours a week, but I assume they show up in these statistics as 40 hours, because that is the default for “full time”. When I say “more or less”, I mean “(most of the time) more or (mostly theoretically possibly) less”. So hours work per worker is probably being underestimated for these workers.

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Tim Worstall 05.24.11 at 8:02 am

“I’m neither an economist nor a statistician, but, given the increases in the productivity and (in the US) the stagnation in real wages, the alleged increase in leisure time even on Yglesias’s figures doesn’t strike me as impressive. (His graphs look steeper than they might because of the range of the y axis.)”

Again, taking account of household production (as several above say we should) helps here.

http://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/erik.hurst/research/aguiar_hurst_leisure_qje_resubmit2_final.pdf

“In this paper, we use five decades of time-use surveys to document trends in the
allocation of time within the United States. We find that a dramatic increase in leisure
time lies behind the relatively stable number of market hours worked between 1965 and
2003. Specifically, using a variety of definitions for leisure, we show that leisure for men
increased by roughly 6‒9 hours per week (driven by a decline in market work hours) and
for women by roughly 4‒8 hours per week (driven by a decline in home production work
hours).”

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Sandwichman 05.24.11 at 9:03 am

Tim Worstall: “Again…”

You can say “again” again, Timmy. You’ve been hawking this study since way back but I don’t recall you ever addressing the specific issues the Sandwichman raised (originally at MaxSpeak) about data quality and interpretation. The unemployed folks in Jackson, Michigan caring for their elderly relatives never had it so good!

Tim Worstall at TCS Daily gets all dewy-eyed about the “American Social Model”, based on the TRUTH (“There’s only one small problem with this idea. It turns out not to be true.”), FACTS (“there’s one uncomfortable little fact…”) and PROOF (“The latest empirical proof”) contained in the Gary Becker-inspired data torturing exercise performed by Mark Aguiar and Erik Hurst for the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. I suspect from its eager reception by Worstall, and earlier from the Economist , that the study’s conclusions will soon become an article of faith for the you-never-had-so-good crowd.

There’s only one small problem with Aguiar and Hurst’s truefactproof: it’s all a question of judgment and data quality. The authors at least have the integrity to say so in their conclusions, even if their abstract hypes the extent to which their interpretation “documents” what they suppose it does.

Page 30: “Any definition that distinguishes “leisure” from “work” is a matter of judgment.” Check.

Page 33: “The ability to examine different patterns in time use over four decades hinges critically on the quality of data within each of the time‐use surveys.” Check.

Let’s start with data quality, since that’s no doubt the last thing that would occur to a booster like Mr. Worstall. Aguiar and Hurst compared data from five surveys, conducted by three different organizations over the course of nearly 40 years — in 1965, 1975, 1985, 1993 and 2003. Just to give some sense of the subtlety of what’s involved in such an exercise, the 1965 survey consisted of interviews with 2,001 individuals, 776 of whom were from Jackson, Michigan.

Now, I’m sure Jackson, Michigan is a wonderful place to conduct a survey. But whether a survey conducted there is comparable with one that is nationally representative is another matter. Also, it turns out that the 1965 sample included only 17 non-working men. You can weight your demographic categories all you want, but you’ll never be able to weight a very small, unrepresentative sample into a representative one. Garbage in, garbage out.

One does have to admire the daring with which the researchers benchmarked their apple, orange, peach, pear and banana comparisons, though. They benchmarked the market work reports from the surveys to market work data in larger studies. In other words, the results of these surveys were fairly robust on questions that required much less of a subjective judgment. Cool. And unpersuasive.

Speaking of judgments, how does one deal with the fact that time spent traveling to an activity is included in the activity? For example, driving to Mickey D’s for a happy meal counts as leisure, while driving to the store to shop for groceries would be non-market work. Notice the difference? I didn’t think so.

Caring for ill or elderly family members is, of course, a leisure activity because it would be too complicated to count it otherwise. Ditto for child care. Likewise, watching TV probably accounts for a sizable chunk of the increased leisure of those less-educated adults who have been especially blessed with increased leisure over the past 40 years. Three cheers for TV! It sets the underemployed, on-call, contract, just-in-time, precarious, contingent workers free!

It short, while the study may provide some interesting food for thought, it is in no way conclusive. It is proof only that you can massage some counter-intuitive and headline-grabbing conclusions out of an odd assortment of loosely-similar surveys.

110

roger 05.24.11 at 9:30 am

It should be remarked that the idea that women are somehow ‘naturally’ on the left is an artifact of recent voting trends. In the 19th century, many a male progressive worried that if the vote was extended to women, it would be manipulated by the priest, who was imagined to control her. Charles Dilke, the radical liberal and supposed supporter of women’s suffrage, wrote a memorandum in 1901, at the time of when the issue of suffrage came up in Parliament, that in his opinion it would be of aid to the Conservatives. And in fact polls seemed to support the idea that women in Britain, until recently, generally leaned right. Perry Anderson, in 1965, wrote that “if women had voted the same way as men, the Labour Party would have been continuously in power since 1945.” It is interesting that, as women’s votes have shifted to the Left, the entire history of Primrose Leagues and the like has been forgotten.

