Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Reading Christopher Lasch's "The Revolt of the Elites" just went to the top of my "to do" list

I don't know why I didn't read it when it first came out in 1996, as I'd enjoyed Lasch's earlier The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations enough to read it twice. But, for a variety of reasons, 1996 and 1997 (when I presume the paperback came out) were particularly busy years for me, and I probably wasn't up to reading anything quite as intellectually challenging back then. Today, though, I came across some quotes from The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy in an excellent 2013 article by Ed West (most of Ed West's articles are excellent) that now seem jaw-droppingly prescient. At certain times, certain thinkers just seem to be directly dialled into the Zeitgeist: Lasch certainly was twenty years ago. Here's some evidence:
The same benefits misleadingly associated with religion – security, spiritual comfort, dogmatic relief from doubt – are thought to flow from a therapeutic politics of identity. In effect, identity politics has come to serve as a substitute for religion. Or at least for the feeling of self-righteousness that is so commonly confused with religion.
These developments shed further light on the decline of democratic debate. ‘Diversity’, a slogan that looks attractive on the face of it, has come to mean the opposite of what it appears to mean. In practice, diversity turns out to legitimise a new dogmatism, in which rival minorities take shelter behind a set of beliefs impervious to rational discussion.
 In case the sheer rightness of those two paragraphs don't impress you, try this one (it's about America, hence the reference to abortion):
It is not just that the masses have lost interest in revolution; their political instincts are demonstrably more conservative than those of their self-appointed spokesmen and would-be liberators. It is the working and lower middle classes, after all, that favour limits on abortion, cling to the two-parent family as a source of stability in a turbulent world, resist experiments with ‘alternative lifestyles,’ and harbour deep reservations about affirmative action and other adventures in large-scale social engineering.
Many of those bedrock conservative attitudes are being diluted, or are disappearing altogether, thanks to the large-scale social engineering being remorselessly imposed on us by our "betters". The elites Lasch refers to are the ones telling us to stay in the EU, and to hock our grandchildren's future - and to destroy economic progress in the Third World - by urging us to spend gargantuan sums on a pointless battle against the chimera of man-made climate change. And, of course, they're the ones who've rigged the rules so that - no matter what we want - immigration has increased exponentially and goes on doing so, and who've foisted multiculturalism on an unwilling (and, for long periods, unwitting) public: I tend to picture the elites as an Oxford PPE graduate and his NHS administrator spouse (or vice-versa) living in an agreeable £3m townhouses in Islington - but they're to be found everywhere (at least, where there are agreeable townhouses - I doubt if they're particularly thick on the ground in, say, Middlesborough).

Talking of elites, RBS today said we should stay in the EU because leaving would be a disaster for Britain - and, when it comes to what's disastrous for Britain, RBS should know what it's talking about. After all, this is the same Royal Bank of Scotland which was so uncannily accurate regarding the country's economic interests in the years leading up to the crash of 2008 that it required £45,000,000,000 of taxpayers' money to bail out its sorry, incompetent, greedy arse. And now this same organisation, bloated with our cash, is in no doubt that staying in the EU would absolutely be the best thing for the country.

Thanks, RBS - just let me mull that one over for a bit.


  1. Neither remorse nor humility seem common among bankers. Only yesterday BBC Radio 4 treated us to an equal opportunities hire by the name of Jayne-Anne Gadhia, twittering about the joys of EU membership.

    This dull woman was asked about the benefits of EU membership on the strength of her position as CEO of Virgin Money, Her answer? That the EU had spread 'social justice' throughout Europe.

    I know where my money's not going, now!

    But it gets better. Ms. Gadhia, it turns out, was formerly a senior executive at RBS.

    According to a profile in This Is Money she reads Hello!

    You don't say...

    1. Jayne-Anne can actually READ? You amaze me!

      I don't suppose she talked about the - you know - economic benefits of being in the EU? Nah - best leave that for a social worker to answer, I suppose.

  2. What I want to read is not a book which identifies the problem but one that suggests a way of dealing with it. The only things I can think of are: 1) going to church 2) dressing well, 3) engaging with the arts 4) voting UKIP 5) encouraging children to get out of state education asap. There must be other ways.

    1. All excellent behaviours, Tomahawk - but I'm not sure you'd ever get enough people to follow them to make a genuine difference. The real problem, I think, is how you'd ever get a party in power that would loosen the stranglehold of the liberal left on the Church, schools, universities, the arts, and which would initiate a genuine bonfire of the quangos. One of the unfortunate side-effects of Corbyn's rise to power is, I suspect, to push UKIP into being a populist working-class party stealing votes from Labour - the era of challenging the Conservatives is, I fear, pretty much over. As for going to church - Anglican or Catholic - while it should prove good for the soul, may not be good for one's politics: both of the main Christian churches are firmly controlled by the liberal-left.

      At least, thanks to thinkers such as Christopher Lasch, we know what the problem is - how to solve it is, I fear, a whole other matter.