David Cameron was busy relaunching his ‘big society’ initiative (flop) this weekend, for the fourth time, throwing more cash at a project that stinks of opportunism and individualised rhetoric. It may seem absurd to equate something that supposedly has the concept of society and community cohesion at its centre, with an ethos of individualism – but the construct, for David Cameron and co., is heavily indebted to ideas of individualism.
For instance, central to this attempted relaunch is the possibility of customers being able to donate money to charity through ATMs. Good idea. Maybe. But then, it comes back to the individualised acontextual belief that change happens through individualised centred values. Importantly, the wider context, social political economic conditions are overlooked, as the emphasis is upon the ordinary person on the street to fess up the cash for the ‘good society’. In a classic case of discursive reversal/power inversion, banks’ low corporation taxes, inability to lend in line with the Merlin agreement and ridiculously high bonuses are nicely skirted over, as the ‘big society’ focuses upon the individuals (and their ATMs, for instance), as their actions are atomised from the wider picture. The individualised view of what comes down to slave labour, where people perform fundamental services and provisions for free, creates an oxymoron when placed at the centre of the ‘big society’. You can’t bind society together through a programme of division, ideological callous economic sadism.
The actual way societal relations are expressed, nationally and internationally, relates to the wider neoliberal, capitalist political economy – which promotes competitive, individualised attitudes and values. What we need is a reformulated counter message/ideology to the ‘big society’ that promotes cooperative, non-hierarchial relations – whilst illustrating the hypocrisy behind implementing destructive cuts and advocating a society of cohesion and cooperation. The government is busy architecting their feminist, gay rights backlash alongside a national and international clamp down on immigration (consider the recent border controls within Europe, for instance), and this is all shaped by strong neoliberal conditions of cutting deficits and debts whilst the actual capitalist system we live in relies upon debt and false needs/production/consumption.
Essentially, in an individualised society, such an individualised conception that is attempting to pass as collective and cohesive wont work. This is especially true given the current political economic approach of the government; the policy framework/direction is laced with hypocrisy and is unsurprisingly failing to connect with ordinary people. What we need is a real alternative promoted, so that people’s voices, hopes and aspirations aren’t shut out by status quo hegemonic constructions.