Men and women aren’t naturally either of the left or the right, but historical circumstances make them so. A truism, but sometimes truisms are actually true.

111

Alex 05.24.11 at 9:43 am

Around 2000 12 of 15 EU countries had social democratic parties in their governments. The USA had a Democratic president, Canada a Liberal government. If some kind of left was in charge in these countries, it must have been the technocratic one.

I submit that this was quite a while ago now and there’s been plenty of water under the bridge.

112

Chris Bertram 05.24.11 at 10:22 am

Incidentally, this is the current thinking by some parts of group 1 in the UK Labour Party.

http://labour-uncut.co.uk/2011/05/19/labour-must-stop-fighting-the-cuts/

113

Carl R 05.24.11 at 10:48 am

This is as good a characterisation as I’ve yet seen of the state of the groups allegedly known as ‘Left’ – and it rings true across a variety of contexts. A few comments:

a) The existing leftist Nordic governments in Iceland and Norway are coalitions involving representations of groups one, two and three, with a fifth, the neo-Keynsian technocratic left, as suggested.

b) Agree that Neo-Keynesian technocratic left is a subgroup, which is normally associated with the technocrats, but can equally be associated with types of national populism. So it is more than just an adjunct of the technocrats… Iceland being a case in point, where national priorities have found leftist advocates.

c) Some hard-left groups (generally on the anarcho-communist side) have made great efforts to overcome the tendencies towards vanguardism, to the point where there is a lot of permeation between eco-socialists and types of worker-control communism. So whilst the description might apply to many groups, to others, it will not.

d) Perhaps should make clear that UK Labour is fractured only partially on the basis of ideology, and just as often because of personality issues. So whilst there might be 40 or so leftist MPs, many will dislike each other at the same time as showing the worst traits as described in the fourth group.

114

roger 05.24.11 at 10:59 am

Sandwichman, thanks for that rundown. Inspired by your response, I read Krueger’s (2007) paper surveying time trend analysis. Out of all the data and all the ink squirted over the data, the only three markers are, people worked more since 1965, people watched more television since 1965, and people’s view of the amusement to be gained from watching television declined over the last four deccades. After that, the rest really is guesswork dressed up in equations that attempt to make imprecise material precise – always a bad move.

115

Hidari 05.24.11 at 11:05 am

Following from Chris Bertram’s post at 112: this is the key sentence of the article he linked to.

‘So the first thing that we should do is just accept the Tory spending plans as set out in the spending review. We might not like them, but in reality we can do nothing about them. It would be bold and brave and, at a stroke, we will give ourselves permission to be heard again on the economy.’

By Peter Watt. (a former general secretary of the Labour party.)

Yowza. It really does remind one of the old Private Eye skit about ‘modernisers’ in the Labour Party suggesting ditching the old name (with its connotations of poverty and failure) and replacing it with something more up to date, like the ‘Conservative Party’.

116

Tim Worstall 05.24.11 at 11:36 am

@109 and @ 114.

Excellent, so no doubt you’ll be able to point me to papers that refute the points made? That leisure hours have risen and that household production hours have fallen?

117

Alex 05.24.11 at 11:42 am

I object to the “national populist” characterisation. Two things – it strikes me as a framing device used by group 1) to smear anyone to their Left with being a BNP supporter.

Secondly, I object to the notion that the European “populists” are in any way on the Left. When did any of them ever stand up for workers’ issues, as opposed to offering trivial one-off gimmes when they were in a pinch? They moan a lot but they don’t do it. They don’t have a critique of capitalism, they don’t systematically represent workers qua workers, they don’t have an universal concept of human rights (quite the opposite) – they don’t have any of the distinguishing features of the left.

In fact, the people who vote for them are the arsehole tendency – the social authoritarians.

118

Carl R 05.24.11 at 11:59 am

Yes I think there are better words to describe the ‘national populist’ group – for example ‘left conservationists’ or ‘classical social democrats’ – I think that the characterisation beyond the label is accurate enough, though.

119

engels 05.24.11 at 12:24 pm

To be honest I think Marx did a better job of this in 1848 (see section III). Not sure if all his categories match up with Chris’, but I think he had an apposite term for #3: ‘petit bourgeois socialism’. As I recall, he also gave a bit more prominence to something which is curiously absent from this post and comments: the working class.

120

dsquared 05.24.11 at 12:42 pm

#117: this was the whole problem of New Labour though – it was no more short of unpopular populists than it was of economists who couldn’t do economics.

121

belle le triste 05.24.11 at 12:56 pm

As they currently manifest, Marx would probably also have filed most of #4 under “petit bourgeois technocrats”…

122

Carl R 05.24.11 at 12:59 pm

No, I think Marx would have identified 3. as the distant descendent of utopian socialism, which by and large was a fairly middle-class phenonema, in any case. Jon Cruddas has written recently about William Morris and George Lansbury, but one has to stretch one’s imagination to see Blue Labour – and the people in Blue Labour – as the inheritors of this tradition. If there are modern-day inheritors of Morris, it’s the eco-socialists. What would Marx have made of them? We don’t really know – whilst he got frustrated with ‘utopian’ socialists, he also got frustrated with everybody.

