Jeremy Seabrook argues in the Guardian that the left has become “amorphous and ineffectual”. I think he’s right that the left is not doing very well at the moment, but it is it for the reason he says?
He says that the “global elevation of civil society” (that is, things like NGOs, faith groups) is connected with the idea that “governments must everywhere retreat, not only from economic activity, but equally, from the provision of basic services”. Those on the left who work within civil society are being tricked into supporting a view of government that they don’t believe in. Or to put it another way, it’s a form of champagne socialism, a middle class hobby that seems to be in favour of good things but actually supports a system that works against the poor.
No wonder civil society is now an essential part of developmentalism: it sets up a strident competitive clamour between groups of the privileged. This creates an agreeable impression of diversity and democratic pluralism; but is designed to ensure that nothing challenges the destructive system of which civil society is both ornament and agent of control.
Is he right? If so, what should we be doing?