Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Lost in a New Moral Maze; Books

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Lost in a New Moral Maze; Books

Article excerpt


MORALITIES: Sex, Money and Power in the 21st Century by Joan Smith (Penguin, [pound]14.99)

A COUPLE of weeks ago, this newspaper devoted a whole page to photographs of a group of alleged anti-capitalist "troublemakers ". The sole purpose of these troublemakers, according to hysterical media reports, was to create mayhem in the streets with the aim of bringing London, the UK, the universe etc to their respective knees.

Well, hello, it didn't happen did it?

What did happen is the subject of journalist Joan Smith's new book.

In Moralities, she argues that over the past five years we have seen a dramatic shift away from definitions of morality based on the private (and in particular sexual) lives of individuals towards a new moral architecture centred on the public use or abuse of money and power.

In Smith's view, the recent protests (vandalism and public order offences aside)are representative of this emergent morality, which resists the unfettered progress of global capitalism wherever its machinations interfere with basic human rights. The new morality, according to Smith, is democratic and international. It recognises that human beings are entitled to the same rights and to the same treatment and that certain rules of conduct apply across traditional hierarchies. Being less concerned with what individuals do in their private lives, argues Smith, gives us space to be more concerned about what governments, companies and institutions do in public.

In illustrating her case, she trawls through a wide-ranging terrain, taking in Monicagate, the CIA-sponsored overthrow of the Allende government in Chile, the dodgy relations between western governments and Saddam Hussein, and the gay rights movement.

Some of Smith's arguments are surprising and persuasive her insistence, for example, that Clinton's sexual adventures were not mere matters of private taste but predicated on his public positions, first as governor then as president, positions he abused in order to parlay sexual favours from vulnerable, and sometimes unwilling, young women. …

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