The term ‘working class’ has been much abused and misrepresented in British politics. I don’t blame the author for not going down that road – definitely an article for another day. The only political connection that exists, is with the trade union movement, and there is still potential for activity. So maybe the article is over-pessimistic on that score, as there are examples from around the world of industries – and cities – becoming unionised.

123

engels 05.24.11 at 1:20 pm

What would Marx have made of them? We don’t really know. He published several books criticising them at length, but then he was always kvetching about stuff: just ignore him.

124

Sandwichman 05.24.11 at 1:27 pm

Tim Worstall: “Excellent, so no doubt you’ll be able to point me to papers that refute the points made? That leisure hours have risen and that household production hours have fallen?”

Tim, it’s hard to either refute or prove something without relevant data. You can infer conclusions from data you think might be tangentially related, as Aguiar and Hurst have done, but you need to qualify those results as inference, not as decisive fact. As I said, the A&H exercise offers food for thought. It’s just not a proof of anything. People tend to “see” things in the data they are looking for. It’s a bit of a Rorschach test.

125

Carl R 05.24.11 at 1:32 pm

Marx criticised everybody, raged and stormed and alienated everyone in spitting distance. As a socialist organiser, he was absolutely shit. It doesn’t invalidate his theories, but left just about the only ‘true’ interpreters of Marx as Marx & Engels themselves. Trying to live in 2011 exactly according to orthodox Marxist approaches – at least, according to some cult leader’s current interpretation – is exactly why group #4. is listed above as being irrelevant. Personally, I sympathise with communists, but Marx was as big a utopian as any of them with his talk of ‘hunting in the day, and painting in the evening.’ In what way is that more scientific than Robert Owen, who’d identified the practical deficiencies of capitalism, who invented the word communism… and who actually walked the walk? Marx was an outstanding social scientist, a great man, but no Messiah!

126

engels 05.24.11 at 1:39 pm

Marx was an outstanding social scientist, a great man, but no Messiah!

I agree. However, I don’t think it’s too deferential to take him as an authority on his own beliefs…

127

Chris Bertram 05.24.11 at 1:49 pm

engels: On the contrary, I think the working class have been very much present in both post and comments, in number of ways, but principally via the fact that they are diminishing as a proportion of the population and that this poses problems for the left. Cf both my reference to André Gorz in orginal post (when writing about group 2) and my reference to Cohen on the subject in comment #43. Obviously the “diminishing” claim could get us involved in various classic disputes about the “correct” definition of social classes, but that probably wouldn’t be all that productive.

(Incidentally Cohen didn’t write that as Chris Y believes, at the height of the Clinton boom, but earlier. The first place those thoughts were published was in a paper published in 1990 which would have circulated in draft for some years beforehand.)

128

Henri Vieuxtemps 05.24.11 at 1:52 pm

…they don’t have an universal concept of human rights (quite the opposite) – they don’t have any of the distinguishing features of the left.

Isn’t “human rights” mostly a liberal thing, though? It’s not required for the left, not for the collectivist kind anyway.

129

engels 05.24.11 at 2:01 pm

Does anybody know when exactly, between the publication of Cohen’s defence of Marxism (in 1978) and his circulation of the draft Chris refers to (some years before 1990), the working class ceased to exist?

130

Sandwichman 05.24.11 at 2:22 pm

Further to my comment at #124. Juliet Schor wrote a piece discussing some of the data quality and interpretive issues regarding time use and other surveys back in 1997/99: “Working hours and time pressure: The controversy about trends in time use.” Schor doesn’t “refute” Aguiar and Hurst because her piece was written eight years before theirs, but it does give further insight into the issues involved in interpreting the data.

131

Chris Bertram 05.24.11 at 2:27 pm

Well that wasn’t _exactly_ the claim engels ….

Anyway, for bibliographical completeness (and extra footnotes), the first publication of Cohen’s claims was in his “Marxism and Contemporary Political Philosophy, or: Why Nozick Excercises Some Marxists More than He Does any Egalitarian Liberals” in _Canadian Journal of Philosophy_ supp. vol. 16, 1990. That then gets reproduced (no doubt with some changes) in _Self-Ownership, Freedom and Equality_ (CUP 1995).

(it is the latter that I have before me)

Interesting to see that Cohen goes on to say that a natural reaction to the disintegration of the the traditional agent of social change is to focus on one one the four characteristics and to seen to construct a politics from that.

