Things have been busy (not ‘busi’). A not so new job with a lot of challenges. Found out that the old Distribusi URL had been lost and this site needed to be reactivated. So here we are; sans old URL but that can be worked on.
The State, Markets and Civil Society
Going to the The State, Markets and Civil Society forum held by the John Cain Foundation that featured the inspiring British Labour Peer, academic and community organiser Baron Maurice Glasman (and founder of Blue Labour) made me return to this old site that hasn’t been updated since 2012.
The most profound part of the event for me was finding out about the genesis of the term ‘Blue Labour’. I had thought it was just the opposite side of the ‘Red Tory’ coin. While that was part of the story…
Lord Glasman talked movingly about the necessary recognition of sadness in politics (‘feeling blue’). We often deny death, grief and loss and put our hope in bureaucratic processes but these can’t inoculate us from the reality of conflict and failure. Australia (like the UK) has very high child and adolescent antidepressant usage levels. While it is difficult to figure out causes, could at least part of the problem be our denial of the ‘blue’ in our society (as an aside perhaps the marketing gurus and focus groups now commonly used in the political campaign toolbox contribute to the view that we can ‘have it all’)? It makes you think – when was the last time you heard a politician talk about sacrifice and solidarity for the common good?
“Things can only get better”, was apparently the theme song for the UK Labour win in 1997. However, things can get better, worse or we can experience mixed results. This insight informs the reforms being called for by Blue Labour in areas such as governance; having workers, government and consumers in the boardroom may mean some conflict. However, aspects of European political economy, like the example of participatory corporate governance in Germany, are too often ignored even if they are so successful and longstanding.
Throughout Lord Glasman emphasised the importance of civil society where courage is required to accept the leadership of the poor; and that we need to ‘stay in the room’ with a variety of people who won’t necessarily agree with us. However it’s not all hard work when we realise that people like to meet (but we easily tire of meetings). He also noted the importance of faith, and referenced the particularly strong links between radical Catholic and Methodist social witness traditions due to their self-organising nature. He referenced proudly his own place in Jewish faith and tradition.
The importance of building relationships was stressed throughout. Our body politic has become all head and no body…
These themes and much more are expanded on in the full clip of his oration:
The day was rounded out well by former Deputy Prime Minister Brian Howe who passionately spoke about his time in Ministry as a Methodist (now Uniting Church) Minister (peppered with some humour) before entering into formal politics, and the need for engagement with contemporary political ideas (that the John Cain Foundation seeks to foster for the Labor Party in Victoria and more broadly). Hopefully this discussion will be complemented by similar conversations on the conservative side of politics via the best in high Tory tradition.
This conference signaled that hope can be found in exploring radical political tradition so as to build common good alternatives to the market state consensus that lies broken since 2008.
What was really special was meeting the good Lord himself over an ale. Very humble and personable. No wonder he has been able to work so effectively with diverse communities in the London Citizens movement (now Citizens UK – bit like Sydney Alliance here in Australia).
Other highlights / links…
Other highlights of the conference were: listening to some great historical analysis about the radical Labor tradition before the welfare state period by Janet McCalman; and, witnessing the conference being challenged by some good edgy observations from newcomer Daniel Nicholson.
General observations about the day from attendees can be found via this Twitter feed #jcfconference such as: