Europeans fell in love with Obama even before he became president. At the same time we are hardly aware of who our new president is, the president of the EU. The feelings aren’t reciprocal, are they?
Enthusiasm for Barack Obama in the US was initially huge, but it had a very domestic dynamic, it was a story about how America could elect a black person only 150 years after slavery, 40 after segregation ended. It meant – though this was a little too optimistic – that we were finally ready to put an end to the race question. That he would change policies, present a new face of America, bring an end to the Bush era and begin a new relationship between America and the world: these considerations mattered only to a small number of people. Here is the asymmetry between American and European expectations: Europeans believed there would be a radical improvement, a moral regeneration of US foreign policy; they are disappointed, or will be, because this isn’t going to happen. Americans’ expectations were partly fulfilled by Obama’s election itself. It was bound to be disappointing from there on: the first black man to be elected president of the United States was never going to be an out and out radical, a wild, courageous, path-breaking liberal or social democrat.
Obama is none of these things. He is a compromiser, constantly trying to build a bipartisan relationship between the Republicans and the Democrats. Furthermore, it might have been more obvious in the US than in Europe that Obama was very distinctly part of the American tradition of rhetoric. He is a great speaker, a great mover of crowds and, in a way, a great manipulator of morality and ethical ideals. This tradition goes from Adlai Stevenson all the way back to Abraham Lincoln and on. What Obama is missing is the ability to channel his rhetoric into political strengths. The danger we Americans see is that he will be weakened by the gap between his rhetoric and his actions. This is true for his policies in the Middle East, and to an extent also for his response to the economic crisis. Europeans don’t see this yet. Therefore the disappointment here is much greater, but I fear it will grow in Europe too.
As for your president, the president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, I am probably one of the 20 people in America who know his name. His appointment, like that of Catherine Ashton, the EU’s new High Representative for Foreign Affairs, is a catastrophe. It’s often said that Europe will continue to be unable to translate its economic power and its very big and positive institutional example into political power in the world. Choosing weak representatives certainly won’t help; it also indicates an intention to keep the EU from becoming a powerful actor. It didn’t happen by accident. The people who were most active in this choice were the most powerful people in Europe: Merkel, Sarkozy and Gordon Brown. With the new constitution of the EU two possibilities were opened. Because the executive power was largely dependent on how the representatives were chosen and who they were the executive power could be either very strong or very weak. We went for the weak option. Personally I think it is a disaster.
But isn’t Europe’s suspicion of strong leaders understandable from a historical point of view?
I don’t think Sarkozy and Merkel sat down in Brussels and said: ‘Oh, dear, think about Stalin. We should have weaker leaders: it will be better for our democracy.’ It’s more likely they said: ‘Look, we need figureheads who won’t trample on our separate French, German or British policy objectives. If we have weak, symbolic representatives, the real power will remain with the big states.’
If too much time is spent worrying about not repeating the mistakes of the past, being very careful not to have authoritarian leaders and so on, Europe will be left staring at itself, saying: ‘My gosh, we are good people. We have wonderful institutions, great welfare systems, prosperity; we are more civilised than America, we do not have the death penalty, we know how to deal with immigrants, we don’t behave badly to outsiders, we don’t go around attacking other states, we are a very good continent. And others will listen to us.’ If we do this we shall be very nice and very ineffective. When I used to travel a lot people would say: ‘Tell us, please, tell us about the European Union. It is such a wonderful thing with nation states and transnational institutions, with its laws, courts and union regulations that people obey. How can we do it? How do you get from World War Two to Maastricht and the EU?’ Europeans don’t understand that this is an astonishing historical precedent.
In a recent essay you call for a ‘social democracy of fear’. But hasn’t the ‘war on terror’ of the last eight years shown just how dangerous appeals to fear are? When can fear be good?
I wouldn’t want to claim that there are good fears, but good and bad uses of fear are possible. The bad uses are clear. There is the demagogic exploitation of fear of outsiders and strangers, which culminates in putting up barriers against immigration, refugees or exiles. The sense that things are out of control, that we may lose our jobs next year because of competition from China or India, or that some farms may become unworkable in five years’ time because of climate change, has been intensified by globalisation, and it has given rise to large, unspecific fears which are played on in America by people like Sarah Palin, or in Denmark by the anti-immigrant party, or in Switzerland with the referendum against minarets. These fears may breed nationalism, patriotism, preventive wars and repressive anti-terrorist legislation, but in the end it’s just excessive state power. It can’t save you from terrorism, which is a political problem; it can only create a too powerful state. This can happen in very open democracies.