One variant he terms “rainbow majority politics” and that comes closest to what I’ve advocated in the post above. I’m slightly embarrassed to notice that he ascribes this option to Laclau and Mouffe! …. I thought the following footnote would be of interest (on all kinds of grounds):

bq. 21 See their _Hegemony and Socialist Strategy_ . A meticulous critique of their over-reactive retreat from traditional Marxist claims is provided by Norman Geras [!!] in ‘Post-Marxism’. For a less meticulous critique, see Chapter 4 of _The Retreat from Class_ , by the enraged Ellen Meiksins Wood. Wood is right that those who say _Farewell to the Working Class_ (the title of a book by André Gorz) fail to identify an agency of change comparable to the working class, as it was traditionally conceived, in power. But she exaggerates the extent to which the traditional agency is intact: see the feature she attributes to the working class as pp. 14-15 of her book. It may be crazy to forgo the traditional agency and then say ‘business (more or less) as usual’, but Wood says ‘business as usual’ without forgoing the traditional agency, and that could be regarded as crazier. [p. 157]

[I'm amazed to see how relevant Cohen's whole essay is to this discussion, I must have had it squirreled away quite deeply in my brain.]

132

Carl R 05.24.11 at 2:29 pm

engels- problem with William Morris is that he considered himself a Marxist and a utopian. Engels disapproved of some of Morris’ work, approved of other parts. It’s not quite so straightforward as ‘Marx disapproved of utopian socialists.’ By many accounts, he was one himself.

133

Carl R 05.24.11 at 2:36 pm

Chris: in the UK there are particular symbols attached to concept of ‘working class’ that practically constipate the idea of a dynamic social movement. So when talking of trades unions, ‘working class’ is indelibly associated in the public consciousness with smokestack industries, most of which have pretty much gone, along with nearly all of the other industries, for that matter. If, however, you were to talk of ‘working people’ then there remains a lot of scope for activity: the massive job of organising casual workers, the mixed effects of a diverse workforce… I’m not saying ‘working class’ as an expression should be banned, merely that in the UK, there are a lot of suppositions…

134

Russell Arben Fox 05.24.11 at 2:47 pm

Alex (#117),

I object to the notion that the European “populists” are in any way on the Left. When did any of them ever stand up for workers’ issues, as opposed to offering trivial one-off gimmes when they were in a pinch? They moan a lot but they don’t do it. They don’t have a critique of capitalism, they don’t systematically represent workers qua workers, they don’t have an universal concept of human rights (quite the opposite) – they don’t have any of the distinguishing features of the left.

I’m unclear as to who counts as a “populist” in the European (including or excluding the UK?) context, but in the American and Canadian context, this claim is mostly complete hogwash. Granted, every single politician or interest group of any political persuasion who can manufacture an “elite” which they can pose themselves against (Wall Street, Washington DC, Hollywood, etc.) is liable to call themselves a “populist”, but that’s a banal use of the word. Populism–from the original People’s Party in the 1890s on down–was about economic empowerment, about asserting democratic control over corporations, about solidarity and sovereignty. Populists pushed for the regulation of the market, for workplace organizing, and against bank- and business-friendly trade policies. Those who carry on the legacy of populist thought today are obviously operating in an entirely different context, and of course the rise of all sorts of pluralism has challenged the communitarian presumptions that providing a identity for farmers, miners, truck-drivers, factory workers, and more to rally around. In that sense, their lack of a “universal concept of human rights” is probably accurate. But to read their clearly egalitarian, radically democratic, and anti-capitalist aspirations out of the left entirely, for that one reason? Ridiculous.

In fact, the people who vote for them are the arsehole tendency – the social authoritarians.

Or, possibly, working class people trying to maintain some authority over and identity with their local neighborhoods, their schools, and their workplaces. Such communitarian attitudes can certainly be–indeed, maybe even usually are–assholish, but is it really so clear that a concern for “authority” and “equality” are always incompatible? I don’t think so.

135

engels 05.24.11 at 2:51 pm

It’s not quite so straightforward as ‘Marx disapproved of utopian socialists.’

How lucky for me, then, that I didn’t say this!

136

chris 05.24.11 at 2:52 pm

I think the working class have been very much present in both post and comments, in number of ways, but principally via the fact that they are diminishing as a proportion of the population and that this poses problems for the left.

How can the working class possibly diminish as a proportion of the population? Maybe you’re referring to some kind of attempt to narrow the definition, or exclude new ways of working from it?

ISTM that in the original sense of “working class”, anyone who relies on their labor for food and a place to sleep is part of it, and by that definition even doctors and lawyers are included, if they don’t have enough of an investment portfolio to quit their jobs and live as rentiers. Certainly nurses, retail clerks, restaurant staff, janitors, teachers, cubicle dwellers, etc. are all in it, which seems to me to make the working class as large as it has ever been if not larger. It’s just less centered on mines and factories.

137

Henri Vieuxtemps 05.24.11 at 3:09 pm

What Cohen seems to be saying in that lecture is that the “nothing to lose by their chains/a world to win” pronouncement is not applicable to the modern western situation. That was true in the 1990s and it’s certainly true today as well. And fair enough. It doesn’t, however, negate the usual day-to-day power struggle.

