Saturday, 13 October 2018

Epiphanies


An epiphany is a moment when an individual suddenly realises something important and life-changing. It is an almost mystical experience – you encounter something and this experience changes your entire world-view. This type of experience has been recreated many times in art. The modernists, for instance, sought epiphanic experiences. Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time starts when its protagonist eats a madeleine and he subsequently looks back on his entire life.

Many people shape their political world-view after such an experience. Roger Scruton became a conservative in 1968 when he witnessed radical leftists looting and pillaging the streets of Paris. He was twenty-four at the time, when his politics had been ‘vaguely left-wing.’ These leftist activists wanted to stage a revolution and replace it with something vaguely Marxist. Scruton said at the time: I decided, yes, of course there is such a thing as the bourgeoisie and you are it, these well-fed, pampered middle-class students whose one concern was to throw stones at working-class people who happened to be in a policeman’s uniform.’ His politics underwent a volte-face and he has been an arch conservative ever since. The radical leftists were certainly twits, but Scruton decided that they were so bad that he would espouse a world-view that was diametrically opposed to theirs.



P. J. O’Rourke is another example. A self-styled ‘Republican reptile,’ O’Rourke is a libertarian. He believes that government invariably damages and stultifies economy and society and should be limited as much as possible. He claims that he used to be a communist in the 1960s. His own politics took a 180 degree turn when he started his first job, when his income had been taxed. Following this, he came to the conclusion that the U.S.A. ‘had communism already’ and he became an ardent libertarian. He really was a bit naive, since he surely must have known that his income would be taxed. 



Michelle Bauchman is a Republican congresswoman who underwent a similar conversion. She had been a Liberal until she read
Burr by Gore Vidal. Vidal has always been on the left of American politics and has always criticised the wealthy, greedy and powerful. Bauchman claimed the following: 'Until I was reading this snotty novel called Burr, by Gore Vidal, and read how he mocked our Founding Fathers. And as a reasonable, decent, fair-minded person who happened to be a Democrat, I thought, 'You know what? What he's writing about, this mocking of people that I revere, and the country that I love, and that I would lay my life down to defend - just like every one of you in this room would, and as many of you in this room have when you wore the uniform of this great country - I knew that that was not representative of my country.’ So at that point she decided to become a small government, conservative Republican.



None of this makes sense. I, personally, correct my views over a long length of time. I read, learn and experience new things. I don’t have one sudden revelation that forces me to radically change my views. Maybe these people are exaggerating, but I am sure that they also form their views after long, protracted and careful consideration of facts and ideas.

Monday, 8 October 2018

Nature and stress


Nature is beautiful in the same way art is beautiful – it is pleasing to the eye. However, like art, it is has high utilitarian value. Walks in nature help us to cope with depression and stress and they also help us to escape problems.


There is mounting scientific evidence that nature does do these things. The reason for this is that urban environments are crammed with excessive information. People come to contact with constant stimulation, which is termed ‘hard fascination’ and this leads to cognitive fatigue. Meanwhile, in natural environments we deal with less information, which leads to ‘soft fascination.’ The environment that we process is also aesthetically pleasing, which leads to feelings of pleasure. There is also, of course, a sense of escape from the problems that we encounter in urban environs. Nature often makes us feel better, which is why they are called ‘restorative environments.’
Many scientists believe that our minds are not equipped to deal with so much information. The internet inundates us with multiples sources of information and we often access such information compulsively. Hence, these ‘restorative environments’ lead to a healthier state of mind, which help us to be more creative and also enhance our problem solving skills.

We lived in green, natural environments for thousands of years. Another interesting theory is that we feel less stressed in natural environments because our minds adapted to live in such environments. This theory holds that urban environments are unnatural and cause us to experience stress, depression and anxiety. Additionally, nature was crucial in helping us to survive. Plants helped us to find shelter and water and thus helped us to evolve our brains, which is an unnatural ‘mismatch’. Some of these mismatches were beneficial, such as sleeping on mattresses instead of the ground. Others may have contributed to disease and reduced our quality of life and these negative mismatches are termed ‘discords.’ Our brains are vulnerable to discords because they are complex organs that mature after birth and respond to external stimulation. Exposure to plants might have been what our minds were naturally predisposed to processing and the absence of this might have predisposed us to develop mental illnesses. 