Britain has more closed-circuit television cameras, which keep a record of almost everyone’s movements everywhere at all times, than any other democracy in the world. In the old days we would have seen this as an unacceptable intrusion on personal freedoms, yet today it’s accepted because people are frightened of crime, outsiders, terrorism. We no longer have a choice of a wonderfully happy and prosperous, secure and stable future: this isn’t Sweden in 1965. That’s why I propose a social democracy of fear. We will have to have active interventionist states protecting us against things that frighten people: states controlling changes so they don’t get out of hand or create a political backlash. Why not face up to this challenge in the name of a progressive state with collective objectives and purposes, which preserves institutions that give us a sense of shared identity and values? We are going to have to find a new language in which to express the role of the state in this uncertain world. We have a choice to leave it to other people to come up with a language we won’t like or to come up with a language ourselves.
In the introduction to ‘Reappraisals’ you write that people prefer to describe unpleasant political situations in language that makes them somehow more tolerable. In Iran people used to say they lived in a ‘limited democracy’, before it became clear just how limited it was. What kinds of linguistic subterfuge do we practise in Europe and America?
In America the misuse of language is usually cultural rather than political. People will accuse Obama of being a socialist. Italians would say magari – if only. However, no one takes this very seriously. What we have instead in the US is cultural communities policing what can and can’t be said, and that shapes how we define difference. The idea is that you can’t have an elite, since elitism is undemocratic and unegalitarian. Therefore, you always make the point that people are in some important way the same. If they are badly disabled like me, they are ‘differently abled’, which I find very amusing. It is not a ‘different’ ability: it is no ability. But since it’s politically uncomfortable to distinguish between people who can do things and people who can’t, the latter are described as separate but equal. There are numerous things wrong with this: first, it is lousy language; second, it creates the illusion of sameness or achievement in its absence; third, it conceals the effects of real power and capacity, real wealth and influence. You describe everyone as having the same chances when actually some people have more chances than others. And with this cheating language of equality deep inequality is allowed to happen much more easily.
In Britain the most striking abuse of language is the redefinition of private, for-profit economic activities as services provided by the state. A concrete example is the way private entrepreneurs were given the right to run old people’s homes. However, no one wants to spell that out, which is why they are described as ‘delivering’ the service, as if they were the milkman bringing milk to old people. It prevents people from fully grasping that the state has handed over its mandate of responsibility to a private actor, whose motivation is to provide the cheapest possible service and make the most money.
In France something else is happening, a kind of abusive reworking of republicanism. The old French ideal of egalitarian republicanism with no distinctions, no compromise with religion or localism, with everyone having the same opportunities, speaking the same language, living in the same France – an ideal that was invented in the late 18th century as a way to make a radical break with the Ancien Régime – is now used to paper over the disadvantages of young people, particularly if they are black or brown, from the suburbs or North Africa. The old egalitarian language has been transfigured into saying we all have the same opportunities, we are all equal, we will not talk about the fact that you are female and brown, or allow you to dress differently, because that would not be republican. This subterfuge enables very illiberal behaviour in the name of a ‘liberal ideal’.
Some people have likened Europe’s involvement in places like Afghanistan to the colonial expeditions of the 19th century, when European conflicts were exported to Africa and Asia.
I always worry about analogies like that because people are then tempted to say: ‘My gosh, it is exactly like that.’ There is an analogy, but it’s only partial. From the 17th century until the 1940s, even the 1950s, Europeans mostly dealt with each other in very small, limited wars and exploited non-European peoples, either on their frontiers or overseas, in extremely violent ways, starting in South America and going on to the Belgian Congo. The behaviour towards non-Europeans was always vastly worse than even towards the most hated European enemy. All this changed in the 20th century, when the behaviour towards other Europeans developed into a kind of internal colonialism. The treatment of Jews by Germans or of Ukrainians by Russians under Stalin was even worse than the Belgian treatment of the Congolese. This was a new phenomenon. Its shock value was such that after World War Two, with the very difficult exception of the former Yugoslavia, there was a sort of understanding that no European problem could be resolved by war – certainly not by allowing civilians to suffer the treatment they experienced between 1913 and 1950.