138

chris y 05.24.11 at 3:47 pm

the fact that they are diminishing as a proportion of the population and that this poses problems for the left.

The “smokestack industry” working class is certainly very much diminished, but to assert that the working class as a whole is diminishing seems to me to be to rewrite any usable definition of the working class. chris @136, para 2 makes the point very well. Many of these sectors are not traditionally well organised and achieving that organisation will be a huge task. But Chris B’s typology seems to exclude the people who prioritise that task and redefine the left only as those who are linked directly to the intelligentsia, which is certainly a recipe for despair.

139

Alex 05.24.11 at 4:02 pm

RAF: I’ve had to make this point before, but when Europeans say “populists”, they mean people like Jörg Haider, Robert Kilroy-Silk, Pim Fortuyn, or Marine Le Pen*. Basically, anyone who likes to use a bit of anti-corporation rhetoric but pursue a tax-cut agenda, say nasty things about immigrants and nice ones about the WW2 collaborationist regime, uses a lot of hair product, and has been the subject of at least one fawning and retrospectively really embarrassing column by a neocon editorialist.

Chris is European and it’s also obvious from his description of them that he’s thinking of something like the left-hand side of the Ulster loyalists – David Ervine, perhaps.

*I would argue that the BNP is still basically fascist and UKIP is a Tory splinter group. The platonic ideal is someone who is either semidetached from his party like Haider or whose party was created entirely as a life support system for their ego like Fortuyn or RKS. Of course the FN has roots in good old fashioned fascism but MLP is shaping a course to be as much like Haider as possible within the obvious biological constraints.

140

LFC 05.24.11 at 4:02 pm

@125: Marx…with his talk of ‘hunting in the day, and painting in the evening.’

the passage is: “…hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner” (in The German Ideology)

141

Chris Bertram 05.24.11 at 4:08 pm

I think that at this stage I’ll just (a) refer you to the voluminous literature on this very topic (b) urge you to read the Cohen paper referenced above and (c) observe that the fact that people sell their labour power does not necessarily make them plausible agents of change in the sense Marx envisaged for the working class. To see this, simply notice the following, that if Mr Capitalist makes his profits from factories in country A and then spends them in country B in paying the wages of servants, entertainers, critical critics and the like, it may very well be that the majority of the population in B are “working class” _in your sense_. Want to run the standard Marxist story with them in the leading role?

Oh and chris y, I seem to lack the talent to write without getting myself misunderstood, but I never redefined the left as only those linked to the intelligensia.

142

StevenAttewell 05.24.11 at 4:46 pm

Following up on Alex at 117 and Russell at 134 – another reason I’d throw out there to quibble with the lumping together of trade unions and the so-called “populist” right is that the latter tends to be run by people who are rich. They may gesture in the direction of their ethnic working class against the ethnic other and the liberal government, but when it comes right down to it, they belong to the same class as the folks who are supposedly giving away all the jobs (a point they never mention).

Not that you can’t be from a wealthy background and a populist, but at least FDR could point to some economic royalists who hated him.

Chris Bertram at 141 – why does the fact that the modern working class is more service sector make them less likely to play a progressive role? It’s not E.P Thompson’s main point, but the radical artisans of the 19th century were sure that factory workers would be too slavish – and they were wrong. Before the advent of unions, factory jobs were worse than McJobs, but the nature of the job changed with the changing power relationship. That service sector workers can be organized and militant is undisputed fact.

143

Chris Bertram 05.24.11 at 5:10 pm

To those of you who think that various groups who sell their labour power in modern capitalist societies can be welded together to form a cohesive agent of revolutionary change on the model that Marx envisaged for the proletariat, I say “best of luck with that one”. To those of you who think the denial of that proposition implies an assertion that service sector workers cannot play “a progressive role” … well, you either don’t understand the Marxian proposition I just denied there, or you haven’t bothered to read what I wrote, either way ….

144

Alex 05.24.11 at 5:12 pm

Come to think of it, the closest analogue to a European populist in the US would be a US glibertarian. The “civil liberties for rich white stoners” stuff is the equivalent of the surface anti-corporate/protectionist stuff. The Ron Paul career path from issuing newsletters about arming yourself “because the animals are coming” to being the friendly-grandad Austrian economist it’s OK to like is pretty typical too. A lot of Haider’s people started out in Nazi-themed “defence sports organisations”/BNP people started out in (essentially) extreme-right paramilitary groups.

145

William Timberman 05.24.11 at 5:19 pm

In the U.S., one once had great hopes for the SEIU, and for AFSCME. I can’t help but think, though, that all the people who are still clinging to the cliff — i.e. believing that being middle-class is only a matter of having middle-class social values — still disdain Las Vegas hotel-room maids, and are unlikely to allow themselves to be led by them. As for AFSCME, Wisconsin is surely a sign of something, that something probably being the fact that public sector unions — in this country at least — are a one-legged stool. (The other two, industrial and craft unions, having already been kicked away by several generations of Reaganites, it’s no secret why unions are no longer considered by very many as the kernel of some sort of pushback against the imperial state.)