There have been political movements that have revolted against technological progress and sought to return to a more natural mode of experience. The most notorious movement were the ‘Luddites’ during the Industrial Revolution. The Unabomber – otherwise known as Ted Kaczynski - was an anarchist neo-luddite who launched a crusade against technology from the 1970s to the 1990s. He was a formidable mathematician who left a comfortable job as a university lecturer and fled to the woods to lead a hermetic existence. He wrote works of political philosophy and, most disturbingly, sent bombs out to airports and universities. He believed that technology was unnatural and that a human society built upon technological progress regulates and stifles human freedom. Wild nature – that is, nature that is not regulated by technology – allows individual freedom to flourish. Unabomber said that ‘it is only necessary to get rid of industrial society.’ He did not think that it was necessary to create a new social order, as the French and Russian revolutions did. He wanted to eliminate ordered society and technological progress so that individuals could be completely free in natural environments.
Of course, this was psychotic behaviour. It is still vital for us to engage with nature, however, and it should, ultimately, be a vital aspect in our lives.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Ahoy Facebook #10

This article brilliantly debunks some of the horrible thinkers that some lecturers foist on you at university.


Load' was my first ever album - I received it for my 10th birthday. It has been derided as Metallica's sell-out album, when they abandoned any semblance of their trash metal roots.
I hadn't listened to Metallica for years, as I had found better music which appeared to render it pointless. However, I have revisited their early albums and found that it actually is rather good after all. So, I decided to revisit their sell-out album, which does happen to have a lot of sentimental value to me.
Most of it is not very good, however it has two very good songs on it, namely 'Bleeding Me' and 'Outlaw Torn.' The latter track is made up of simple and slightly bluesy riffs, but they develop and build up, like their earlier music does.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VoQHRyh03_8

I was thinking recently about what modules I would like to take if I were to return to university. Hence, I have designed an imaginary ‘Simon King Studies’ course, which is wildly interdisciplinary. ALL post-WWII French intellectuals are proscribed from this course, however.
YEAR 1
FIRST TERM
Jazz and Democracy: Comparing the Form of Jazz with Democratic Principles (15 Credits)
Nascent Liberalism: Tracing Nascent Liberalism and Individualism in Ancient Antiquity and the Medieval Ages (15 Credits)
The Sublime in Cinema: Comparing Romantic Paintings with the Cinema of Herzog, Tarkovsky, Kubrick and Malick (15 Credits)
German Idealism: Kant, Hegel and Schopenhauer (15 Credits)
SECOND TERM
Politics and 20th Century Classical Music: Comparing 20th Century Political History and Ideologies with 20th Century Classical Music (15 Credits)
Industrial Relations in Post-War Britain: A Comparison Between Trade Union and Financial Monopolies (15 Credits)
Croslandite Social Democracy: Its Successes and its Failures (15 Credits)
Social Contract Theory: Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau (15 Credits)
YEAR 2
FIRST TERM
The End of History: Did Francis Fukuyama Get it Wrong? (15 Credits)
Transgression in Contemporary Literature: J. G. Ballard, Georges Bataille and Bret Easton Ellis (15 Credits)
Paganism and Catholicism: A Linear Progression (15 Credits)
Southern Gothic: Edgar Allan Poe, William Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy (15 Credits)
SECOND TERM
Economic Decline and Cinema: A Comparison Between the End of Keynesianism and the Cinema of the 1970s (15 Credits)
Pre-Socratic Philosophy (15 Credits)
Post-War Paranoia in American Fiction: DeLillo, Pynchon and Joseph Heller (15 Credits)
Dream Interpretation: A Comparison Between Ancient Antiquity and the 20th Century (15 Credits)
THIRD YEAR
FIRST TERM
Unreality and Politics: A Comparison Between Magic Realism/Surrealism and Political History in 20th Century Latin American Fiction (15 Credits)
Nominalism vs. Realism: Plato vs. Aristotle (15 Credits)
Individuals who Change History: A Comparison Between Oliver Cromwell, Luther, Hitler and Lenin (15 Credits)
The Intersection Between British Socialism and British Liberalism (15 Credits)
SECOND TERM
Musical Cranks: Captain Beefheart, Sun Ra, Frank Zappa and Mark E. Smith (15 Credits)
Robotic Consciousness: 2001, A Space Odyssey and Robocop (15 Credits)
Post-War British Satire (15 Credits)
The Limits of Philosophy and the Limits of Science (15 Credits)

I had an interesting thought about a week ago. Basically, all life on this planet originates from water and can only survive with it. Indeed, it is assumed that life originated here around 3.5 billion years ago when water vapour liquefied.
Interestingly, all human knowledge starts with water, too. Western philosophy starts with Thales and the 'Milesian School.' Thales, the first philosopher/proto-scientist, claimed that all life originates from water and that all matter is comprised of water. So, yes, everything seems to start with water, even philosophy and knowledge.

