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Stephen Davies on Brexit and political realignment

Writing books about “current affairs” is tricky. If you write your book while whatever you are writing about is not yet over, you are liable to be wrong-footed by later events, especially if you thought it was over.

But if you wait until you are sure that whatever it is has finally finished, your book is liable to be lost in a throng of rival books on the same subject, written by people all of whom, like you, know that it’s now or never, and at a time when whatever happened is now pretty much obvious to all. But what if you are spot-on about what is happening while it is still happening, but you wait until the dust settles? Then you miss your chance to have been “prophetic”. “That’s what I said!” works far better if you actually did say it, loud and clear, before it all became obvious.

Stephen Davies latest book, entitled The Economics and Politics of Brexit: The Realignment of British Public Life, is a rather cunning answer to this dilemma.

Davies has written a book about a process which still has a way to go, but also about one of the consequences of this process which is already very clear. The larger process is the political realignment which Britain is now still in the thick of. But one of the many consequences of this realignment has now been pretty much settled.

I know, I know, Brexit is still being argued about. But the truth is that the matter was settled, for the time being anyway (which is the only time there is in politics), by the result of the last General Election, which Boris Johnson’s Conservatives won handsomely, by promising to “Get Brexit done”. With much ducking and weaving and cludging, that is now happening.

Compare and contrast, as they say, this book by Stephen Davies with Tim Shipman’s All Out War, which is subtitled “The Full Story of Brexit”. That subtitle is wrong. Shipman writes only about the referendum campaign and ends with its result, with a concluding chapter entitled “Why Leave Won”. But at that point in the story, there was still a lot to play for. Leave had not then won, in the sense that Brexit was then done and dusted. It had merely, rather narrowly, won the referendum, and we all know what the EU and its supporters like to do about referendum results they don’t like. They like to ignore them. It took three years of parliamentary infighting, and another huge vote in the 2019 general election in favour of getting Brexit done, before Leave did win, for now, and even then, there will presumably be commenters, here and elsewhere, wanting to say: No It Didn’t, in the manner of those who like to say that the civilised world didn’t win the Cold War.

There is another important contrast between these two books. Despite telling only half – if that – of the Brexit story, Shipman’s book is over 650 pages long. Davies says what he has to say about the whole Brexit story, and about why it has happened the way it has, in under 300 pages. Davies says that Shipman’s book is one of the best about the referendum, but rather than plough through Shipman’s book, I am prepared to take Davies’s word for that.

So, that realignment. Political realignments keep happening every few decades, and being a historian, Davies supplies lots of examples from the British past, of what seemed at the time to be crucial, eternal dividing issues which just faded away and got replaced by completely different dominant arguments. The status of the Church of England used to matter desperately. Ireland has loomed large over British politics, but now, for all but the Irish and some Scots, Ireland is an afterthought, as the Brexit negotiations are even now illustrating. “Imperial preference”? I for one hardly know what that even is, but it used to be a very big deal.

Democracy, throughout all these upheavals is always, and has to be, binary. After each realignment, there are always two dominant factions slugging it out with each other, divided into two big camps by whatever is the dominant issue of the time. In Britain, with its first-past-the-post electoral system, there are always two dominant political parties. In continental Europe’s proportional representation systems, there are constantly shifting coalitions of smaller parties. But every few decades, the issue that separates the two dominant political factions from each other, pretty much everywhere, does a switch. The old issue gets negotiated into a compromise which is good enough for most people to live with, and then some other big issue, which at first feels non-negotiable, roars into bad-tempered and confusing prominence.

And that is what is happening now. Whereas the dominant political debate used to involve how interventionist or laissez faire people thought their government’s economic policy ought to be, now the defining issue that is in the process of separating out the next two big factions in every country is: identity. What sort of person are you, or do you feel yourself to be, or define yourself as? Are you proudly patriotic and loyal also to your own locality? Or do you see yourself as more of a globally footloose and fancy free kind of a character, happy to be anywhere and getting along happily with everyone else in the world of a similar disposition, while being rather suspicious only of all the patriots? Are you, in the words of another recent book, a “Somewhere” or an “Anywhere”?

In Britain, and certainly in England, which is the bit of Britain that sets the political pace through the sheer size of its population, the Somewhere/Anywhere division has already taken the form of an enthusiasm for or a hostility towards Brexit. Both of Britain’s big two political parties have had, rather suddenly, to make sense of themselves within this new political world and this new fault line dividing it.

Davies is sympathetic towards the leaders both of the Labour and of the Conservative parties, given the inevitable dilemmas this new world faced them with.

The Conservatives, formerly a reasonably contented coalition of Somwhere-ists and Anywhere-ists, came under attack from the strongly Somewhere-ist UKIP, and risked losing a decisive chunk of their vote. This was why they had to promise a EUro-referendum. This promise was no mere casual, Etonian, off-the-cuff impulse, blurted out without having been thought through. Prime Minister Cameron knew that he had to do this to fend off electoral disaster. Likewise, once re-elected with an absolute majority, with no Lib Dem Party to excuse that referendum promise being broken, he had to deliver the referendum.

Which he felt fine about doing, because, like most Remainers, Cameron assumed that Remain would win (as did I for, whatever that may be worth), and that this would settle the matter.

Labour, meanwhile, was being hit by the new alignment in ways that were far more immediately damaging, and in ways which may yet see them replaced as one of the two dominant British political parties, like the Liberals before them, who went from top two status to also-rans during a previous political realignment during which the British working class made its political presence felt after World War 1, thus propelling the Labour Party into the political prominence that it still, as of now, is trying to cling to, even as the Conservatives, then as so often in its past, were making the necessary readjustments needed to keep on winning elections, with their characteristic ruthlessness and characteristic indifference to earlier commitments.

The latest realignment is now threatening to smash the Labour Party into fragments. The previous factional allies that dominated Labour in its upper reaches, the lefties and the Blairites, are both very Anywhere-ist, especially the Blairites. As for the lefties, these people also are a product not of Somewhere-ist intransigence, but are a particular social fragment of Anywhere-ism, namely the bit which has prepared itself for economic comfort and political meaningfulness but which has found the going tough. Graduates are being over-produced, and many of them are under-prepared for serious work. The cost of life’s necessities has risen, most especially the cost of housing. Winner Anywhere-ists are content for regulated capitalism to jog along, with them doing the regulating. Loser Anywhere-ists are much more inclined to want the entire damn system ripped up and replaced by an Anywhere-ism of a very different sort.

Labour’s traditional voter base hates both of these factions, and the Labour Party is starting to look and feel like something only worth being in if your faction controls it. Which each fragment is now trying to do, with increasing savagery. Davies doesn’t spend much time discussing the actual policies of the “far left”, but suffice it to say that neither a British political party which hates Britain and really hates America, almost as much as it really, really hates Israel, nor a political party which wants everyone to obsess about their ethnic status, carries much appeal. A party which seems to side with Muslim criminals against all Whites, is not going to see the Whites keep on voting for them in sufficient numbers.

Also, the fact that a very noisy and assertive part of the left also now bangs on about how their “identity” is defined by exactly where they situate themselves on the LGBTPQRXYZ gender spectrum has also proved electorally very off-putting. The leftist obsession with ethnic and gender identity has surely been a part of the bigger story about how identity has become such a big issue, but Davies doesn’t spend any time on that.

So, Labour voters in the Somewhere-ist heartlands, of the North and the Midlands, once regarded by themselves and by all others as the life and soul of the Labour Party, are being turned off it in their millions. Not just by the Blairites or by the Corbynites, but by the whole damn lot of them.

The Labour vote, as the realignment got underway, began to decline in the Somewhere-ist Labour heartlands, and actually to increase (but not by enough) in the Winner Anywhere-ist strongholds in (the word Davies keeps using) “networked” and higher-educated cities and their affluent centres and suburbs. This is the “economics” of the title: the rise and rise of educated deployers and interpreters of data on computers, with information doing to the world economy now what energy so famously did to British economy in the late eighteenth century.

As far as all this impinged upon the Brexit debate, well, there was a basic sense in which this “debate”, as Davies explains, only got seriously underway after Leave had won the referendum. I recall being puzzled by big demos in Parliament Square by Remainers, waiving signs proclaiming their heartfelt love for the EU, but only after they’d lost that referendum. Davies explains that this kind of romantic adoration for the EU had had to be kept under wraps during the mere referendum campaign, because only a small minority of the voters shared such views. There was lots of hatred of the EU among Leavers, but little love for the EU among Brits of any sort. The Romantic Remainers, so to speak, only started seriously to realise what they’d be losing if Brexit happened, after they had lost the referendum. Until then they had mostly assumed they’d win it, and that that would be that.