It seems to me that once you have a fascist economy in place, it’s only a matter of time before fascist politics and government begin to be advanced by the punditry as once again worthy of consideration, especially if dressed in the rhetorical finery of representative democracy.

Oy! Marx the politician had no idea of the complex perfidy that capital could get up to once its true gladness had come to pass. On that we all seem to agree. Marx the moral philosopher, however, would still have some things to say to us, if only we weren’t too distracted to listen.

146

Carl R 05.24.11 at 5:20 pm

Truly a visionary, that Marx fellow, foreseeing the rise of adult education classes in draughty primary schools on Tuesday evenings…

147

Chris Bertram 05.24.11 at 5:21 pm

Alex, you’ve got this hopelessly wrong:

bq. Chris is European and it’s also obvious from his description of them that he’s thinking of something like the left-hand side of the Ulster loyalists

Er no. The fact that I referenced Maurice Glasman’s “blue Labour” ought to have been a clue. More broadly I was thinking of trade unions inclined to protectionism, Labour politicians who say we should pander to the likes of Mrs Gillian Duffy, etc. Maybe if I’d just said “old Labour and their social base” it would have been clearer to you.

148

bianca steele 05.24.11 at 5:36 pm

@Martin Bento:
In keeping with my Shakespearean nom d’ecran, I’m just going to leave that alone.

149

Henri Vieuxtemps 05.24.11 at 5:36 pm

Alex, maybe you just dislike the word ‘populism’. Call it ‘grassroots activism’, or something.

150

chris 05.24.11 at 5:41 pm

To see this, simply notice the following, that if Mr Capitalist makes his profits from factories in country A and then spends them in country B in paying the wages of servants, entertainers, critical critics and the like, it may very well be that the majority of the population in B are “working class” in your sense. Want to run the standard Marxist story with them in the leading role?

What is this “workers in one country, workers in another country” nonsense? Isn’t this the exact reason the slogan starts with “workers *of the world*”? Dividing the working class along nationalist lines is no different than dividing them along racist lines or even gender lines. The whole point of Marxism, the primary contribution Marx ever made to the world of human ideas, is to see class lines as more important than other sorts of lines and promote class solidarity across the other, more superficial, divisions.

P.S. Technically, I don’t think it matters if the working class are a numerical majority or not. You could imagine having such a huge number of retirees, for example, that actual workers become a minority, but it wouldn’t change that much (other than the ratio of productivity to living standards). They’re equally essential to the functioning of the economy whether they are many or few, because they’re the real Atlas.

151

StevenAttewell 05.24.11 at 5:41 pm

Chris Bertram –

Fair enough, but you might not be mistaken if you were a bit clearer about what you meant – when you lump in labor unions with anti-immigrant groups (“Culturally conservative, worried by immigration”), argue that the working class is in decline, and won’t serve as an “agent of social change,” it’s easy to miss your qualifiers.

What I’m arguing, and what I think Alex is as well, is that you need to separate out economic populism from cultural populism. Unite, Unison, etc. are all economic populists, but they aren’t cultural populists.

152

bianca steele 05.24.11 at 5:43 pm

Sorry, I read that much too quickly and the snark isn’t necessary here. I thought you were saying that people with salaries are generally expected to put in basically “as much time as it takes,” with that being naturally lots and lots of time, something like an implication that anybody who expects to work a 40-hr week on a salary is naive. This isn’t true.

153

StevenAttewell 05.24.11 at 5:46 pm

On the broader topic: I’ll defend the term populist, as I’d defend the term progressive, because I think their original meanings have value. The original Populists – coming out of the Grange, the Farmer’s Alliance, the People’s Party, and the Knights of Labor – did something unique in the history of political ideology. They took a bunch of people who had been bred-in-the-bone Jeffersonian anti-government individualists, and united them around the idea that class conflict and republicanism could co-exist, that the central government had to be empowered over private capital, that the state had both the right and authority to act in the interests of the producing classes and the producer the right to call in the state to protect his rights and provide him with the tools for economic independence.

Without the Populists, there is no through-line between the American Revolution and the American Left.

154

Hidari 05.24.11 at 5:49 pm

Comments 125 and 140.

I am sure all CTers, without exception, are well-up on the tradition of Japanese Marxism: indeed I apologise for writing a paragraph here that will, however briefly, tear you away from your almost constant immersion on the canonical texts of the Japanese Marxists. Given that this is the case, you will of course all be aware that Hiromatsu studied the text of The German Ideology and discovered that that specific passage was in Engels’ handwriting.

(http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=EEDSAAAAIAAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PR7&dq=the+postmodern+marx&ots=AAsyz9AtNC&sig=jpRv9srBIwbXBTQBy0GCKYnqRtY#v=onepage&q=“…hunt%20in%20the%20morning&f=false pages 105-106).

155

belle le triste 05.24.11 at 5:51 pm

I don’t want to be part of your revolution if I can’t criticise all day long.