I have chosen Carlo Gesualdo de Venosa this week. His music alone would have guaranteed posterity, but then he also has one of the most fascinating - and bizarre - biographies.
Gesualdo was prince of Venosa. He found out that he was wife was having an affair, so he murdered his wife and her lover. He looked at his child's eyes and thought that it was an illegitimate offspring, so he strangled it. He mutilated the corpses, as he wasn't sure if they were dead. He swapped the couple's clothes and dragged them out to the front of his house for the entire town to see. Italian Renaissance times had a peculiar law whereby the Italian nobility were barred from prosecution.
He fled to Ferrara and wrote his most innovative music during this period. In his later years, he isolated himself from society completely and he was wracked by guilt. He was a sadomasochist and he had a whole team of people who would torture him.
Gesualdo wrote as an amateur, not as a professional composer. As such, he had the freedom to write as he wished. (He didn't have to write to please a king etc.) His music, written during the Renaissance, even sounds modern today. He wrote madrigals, which were secular pieces written for voices and two instruments (usually a lute and a harp). He wrote chromatically, meaning that he would write musical voices which would use notes that did not belong to the diatonic scale that the rest of passage was written in. He would superimpose non-chromatic voices on top of these. His music is quite volatile and has abrupt changes in tempo. This music was written in the late 16th century and wouldn't reappear until the late romanticism of the 19th century or even the modernism of the early 20th century.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZAs9LjJAHU

I love jazz and John Coltrane, for me, is the cream of jazz. I especially like the period between 1960-64, with McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones. They were all astonishing musicians and they clicked incredibly well. Coltrane practised insanely hard - he would practise until his gums would start bleeding (hence, perhaps, The Simpsons character 'Bleeding Gums Murphy). He had an incredible tone on the sax and his solos were insanely creative, beautiful and would go on for ages (hence perhaps why he never had any other wind/brass players in his band). His solos were very 'free,' but they were imbued with so much skill.
He also wrote some incredible tunes - and this one, Naima, is my favourite one.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTMqes6HDqU

Fucking hell, Argentina, that was embarrassing! Awful, piss poor football!!!

A guy called Prof. Colin Talbot said the following on Twitter. It's both amusing and true: 'As I have pointed out before, if support for expanding markets signifies being a neoliberal, then Lenin and Trotsky were neoliberals when they introduced the New Economic Policy.'

Seeing this performed live in Sheffield was one of my greatest musical experiences ever.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTm_KdxqPPk

Spain, even at their peak, have always played such monotonous, lethargic, sideways-passing crap. Mother Russia deserved to go through.
It always does my head in when intellectuals complain about consumerism. They seem to ignore these five basic points: 1) They are also part of consumer culture, 2) They wouldn't sell as many of their books and lead a comfortable life it weren't for consumer culture, 3) consumerism has created all the wealth in their society, which means that they can enjoy a comfortable life, 4) If everyone consumes more, everyone pays more VAT, which means that governments have more revenue for schools, hospitals, roads, fire stations, councils, etc. Their ilk often lashes out against spending cuts, 'neo-liberalism' and similar nonsense. 5) It's smug and pompous to think that people are defined by the products that they buy.

Belgium vs. France should be the final. : (
Early jazz sounds so joyous.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GwkIZ_xGsiI
A few years ago I had a dream involving British conservative philosopher Roger Scruton. I was completing my last year at university and my motivation/work rate had dwindled.
In this dream, Scruton was working at the School of Arts at the University of Kent. He came out of his office and went to his car to collect an essay of mine that he had marked, which had a score of 38%. When I asked him why that essay received such a low mark, he said 'Not enough of an original argument.' Following this, he returned to his office. (And indeed, my marks were free falling, but nowhere near as low as that particular score.)
Oddly enough, two nights ago Roger Scruton appeared in another dream of mine. I was at his house, he was very nice to me, he opened his fridge and he gave me some food. (That all I remember.) So maybe my mind is telling me that I should be a conservative, I dunno.


I've always thought that Jim Callaghan and Gordon Brown were very good prime ministers, given the circumstances.

https://amp.ft.com/content/759afbb8-8b4d-11e8-affd-da9960227309?__twitter_impression=true
This piece, for me, embodies what's exciting about so much modern classical music. It's fascinating to hear how these seperate lines drift off into separate directions and occasionally interlock. Carter wanted to capture the modernity of cities - and how they harbour so much activity. He cited Edgard Varese as a big influence (he saw a performance of one of his pieces in the 1920s) and, although they are quite different, both composers were interested in exploring aspects of rhythm.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTR1vnBeXzA&app=desktop

I bought these three items with a cheque that my grandmother sent to me for my birthday. :)




Thursday, 6 September 2018

Ancient Greece in cinema


Ancient Greece in Cinema

There are not many cinematic recreations of Greek antiquity. Hollywood has more of a penchant for Ancient Rome – Ben Hur and Spartacus come to mind – because it is more associated with action whilst Greece is more associated with thought. Another reason why Hollywood might have shied away from Ancient Greece is its fetishisation of young men, which might potentially prove to be sensitive. Socrates was, after all, suspected of ‘corrupting the youth of Athens.’ One of the few exception is 500, however it is a war film that is far more action-oriented.