As it was, a serious rump of hardcore Remainers only started seriously opposing Brexit when they realised that there was a real probability that it might happen, what with the deplorable, racist, xenophobic, uneducated scum, most of them living north of Watford, having voted for it.

Following the referendum, Parliament contained basically three Brexit opinions. There should be a “hard” Brexit, a “soft” Brexit, or no Brexit at all. None of these three versions of Brexit was doable, because each alternative was opposed by the other two tendencies, in other words by a majority of MPs. Stalemate. This strange circumstance was at the heart of part two of the Brexit story. Parliament was unable to decide, saying no to each and all of the above. So, it was down to the voters, provided only that they were given something coherent to vote for. And, thanks to Boris, they were. May having been defeated by the stalemate in her attempts to get a soft Brexit, threw in the towel, and then the Conservatives had the good sense to rally around new PM Boris Johnson’s slogan of “Get Brexit Done”. For this was by now the majority view, even among many who had voted Remain. The country’s opinion, it turned out, and insofar as such a thing can be said to exist, was that Britain voted Leave, so break the stalemate and get it done, and move on. And that, as I say, is what is now happening.

The third Brexit option, of no Brexit at all, no Brexit even “in name only”, was, Davies says, somewhat of an an absurdity. What the Remainers should have done is taken a soft Brexit, which they could have done at any moment. But, they seriously thought that they could hold out for exactly what they wanted, by spurning a soft Brexit. They now wanted a “real” referendum, a “people’s” referendum, just like it said on the signs waived by those demonstrators in Parliament Square. So, had the actual referendum been unreal? Had no “people” voted in that? Did that result count for nothing? Well, the Lib Dems ran on just such a Remain platform in 2019, so I suppose you could say the Remainers had their chance. And they duly lost, ignominiously.

Labour under Corbyn continued to sit on the fence. “Let us decide about Brexit.” And what, pray, will you decide? – asked a decisive tranche of voters. “We’ll decide about that after we’ve won the election.” No wonder it was a Boris landslide.

Davies is very respectful and sympathetic towards both Cameron, for his decision to hold the referendum, and towards Corbyn, for not knowing quite how to handle itself throughout the Brexit story, on account of the realignment creating such terrible internal strains for the Labour Party. But of the hardcore Remainers in Parliament he is scornful, in fact downright contemptuous. (Those who have been following Davies on Facebook will know that he himself voted Remain, but at no point in this book does he mention this.) The Remainers never faced the reality of what The People actually voted for, which was encapsulated in the slogan “Take Back Control”. Davies ruminates that whereas in large swathes of the country Leavers merely somewhat outnumbered Remainers, the Remainer hotspots consisted of places where the Remain vote was heavily concentrated, and where Leavers kept their heads down. As a result, metropolitan Remainers were awfully liable not to know anyone who voted Leave, and to lash out with the insults, without realising the damage these insults did to their cause. Britain voted Leave because Britain is stuffed with racist idiots! By default, that became the dominant atmosphere of the Remain fraternity, post referendum, while there was still pretty much everything left to play for. The Remainers were in a bubble, in other words. They were the idiots.

Meanwhile, as the dust of Brexit begins to settle, this realignment, which, as the title of this Davies book makes clear, is the bigger backstory of Brexit, is anything but over. And it is not at all clear, to me anyway, what it will consist of. Davies, if I understand him right, thinks that liberalism/illiberalism will coincide with the Anywhere/Somewhere divide, but that seems extremely implausible to me. That the Somewheres are causing the Conservatives to suck the liberalism out of themselves, that I see. But I do not see the Anywheres becoming any more liberal, other than in the illiberal American sense of that much abused word. To me it now seems far more likely that both sides will pick and mix liberal and illiberal policies, to suit their new tribal interests. There’ll be tax cuts and deregulation here, subsidies and regulations there, and freedom of speech or suppression of speech depending on which opinions are being championed or denounced.

Will all those Anywheres suddenly abandon all their jobs regulating the world, and all their opinions about the necessity of that process? Will they all suddenly relax about “climate catastrophe”? Hardly. In other writings and speechifyings, Davies has speculated about the rise of “governmentalism” as the sort of mentality that prevails among the Anywheres. This is both different from the kind of thing he says in this book, and, I think, much more plausible. Hell, all those hardcore Remainers may, once Boris has gone, try to turn Brexit back into something so soft as to be no Brexit at all. And they might well succeed.

