The Isms of Cruddas

Worth a new post, this.  I get really annoyed with far out thinkers who only really prove that they can name check other far out thinkers.   This is from a Jon Cruddas article. I am not sure the article told me the first thing about, ooh, improving the world.  But it proved that Cruddas had read his thinkers.

Isms Thinkers he wants to namecheck
Neoliberalism                         (bad) Erik Erikson – pyschoanalyst
Orthodoxy                              (bad) Keir Hardie – saint
Radicalism                               (good) Sylvia Hardie – fan of Hardie
Hobbesian Utilitarianism  (bad) Morgan     – biographer of Hardie
Materialism                        (bad) Robin Cook – modern saint
Socialism                             (good) Tennyson – poet
Idealism                            (good) Dilke – social radical
Social conservatives     (bad) Will Hutton
Feminism         (good) Richard Reeves
The creed of fraternity and equality (good) Philip Collins
Radical socialism of Merthyr Tydfil Mark Garnett –philosopher
Chartism (good) Green, Hobson, Hobhouse, Tawney, Cole, Laski – good liberal socialists
Ethical socialism (good) G A Cohen
The politics of progressive alliance (good)
Muscular secularism  (bad)
Radical individualistic liberalism (bad)
Collectivist social liberalism (good)
Fleshed out liberalism (good)
Hollowed out liberalism (bad)
Atomistic individualism  (bad)
Liberal socialism (good)
Neoliberalism (bad)
I don’t think I even got through the whole article



Published by freethinkingeconomist

I'm former special adviser (Downing Street 2017-19, BIS from 2010-14), former FT leader writer and Lex Columnist, former financial dealer (?) at IG, student of economic history, PPE like the rest of them, etc, and formerly in my mid-40s. This blog has large gaps for obvious reasons. The name is dumb - the CentreForum think tank blog was called Freethink, I adapted that, we are stuck now.

17 thoughts on “The Isms of Cruddas

  1. This is the same pattern as the one that so often gets me annoyed about articles evidently aimed at advancing the author in some academic sect or other (e.g., in economics Austrians, ‘Keynesians’, rational expectations, etc., etc.) quote all the shibboleths and prove you can refer to all the usual sints and villains of the sect. suc hpieces are guaranteed to be free of real content.

  2. Yeah – someone with a spreadsheet, a prediction or a testable theory is worth a million pretentious wannabes with a new theory that they feel will re-position us all into the right political space.

  3. Cruddas is not really trying to win people over to his position. Look at who he’s talking to. He’s demonstrating what he believes in, and that he’s read/thought about it, in preparation for the great Labour introspection that’s coming. So its a little meaningless in terms of text, but its context gives plenty of meaning. In the “texture” is his call to the Labour party to embrace certain aspects of its tradition.

  4. James I agree: and I do sincerely hope JC is in the mix in the post election trauma, because it will make it a bit interesting, but also signal that Labour are moving so far off the realistic ground of politics that the Lib Dems may be able to expand in their more natural space. But I don’t quite get how this ism-izing is actually going to help him. It ticks the “I’ve been thoughtful” box, but do Labour activists and unionists really give a monkeys? They want someone effective at attacking Tories, and “You believe in all the bad isms” doesn’t work.

    I still think Balls is a more likely leader. The Harman news is not encouraging for he (‘I’m Harriet Harman, you know where to find me’)

  5. Balls for leader? That’s madness. They’d never vote for him. Far too unappealing. Crudas probably won’t run but will back up Purnell’s bid (perhaps running for Deputy again). I think the positioning is important and doesn’t demonstrate a moving away from realistic politics. I think the last five years of Labour rubbish has been pretty unrealistic nothing politics. Talking about values, philosophy, and left ideals may not be so electorally disastrous as the current bunk they’ve got going on. Remember more people voted Labour in 1979 than 2005. New Labour loses voes and alienates people trying to keep everyone happy.

  6. heh, funny to see this as when I heard Cruddas speak at the Compass conference earlier in the year I thought something similar – it was is if he was sharing his reading list with the audience. Which is fine, provided some sort of political philosophy emerges from all the name-checking fun – which so far it hasn’t although I’m prepared to give him the benefit of time to come up with something coherent.

    BTW Purnell does much the same thing, he quotes Amartya Sen and his capability theory of freedom, but then <as href='t really seem to get what it means

  7. It’s important that elected politicians go out of their way to demonstrate that they’ve engaged with political and economic ideas beyond the crass and mundane things they are told to say by a million focus groups. When Dr Cruddas uses these ideas and references these thinkers, it’s not a way of showing off – Cameron does that all the time by refusing to engage at any point with anything even vaguely intellectual sounding. We should be encouraging this sort of discussion – it’s actually a sign that someone is intellectually confident enough to invite debate from others. Instead of knocking him for using the long words you all know so much more about than he does, why don’t you challenge him, why isn’t an ethical socialism worth defending in the face of utilitarian neo-liberalism, why do we have to defend the public sector by recourse in terms of market failure? – GA Cohen wouldn’t have picked him up on his language – he’d have gone for the ball!

  8. Sorry, I have to politely disagree. I would say that we are playing the ball, mostly, when talking about the real tradeoffs of specific policy approaches. Whereas the ism-izing is a bunch of spectators discussing whether 4-3-3 is better than 5-2-3 from the stands.

    I am not being pro-Cameron/anti-Cruddas, but simply failing to see what a style of debate like this achieves. It does not dive into the implications of these isms, merely name checks them, divides them into good and bad, and then cheers for the good, accusing his opponents of being in favour of the bad. I am not sure where it gets us.

  9. Giles,

    I understand your point that ‘isms’ are often bounded about too liberally without enough consideration of their real meaning and I also accept your point that a testable theory is preferable to academic waffle. However, we run the risk of degrading all abstraction in politics as pretentious nonsense if we criticise mainstream politicians too much when they reference ideas. One of the major problems with purely technocratic politics is that it fails to communicate to a mass audience what the political goals of policy makers actually are. Indeed, it suggests that the goals are purely apolitical; this is disingenuous in my view and, potentially worse, it conveys to voters that there is no difference between policy approaches. Not all voters, MPs, academics etc subscribe to the type of welfare economics which informs most cost benefit analyses. What Cruddas and some others in the Labour Party (and indeed Philip Blond) are trying to do is reintroduce value judgments back into political discourse and wrest back public life from the lawyers and economists who have governed us for so long.

  10. Edward, fair point. We don’t want politicians to be just calculating machines, or actors in some sort of political market-place: there need to be values underneath. But where I would criticize that Cruddas article is in his failing to tease out the tradeoffs between various isms.

    For example: restricting free trade in order to protect indigenous industries/prevent foreign companies employing ‘too cheap’ labour lowers the effective incomes of the poor through higher prices. Which ism has the right answer?

    I think from the multiple assaults on Phillip Blond that I’m reading, his vagueness is not something that only dry old sticks like me object to.

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