I don’t think the consequence is that Europeans have once again exported their conflicts of interest out of Europe. It is more passive than that and in a way worse. What we see is an utter lack of concern. Before the Yugoslav wars broke out in 1991 I was in Europe a lot, especially in Germany and Austria. I would talk to people and say: ‘This is going to be bad. This is serious. If you listen to what Milosevic is saying and watch what is happening in Serbia and Kosovo, there is going to be trouble.’ People would say one of two things. Either: ‘No, no, of course not, it won’t happen.’ Or: ‘So what? This isn’t our problem. We have no moral responsibility, they aren’t part of Europe.’ That is an ethically catastrophic position but not the same as active participation. It’s an expression of indifference.
When Bush was justifying the war in Iraq, he used a position that was very popular at the time in America: ‘We have to destroy them over there so that they will not come here.’ He talked as though there were two places in the world: here, in America, and there. As long as the problem is over there it is not here. Europeans can’t say that because their worst potential problems are right on their frontiers: Ukraine, Turkey, the Balkans, the Middle East, North Africa. The European attitude has therefore not been to export the problem and solve it over there, wherever that might be, because over there is too near. Even if Europe had an army and an air force it is unimaginable that it would attack Syria, just a few hundred miles from Europe’s borders. It is too dangerous. The real problem with Europe is that it says: ‘We will pretend this is not our problem.’ It is a much more serious defect than making a mistake. To wash your hands of someone else’s problems used to be seen as a major moral shortcoming. Now it is what Europe does.
It’s been doing this for a long time in the case of Israel and Palestine, expressing disapproval of the occupation but doing almost nothing to bring it to an end. Is there anything Europe can do to exert pressure on Israel?
Israel wants two things more than anything else in the world. The first is American aid. This it has. As long as it continues to get American aid without conditions it can do stupid things for a very long time, damaging Palestinians and damaging Israel without running any risk. However, the second thing Israel wants is an economic relationship with Europe as a way to escape from the Middle East. The joke is that Jews spent a hundred years desperately trying to have a state in the Middle East. Now they spend all their time trying to get out of the Middle East. They don’t want to be there economically, culturally or politically – they don’t feel part of it and don’t want to be part of it. They want to be part of Europe and therefore it is here that the EU has enormous leverage. If the EU said: ‘So long as you break international laws, you can’t have the privileges of partial economic membership, you can’t have internal trading rights, you can’t be part of the EU market,’ this would be a huge issue in Israel, second only to losing American military aid. We don’t even have to talk about Gaza, just the Occupied Territories.
Why do Europeans not do it? Here, the problem of blackmail is significant. And it is not even active blackmail but self-blackmail. When I talk about these things in Holland or in Germany, people say to me: ‘We couldn’t do that. Don’t forget, we are in Europe. Think of what we did to the Jews. We can’t use economic leverage against Israel. We can’t be a critic of Israel, we can’t use our strength as a huge economic actor to pressure the Jewish state. Why? Because of Auschwitz.’ I understand this argument very well. Many of my family were killed in Auschwitz. However, this is ridiculous. Europe can’t live indefinitely on the credit of someone else’s crimes to justify a state that creates and commits its own crimes. If Zionism is to succeed as a representation of the original ideas of the Zionist founders, Israel has to become a normal state. That was the idea. Israel should not be special because it is Jewish. Jews are to have a state just like everyone else has a state. It should have no more rights than Slovenia and no fewer. Therefore, it also has to behave like a state. It has to declare its frontiers, recognise international law, sign international treaties and agreements. Furthermore, other countries have to behave towards it the way they would towards any other state that broke those laws. Otherwise it is treated as special and Zionism as a project has failed. People will say: ‘Why are we picking on Israel? What about Libya? Yemen? Burma? China? All of which are much worse.’ Fine. But we are missing two things: first, Israel describes itself as a democracy and so it should be compared with democracies not with dictatorships; second, if Burma came to the EU and said, ‘It would be a huge advantage for us if we could have privileged trading rights with you,’ Europe would say: ‘First you have to release political prisoners, hold elections, open up your borders.’ We have to say the same things to Israel. Otherwise we are acknowledging that a Jewish state is an unusual thing – a weird, different thing that is not to be treated like every other state. It is the European bad conscience that is part of the problem.
You have insisted that Europe must remain outward-looking if it is to have any influence in the world. But this raises the question of Europe’s borders. How do we define Europe geographically? Are its borders the same as the EU’s?