Davies relies a lot on survey data, which I am sure he knows the ins and outs of far better than I do, but often this seems to involve answers to questions where fundamental distinctions and contradictions are glossed over or merged into one statistical box. Just as a for-instance, there’s a world of difference between being “conservative” in one’s beliefs about, say, the best way to raise children (which I am) and “conservative” in the sense that this best way should be legally encouraged, and more “socially liberal” ways legally suppressed (which I am not). The statistical precision of these assumption-laden questions and their answers is, I think, more than somewhat illusory.

As to the big political parties and where they are heading, the Conservatives are currently keeping enough of their Anywhere support while biting chunks out of Labour’s huge Somewhere vote, for now. But for how long will that balancing act last? What if “liberals” in the Conservative Party lose patience with the current illiberal thrust, as they (and I) see it, of Conservative policy? In the event that Labour reinvents itself as an Anywhere party, or if another party rises up out of nowhere to replace it if Labour’s current agonies prove to be terminal, what will that do to the Conservative message, once they are faced with a more coherent opponent than they face now? Labour is clearly in trouble now, but the Conservatives surely face plenty more realignment turmoil. What if their Somewhere-ist proclamations turn out to be just a club used by disillusioned Labour voters for beating some sense into or destroying Labour, but otherwise cease to be believed in?

But despite that big disagreement, I still think this is a very good book. Davies writes very clearly and forthrightly, so when you disagree with him, you know it. And his blow by blow account of how Brexit happened, both the referendum and the subsequent Parliamentary deadlocks and frustrations that then followed, is very good indeed, with everything important getting a mention. And Brexit is most definitely all mixed up with the realignment of the book’s title, even if I remain unclear, and unpersuaded by Davies, about how exactly this realignment will turn out.

16 comments to Stephen Davies on Brexit and political realignment

  • William H. Stoddard

    I don’t want to argue against the Somewhere/Anywhere distinction, or against its relevance to the Brexit vote. Indeed I think there are analogous tendencies in American politics. But I do find it a poor fit to myself, and I think some other people may similarly be odd fits to these categories.

    On one hand, so far as I have a Somewhere, it’s California, and specifically coastal California rather than inland California. There are things about it I still miss, now that I’ve left. But at the same time, when we crossed the Colorado River in early 2020, I said to my wife that I felt as if it were the Red Sea we were passing over. It wasn’t just that California had become unaffordable, or even that its economic policies had become destructive (though for someone self-employed, as I am, it had become an actively hostile environment); it was also that the whole spirit of the place had gone from wry pride in being tolerant to active repression. What happens to local loyalties when the spirit of your location changes?

    But on the other, at a very fundamental level, I’m a natural Anywhere: the sort of person who’s fascinated by the art and literature of different cultures, who likes foreign cuisines, and whose natural response to local pieties is to step back a pace. And yet, for Anywhere reasons, I value such things as liberty of conscience and of expression—and I see them being actively opposed and attacked by people who identify themselves with the Anywhere faction. So I have to resist that faction. And since it clearly dominates the European Union, I felt an amazed sense of relief when I saw how the Brexit vote turned out. I find myself bemused when, for example, I see Charles Stross, a Scots science fiction writer who clearly described the Beige Dictatorship and its failings not many years ago, now is bitterly unhappy at its (partial) defeat. So there seems to be a distinction between his Anywhere point of view, which comes with an emotional dread of the change, and mine, which comes with a sense of vast relief. And I’m not sure how to account for the difference.

  • I’m a natural Anywhere: the sort of person who’s fascinated by the art and literature of different cultures, who likes foreign cuisines, and whose natural response to local pieties is to step back a pace. And yet, for Anywhere reasons, I value such things as liberty of conscience and of expression—and I see them being actively opposed and attacked by people who identify themselves with the Anywhere faction. So I have to resist that faction. And since it clearly dominates the European Union, I felt an amazed sense of relief when I saw how the Brexit vote turned out.

    That is pretty much exactly how I see things. I supported Brexit in spite of my natural “Anywhere-ism” because it had become clear to me the mainstream “Anywhere-ists” were utterly toxic governmentalists, profoundly illiberal and with an increasingly large number verging on totalitarian by impulse.

