Political economy and rhetorical gestures…

The term ‘solidarity’ has been central to French welfare policies and social security for many years, with its origins in the French Revolution its original conception stressed the obligations of the wealthiest towards the poorest. However, commentators now argue such an emphasis has been replaced by a focus on the rights of the wealthiest. Solidarity now relates to security – security of one’s living standards – well if you have a decent set of living standards that is. ‘Solidarity’ has become a rhetorical gesture.

In a similar vein, the UK government preaches about the ‘inevitability’ and ‘naturalness’ of cuts, that they are making ‘difficult decisions’ in the ‘national interest’. These terms are again rhetorical facades. Difficult decisions would be to question the actual order of society, its foundation and structuring. Cath Elliot sums up the sheer excitement some are feeling as they cheer along the ideologically driven cuts with the news of a Rally Against Debt planned:

Meanwhile, back in the real world, those of us who have known all along that these cuts are purely ideological have finally had it confirmed by the sudden emergence of a group intent not only on cheerleading for the cuts, but on staging a march and rally for them as well, and by a Tory minister going decidedly off script.

Hurting the poor isn’t a ‘difficult decision’ nor is it in the ‘national interest’; they relish it. Making society fairer would be the really difficult decision as it would require a radical restructuring of society. But, in a classic case of discursive reversal, we are made to feel that we are all suffering for the ‘greater good’. That as the days go by, and as more people you know tell you they have lost their job, benefit or can no longer afford to fill their car up or buy the shopping we should accept this as a price to pay for being ‘in this together’.

Rhetoric and language is a key part of enclosure by global/national/local political structures. As discussed previously, neoliberal shaped ‘logic’ constructs people who dare to criticise the current sadistic plans as ‘perverse’, ‘pathological’ and plainly ‘thick’. How could we be so damn selfish? But then, whilst corporation tax is cut, we have our PM lecturing Pakistan about their tax system! More specifically, that the rich aren’t paying enough. Now, not only is this extremely ironic, it is unbelievable that Cameron feels comfortable with saying such a thing when he knows that many people back in the UK think rightly our tax system is unfair. But, the merging of NI and income tax is just an example of how this government feels that the rich pay too much on tax. Yes, too much.

As Andre Gorz (1997) says:

‎Globalization and the intensified competition in every market in every country are used as all-purpose justifications: for the fall in real wages, the dismantling of social welfare systems, spiralling unemployment, generalized job insecurity, deteriorating working conditions, and so on. We are told these things are inevitable and natural.


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