Posts Tagged ‘LSE’

Sunday review on Thursday: Has the future a left? The thoughts of Zygmunt Bauman

15/03/2012, 01:19:59 PM

by Ben Cobley

The European left “is probably taking an afternoon nap”. That’s what the brilliant eighty-six year old Polish social theorist Zygmunt Bauman told a capacity crowd which included David Miliband, in London last night.

Speaking on the subject “Has the future a left?2 at the London School of Economics, Bauman gave a typically all-encompassing account of the challenges posed by contemporary capitalism and the left’s relation to them, bursting with ideas and full of luminous turns of phrase.

Though sticking to the broad brush and characteristically not pointing the finger at individuals or particular institutions, Bauman’s thesis was clear: the left “has sold out to the right” and become “a fake replica of what it was” in its “appeal to the poor, needy, and also the dreamers”.

He posed a question that he said he asks himself a lot: Do social democrats know where they are going and what they are aiming for? Do they have a vision for the good society?

In place of this, he said, the left has been defining itself in two different ways:

1) in terms of ‘whatever the right can do we can do better’

2) from collecting people who are discriminated against and trying to compose a “rainbow coalition” out of them – a perspective that is probably now losing ground.

Referring to the occupy movement and its Spanish forebears, the indignados (the outraged), Bauman said, “Some people think that if governments cannot do things, perhaps we can do them ourselves. The jury is still out on that.” In fact the signs are that such street protests are more effective in totalitarian regimes, he added, asking: “Where is the inch of change in Wall Street because of ‘occupation’? I wonder if they even know they have been occupied.”

Instead, Bauman made a plea for leftist politics that stick to principles, that we be self-assertive in defending our values, while measuring the quality of a society by the quality of life of its weakest members – something that is very distinctive from the right’s way of seeing things.


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