    Oh, and Charles Stross is a prime example of a very illiberal governmentalist (& an amusing writer but frankly I now despise him so much, I am unwilling to buy any more of his books. I try to avoid giving money to my enemies, particularly if they are people I would not cross the road to piss on if I saw they were on fire).

  • TDK

    Davies is very respectful and sympathetic towards … Corbyn, for not knowing quite how to handle itself throughout the Brexit story

    One facet, which was interesting to me, is how Corbyn, a lifelong opponent of the EU, found himself leader of a party which had shifted over the prior four decades from “split on the EU” to overwhelming support. I recall many conversations at the time with Labour party supporters who just refused to accept that their Jeremy had ever held such a position.

  • Not sure I buy the distinction. I’m Manx/Irish, but I was raised in the UK and spent most of my youth in Yorkshire, which will bash the wooly mindedness out of most people. I have lived and worked abroad (without any home in the UK at all) for a large part of the last 20 years, only returning when work in my speciality dried up overseas in 2015. I got a short term contract role in Perth, Scotland and never left…so far that is.

    My opposition to the EU was not some outlet of ignorant racist xenophobia, but simply that I was fundamentally opposed to the EU’s direction of travel towards “Ever Closer Union” and “A country called Europe” from about the time of the arguments over the Maastricht treaty (early 1990’s) and more strongly after the EU ignored democratic referendums against the EU constitution and simply bypassed these objections using the EU treaty process (early 2000’s).

    At that point I decided that the EU itself was a threat to democracy and had to go. That’s why, despite not being a UKIPer or a fan of Nigel Farage, I joined “Vote Leave” and did what could be done to get the vote up here in Scotland. It was a thankless task and we still lost 60/40 locally, but it was better than the 80/20 we were expecting.

    I don’t hate those who voted to remain. Change is hard, especially after being part of the EEC/EU for so long, but I did hate those who refused to accept the result and attempted to use political and procedural games to overturn or ignore the referendum. The wasted years between June 2016 and December 2019 really brought out the worst in our political class and I suspect that it is that realisation that is destroying Labour and will probably start eating the unconservative Conservatives before too long.

    We always knew that the referendum vote was only a beginning, BRExit itself isn’t an end in and of itself, BRExit is just a checkpoint. The harder battle will be getting rid of the self inflicted wounds of 40 years of EEC/EU enabled wreckage across our legislative and judicial systems. That’s probably going to be the next battle and the foreign virus of identity politics will likely feature large.

    I have more hope for the future of the UK than I did a decade ago. Still a long way to go though.

  • Lee Moore

    My attitude to this Somewhere / Anywhere thing is analogous to my attitude to religion – or at least the Christian religion. I suppose I’m psychologically, and lifestyle-wise, Anywhere-ist – but I regard that as a somewhat parasitical existence. Ditto – religion, I do not believe, but I’m grateful that a healthy chunk of the population does.

    From a political point of view, as a callow young chap I was very keen on (what I imagined to be) a sophisticated internationalist approach to life, mildly contemptuous of the stick-in-the-mud unsophisticates who knew little beyond their home town, never mind England. But over the years it has seemed to me to be increasingly obvious that roots and loyalty are essential to a viable community, and to a viable polity. A viable community can handle a minority of rootless Anywhere-ist parasites (who may even make a contribution as they sojourn.) I use “sojourn” not entirely as a temporal measure, but more as a measure of commitment.

    No community dominated by Anywhere-ists can stand. Even though I am not of them, I recognise the necessary binding force of Somewhere-ists. Should the Somewhere-ists fade and lose their grip on place, on memory, on allegiance, the Anywhere-ists will find that that is the end of their comfortable parasitical sojourn. They will need to drift on, to some other Somewhere, where they will proceed to dissolve that next community.

    Should it come to a fight, I’m with the Somewheres, even if I am not of them, and even if they string me up, mistaking me for an enemy.

  • No community dominated by Anywhere-ists can stand. Even though I am not of them, I recognise the necessary binding force of Somewhere-ists. Should the Somewhere-ists fade and lose their grip on place, on memory, on allegiance, the Anywhere-ists will find that that is the end of their comfortable parasitical sojourn. They will need to drift on, to some other Somewhere, where they will proceed to dissolve that next community.

