Are we living in another decade of transformative change?
What the sixties brought to the fore in popular culture, personal ethics, workplace, and political expectations shaped the actions of the political center and both extremes over the last fifty years.
The further we got away from the double traumas of the Great Depression and WW11, the more liberal became our circumstances and expectations. Most everyone has been winning: government became an enviable employer and a more reliable service provider, citizens steadily expanded their personal freedoms and their material security, and the state progressively took less of their incomes. Left and right quarreled over tactics but neither side ever promised less from the future.
Did the Great Recession of 2008 merely interrupt—or close—this fabulous era? Did mischievous practices in high finance and friendly governments merely screw things up for a while or have we finally run out of tricks to keep a fraudulent order going?
Surveying the scene from London, Nick Cohen bluntly asserts:
“Whoever first came up with the saying, “the left won the culture war, the right won the economic war and the centre won the political war,” deserves some kind of prize for encapsulating the politics of the late 20th century. It is a sign of the extent of the shock the current crisis has brought that none of this trio of truisms now holds true.”
He concludes with a striking quotation:
“Everyone is searching for a new order but no one seems to know what it will look like. If I may quote the Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci, in a Tory journal, he said in the 1930s that “the crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.’”
In truth, no wars between the right, the left, and the center were won in the eighties or the nineties.
If there had been clear winners in the economic sphere, we wouldn’t have accumulated a mountain of debt. We wouldn’t have chosen to be lead by promises to have our cake and eat it too. If our liberal values always prevailed over local prejudices, our borders would be more open. If our liberal values didn’t also work, billions of people elsewhere in the world wouldn’t be joining the global economy or agitating to expand their freedoms.
Repairable mistakes have been made. But, let’s not drop boring management problems in favor of searching the beach for a new paradigm.