1: He retreats from his nostalgia accusation, saying it was aimed at something called ‘the reactionary press in general’ (whatever that may be, such a construct would have been out of date in 1965, let alone now. Does he actually *read* the papers?). It looked pretty specific to me, but I’ll always take surrendered ground when offered, and not fuss too much about the face-saving words which the retreating person sometimes feels the need to say.
Well, the Murdoch press may peddle in soft-core porn but its political agenda has been to shift the discourse rightwards on welfare, immigration and economics. It’s a different sort of reaction to the variety found on the Hitchens blog. The desire to level the welfare state and return to the social squalor of a bygone age is the agenda of many reactionaries – particularly, Thatcherites. Not that I think this is the mission of the Hitchens blog.
To be fair, I did not mention nostalgia but I did say ‘turn the clock back’ in reference to Evelyn Waugh. It was a conflation, though it’s not necessarily in regard to nostalgia. A better metaphor might be GK Chesterton’s white post and the lick of paint.
2: But this was not my ‘main problem’ with what he wrote. It was his evasion of the problem of the left, that they cannot possibly have meant to foul up our society so completely, yet will never attribute any of the disasters they have caused to their own ideas.
It’s a somewhat weak point to dismiss my article as ‘evasive’. I did argue that the Hitchens prognosis is inaccurate. I think much of the social change since the 1960s largely came out of compromises. Overall, the picture looks ambiguous from where I’m sitting: in many ways progressive, in other ways regressive.
Multiculturalism is mostly a liberal compromise to manage newly settled communities. It conveniently presupposes culture as a self-enclosing entity, the truth is that it is neither the case nor should it be the case. Hybridity and immixing is far better than regulated forms of diversity. Not only do I think monoculturalism isn’t preferable, I don’t think it’s possible. Even before non-white immigration, British culture was composed of a vast multiplicity of influences.
I don’t see the Left in the driving seat of such change for the most part. As Noel Ignatiev puts it, the momentum of neoliberalism “tends to reduce all human beings to abstract, undifferentiated, homogenous labour power”. None of the liberalising measures initiated since the 1960s threatens capital accumulation. On the contrary, this cultural revolution has been matched by Thatcher’s economic revolution. Capital can do without the old boundaries of sexuality, race, and gender, so it’s no problem to circumvent them.
I can’t accept the grammar of the question. For starters, I couldn’t really accept the presupposition of the Left’s role in this, or the claim that it is necessarily the case. Otherwise I would only be able to accept such points, either to affirm the aims or to denounce them. So I can only maintain an oppositional standpoint by giving the premise a good prod. Oh well, that’s adversarial politics for you!
Maybe I’ll write a review of ‘The Abolition of Britain’, or ‘The War We Never Fought’. Right now, I’m more perplexed by what could only be a misunderstanding or misrepresentation of my views. In my first article, I clearly pointed out Hitchens takes issue with the Tory Party and Thatcher’s legacy.
I never suggested Mr. Hitchens was a Thatcherite; in fact, it speaks rather well of his writing that he’s not a market liberal. He’s not an unscrupulous phony like David Cameron. Nor does he face the problem of how to reconcile economic liberalism with social conservatism. It’s much more consistent, as I’ve already said, if you’re a traditionalist conservative, to see Thatcherism as just another problem and not a solution. This the Left has in common with Peter Hitchens.
Though I did imply that the line Hitchens takes on addiction comes across as more liberal than conservative, e.g. the view of the individual and their agency as prime. I don’t mean to suggest one has to be a determinist, but it’s evident that individuals don’t choose the circumstances under which they act. This extends as far to the culture they are born into and as deep as the genetic predispositions they inherit.
I don’t expect a reply to this post, Mr. Hitchens probably has a long list of enemies to engage with, and his patience must be wearing thin at this point. But I think the readers have enjoyed this back-and-forth.
This post was a response to a post by Peter Hitchens. Should anyone want to ask me a direct question, you can email me at: email@example.com