But why hasn’t arthouse cinema tackled the topic more often? . Arthouse cinema has tackled morally taboo subjects, so it would not shy away from depicting paedophilic courtship. Greece’s main arthouse export, Angelous Thelopolous, mainly focused on modern Greek history.
All this is very surprising Ancient Greece does lend itself to cinematic adaptations. They had Dionysian rituals, which were devoted to the God of wine. Such rituals involved sacrifice and drunken debauchery, which would lead to rich carnivalesque imagery. A film about a Pythagorean cult would be sinister and creepy. It would follow them praying to mathematical symbols, avoiding beans and Pythagoras murdering anyone who questioned the accuracy of his mathematical equations.
Additionally, several Greek philosophers led very interesting and unusual lives. This would not simply involve dry intellectualising, it would lead to exciting drama. It is very surprising that there is no major film about the trial of Socrates. It would be a film about a martyr sacrificing himself in the name of his beliefs and his virtue. There are many films about other inspiring martyrs such as Joan of Arc and Jesus Christ, but there is no major film about the trial of Socrates. It was chronicled in the writings of Plato and Anaxamides, so a screenplay writer would have a solid foundation.

Alternatively, turning a Socratic dialogue like Meno into a film would be an interesting experiment. An accomplished director would simply use Plato’s text as his script and select the most appropriate camera angles to make it uniquely cinematic and bring the dialogue to life. Close ups are said to reveal the underlying personality of a person, so it would be fascinating to reveal underlying psychology of Socrates as he grapples with the definition of ‘virtue.’
Other eccentric philosophers who led ‘interesting and unusual lives’ include Empedocles, Diogenes and Heraclitus. A film about Empedocles jumping into a volcano would be cathartic whilst a film about Diogenes would be oddball and fun. It would follow him surrounded by dogs, carrying a lantern in broad daylight, calling for an honest man, sleeping in a barrel and telling Alexander the Great to move away from the sun. A film about Heraclitus would be artful and contemplative; it would be comprised of long artful shots of him stepping into rivers.
There is a wealth of cinematic potential here, as there are plenty of arresting and symbolic imagery in Greek cults and movements. Like all other societies, there is power politics. However, Greece is the foundation for all of our knowledge whilst cinema is the archetypal modern medium, as it always exploits the latest technological advancements. It would be interesting for this modern medium to grapple with the knowledge that shaped who we are.


Friday, 17 August 2018

The 1950s and the 1990s: Prosperous Complacency


Part five of a forthcoming book called Collected Essays.
****************
The 1950s and 1990s were prosperous but complacent decades, as they assumed that prosperity would continue indefinitely. The economic structures of both decades were drastically different. In the 50s it was statist and interventionist whereas the 90s encouraged privatisation and deregulation in the economy. British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan claimed that ‘you have never had it so good,’ but he was also preoccupied as to how Britain could maintain full employment, high wages and economic growth without unleashing inflation. Also, Britain did not modernise sufficiently well and this would create problems in subsequent decades. Countercultural movements emerged which satirised complacency in British society. Meanwhile, the 1990s produced unheralded levels of growth, as globalisation was starting to bring third world countries out of poverty. Governments increased financial deregulation, which was perceived as prudent. Like the 1950s, it was assumed that prosperity would continue indefinitely, but this was shattered with the financial crisis of 2008. It was also assumed that liberal values could be exported to countries in the middle east, but these ideas were undone by the invasion of Iraq. Like the 50s, the 1990s also produced acerbic satire which mocked the self-righteousness of political movements. This essay will examine how the 1950s and the 1990s were complacent decades which created problems.
The 1950s were a period of unprecedented prosperity for Great Britain – and, indeed, for much of the western world. Harold Macmillan claimed that ‘we have never had it so good’ [1]. The Labour government had previously achieved full employment, economic growth and increased production after the war. However, the Conservatives lifted rations, consumerism increased and the coal and steel industries boomed, which resulted in economic growth of 2.2% in 1958 [2]. Macmillan had always been on the left of the Conservative party and had been scarred by the unemployment of the 1920s and 30s. Unlike most of the Labour Party, he did believe that individual enterprise was necessary to create wealth and redistribute it to the needy. However, he believed in government intervention to manage consumer demand and therefore maintain high employment. He made this particular speech because he was worried that the unprecedented full employment could cause prices to spiral and affect employment [3]. Nonetheless, employment had exceeded the targets set by Keynes and Beveridge.


