Making Sense of New Labour

Making Sense of New Labour

Making Sense of New Labour

Making Sense of New Labour

Synopsis

"This book tries to make sense of New Labour by interpreting its ideas and practices as symptoms of the times in which we live. It is an in-depth study, interpreting a wide range of material, including party political broadcasts and other election material, Tony Blair's speeches, and internal policy discussion. Finlayson disentangles and analyses the different elements of New Labour's political philosophy, which he argues is in large part a reflection of the culture and politics of contemporary capitalism. As such the party inevitably finds itself managing a status quo rather than driving genuine change." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

Over the few years of its existence, both critics and enthusiasts have advanced various themes or ideas as central to the ‘project’ of New Labour. Some have focused on constitutional reform and the possibilities for an enhanced democracy, others on the illiberal nature of the government’s social authoritarianism. Where some see a radical and bold agenda others find only vacuity and sloganeering. Still others point to a perceived capitulation to the exigencies of the global capitalist market, the abandonment of substantive commitments to equality and the extent to which the government emulates Thatcherism in its refusal to take on corporations and force them to be more responsible in the long-term. Theorists have pointed up the affinities between New Labour and the New Liberalism of the turn of the century, to which Blair has made his allegiance explicit, or the ways in which New Labour ideology involves a fusion and re-articulation of elements of the liberal, socialist and conservative traditions. Still others think they detect in New Labour the adaptation of a Rawlsian approach to redistributive social justice.

This list of interpretations could proliferate. Their extent and variety is indicative of the apparent fluidity of contemporary politics as well as of the specific character of New Labour. The ‘project’ of this government will always be in development because it is concerned with the changing nature of society and the consequent inauguration of a ‘permanent revolution’ (a term Blair uses in his pamphlet on The Third Way). This makes it difficult to pin down exactly what is going on with New Labour if our focus is restricted to the government and the Labour Party. To understand it we have to make sense of how it makes sense of social changes. Then the analyst can understand this openended activity in terms of the larger strategy of which it is a part. It is for day-by-day commentators to get carried away by whatever ‘scandal’ or ‘initiative’ is dominating the headlines of the moment. The serious analyst has to look past the froth in order to discern what the intended strategy of the government might be. Central to understanding such a strategy is making sense of what those formulating it . . .

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