There are two things that people cannot see. We can’t see power dynamics and we can’t see what maintains stability. You shouldn’t be consciously aware of either of these things, because if you are, it means something is up. Power is diffuse, power relations are expressed in a million subtle ways, in our intimate relationships, our family relationships, institutional relationships…even international relations. We like power relations to be the grease that allows the engine to function and the only time we are aware of those power relations is when they are dysfunctional, usually abusive. MOst abusive reflexes are just extensions of normal relations gone wrong, and when we find ourselves in dysfunctional and abusive situations our understanding of power reconstructs. We can’t do anything to stop it when this happens, it has to play out and we relearn what normal power relations are and accommodate this new information about what harmful relationships are. Same goes for stability. We generally do not pay attention to the things that keep us stable, we take them for granted. If we are consciously aware of what keeps us stable, it is because there is crisis and that stability is no longer something we can take for granted.
The UK was a very stable country. We have been stable for a long time, power relations in our society are mediated by a complex set of institutional relationships we dont pay attention to. I once worked with a woman at a jobcentre and she told me my job was to keep doing my job, with the same people, in the same building, using the same equipment, no matter what the political change. She told me that departments would split, rejoin and separate out again and my job was to be stability and to keep working with the same people, the same buildings, the same reasons, and that was the point of being a civil servant. In 2010 we started to use our social policy institutions, the institutions that form part of the Crown estate as the Civil Service, to abuse people. En masse. Welfare policy, local authority cuts, driven by a central belief system blind to the twentieth century, was used to abuse people. And we caused a reconstruction in peoples understanding of power. It has destroyed the Labour Party. Their attempt to be the party that bridged inequality and represented us couldn’t survive this, they unleashed the elite left onto austerity, and now we have no parliamentary opposition because a hard left cult I have detailed endlessly in this blog have taken the party. There is an election in June which they will lose. Badly. It could be as bad as 1931.
We used social policy institutions abusively and now we have no parliamentary opposition. Every internal contradiction in the Labour Party structure has been exposed by them trying to straddle the divide austerity created, and we are seeing the death of the liberal class circa 2017 through their implosion and it is playig out live on twitter. A culture who were reliant on hierarchies to maintain their ignorance now publish on the same platform as those they wish to rule. We have a property bubble, upheld by funny money that saw London as a safe haven then we voted to Leave the EU and we may as well have flushed Canary Wharf like its a toilet(to be fair, it is).
We took the leash off the politics of hate, and the irrational outrage spun by tabloid media, it seemed the perfect way to avoid addressing what the financial crisis was telling us. We applied market orthodoxy to institutions, hollowing them of their primary output and weakening them. We undermined the rule of law with welfare policy shaped by a tiny isolated culture who simultaneously moved onto twitter. Our entire political media and policy making culture moved into a chatroom and exposed the dynamics that shape their world and their disconnection with ours. I never noticed the referendum being announced, it seemed a minor thing. I couldn’t fathom we would leave the EU, and then we did. I have to be honest I was elated at 4am on the morning of the Brexit vote, I had never seen a political punch like it. But now we start to pay for that punch.
We generate crisis efficiently. That’s what people do. We generate crisis. The word efficient is misleading, because what we do is generate crisis which expose the things we need to address. We have generated a crisis which is going to expose the inherent contradictions at the heart of our central economic orthodoxy, a crisis which is going to expose the weakness in our institutions. Weakness we didn’t notice before, because we were stable. Market orthodoxy hollowing out institutions for thirty years could not go on forever. Financialisation could not bring the working population into the welfare system in ever increasing numbers. Something had to give. We have done what people have done since time began, and we have generated crisis to expose inequality and potential for instability. We have so many potential sources of instability I lose track.
Had the Labour left allowed us to discuss social care, our benefits system, and the austerity that was subject to consensus, we might have had a chance to address what is now about to happen. Instead we have multiple system failure. Social care is collapsing, local authorities are failing, we have a punitive child protection system which cannot co-exist with one which protects children, Universal Credit is evidence of system failure at the DWP, if the last seven years wasn’t enough. We have rape clause, and the cumulative impact of seven years of welfare cuts, as the latest round hit home this is crisis. All these crisis are coming together at once. None of these crisis can be avoided.
We are unprepared for Brexit. Hardly surprising given noone who offered that referendum had a single clue how we would achieve it. Last night the opening shots were fired in the divorce and everyone is shocked that Brussels won’t play clean. While Marie Le Pen threatens Europe and Trump offers the spectre of a cross Atlantic fascist coalition.
If I am correct, each shock we now experience should illustrate a little bit more of how our system is connected, what maintains stability, how power relations are mediated. This multi-faceted crisis should expose internal contradictions in our systems quite efficiently, probably generating institutional resilience at the same time. Efficiently doesn’t mean neat. When I started this blog I was beginning to be aware the post war settlement was unravelling. I wish I had been wrong.
I read Keynes and I read Hayek and I can feel the panic and the fear, I can see through their work how their understanding of power is reconstructing as a response to world events. We misunderstood what they said somewhere along the lines and decided they were both representative of a version of theoretical economics which is ravaging our political economy on behalf of a sealed off culture who don’t know how our institutions work. It would appear we are to be given the crisis which shaped these men’s words, and the opportunity to reexamine them. The opportunity to learn about stability and what maintains it, about inequality and power relations and how to prevent them becoming abusive. We don’t get to learn this and make adjustments to functioning systems, we get to learn this as systems break down and we have to cope. We generate crisis efficiently. Sometimes the most efficient way from a to b is through a wall. We get to learn about instability and inequality but that learning is not going to be pretty.