There are no borders of Europe. Europe has always had a very fungible geography. Its borders were traditionally cultural, not physical. Europe and Christianity very closely overlapped except for the many hundreds of years when Muslims in Spain and in Eastern Europe had a very significant presence. The question therefore evolved and what mattered was the dominant, not the last border. People in Poland will tell you that they are the centre of Europe. But if this is true, then Russia is very definitely part of Europe. Presumably the same is true of Armenia and Georgia and Azerbaijan, some of which are, after all, very Christian and in many ways historically very closely connected with Central Europe. There were people who used to say: ‘Look, North Africa is Europe. The culture of Europe was more developed in what is today Libya or what is today northern Tunisia than it was in southern Spain. Those lands were part of the Roman Empire for a very long time. Many of the great European figures of the early Christian era came from Africa.’
These arguments lead nowhere. My answer is that Europe is a cultural space, which does not necessarily overlap with the EU as a physical space; otherwise there would be endless Israeli-style debates about where the frontiers should be. The EU is different, as it started its life as the European Economic Community with the idea that it was an open entity. Anyone could join if they conformed to the rules, the norms and the regulations. This was very easy to say in 1958 because most of Europe was in prison. You didn’t have to worry about whether you would have to take in Slovakia, because there was no risk, no prospect of that, thanks to the Russians. All you had to worry about were the wealthy countries of the West: either small, wealthy countries like Austria or big ones like Italy or Spain. After 1989 all this fell apart. The EU became legally, culturally and institutionally committed to expanding and accepting anyone who wanted to join from a space that could be recognised as Europe. Since no one defined that space, there was no limit. Turkey at the time was not a problem: first because in those years it was mostly a military dictatorship; and second, because it was on the other side of Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, and those two were not about to come into the EU.
Today we live in a very different situation. Europe is defined by the rules of the EU and its willingness to take in new countries. But already in the mid-1990s it was clear that no matter what anyone said in public, in private Brussels wanted to slow this process down, and if possible bring it to a stop. The reasons were very good, because the EU succeeded on the basis of genuine interstate co-operation, in which wealthy states or regions helped poor ones, and small new members could be forced to behave well. This was fine as long as the overwhelming majority of members were big and wealthy and the only likely new members were small, and either wealthy, or if poor, very small. When this changed in the 1990s, you started to hear people saying: ‘Wait a minute, Europe must be defined culturally, it must consider heritage: spiritual, architectural and linguistic heritage.’ This was simply a way of saying: ‘We can’t take in Muslims.’ Now, I did hear the Catholics say that Orthodox Christians can’t be accepted either. People would say this in Poland, in Croatia, to some extent in Hungary, but what they were really talking about were the Russians, the Serbs and the Romanians, not the Orthodox Christians in general. However, this could not be said openly, so once again the language was misused.
However, beneath it all there is a real problem. If you open Europe up to a very large number of very poor people, the system of transfers and subsidies will break down. Holland can subsidise Latvia for example, but it can’t be sustainable for Denmark to subsidise Turkey. This is real. Just as real is the question, if Turkey becomes a member, why not Ukraine? And that would be even more expensive. Therefore, the real limits of EU expansion are economic reality and, above all, political courage. If politicians are not willing to say why Turkey should be a member just as they won’t say why we should be tough with Israel, you can’t expect people instinctively to understand these issues. For the generation of politicians we have, it’s much easier to say Europe is full, we can’t expand, we have to worry about local issues, about protecting the welfare state, our traditions, the image of our cities or whatever. This is going to be the rhetoric of Europe in the future. It is no longer Christian, it is ‘Judeo-Christian’. It is no longer Catholic and Protestant, it is Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox. But I do not think that it is going to be Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Orthodox and Muslim. The terrorist fears of the last ten years lend themselves all too easily to a Europe of limits rather than a Europe of expansion.
If there seems to be one thing missing among today’s politicians, it is courage. It is considered idealistic, even naive.
