16 August 2011

"this is authentic"


"There was a time when the image of the voter was limited to a person in an institutional or economic role—trade unionist, organization man, bureaucrat, manager of the domestic economy, reproducer of labour power or whatever. Early socialism was based on the sibling-like solidarity of fraternalism and male bond­ing which moved on to the caring mother model of the postwar welfare state. Conservatives tended more to a paternalist mode—being a more or less kindly father, doing what was necessary for the family business to continue without unnecessary inter­ruption. Voters/children were to be seen and not heard and should be grateful for whatever was done for them and should certainly fight for their rulers when told to do so. Admittedly this shifted to a determination to make the children stand on their own feet and not be "moaning minnies" in Mrs Thatcher's phrase, always asking for a helping hand instead of just getting on with it. Politicians fall easily into fatherly or motherly roles, chiding voters for not recognizing the difficult time they have in providing for 'the family', that is, all of them, and keeping the United Kingdom neat and clean and safe.

Rarely do politicians relate to voters in a truly unpatronizing and friendly way, expressing their feelings and hopes as one friend might to another. Nor do politicians let us see them as people enjoying pure friendly relations: we see them formally as mothers and fathers or patrons and clients, yet their close personal friend­ships remain hidden from view. If the family is the chief model for political relations, with much parliamentary debate being, as it were, a struggle between the authority of the father and the authority of the mother, this produces a highly directive, secretive and exclusive style of politics.­ The voters as children or siblings can do little more than react to what is done on their behalf. They cannot engage as friends. The more the political process is centralized, the greater will be this tendency. The principle of subsidiarity, to locate responsibility for decisions and actions at the lowest possible level, is certainly more friendly.

The larger formations of social life—kinship, the law, the economy—must be different where there is, in addition to solid­arity and dutiful role performance, a willingness and capacity for friendship's surprising one-to-one relations. This difference alone may be enough to transform social and political life."

—Ray Pahl, "Friendship: the Social Glue?" in The Politics of Risk Society

1 comment:

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