The conflict between traditionalist or conservative values and progressive or liberal values. If that makes you picture a Manichean conflict between Shoreditch and the Duchy or Cornwall you’re missing the point. It’s simply a question of the pace of change, and whether the pace is evolutionary or revolutionary in character. But that’s by the by, the interesting part of who starts it and what that says about the nation in question.
Society is aware of where it’s heading, and those losing do the fighting.
Which is to say that society naturally coalesces around a number of consensus opinions; how should society be organised, to what degree do ‘we’ act collectively, etc. Where do you and yours stand on the grand questions of economic and social liberalism, pacifism or interventionism? A question of ideology, and sadly ideologies rarely change as fast as the world around them. On the one hand this means they wither and are replaced by ideas new, this process being the life’s blood of successful nations across the centuries. On the other, in human terms, they persist far too long and can warp that process of adaptation for a generation or more.
So, the world changes, and nations continually adapt to meet the challenges that that change presents. A consensus opinion wins on how the process of adaptation is managed, and losers are created. The problem is the process of ‘winning’ is too gradual for society to see the moment the paradigm changed, but they do feel the trend!
This brings us back to the headline on Culture Wars, and the fact that if you need to start one it’s because you’re losing.
We’re all familiar with the Tea Party, a notionally sensible originating idea, hi-jacked by the angry with ideas that seem alien (and serve only to further alienate). The Tea Party movement kicked off in the Obama years with the big hikes in spending that resulted from the combination of domestic programs and foreign intervention, but that the trend wasn’t new, it was just a moment in history where they were forced to face facts:
America becoming a little bit… european, and they didn’t like it one bit.
Which brings us back to Britain, and the ‘peoples insurgency’ within the labour party: Momentum. A cadre of political commissars within the organisation whose purpose is to police the ideological purity of the chain of command. Sort of like an immune response; identify, isolate, and extirpate, but it’s not about winning for it’s too late for that. No, it’s about losing with as little grace as possible… because its the right thing to do. But again, while they were birthed in a moment of pain, that pregnancy has been some time in the making. The guardian has bewailed the trend since 2012, a trend reiterated prior to the election and confirmed once more in the Chancellor’s autumn statement.
Britain is heading away from the european norm of 40+ percent of GDP spending levels, back to the mid-Atlantic norm of mid thirties. Funnily enough America is heading to the mid-Atlantic too as the great weight of 21st century social expectations heaps costs on the government. It isn’t only the losing side that misses the wood for the tree, the right had a tantrum that Osborne didn’t use his £37b windfall to lower the national debt. Chaps, again, spending is going to fall some 10% of GDP in just over a decade.
Which is why this article is headed by the IMF graph: it tells you everything you need to know about the trend of a nations future and who will be complaining about it.
At least in moderately polarised adversarial political systems like ours.