Courage is always missing in politicians. It is like saying basketball players aren’t normally short. It isn’t a useful attribute. To be morally courageous is to say something different, which reduces your chances of winning an election. Courage is in a funny way more common in an old-fashioned sort of enlightened dictatorship than it is in a democracy. However, there is another factor. My generation has been catastrophic. I was born in 1948 so I am more or less the same age as George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Gerhard Schröder, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown – a pretty crappy generation, when you come to think of it, and many names could be added. It is a generation that grew up in the 1960s in Western Europe or in America, in a world of no hard choices, neither economic nor political. There were no wars they had to fight. They did not have to fight in the Vietnam War. They grew up believing that no matter what choice they made, there would be no disastrous consequences. The result is that whatever the differences of appearance, style and personality, these are people for whom making an unpopular choice is very hard.
Someone once said: ‘But Blair’s choice to go to war in Iraq was unpopular with the majority of the population.’ I agree. But what Blair was doing was going for a different kind of popularity – he wanted to show his strength. To do this he had to do something unpopular, yet something that cost him nothing. Doing something unpopular that may cost you your job is much harder. The last generation in America with such courage was probably the generation of Lyndon Johnson. In a funny kind of way Thatcher, whom I certainly do not like, had courage. However, she fits the description of naive and idealistic; I don’t like her ideals, her naivety was a disaster, but it’s still a fair description. Today it is a criticism to describe a politician as idealistic. This is in a way a new phenomenon and it too is born from the fact that Europe has not been involved in wars that would demand the mobilisation of the whole population for over 60 years now. The last time there was such a sustained period of peace was probably the early Middle Ages. Traditionally leaders rose to power through wars or conquest. We have had six, seven generations of leaders who came to power exclusively by political manoeuvring, which is historically very unusual. It’s like inbreeding: there are no external inputs, no new kinds of people, only the political class breeding itself. This isn’t an argument in favour of war, just a historical fact.
In ‘Postwar’ you argue that Europe’s singularity lies not in its laws but its way of life. I live there but do not know what that is.
Every time an opera company comes from Paris or Lyon to Ljubljana, you live the European way of life. The opera house is subsidised either by the country sending or receiving it, or by Brussels. The people who work in it all have contracts, health and pension benefits, unemployment benefits, security that no American company gives to any of its dancers or singers. In America they pay them more but they give them none of the benefits or protections. The European way of life is when you travel on trains rather than having to drive a polluting car or take a polluting airplane for a relatively short distance, because you have subsidised public or semi-public transport. Yet you assume this is the normal way to commute certain distances. The EU and its members discourage you from using your car with high gasoline prices and taxation. The European way of life is that you can speak English and feel just as comfortable in Brussels, Barcelona, Geneva, Vienna, London as anywhere else because you are a citizen of a larger space than the space where you started out and which defines you only narrowly. I suppose above all the European way of life is that the risks you run in your professional life are to some extent reduced by guarantees, for example of state support in the event of losing your job. This creates a sense of a space where you are safe. From America it is easy to see the difference as this is a space where you can do very well or very badly but it’s not a space where you feel safe.
But with the onset of the economic crisis full-time employment for the young is harder to come by, benefits are limited, insecurity is growing.
Most European legislatures favour people already in jobs and who have been in jobs the longest. Therefore the victims are those who have come last. It is a strategic decision taken many years ago and it was made both for electoral reasons and because looking after unemployed old people is much more expensive. If you are 45 years old and you have not got a job, you probably have children and have lost a big salary, so the state has to pay much more for you. Therefore the state protects older people and the young are the victims of that choice. Trade unions do the same thing for their own reasons. In that sense young people from Eastern Europe today are victims twice over. First, they are young and come from countries that joined the EU late. The early member countries did enormously well out of their membership with subsidies, transfers, job creation schemes. With the new member countries there was less to go around and they were given less. The result is that the benefits of the European way of life are now much less than they were 20 years ago. This is not a consequence of economic inevitability, but of bad political decisions, bad choices on taxation, investment and bad timing of membership.