The boom of the 50s was unlike the economic booms of the 80s, 90s and 00s, as British industry was exporting more. Indeed, this was the last economic boom that depended on manufacturing. Up to the 1950s, Britain was an industrial powerhouse and made up a quarter of the world’s exports. Now, however, it makes up 2% of the world’s exports. It made up a third of the nation’s output and employed 40% of the workforce. Later economic booms were over-reliant on overinflated financial services [4].
After the Second World War, governments made a concerted effort not to return to the poverty and inequality of the 20s and 30s. As such, they created ‘welfare states,’ which had largely mollified poverty. Macmillan continued a policy of full employment, building several factories in poor towns. Macmillan encouraged investment by encouraging car manufacturers to expand their facilities away from the West Midlands and into less industrialised locations such as Merseyside [5]. Also, the Conservative government had an excellent record on housing, having built on average 300,00 houses per year in this period. The Conservatives acknowledged the advantage of the mixed economy and recognised that, if they built more social housing, that it would also encourage investment in the private sector [6]. However, child poverty and elderly poverty had increased and wages were rising in ways that adversely affected lower ones. As such, poverty had increased, relative to the prosperity of the time. However, higher life expectancy rates meant that elderly people struggled with their pensions. Coupled with rises in inflation, this meant that a quarter of elderly people needed National Assistance [7]. Beveridge’s other target – the complete elimination of poverty – had not been achieved completely.
The post-war economic recovery was statist and the economy at the time was much more interventionist. The ‘consensus’ that emerged after the war encouraged greater intervention in the economy to incentivise investment and planning. Public spending went up under Macmillan, which caused health secretary Enoch Powell to rail against the Conservative government's policies. Powell wanted to bring inflation down at all costs, but the economic orthodoxy of the day was different. However, Macmillan did introduce a mildly deflationary package – in other words, he brought public spending down – to protect pound reserves. However, Macmillan contravened the quantity theory of money when he stated: ‘[Inflation is not caused by] a control of the money supply,’ which was seen by Roy Harrod ‘as an antiquated doctrine’ [8]. The Conservative government thought that unemployment and stagnation were worse prospects than mild inflation. However, by 1959 inflation went down to 1%, its lowest rate since the war. Hence, Powell’s prescriptions seemed nonsensical, as Britain was at its most prosperous, there was economic growth and the generous benefits, pensions and housing had created a fairer and more generous society. According to Sandbrook, monetarist historians had overlooked how the Conservative governments from 1951 until 1964 were determined to stop the unemployment and class divisions of the 1920s and 30s [9].
The economic ruin bequeathed by the ‘laissez-faire’ model of the 1920s and 30s gave rise to ideas such as planning, which were assiduously implemented by the Labour Party through rationing. There were central boards which encouraged investment, which was a form of ‘planning.’ Throughout the 40s, 50s and 60s, Governments increasingly set long term targets. Institutions were established to reach these targets, such as the Economic Planning Board [10]. However, long-term plans were also set for social welfare, such as the NHS Plan of 1962, Local Health and Welfare Plan of 1963 and the Housing Plan of 1965 [11].
The economic prosperity of the 1950s posed a conundrum for the Labour Party, as it had achieved most of the aims of its 1945 manifesto [12] and the Conservatives claimed that they could run the welfare state more efficiently [13]. Many people in the rank-and-file of the Labour Party thought that they might never return to power ever again [14]. As such, this led to a lot of revisionism within the party, most notably with Anthony Crosland’s influential book The Future of Socialism (1956). He claimed that the economic problem that the Labour Party were trying to overcome had been solved [15]. It had achieved full employment and social welfare whilst other objectives such as the abolition of private property and increasing the power of the working classes had become irrelevant [16]. He wanted Labour to drop its commitment to socialist controls – that is, controls that plan industry or ration its goods. Industry could be directed in the right direction to increase profits and full employment, but it did not have to control it, as this denied free choice and it created a needlessly large bureaucracy to enforce it [17]. He claimed that nationalisation was no longer a panacea. He revisited this theme in a speech in 1973: ‘Nationalisation...does not in itself engender greater equality, more jobs in the regions, higher investment or industrial democracy’ [18]. The classical central tenet of socialism – that the community must own the means of production – had to be dropped. Instead of pining for greater public ownership, Crosland urged the Labour Party to focus on improved public services and the elimination of poverty. The objectives of social welfare were to relieve distress and suffering, not to achieve social equality [19]. It must provide greater equality of opportunity and, in this regard, the Conservatives did not go far enough. In order to provide greater equality of opportunity, Labour must abolish grammar schools, abolish the eleven-plus and increase comprehensive education. Inequality was wasteful, as it prevented social mobility. Additionally, Crosland wanted to place strong emphasis on liberty and the good life: ‘[the socialist] in whose blood there should always be a trace of the anarchist and the libertarian, and not too much of the prig and the prude.’ (20)