156

Chris Bertram 05.24.11 at 5:53 pm

OK, that’s 48h of this thread. Which is quite enough participation for me. Thanks to those who have engaged so far. I think Stuart White may write a response over at Next Left. If and when he does, I’ll probably write another post in reply to him here at CT.

157

Alex 05.24.11 at 6:48 pm

But Blue Labour is an entirely elite project, as far as I can see. Glasman managed to write a whole double page screed in the Obscurer about it without once mentioning the words “trade union”. Such ground level reality as it has can hardly have been all that anti-immigrant given that the actual organising Glasman is talking about took place in Tower Hamlets, among immigrants.

158

bianca steele 05.24.11 at 7:03 pm

Re. Schor, The Overspent American, which I think is the one I read, is certainly worth the time.

159

Mike Otsuka 05.24.11 at 9:04 pm

I’m only 48 hours late and the party is already over! I’ll mutter a few things to myself anyway.

Way back at comment #3, LFC wrote: “how about a fifth group, the quasi-Keynesian left: More enthusiastic about (or less skeptical about) growth than the eco-left but more interested in (re)distribution and (re)regulation (and controls on capital, democratizing of investment decisions, etc.) than the technocratic quasi-neoliberal left. Unless I’m much mistaken, there may even be some representatives of this fifth group among your CT co-bloggers (?).”

At #4 John Quiggin identifies himself with this fifth group.

What dsquared says at #57 seems to place him in this fifth group too. And he describes himself as “part of the Paul Krugman left.”

Chris Bertram’s reaction to the above was:

At #40: “Various people have quibbled with my catagorization by saying that Keynsians might form a distinct group. You might say the same about Rawlsians or whatever. I suppose I’d observe that whatever the facts about the ‘correct interpretation’ of these approaches, self-described Keynesians (or Rawlsians) are actually distributed across these groups.”

At #55: “[I’m] trying to discern some deep fault-lines of principle and allegiance that might shape how people line up in the future. … No doubt there are some intermediate people, etc etc and some currents of thought that don’t fit neatly.”

And at #58: “It seems to me, fwiw, that Krugman has been edging towards the left populist nationalist crowd in recent times. So 1.5?”

In reply to #40 I’d say that Keynesians such as Krugman belong to the same group as Rawlsians – namely, LFC’s fifth group, which I’d call the Keynesian liberal egalitarian left. (I’d place Dworkin as well as Krugman and Rawls in this category.)

I think it’s Procrustean of Chris to try to fit Keynesian liberal egalitarians into one or more of his four categories. Re his suggestion at #58 that Krugman straddles 1 and 2: I haven’t encountered any evidence of nationalism or cultural conservatism in Krugman’s writings. What he has written on behalf of protectionism, for example, is completely devoid of nationalist inspiration. See here, for example: http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/01/protectionism-and-stimulus-wonkish/ He’s also been a harsh critic of the neoliberal economics of Peter Mandleson and New Labour.

Rather than seeing people like Krugman (or Rawls or Dworkin) as straddling deep fault lines, I see them as maintaining a coherent, unified position which is roughly along the lines that LFC describes.

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Chris 05.24.11 at 10:56 pm

I think it’s Procrustean of Chris to try to fit Keynesian liberal egalitarians into one or more of his four categories.

With notably rare exceptions, all typologies are Procrustean.

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hix 05.24.11 at 11:01 pm

Who are those neoliberal technocrat lefties? Social democrats who dont hate the EU and have a problem with some anti market policies that shift disproportional amounth of money to the old labour core voters like coal subsidies? Count me in. In the non caricature world, neoliberal tendencies are far stronger within sucesfull green parties.

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LFC 05.24.11 at 11:17 pm

@Mike Otsuka 159:
I noted Chris Bertram’s comments at 40 etc. on this issue but decided not to engage them. However, I’m glad you have. I agree there is a distinct group that can’t be squeezed into the four categories of the original post. Your calling it the Keynesian liberal egalitarian left is ok with me, though I think it would include some, e.g. the late Michael Harrington and certain of his progeny (for lack of a better word) who insisted their position was a kind of socialism.

As someone who is neither a theorist nor an activist but who has identified (however tenuously at times) with this group since joining what was then the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee as a teenager, I think this group’s ‘program’ has tended to be somewhat weak on long-term specifics re fundamental change. I think it’s probably fair to say that Rawls, for one, was not all that interested in this ‘programmatic’ aspect anyway, but the implications of Rawls’s views, to the extent they have been drawn out by other people, do seem to tend in the direction of this ‘Keynesian liberal egalitarian left’. (Not a Rawls expert, but that’s my strong impression.)

@Hidari 154: Didn’t know that. Interesting.

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Pär Isaksson 05.24.11 at 11:55 pm

Mike, LFC,
that sounds very much like older Scandinavian Social Democracy.

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Tim Worstall 05.25.11 at 7:49 am

@124.

“I dunno” isn’t quite the body of refutational evidence I was expecting to be honest…..