Can it be different? Of course. We return to the question of political leadership. One of the most expensive programmes in France, the retirement system for railway workers, was established in the years after World War Two. Its powerful Communist trade union negotiated a very good deal, particularly for train drivers. They could retire at the age of 54 on full salary until their death. At the time it was a very reasonable deal. These men normally started working when they were 13, and they had been working on steam trains all their life, which was physically difficult and dangerous work. When they reached 54, they were exhausted. Their life expectancy after that was about eight years. The pension was therefore not all that expensive for the state. Today their sons and grandsons have the same deal. But they leave school at 16, they go to work on the TGVs, where they sit on comfortable chairs, air-conditioned in the summer, heated in the winter, and the most demanding thing they do is push a button; they retire at 54 on full salary and their life expectancy is another 24 years. It is now a ridiculously expensive programme. But it would take political courage to say: ‘Look, the circumstances have changed. We still believe you should retire on a good pension, but not at 54. We can do it at 64. You don’t like it? Get a different job.’ It is a politically difficult decision, but it’s not a sign that there is something wrong with the principle of the social-welfare state. What makes it a problem is the lack of political courage. The reason it was affordable for so long is that Europe was incredibly wealthy relative to its expenditure. After World War Two it was a very young continent with a booming economy and could afford to pay itself. Legislation did not always line up but it did not matter. You just covered the costs somehow. This is no longer true. However, Europe is still incredibly wealthy. There is no reason why people should not be able to live very good lives within the EU, in the private and public sectors, young and old. It is a question of political decisions.
In Greece, we saw mass protests, aimed in part at a neoliberal economic system that has generated increasing inequality and has left young people feeling they have no prospects. Yet there seemed to be an enormous disconnect between the protesters and their government, and an even greater one with Brussels. How have we reached the point where people on the streets don’t matter?
Part of the answer is that this is just as true in big countries. In London there were two million people protesting against the Iraq war, but the government took no notice, and it made no difference at all. So the disconnect is universal. Why? It would be hard to give a complete picture. However, what we might call a ‘connect’ only lasted for a very short time. It began in the late 19th century with mass newspapers, mass literacy, speed and ease of communication and, especially, trains. Governments were forced to be very responsive to popular feeling. They felt very vulnerable. Elections could remove them from power and if elections didn’t work, then the masses on the streets might achieve the same result. After World War Two governments retreated from politics. The French economic plan, for example, was not decided by the parliament, but by administrators and bureaucrats. The EU was institutionally invented by bureaucrats. The first elections were held only in 1979. Until then there were no elections, no polls, no votes, nothing. There was a feeling, partly a consequence of Fascism, that you couldn’t trust mass opinion any more. It was not reliable. Not only were the masses willing to throw you out, they might be willing to overthrow the whole system. Steadily from the 1950s onwards the influence of the street, of the media, newspapers, public opinion, of ideology, was pushed further and further away from the actual decision-making processes. In the end it wouldn’t matter very much anymore if you threw out the government since it wouldn’t change the fundamental policies, institutions, laws of the country or direction of the majority of the issues of public policy.
It’s only now that we are really seeing the results of a process that has been going on for a long time. Much of the 1960s, which I remember as a student, was about the argument that governments were losing touch with popular opinion and preferences, particularly with the young, and that the only way to reconnect was on the street. Now we are realising that even that doesn’t work anymore. The old ways of mass movements, communities organised around an ideology, even religious or political ideas, trade unions and political parties to leverage public opinion into political influence – they are no longer there. Yet you need those levers. Without them people jumping up and down on the street do nothing. They don’t matter even if they are in the capital and even if there are millions of them. We destroyed the levers of popular politics or allowed them to be destroyed. We are left with people as individuals, and when people come together as individuals they can only come together either to do one big demonstration or to communicate through the internet as verbal pressure groups at an election. The combination of the physical mass and political leverage has been lost.
You’ve written that an idea of radical progress crumbled with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe. If we can no longer believe in the inexorable laws of history, or the certainty of a socialist future, on what basis can a progressive politics be established?
I think what we need is a return to a belief not in liberty, because that is easily converted into something else, as we saw, but in equality. Equality, which is not the same as sameness. Equality of access to information, equality of access to knowledge, equality of access to education, equality of access to power and to politics. We should be more concerned than we are about inequalities of opportunity, whether between young and old or between those with different skills or from different regions of a country. It is another way of talking about injustice. We need to rediscover a language of dissent. It can’t be an economic language since part of the problem is that we have for too long spoken about politics in an economic language where everything has been about growth, efficiency, productivity and wealth, and not enough has been about collective ideals around which we can gather, around which we can get angry together, around which we can be motivated collectively, whether on the issue of justice, inequality, cruelty or unethical behaviour. We have thrown away the language with which to do that. And until we rediscover that language how could we possibly bind ourselves together? We can’t come together on the basis of 19th or 20th-century ideas of inevitable progress or the natural historical progression from capitalism to socialism or whatever. We can’t believe in that anymore. And anyway, it can’t do the work for us. We need to rediscover our own language of politics.
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