January 27th 2018


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Loy Yang just latest critical asset to go offshore

EDITORIAL Behind the power shift in the Middle East

CANBERRA OBSERVED Freedom of religion just an afterthought?

GENDER POLITICS Family Court washes hands of gender-dysphoric kids

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Western sanctions have forced Russia to upskill

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS China exerts soft power on our southern neighbour

ENVIRONMENT Senate committee puts marine life before people

SEXUAL ABUSE Royal commission report ignores cause of abuse

HIGHER EDUCATION Critical thinking and the culture of skepticism

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS U.S. urges Taiwan rearmament to counter China threat

PHILOSOPHY A reflection on thoughts of Richard Dawkins

MUSIC Group theory: A good band is greater than its parts

CINEMA Darkest Hour: A long time till dawn

BOOK REVIEW 'Populism' and the new social divide

BOOK REVIEW Poems outshine dross of inept introduction

POETRY

LETTERS

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BOOK REVIEW
'Populism' and the new social divide




News Weekly, January 27, 2018

THE ROAD TO SOMEWHERE: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics

by David Goodhart

Hurst Publishers, London
Hardcover: 240 pages
Price: AUD$45

Reviewed by Colin Teese

David Goodhart has been an important figure, in a variety of high-profile roles on the centre left of British politics for many years. His book’s main relevance is to current British politics, but it does nonetheless have relevance to what is happening in much of today’s Western world.

Goodhart coined the terms “Somewheres” and “Anywheres” to describe the emergent political divide in British politics. This cuts across what was previously a left-right political distinction based principally upon class.

Broadly, the new divide relates directly to what, in popular media jargon, has come to be called “populism”. (A term I detest and decline to use because of its imprecision.) Goodhart’s Somewheres- Anywheres divide makes better sense of the new politics and explains more.

Let’s first try to understand what Goodhart means by “Somewheres” and “Anywheres” and how they fit into modern British society. Of course, he knows as well as the rest of us that the new political phenomenon of “populism” extends far beyond Britain. He observes that it helps explain, among other things, the election of President Trump and the British vote in favour of Brexit. Goodhart is correct in his assertion that those two events do not so much mark a new era in Western politics but its coming of age.

A new politics has emerged, a backlash against what he calls “double liberalisation” – economic and social – that has dominated Britain and the United States (and elsewhere in the Western world) for a generation.

What “double liberalisation” describes is a political and economic model based upon the idea of virtuous disruption overturning a previous stability and certainty. Currently this bears the tag of neoliberalism, with its hangers-on open political and economic societies glued together by globalisation.

Goodhart’s Anywheres and Somewheres are the consequence of the fact of a neoliberalism coming apart at the seams in most of the Western world. Sadly, the terminology does not travel well. It works wonderfully well for the UK as a part of Europe. In Britain this new distinction overlays the old class divide: a new privileged class that has the option to work anywhere in Europe; and a remainder that, denied those options, is condemned to experience life and work from some strictly confined area within Britain.

Anywheres currently dominate British culture and society. Well educated at better universities, they emerge with the opportunity to move into secure and lucrative careers in London or even wider Europe. They are comfortable in international company. Their views are more international than national, and they are sympathetic to ideas that support the free movement of goods, people and ideas beyond national borders.

Somewheres are more bound to localities. They are the “left-behinds”: most of them are white, working-class men with little education. They have lost well-paid, secure jobs in the manufacturing industry as factories have been exported. Is it any wonder that they are hostile to immigrant workers coming into Britain?

Goodhart’s Anywheres strenuously support autonomy and mobility, over identity, tradition and national social contracts (faith, family and flag). Somewheres are more socially conservative and communitarian.

Goodhart devotes chapters to the problems arising from the Anywheres-Somewheres divide; for example, “European populism and the crises of the left”; “Globalisation”; “the knowledge economy”; the “Achievement society” and “Family”. He concludes that Somewheres must be given a voice and a hand in shaping policy to their needs, even if this results in overriding some of the preferences of the Anywheres.

In this latter view Goodhart is not alone. Niall Ferguson, one of the UK’s most distinguished academic representatives of the Anywheres group, has reached the same conclusion. No doubt there are others who are convinced that the concerns of the Somewheres are real and must be taken seriously in the interests of social cohesion.

The UK Conservative Party under the leadership of Theresa May has come to the same view. Unfortunately, the May Government is making a meal of its negotiations to leave the European Union, to the point where it may not be moving quickly enough to deal with the problem of the Somewheres.

Anyone concerned by these developments should be worried about recently elected French President Emmanuel Macron. Macron, it seems, is intent on pursuing policies that will drive France deeper into a divide between Anywheres and Somewheres.


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