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Mike Otsuka 05.25.11 at 8:43 am

LFC and Pär: I now see that it’s easier to characterize the traits of group 5 than to name it. Maybe the somewhat cumbersome “Keynesian liberal egalitarian or social democratic left” would do the trick.

And to add a bit to what I say in my reply at #159 to Chris:

Even if people such as Rawls or Krugman have affinities with one or more of the four groups in Chris’s typology, that doesn’t establish the case for excluding group 5 from his typology.

For one thing, it’s probably true of many thinkers who are offered as an exemplar of the ideology a given group that they’ll have certain affinities with some of the other groups. So finding affinities in Rawls with group 1, 2, or 3 is no more reason to exclude group 5 than finding affinities with 2 in people who exemplify 3 would be a reason for excluding 3 from the typology.

Moreover, whatever affinities Rawls or Krugman have with 1, 2, and 3, neither of them could be regarded as an exemplar of (as opposed just to having affinities with some of) the ideology of any of those groups. They are, however, exemplars of 5.

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Carl R 05.25.11 at 10:07 am

My case for Group 5…

I’ve seen a lot of people on the non-Labour left talking about EMAs. How important it is that these carry on, and support disadvantaged people through further education.

The EMAs actually come from an idea in the 1987 Labour Manifesto. That’s right – the UK Labour Party in Nineteen Eighty Seven.

Now that was a manifesto largely drafted by Bryan Gould, with input from others around Neil Kinnock’s leadership at the time. These weren’t Trotskyists, or national populists, but were probably closest of all to the kind of strand in the party represented by Barbara Castle. Interesting enough, Gould was a euro-sceptic, as was Castle so there were aspects of ‘Group 2′ at work – but this wouldn’t be the defining aspects. The defining aspects were based on left economics.

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Mike Otsuka 05.25.11 at 11:07 am

Here, in a nutshell, is Paul Krugman’s position on immigration:

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/26/the-curious-politics-of-immigration/

He’s pulled in both directions when it comes to immigration. But he’s not pulled by the cheap labour reason for immigration of group 1, or by the culturally nationalist reason against immigration of group 2 (where these are the reasons for and against that he identifies with different wings of the US Republican party, where they exist in more virulent form than in groups 1 or 2).

Rather his reasons for and against are different and much more creditable:

On one side, they favor helping those in need, which inclines them to look sympathetically on immigrants; plus they’re relatively open to a multicultural, multiracial society. I know that when I look at today’s Mexicans and Central Americans, they seem to me fundamentally the same as my grandparents seeking a better life in America.

On the other side, however, open immigration can’t coexist with a strong social safety net; if you’re going to assure health care and a decent income to everyone, you can’t make that offer global.

I believe Dworkin has expressed similar sentiments. And I think a lot of others who seem otherwise to fit naturally within group 5 would too.

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Sandwichman 05.25.11 at 2:21 pm

Tim Worstall @164: ““I dunno” isn’t quite the body of refutational evidence I was expecting to be honest…”

“I dunno” is not a particularly generous dismissal of what I actually wrote at @124 and it ignores what I appended at @130. I DO know the data quality issues and pointed them out, as did Juliet Schor eight years before Aguiar and Hurst wrote their paper. The fact that A&H based their conclusion on a non-representative 1965 benchmark study is not “I dunno,” Tim, it’s “YOU dunno.” T’ain’t what people don’t know that hurts ‘em; it’s what they think they know that just ain’t so.

Shifting the burden of proof is the oldest rhetorical sophistry in the book, Tim. You made the claim. The burden of proof is yours. You didn’t meet that burden. So now you want to change the subject. Yawn.

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dk 05.26.11 at 2:55 pm

Category #1 is nicely summed up as “Bourgeois socialism attains adequate expression when, and only when, it becomes a mere figure of speech.”

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Matt 05.27.11 at 7:41 pm

Relevant to some of the discussion above might be a new article in the European Journal of Philosophy (June, ’11, on line now) by Avishai Margalit, “Why are you betraying your class?” I have not read it yet, but the abstract is as Follows:

Social justice concerns us on two counts: One, what is social justice? Two, given that we know the answer to one, then the question is: how can social justice be implemented? Answering the first question requires hitting the right balance between two values: liberty and equality. My concern here, however, is with the second question, the question of implementation rather than with what social justice consists of. I assume that the right balance between liberty and equality is somehow a given. To implement the structural changes that a just society requires calls for a historical agent that can bring about such changes. The working class was a good candidate to be such a historical agent. The working class was suitable for this historical task because it was the class that had the most to gain from a just society and it was a very large class of people. The working class was singled out for this task not for being a particularly virtuous class but by being the class that had the most to gain from a change in the status quo. But the working class is rapidly disappearing; in the developed countries, it has shrunk considerably. Thus, the implementation of social justice is now left without an effective historical agent to carry it through.

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Jacob 05.28.11 at 12:07 pm

“A Washed Up, Marginal Reply to Chris Bertram”

http://jacobinmag.com/blog/?p=372

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