This week the London Economic published my latest book review, a joint assessment of two texts concerned with alternatives to current economic policy in the UK &, to a lesser extent, beyond. I won’t rehash their arguments or my reading of them here, but would like to expand a little on ongoing & developing themes.
As mentioned in previous blog posts, I see an emerging dialogue across professions & disciplines focussing on some pretty big issues: economics & our understanding of how we understand & maybe even measure what Will Hutton & others term a “flourishing” society; how innovation & technology disrupt the status quo, & how we can employ this to redesign existing, moribund systems; the movement towards devolved decision making, accountability & purpose; the value of & need for debate, conversation, collaboration & alliances; & perhaps linking all of these elements an acceptance that there has to be a greater understanding of how human systems, economic systems, & natural systems interrelate.
Both books I reviewed touch on some, if not all of these themes. What disappointed me was what I saw as a lack of new ideas for the ways forward. To be fair the authors do set out their proposals for change, rather than taking the easier option of critique alone. But despite acknowledging the changing social & technological factors of the past decade or so, the solutions seemed retrospective. The postwar settlement & the supposed golden age of social democracy undoubtedly contained significant successes, but it did so precisely because “it” (I recognise this is a very broad brush here) was of its time. Learning from the past is invaluable, trying to recreate it is futile. No retro movement is ever as good as the original: passion becomes pastiche, conviction becomes received wisdom, sincerity becomes irony. Things have changed.
I appreciate the challenges are immense, perhaps more so than any of us can really comprehend. I don’t pretend to have any answers, but I do think there is a need to start with a new set of questions about what we want our society to be, & how we think we can get there. Let’s keep looking.