The London Economic today published my review of Will Hutton's latest book, How Good We Can Be. As I said in my last post, Hutton was the first political economist I read, & it's been fascinating to return to his writing & approach. His is a particular world view, & one that I sympathise with on the whole, if not in some his conclusions. The review covers the main themes & proposals of the book, but I did want to add some personal reflections on a particular passage from the text, which I've quoted below:
"The clerisy of well-read individuals, creative artists and academics prepared to engage in public argument, participate in public life and challenge the new orthodoxies - and who might stiffen the ranks of the professionals, working-class and faith healers - is thinner and less influential than it should be... There is not enough energy to contest what is happening. This is not fertile ground for a progressive culture, new alliances and a politics that challenges today's business and financial structures."
Hutton does go on to say that counter-trends do exist, & his conclusions on the whole focus on the positive opportunities for change. But the excerpt above stuck with me throughout, because I see things very differently, admittedly at some distance from the Oxford College Principal & Observer columnist position of Hutton.
I would argue that the countervailing parties are very much out there & affecting change in new & substantive ways. Examples like the ImpactHub in Birmingham http://birmingham.impacthub.net/ are evidence of a collective, progressive approach to collaboration, creativity & innovation. Likewise, Rowan Conway's recent blog https://www.thersa.org/discover/publications-and-articles/rsa-blogs/2015/03/hippies-hipsters-and-the-generational-inbetweeners/ illustrates the generational differences in approach between Boomers, GenX (my generation, baby) & Millenials - but the common ground is the desire for progressive change. & the Internet & social media may well be fertile ground for fruitcakes, but there are plenty of seekers of the new alliances Hutton describes.
& not forgetting Will Hutton himself, who is not afraid to confront this "crisis of ideas" with his own analyses, critiques &, crucially, suggested remedies. He suggests this is "the future is bright - if we can seize it" & is prepared to participate in public life to make this case, despite the certain flak from those who disagree with his approach. That's something to be inspired by.