    Should it come to a fight, I’m with the Somewheres, even if I am not of them, and even if they string me up, mistaking me for an enemy.

    This is beginning to sound like an episode of Star Trek…

  • Rich Rostrom

    …metropolitan Leavers were awfully liable not to know anyone who voted Leave, and to lash out with the insults…

    ITYM “metropolitan Remainers“.

    (I’ve seen this kind of of wordfumble several times: the mind twitches and the word with opposite meaning is substituted. I’ve even done it myself. There must be some neurological cause.)

  • Brian Micklethwait (London)

    Rich Rostrom

    Thanks.

    Yes, a rather basic mistake. I knew there’d be errors in such a long posting, but I didn’t think they be that bad.

    Now corrected in the original posting.

  • James Hargrave

    Akin to the ‘what are you doing to promote social exclusion’ in some waffle of the early Blair years. Alas, I was forbidden to answer that we were planning to make certain users wear yellow stars or pink triangles or…

  • Paul Marks

    The independence of the United Kingdom gives us the legal opportunity to move in a pro liberty direction – but does not mean we will do so.

    Before independence from the European Union moving towards liberty would run into various E.U. legal problems, now the problem is the lack of Political Will to overcome the officials and “experts”. For many decades the United Kingdom has been moving in the direction of giving more and more power to unelected officials and “experts” (in “independent agencies” and so on) – this needs to be reversed, this desperately needs to be reversed.

    As for Stephen Davies – I am told he was pro lockdown, which is depressing. I have also read writings of his where he downplays the threat to Freedom of Speech (and liberty generally) in the education system and in the institutions controlled by the products of the education system – which is, basically, all the institutions (government and corporate).

    Dr Davies does not even appear to have grasped that the education system is now dominated by the influence of Frankfurt School ideas – and this is astonishing, as the domination is obvious to the external observer. The system is fanatically determined to exterminate liberty – using “racism”, “sexism”, “homophobia”, “transphobia”, “Islamophobia” (and on and on) as excuses for the campaign to destroy the “capitalist” West. A campaign in which much of “capitalist” Big Business itself (being dominated by “educated” corporate managers) is an eager part – yes, due to “education”, Big Business is busy helping to destroy the society that created and sustains it.

    How Dr Davies can fail to see this is difficult to work out – perhaps, being from an academic background himself, he is just too close to things to see them clearly. When one has one’s face pressed up against a tree, it is hard to see the forest.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    John Galt, here’s an amusing thought- what would the Olympics be like in a Star-Trek Universe? “Yes, as always, the Klingons win all the boxing events! Who didn’t see that coming? And the turtle-like Xindis have won all the swimming events. What a shocker! And Q has bet on all the correct outcomes, and accumulated a fortune. See you next Olympics, when we will finally resolve the System to use, the Earth-centered metrics, or the 101 alternatives.”

  • William H. Stoddard

    Paul: Yes, I completely agree about the educational system. I copy edit scholarly journals professionally, and it is quite astonishing how uniformly journals in such mostly applied fields as criminology and educational administration are permeated with academic Marxism and the politically correct language that is its primary weapon.

    There’s a residual belief that the left is the party of freedom of conscience and freedom of expression, and I think many leftists praise themselves for being so, even while actively working to destroy both—which I suppose makes them useful idiots, as the phrase goes. But that classification is also useful in letting them portray their opponents as hostile to such values. The assumption that Leavers are purely localists, and that Remainers are cosmopolitans, seems a convenient way to sustain that belief, though from what I’ve seen, it’s not uncommon for Leavers to value both sorts of freedom. Or, in the United States, for atheists such as me to defend the right of Christians to live and run their businesses by their own beliefs, even though we don’t share those beliefs.

  • Davies relies a lot on survey data … often this seems to involve answers to questions where fundamental distinctions and contradictions are glossed over … there’s a world of difference between being “conservative” in one’s beliefs about, say, the best way to raise children (which I am) and “conservative” in the sense that this best way should be legally encouraged, and more “socially liberal” ways legally suppressed (which I am not).

    It’s a revealing blindness in Davies, and relevant to Paul’s criticism of him (August 2, 2021 at 8:17 am).