However, both parties were complacent, as British industry did not modernise sufficiently well. After the Second World War, debt stood at 225% of GDP [21]. However, subsequent Labour and Conservative governments brought the debt down. Although borrowing had increased, there had been budget surpluses and growth which allowed the government to pay back some of its net debt. Growth averaged 3% and inflation averaged 3.57% between 1951-64. By 1964, the debt had been reduced to 110% of GDP [22]. However, the most pressing issue was innovation in British industry, as it was not exploiting new technological advances. Productivity in British industry was high in the early 1900s, but other countries caught up in the 1960s and took over by the 1970s. This was not reversed even until the end of the twentieth century and Britain continues to have a productivity gap with The United States and Europe [23]. Robert Skidelsky writes as to how British industry throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s expected to keep living off the empire. The Conservative governments from the period, he claimed, did not try to modernise. Additionally, British industries were under no pressure to modernise their plants or upskill their managers or workers [24]. Despite the prosperity of the 1950s, this would spiral out of control in the 1950s and 60s. Labour governments tried to implement an ‘Industrial Plan’ where they tried to re-organise industry. This was finally discredited when Tony Benn wanted to create worker co-operatives for Britain’s decaying industries [25]. By the 1970s, companies such as British Leylands and Ferranti were making enormous losses caused by mismanagement. After the Oil Crisis, the Labour government started the National Enterprise Board, which was meant to modernise British industry under the direction of the government. The NEB had to deal with more companies in trouble, but no improvement occurred [26]. Statism and interventionism had been discredited.
On the other hand, the Labour Party governments of 1964-70 and 1974-79 have been described as ‘Croslandite.’ However, Crosland later admitted that he overlooked in his seminal text as to how the Labour Party could generate economic growth [27]. Indeed, he was initially pleased as to how the welfare state had quelled capitalism through greater union laws and regulations, as free-for-all capitalism had been quelled by the mixed economy [28]. However, some people claim that the post-war consensus – high taxes and regulations – ended up stifling the British economy [29]. Some people claim that its emphasis on the public sector – 49.7% of GDP went towards public spending in 1975 [30] - stifled entrepreneurial initiative [29]. Of course, the oil shock was the death knell to Croslandite social democracy [31]. Unlike their mentor, Kenyensians were later very inflexible as to how to tackle inflation [32]. As such, governments across Europe, decided to prioritise low inflation over full employment [32]. Monetarism emerged as the de rigeur economic theory, which is the theory that the amount of money that circulates in the economy should be proportional to the amount of goods. Availability of money goes up, which increases economic growth. However, an increase in the supply increases demand, so companies put prices to meet this demand, which leads to inflation. Hence, monetarists urge central banks to control the supply of money. Also, monetarists lower interests rates because this brings the cost of borrowing down and people can borrow to invest more, which also leads to economic growth [33]. This economic theory replaced statist Keynesianism as the prevalent economic doctrine. However, several thinkers and politicians of the 1950s did not foresee how they could preserve the statism of the day. Indeed, it was assumed that the prosperity would go on forever [34], but it unravelled quickly.
Certain political and economic political attitudes were complacent in the 50s. However, there were cultural movements in the 1950s which were indicative of new changes and actively satirised complacency. The first countercultural movement in the 1950s were the Angry Young Men. However, the 1950s were largely a conservative, family-oriented culture [35]. The Conservative governments from 1951 until 1964 were ‘paternalistic,’ meaning that they were meant to look after and protect its citizens [36]. Despite this, Britain was becoming less deferential to institutions like the monarchy [37]. The Angry Young Men were the first countercultural movement that reacted against this. The movement was manifold, but it was partly political and religious. Its most famous exponent was Kingsley Amis, who published Lucky Jim in 1956. Amis satirised the deference that was prevalent in British culture. His novel covers a university in Great Britain and its protagonist is forced to participate in its pomp and circumstance to gain acceptance. The novel actively satirised British institutions and pretensions. It sold very well and it was controversial. As well as satirising British society and its institutions, it also criticised Britain's attraction to continental modernism and the avant-garde [38]. Meanwhile, Colin Wilson popularised existentialism with his book The Outsider (1956). The book appealed to the counterculture, as it glorified the idea of the ‘outsider’ in art. Wilson represented the more religious strand in the movement, as he later wrote a book entitled Religion and the Rebel (1957). His book mixed a plethora of disparate writers and thinkers, but it helped bring contemporaneous continental philosophy to a British audience. Crucially, Wilson came from a working class background and had never been to university, which signified the rise of equal opportunities [39].
The tail-end of the 1950s also witnessed the nascent beginnings of Britain’s satire boom. Beyond the Fringe – comprised of Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Alan Bennet and Jonathan Miller – created sketches which satirised toffs and in many ways prefigured Monty Python. In an iconic moment, Beyond the Fringe performed in a theatre with then-prime minister Harold Macmillan in the audience and Peter Cook walked up to Macmillan and impersonated him in his presence [40]. Beyond the Fringe and the Angry Young Men segued into the decadence, radicalism and anarchism of the 1960s. However, much of the satire of both movements was rather soft. Peter Cook claimed that the real target of his satire was ‘complacency’ and that they were not interested in tearing down patriotism or morality [41]. Indeed, Sandbrook writes that the impact of the programme has been exaggerated and that only a small fragment of society saw the programme when it was broadcast [42].

