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Red Toryism and the civil society

Fortsätter på temat konservativ idédebatt. Ett intressant perspektiv är det som förmedlas av den engelske Toryideologen Phillip Blond på tankesmedjan ResPublica. Vid grundandet av denna gav han en ganska god bild av ett intressant perspektiv på vad en modern konservatism skulle kunna vara. Ganska långt ifrån neo-konservatism, men kanske närmare både Burke och Toqueville. Intressant i alla fall:

What is conservatism? Various derogatory claims are often propagated. Firstly some claim that it is a mere pragmatism – that it has no ideas, guiding theme or undergirding foundation, that it is doing what works without direction or belief. Such a vapid managerialism is indeed ubiquitous, but its reach does not extend to modern conservatism. Others say the Tories are the party of vested interest – they represent the status quo, they will always defend the rich against the poor, the strong against the weak and the haves against the have-nots. Again this description captures a position, but it is not one occupied by modern conservatism. Others still say that conservatism is best expressed by a pure libertarianism, that extreme individualism, the glorification of self-interest, and the hatred of society is what best represents Tory philosophy. That again captures much, but not modern conservatism. [...]

What then is modern conservatism – what does it care about, what does it seek to conserve? Why nothing less than society itself. The project of radical transformative conservatism is nothing less than the restoration and creation of human association, and the elevation of society and the people who form it to their proper central and sovereign station.

Conservatism at its best has always been a care for the world and for those who live in it. Conservatives led the campaign against slavery. Conservatives such as Richard Oastler and Anthony Ashley Cooper, the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, led the factory reform movement which campaigned throughout much of the 19th century for a reduction in working hours for women and children; in 1867 the second great reform bill under Disraeli was far more radical than that envisaged by Gladstone and it increased the franchise by 88%; and in the twentieth century the conservatives extended pensions under Baldwin, in the 1920’s Noel Skelton – terrified by collectivisation and influenced by Belloc and Chesterton – first spoke of a property-owning democracy, a tenant of fundamental and transformative Toryism repeated by Eden and Churchill and Mrs Thatcher.

There is much that is right with the state and there is much that is wrong. What is right is that the state embodies in structured form a common concern – it represents the coalesced will of the people that there is a level below which you cannot fall and an undertaking that we as a body politic have a stake, a care and indeed a provision for you and every other citizen. In that sense, the welfare state really does represent the best of us. In that sense, the great triumph of the left is indeed the 1945 Labour government which laid the foundation of the modern welfare state. But what the working class thought would save and secure became something that gradually and over time eventually helped to destroy them. Why? Because the state, instead of supporting society, abolished it. The welfare state nationalised society because it replaced mutual communities with passive fragmented individuals whose most sustaining relationship was not with his or her neighbour or his or her community but with a distant and determining centre. Moreover, that state relationship was profoundly individuating – unilateral entitlement individuated and replaced bilateral relationship.

The working class did not ask for this. They wanted something far more reciprocal, more mutual and more empowering. All existing working class welfare organisations were sidelined by a universal entitlement guaranteed by the state based upon centralised accounts of need. Local requirements, organisation or practices were simply ignored and thus rendered redundant. Thus, the welfare state began the destruction of the independent life of the British working class. The populace became a supplicant citizenry dependent upon the state rather than themselves, and the socialist state aborted indigenous traditions of working class self–help, reciprocity and social insurance. Rather than working with each another in order to alter their situation or change their neighbourhood or city, relying on the welfare state only to get them through a temporary rough patch, working class people increasingly became permanent passive recipients of centrally determined benefits. As such, welfare ceased to function as a safety net through which people could not fall, becoming instead a ceiling through which the supplicant class – cut off from earlier working class ambition and aspiration – could not break. This ‘benefits culture’ can be tied directly to the thwarting of working class ambition by a middle class elite that formed the machinery of the welfare state, yes to alleviate poverty, but also to deprive the poor of their irritating habit of autonomous organisation.

The new civil state would restore what the welfare state has destroyed – human association. This new civil state will turn itself over to its citizens; it will foster the power of association and allow its citizens to take it over rather as it had originally taken over them. A new power of association could be delivered to all citizens so that if they are indeed in an area that receives public services in a form that can be identified both by sector and by type; and if area-specific budgetary transparency is delivered such that each place knows what is being spent on it; then if those services are less than they should be in terms of quality, design or applicability; then there should be a new civil power of pre-emptory budgetary challenge that is given to any associative group that claims to represent those in its area – to take over the budget of that service so that they can deliver what is required to those who need by those who care. So envisaged this would allow citizen groups – if they meet appropriate and proper standards of civic representation and organisational efficacy – to take over the state in their own areas to either be commissioners of their own services or run them for themselves and each other. They could do this with welfare so as to tie local need to local provision and so make jobs for themselves – where none existed before – or indeed they could manage, run and own, as an estate or specifiable area, the services that had previously failed them so they would not fail themselves or each other. So conceived the monolithic state could gradually be broken down into an associative state where citizens took over and ran their own services so that universality would not be compromised but in fact would be more achieved, as each particular area or need would finally be in a position to meet that need by delivering, via this new power of budgetary challenge, the services by and to the new associative state.

These associations themselves are not post-modern verities. They are not arbitrary collections of whim and sophistry arrayed against the void. They are not oppositional groups that pit opinion against opinion and so rewrite and replay the conflict expressed at the individual level. They are groups that take a view on objective value. They are organisations that attempt to discern what is right and what should be done in any given situation. As essentially conserving and conservative, they must believe in something worth preserving or else they would be permanent revolutionaries believing that nothing is inherently valuable or good so that nothing need be preserved. On the contrary, because they believe in something valuable, they can offer it to others, because without an account of value there can be no proper distribution of what is valuable.

The associative society is like this: it is good men and women taking responsibility and trying to ascertain the common good. And because they acknowledge that there is such a thing then, in contrast to the liberal thesis of liberty arising from permanent conflict, they can make common cause with those that differ and create a free and equal society based on such a debate.


Anonym sa…
Har du några tankar kring hur red tory-perspektivet kan komma att mottas i Sverige? Vi är ju rätt bra på att snappa upp idéer från Anglosaxien - så kanske är dessa idéer på väg över Nordsjön!? Man kan ju tänka sig att kristdemokraterna skulle ligga närmast till hands att intressera sig för det här tankegodset. Men kanske skrämmer beteckningen "red" KD; utifrån sin nuvarande stadiga plats i borgerligheten vill man väl inte kopplas till något som har med rött att göra. KDS halvröda tendenser på 70-talet är väl inte något man vill närma sig igen. //Jonas Axelsson
Bra fråga. Svårt att säga. Moderaterna har ju tittat på Tories utveckling under Cameron ganska länge. Det är helt klart att det flyter inspiration den vägen. Jag skulle heller inte utesluta att även Hägglund har hämtat en hel del inspiration från Storbritannien, något som inte minst märktes i hans famösa tal i Almedalen förra året. Själva begreppet "röd" är nog inget större problem. Det är mest en fråga om hur man beskriver någonting, och beteckningen är knappast allmän ens i Storbritannien.

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