    The ruling faction of the Anywheres have decided their function, their identity, their sense of self lies in legally suppressing Somewheres (that is, Somewheres are the nominal target, but actually it is all dissenters). Both factions, in their different ways, see the future as a boot stamping on a Somewhere’s face – forever (or till they become compliant Anywheres, whichever happens first). The ruling Anywheres have been into this for so long that their targets, both Somewheres and dissident Anywheres, are now very aware of it.

    This couple I posted on, for example, seem as Anywhere as William H. Stoddard (August 1, 2021 at 1:29 pm) and his wife – and so left California for similar reasons. After

    the whole spirit of the place had gone from wry pride in being tolerant to active repression

    an Anywhere can perhaps leave more easily than a Somewhere, who, by definition, finds it more of a wrench to quit their locality.

    So I think Brian’s remark I quote above lies at the heart of why Davies’ analysis is off-beam.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes – Niall, surveys of the sort that Dr Davies relies on are useless – they do not define their terms clearly, and they are full of hidden (and false) assumptions. But he is far from alone in this – sadly it has become standard operating procedure in the “social sciences”.

    William H. Stoddard – yes the language of Frankfurt School Marxism is everyone now, even in the physical sciences. And language matters – the left are correct about that, and YES it can lead to violence (they leave out the bit where it is actually designed to lead to violence, it is designed to provoke and also designed to “justify” control of all aspects of human life).

    Why does Dr Davies not see this? Well the horrible fact that the Frankfurt School language is almost universal now, is precisely what makes it hard for many people to notice.

    Imagine you lived up to your knees in excrement – every day of your life for many years. Eventually it would seem totally normal.

    Carl Benjamin (“Sargon”) also made a point recently (in a discussion – “A Eulogy for England” on Youtube) – many of the concepts the Frankfurt School abuse were originally from real LIBERALISM.

    Take the word “racism” – originally that meant treating people badly because of their race, and that is a Bad Thing (TM) even a nasty old man like me understands that.

    But what the Frankfurt School Marxists did (especially via “Critical Legal Theory” which actually came before “Critical Race Theory”) was take all these liberal concepts (for example treating someone badly just because they are black, or because they are a woman) and give them Collectivist meanings.

    The Collectivist meanings (“exploitation”, “oppression”, “power structures”, blah, blah, blah) are universal now – but originally some of these terms (such as “racism”) had liberal (Classical Liberal – real liberal) definitions.

  • Paul Marks

    That brings us to the “Alt Right” – whether it was created by Paul Gottfried (a friend of the late Murray Rothbard) or Richard Spencer (not to be accused with Robert Spencer). My own opinion is that Richard Spencer created the “movement” (if it can be called that) – using a term that Paul Gottfried used first, but had not defined.

    The “Alt Right” think as follows – “the Marxists are against racism, sexism, and-so-on – so let us go beat up some black people and take the right to vote away from women” – essentially the Alt Right are a Marxist wet-dream, they are exactly how the Marxists WANT people to react, in order to make the lies of the Marxists (that “capitalism” is a terrible thing for blacks, woman and so on) the truth.

    Ironically the “Alt Right” are using the Classical Liberal definitions of such things as “racism” – and deciding (as the Marxists say they are against these things- and ignoring the fact that the Marxists define these terms totally differently) that they must be good things.

    One good thing of the last few years is that the Alt Right (which was never very big) has imploded – they never recovered from finding out that much of the Trump family is Jewish and that Donald Trump himself has always got on well with BLACK people (he is an extravert – he is not a “stuffed shirt” culturally). Of course Paul Gottfried was himself of Jewish origin – but seemed to go around apologising for it.

    “Donald Trump is a good President for ISRAEL” the Alt Right screamed – and, to their horror, President Trump took that as a great complement (and then went to the Western “Wailing” Wall).

  • Rob Fisher

    “The statistical precision of these assumption-laden questions and their answers is, I think, more than somewhat illusory.” Nice bit of understatement, that.

    I am pleased to see I still no longer fit neatly into either side of the big binary Question of the Day.

    I have noticed that most of the Anywhere-ists are still mainly complaining about Brexit and saying “I told you so”. I don’t notice them demanding anything in particular be done. Perhaps there is a window of opportunity there. One of the problems with the Somewhere-ists is that they are not particularly liberal. If we could get the Anywhere-ists to work for some part of our cause, such as arguing for free-er trade or free-er movement of people, it might be useful, given that they comprise 48% of the electorate.

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