The 1990s resemble the 1950s in many ways, as it also was a period of prosperity and economic growth. The children of the 50s generation, the ‘baby boomers,’ came to power. Bill Clinton and Tony Blair rebelled against the statist paternalism of the 1950s and accepted the Thatcher/Reagan settlement [43]. Globalisation had generated high levels of economic growth and wealth. The collapse of communism appeared to confirm that liberal democracy had won the battle of ideas. This also solidified laissez-faire, which had made a come-back after the stagflation of the 1970s [44]. Europe had also enjoyed its longest period of peace. As such, history appeared to have reached a plateau, which led Francis Fukuyama to theorise about the ‘end of history.’ Several ideas had been tried and tested, but liberal democracy had won the battle of ideas. Fukuyama did not claim that there would no longer be historical events, rather he claimed that ideology had expired and that liberal democracy had mollified political extremes [45]. Fukuyama was a Hegelian conservative and Hegel was a thinker who believed that political ideas were theses and antitheses which produced syntheses. In other words, history has a purpose. Moments in history and political ideas are all parts which add up to produce events. Certain political events end when they have achieved their purpose, such as the Roman Empire [46]. According to Fukuyama, liberal democracy had won the battle of ideas and history had culminated, which led to the kind of perpetual peace envisaged by Kant. This was a universal, liberal and co-operative federation of states. Kant claimed that wars occur when individuals self-interestedly disregard justice. Republics, united by international law, would subscribe to a universal doctrine of rights. Also, national barriers had to be overcome and nations would have to co-operate [47]. The world in the 1990s was starting to resemble this ideal. This global liberalism was Fukuyama’s notion of historical culmination whereas for Marx it was communism [45].

Like the Kenynesian statism of the 1950s, there was also some complacency in the 1990s. There were unusually high levels of economic growth and it was assumed that it would keep growing. In the USA, the economy grew on average by 4%, 1.7 million workers were added to the workforce, the average income grew by 10% and the poverty rate fell to an all-time low of 10% in 2000 [48]. Clinton and Blair took financial deregulation further. Bill Clinton signed the ‘Financial Services Modernisation’ Act in 1999, which was welcomed by most people and was not seen as reckless [48]. British Labour chancellor Gordon Brown even spoke about ‘the end of boom and bust,’ [49] which suggested that economic growth would extend exponentially without a single recession. Brown also deregulated the banks from the oversight of the Bank of England [50]. There were some doom-mongers who claimed that this laissez-faire attitude would result in a global financial meltdown, but these were a minority. Roy Jenkins had been a Labour chancellor in the 1960s and proposed Keynesian solutions to generate full employment as leader of the SDP. However, he sensed that the financial deregulation could cause a giant economic depression that mirrored 1929 [51]. Similarly, John Gray wrote a book called False Dawn: The Delusions of Global Capitalism (1998) in which he claimed that laissez-faire was hubristic, debt-prone, created higher crime, broke up families, created greater atomisation and that it would soon lead to a meltdown [52].
However, laissez-faire globalisation was winning the argument in the 1990s whilst the left appeared to have lost it completely. Globalisation had brought countries in Africa and south east Asia out of poverty and starvation [53]. The left was beating the same tired drum, arguing against globalisation and for greater protectionism. Noam Chomsky sold less books during this period [54] and a figure like Tony Benn became completely estranged from the Labour party [55]. Labour embraced globalisation and rebranded itself as ‘New Labour.’
The unprecedented wealth also led western countries to believe that they should export western values and laissez-faire economics to third-world countries. ‘Neo-conservatism’ and ‘liberal interventionism’ became fashionable buzzwords during this period [56]. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cooke spoke about an ‘ethical’ foreign policy [57]. George W. Bush was elected in 2000. His vice-president Dick Chaney and his secretary of state Donald Rumsfield were branded as ‘neo-conservatives.’ Neo-conservatism advocates free market capitalism and an interventionist foreign policy which exports this form of capitalism. Paul Wolfowitz promoted the invasion of Iraq [58].
Like the 1950s, complacency towards the economy and foreign policy soon started to generate problems. George Bush took financial deregulation further [59]. This led to the biggest bust in economic history, which meant that governments bailed out banks with state money and accrued large deficits. Gordon Brown and Barack Obama spent money on the economy and bailed out ailing companies [60]. Liberal interventionism, which had been solidified by successful interventions in Bosnia and Sierra Leon and genocides in Rwanda, also led to chaos. The invasion of Iraq led to to Sunni/Shia sectarian battles and a failed state [61]. Also, a power vacuum led to the rise of ISIS and to a nascent Islamic caliphate across Iraq and Syria [62].
Like the 1950s, Hollywood films from the 1990s reflect the economic boom. Many films – such as Forrest Gump (1994) – recreate a sense of economic freedom and a sense of optimism. Like the British satire boom of the 1950s, there was a lot of satire, which became more hard-edged and biting. It may have been reflecting the prevalent complaceny. Bret Easton Ellis published his novel American Psycho in 1991, which mordantly satirised the vapid consumerism and individualism of the day. Programs such as The Simpsons attacked sacred cows and everyone was on the brunt of their attacks – conservatives, liberals, leftists, etc. South Park took this iconoclasm further. Both programs were controversial when they were first released. In the early 90s and late 90s, schoolchildren who wore t-shirts of both programs were sent home [63].

