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An ideological map

How can we build a “good society”? Four evolving strands of progressive thought and the guiding spir

Left Communitarianism

Philosophy Neoliberalism rests on an atomistic picture of the individual as an isolated, competitive profit maximiser. But human beings are social creatures: we need to recognise our interdependency and make a virtue of it. We need a social vision that emphasises solidarity and mutuality. This is the "good society". Concretely, this points to a renewed emphasis on economic equality and collective action, albeit with a stronger role for civil society than in the past. The market must be kept firmly in its place, which is not in the public sector.

Supporters The Labour MP Jon Cruddas; Jonathan Rutherford, academic and chair of the Compass Good Society working group; Neal Lawson, chair of Compass; and Madeleine Bunting, Guardian columnist and former Demos director.

Guiding spirits The communitarian philosopher Charles Taylor; figures of the "culturalist" new left such as Raymond Williams; and ethical socialists such as R H Tawney. The emphasis on cultural renewal also suggests a link to Antonio Gramsci.

Texts Cruddas and Rutherford's NS review of Richard Reeves and Philip Collins's The Liberal Republic; "No turning back", by Neal Lawson (NS, 5 March 2009); Bunting has written sympathetically about another communitarian philosopher, Michael Sandel, who, in his 2009 Reith Lectures, called for religious ideas to be given greater prominence to counter the amoralism of the market.

Least likely to say
“Let's privatise the Post Office."

Left Republicanism

Philosophy
The task of progressive politics is radically to disperse power and opportunity and to rebuild a deliberative public sphere. This requires restructuring the state so that individuals participate more directly in decision-making (for instance, through decentralisation and collective co-production). It requires resituating Labour politics in the context of a wider, grass-roots social-movement politics. It also requires a new politics of ownership, one that seeks both to widen individual asset ownership and to democratise the control of capital through, for example, new social pension funds.

Supporters
David Marquand, historian and former Labour MP. This position is not yet fully expressed in party politics, but is latent in the work of organisations such as London Citizens.

Guiding spirits
Jean-Jacques Rousseau; Thomas Paine; John Rawls; and (sometimes) Barack Obama.

Texts
Building a Citizen Society
by Stuart White and Daniel Leighton (published in association with Compass), which also contains contributions by Marquand and Alan Finlayson; Cécile Laborde's Critical Republicanism; Marquand's Britain Since 1918; Associative Democracy
by Paul Hirst; Barack Obama's inauguration speech, January 2009.

Least likely to say
“The police did a fantastic job of policing the G20 protests."

Centre Republicanism

Philosophy The task of progressive politics is radically to disperse power and opportunity. This requires restructuring the state in a much more decentralised direction; individual empowerment in public services; a wider distribution of assets; and a stronger policy of protecting - indeed, expanding - civil liberties and lifestyle freedom. The left should get over its fixation on high taxation of labour income and put more emphasis on taxing unearned wealth and environmental bads.

Supporters
Richard Reeves, director of Demos; Philip Collins, Times leader writer and former speechwriter to Tony Blair; the former work and pensions secretary James Purnell, whose notion of "power egalitarianism" develops a number of civic republican themes.

Guiding spirits
John Stuart Mill (Reeves is Mill's biographer) and perhaps Thomas Paine; Amartya Sen, with his theory of equality of "capability".

Texts
The Liberal Republic
by Richard Reeves and Philip Collins; James Purnell's article "The new egalitarian capitalism" (www.nextleft.org). David Miliband's recent John Smith memorial speech, "Turning the Tide on Democratic Pessimism", with its emphasis on "empowerment", shares much with this perspective.

Least likely to say
“The man in Whitehall really does know best."

Right Communitarianism

Philosophy
The urgent task is to fill the moral vacuum created by a combination of neoliberalism in the economy and lifestyle liberalism in society. This requires that we rebuild a strongly moralistic civil society to meet social needs that neither the free market nor the conventional welfare state can meet. To this end, we must build a new political and economic localism. We must "recapitalise the poor" in order to empower them to crawl out from under the welfare state, and the welfare state itself must be cut back. State policy will limit market freedoms. A nihilist liberal politics of arbitrary freedom must be replaced with one of collective morality.

Supporters
Phillip Blond, previously at the Progressive Conservatism project at Demos, but now at a new "Red Tory" think tank; David Green and Anastasia de Waal at Civitas; the Labour MP Frank Field; the former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith.

Guiding spirits
Hilaire Belloc; John Neville Figgis; the papal encyclical Rerum Novarum. Blond also owes a considerable intellectual debt to the "radical orthodoxy" of the theologian John Milbank.

Texts
Blond's essay "The Rise of the Red Tories" (published in the February edition of Prospect ); Karl Polanyi's The Great Transformation.

Least likely to say
“What a pity the government dropped that plan for supercasinos."

A version of this piece originally appeared on Next Left, the Fabian Society blog

This article first appeared in the 07 September 2009 issue of the New Statesman, Meet the new progressives