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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

fairness hollowed out? « Previous | |Next »
April 23, 2006

Maybe, just maybe, this article in the London Sunday Times captures part of the tectonic shift that is happening liberal democracies. The key bit is this:

There is a problem with the white working class in this country [Britain], or more accurately, there is a problem with the liberal establishment’s attitude to the white working class. The multiculturalism preached by Mrs Hodge and her friends has honoured alien cultures and disowned traditional British values. The white working class has been seen as the chief threat to this faith, although Labour has still needed its votes. Found guilty of racism, the working class has been banished to new towns, high-rise flats and then policed with anti-racist legislation.

Okay, that multiculturalism versus traditional values is working in Australia too. Does it explain why the white working classes has shift to conservatism and become a Tory working class? It does fit this account.

This holds that the inner city professional electorate of the multicultural orientation in Australia is hostile to the traditional moral and cultural values of the old Left's working class electorate, with its conservative social attitudes (i.e., almost Victorian social and moral behaviour of their blue-collar suburban voters). The latter are marked by their opposition to multiculturalism and their defense of a conservative national cultural identity.

So why this conflict? Is it due to the liberal establishment’s attitude to the white working class?

The Times article has a go at answering in terms of the relationship between fairness and the welfare state.

It argues that the 'welfare state has been corrupted. It began on the contributory principle. You paid something in, therefore you were entitled to take something out. Today it has been changed into a series of entitlements.' How so? The argument is along the lines of the fracture of a tight-knit neighbourhood under pressure from immigration and the collapse of the traditional family.

After the second world war, locals found themselves in competition with newcomers for council housing. They resented seeing their children forced to move out of neighbourhoods to get a home when they had expected the state to honour a promise to house them after the blitz. But they had to watch as immigrants jumped to the head of the queue and got the most desirable residences. Fairness is an established and honourable tradition in this country. People had waited their turn and they wanted their fair share. The benefits of immigration to the economy are always clearer to affluent people in need of nannies and cleaners than to those at the bottom of the heap.

Has fairness been hollowed out in this way?

Isn't this development in capitalist modernity--the fracturing of a tight-knit neighbourhood and the collapse of the traditional family--not just been caused by the effects of immigration in our capital cities? Hasn't the increased mobility to obtain good jobs, the rise of individualism , and the emergence of feminism also helped to facture close knit communities and traditional families?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 3:19 PM | | Comments (0)