The 1950s were a prosperous but complacent decade. Conservative governments did not modernise industry. The Labour Party’s revisionist theories were too complacent, as they took economic growth for granted. The prosperity of the era had made some of the ideals of the Labour movement redundant. As such, it placed greater emphasis on greater social mobility and equality of opportunity. However, many of the assumptions, such as state planning and intervention, had been dropped by the 1970s. The boom of the 1950s was created primarily by manufacturing, but mismanagement ran most British industries to the ground by the 1970s. Many people assumed that the prosperity of the 1950s would continue indefinitely – many people thought the same about the prosperity of the 1990s – but proved illusory. Similarly, many assumptions of the 1990s were complacent. Governments increased financial deregulation and it was not seen as imprudent. Indeed, British chancellor Gordon Brown hubristically claimed that the era of boom and bust was over. The whole world was prospering in the 1990s and this led Francis Fukuyama to claim that the ‘end of history’ had been reached. Fukuyama believed that history had reached an apotheosis, that ideology had died and that liberal democracy had won the battle of ideas. As such, the world was starting to resemble Kant’s ideal of a universal republic. However, this was also a complacent assumption to espouse, as there were several conflicts in Kosovo, Rwanda and Sierra Leon. Subsequently, a shadow banking system almost brought the world economy down and governments had to bail out the banks. Foreign policy ideas from the 1990s were also equally hubristic, as they assumed that western values could be exported and imposed on other cultures, but the invasion of Iraq tarnished these ideas. Finally, the satire of the 1990s, like the satire of the 50s, also acerbically critiqued the complacency of the era. The 1950s and 1990s were similar decades in that they were prosperous, but they also naively assumed that this prosperity would continue.
Notes
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3. Dominic Sandbrook. 2005. Never Had it So Good: A History of Britain from Suez to The Beatles, p. 79-80. London: Abacus.
4. Robert Skidelsky. 2013. Meeting Our Makers: Britain’s Long Industrial Decline. [Online] New Statesman. Available from: https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/culture/2013/01/meeting-our-makers-britain%E2%80%99s-long-industrial-decline
5. Brian Marren. 2012. Class, Culture and Community, p. 93. Ed. Anne Baldwin, Chris Ellis, Stephen Ethbridge, Keith Laybourne, Neil Pye.
6. Andrew Gimson. 2013. How Macmillan Built 300,000 Houses Per Year. [Online] Conservative Home Available from :https://www.conservativehome.com/thetorydiary/2013/10/how-macmillan-built-300000-houses-a-year.html
7. Ian Gazely, Hector Guiterrez Rufrancos, Andrew Newell, Kevin Reynolds and Rebecca Searle. 2016. The Poor and the Poorest Fifty Years On: Evidence from British Household Expenditure Surveys of the 1950s and 1960s, p. 16. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A.
8. Never Had it So Good, p. 86
9. Never Had it so Good, p. 91.
10. Glen O’Hara. 2002. British Economic and Social Planning: 1959-1970, p. 5. UCL PHD Thesis. London: London University.
11. British Economic and Social Planning: 1959-1970, p. 1.
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24 and 25. Meeting Our Makers: Britain’s Long Industrial Decline.
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34. Never Had it so Good, p. 100.
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